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If you are looking for a break from the beach, consider exploring one of the beautiful state parks in South Walton. Parks are scattered throughout the region, so you are closer to one of these gems than you realized. It is worth your time to check out the great 30A state parks.
If you still want to be on the beach, look into Grayton Beach State Park or Camp Helen. Most Florida State parks offer hiking or nature trails, and some offer birding, biking, kayaking, picnic areas, and fishing opportunities. There’s truly something for everyone.
Many of these parks grant guests access to rare coastal dune lakes. These are uncommon in the United States and are only on the Gulf Coast. Near these lakes, you’ll see scrub oaks and southern magnolias.
Most parks offer camping for guests. If you prefer a vacation rental in the area, check out my favorite condo in all of 30A.
State Park Packing List
- Bug spray
- kids Sun screen
- adult sunscreen
- women’s tennis shoes
- men’s tennis shoes
- Water bottle
- kid Kayak
- kids life jacket
- kids bike helmet
Florida State Park Info
The Florida Panhandle is known for its emerald coast on a scenic highway but also offers several beautiful parks. Below are some tips for visiting a park in South Walton County.
- Annual pass: $45
- Hours: Generally sunrise-sunset
- Entrance Fee: most require a small fee
- Pets: permitted in selected areas; see the individual park for specifics
- Fishing license: may be required
- Hunting: prohibited in state parks
- Biking: helmets are required for kids under 16
- General rules: abide by all guidelines of the park, destruction of the park or resources is prohibited, don’t disturb wildlife, don’t access private property adjacent to parks
Lastly, follow all park policies and remember there are no life guards on the lakes or beaches. Watch the conditions and swim at your own risk. Take all proper safety precautions when swimming, hiking, kayaking, paddling, etc.
Best 30A State Parks
Grayton Beach State Park
- Fees: $5 per car
- Hours: 8 am-sunset
- Activities: swimming, paddling, fishing, hiking, birding, camping, biking, boating and wildlife viewing
Grayton Beach State Park sits directly on 30A, sandwiched between Grayton Beach and Watercolor communities. It’s in the center of county road 30A and is one of the most popular destinations in the region due to its majestic beauty.
Grayton is known for access to the beautiful Gulf of Mexico and Western Lake. On the lake, guests can kayak and paddleboard. There are also four miles of trails for exploring the wildlife, coastal dune lakes, or birding.
If you want to stay at the park, there are campsites and 30 two-bedroom cabins for rent. Cabins are decorated with beds, heating, fireplaces, air conditioning, and full kitchens. Linens and towels are provided. These are popular accommodations, so book early! The same is true for the Grayton Beach State Park campground.
This state park is a great place to experience one of the most beautiful beaches in all Florida. Years ago, my husband and I spent a relaxing afternoon on the beach here and can’t recommend it enough!
After you explore Grayton, hop over to Blue Mountain Beach for the best ice cream at Blue Mountain Creamery.
Topsail Hill Preserve State Park
- Fees: $6 per car
- Hours: 8 am-sunset
- Activities: swimming, paddling, fishing, hiking, tours, running, camping, biking, geo-seeking, picnicking and wildlife viewing
Topsail Hill Preserve State Park is on the western end 30A, close to Santa Rosa Beach and Dune Allen. Topsail offers easy access to the turquoise waters of the gulf for guests to enjoy.
Compared to some other parks, there are great amenities for guests. There are concessions, laundry facilities, a picnic pavilion, a shower station, a playground, and an amphitheater for programs (check ranger station for schedule).
The park includes over ten miles of trails. Some are paved, perfect for biking under the pine trees to a rare coastal dune lake, Campbell Lake.
For guests looking to stay here, there are several excellent options. They have a limited number of campsites, bungalows, and cabins but an abundance of RV sites. There are 156! If you are interested, there are even glamping opportunities with a company called Fancy Camps.
Topsail would be an excellent family vacation as it captures the natural beauty of 30A! While you are here, head to Donut Hole for a delicious breakfast and tasty donuts.
Deer Lake State Park
- Fees: $3 per car or $2 per pedestrian or bicyclist.
- Hours: 8 am-sunset
- Activities: birding, fishing, hiking, picnicking, wildlife viewing, and swimming
Deer Lake is closer to central-eastern 30A communities like Watersound. Most of the park is north of the county road, but a portion is south of 30A and on the beach.
Deer Lake is a great spot to experience the rare coastal dune lakes and the natural habitat that surrounds the lake. If you are lucky, you’ll see the migratory birds and butterflies congregating around the lakes. There’s a boardwalk through the park to guide guests.
Besides visiting the lake, guests can hike, swim in the ocean, and have a picnic lunch.
Eden Gardens State Park
- Fees: $4
- Hours: 8 am-sunset
- Activities: fishing, hiking, paddling, and guided tours
Eden Gardens is north of Highway 98 and near the Choctawhatchee Bay. It is a little bit away from 30A, but not a far drive. After you explore the region, grab lunch at The Bay, one of our favorite seafood restaurants.
Eden Gardens centers around the Wesley House, a renovated mansion from 1897. Guests are welcome to tour the home or fish at Tucker Bayou.
Point Washington State Forest
- Fees: $2 day pass
- Hours: sunrise-sunset
- Activities: biking, camping, horseback riding, off-road biking, fishing, and hunting seasonally (check with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)
Point Washington is technically not a state park but an official state forest. The property is in the heart of South Walton with several entry points near 3oA.
The Eastern Lake Trail System is one of the popular routes in the forest for hikers and cyclists. There are three options depending on how much time you have to spend. For instance, you can choose between a 3.5, 5, or 10-mile loop.
If you want a pass, purchasing in person is no longer an option. Visit Florida State Forests for passes as well as reservations for camping spots.
Camp Helen State Park
- Fees: $4 per car or $2 per pedestrian or bicyclist.
- Hours: 8 am-sunset
- Activities: walking trails, kayaking, paddle boarding, fishing
Although technically not on 30A and closer to Panama City Beach, Camp Helen State Park is an excellent option for guests in the area. It is just a few minutes east on Highway 98 from Rosemary Beach and Inlet Beach.
Camp Helen is situated between the Gulf and Lake Powell and is considered the largest coastal dune lake in the state.
We visited here a few years ago with the kids and my sisters. It was a cooler day in February, and we wanted to be outside! I found the park easy to navigate, with ample parking and a small welcome center near the parking lot. Walking Trails are connected to the parking lot, too.
We headed towards the beach on a sandy path my kids loved running on. We encountered small bodies of water attached to Lake Powell on the way to the beautiful Gulf of Mexico. This is a great way to explore a state park and spend time at the beach. The trail is .75 miles roundtrip.
We wrapped up our time with a tour of former resort homes. The property used to belong to an Alabama textile mill that ran it as a resort for employees to enjoy.
If you are interested in kayaking but don’t own one, don’t worry! You can rent kayaks and paddleboards hourly from 9-5 pm. There’s also a boat ramp available for those who bring their own.
As a side note, we visited in the winter, but if you come in warmer months, remember to pack bug spray, sunscreen, and water. Bring a blanket, towel, or beach chair if you want to stay at the beach for a bit. These parks would be fun to explore during the Christmas holidays too.
In Conclusion: Get out and Explore the Stunning 30A State Parks
My guide to the beautiful 30A state parks helps you plan your next great adventure to Florida’s Emerald Coast. These parks are one of the best things about the region and a great way to relax and unwind while on vacation.