Exploring Northwest Florida
Exploring Northwest Florida
Grayton Beach State Park features one of the best beaches in Florida, RV and tent camping, beachside cabins for rent, hiking, paddling, picnicking, birding and wildlife watching. There’s so much to do here, you’ll need more than a few days to do it all.
The park opened in 1968 on 356 acres adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico. Today it includes over 2000 acres and has become a protective haven for rare and endangered creatures and their habitats. Encompassing pine forests, white-sand beaches, and three rare coastal dune lakes, Grayton Beach State Park is one of the larger Florida parks in the state park system.
Bordered by the Point Washington State Forest on the north and the Gulf of Mexico on the south, the park surrounds the small Northwest Florida gulf coast town of Grayton Beach. It also includes the coastal dune lakes of Western Lake, Alligator Lake, and Little Redfish Lake.
On the beachside, the windswept maritime forest with its gnarled and twisted scrub oaks and magnolias looks like something from a fantasy world. But these trees have anchored the blowing sands to the rolling dunes since long before Spanish explorers came through the region. This is about as close to pristine as you can get.
Grayton Beach is one of the best beaches in Florida. If you are a beach lover, this is all you need to know. In 1994, famed beach expert and ecologist “Dr. Beach” (aka Stephen Leatherman) named Grayton the best beach in America. He rates beaches based on 50 criteria, some of which include softness of sand, water temperature, number of sunny days, and water color.
Grayton Beach State Park actually has two beaches. The campground beach is on the west bordered by Alligator Lake and Little Redfish Lake, and the main park beach is on the east between the gulf and Western Lake. Both beaches have showers and are ADA accessible. The main park beach has a bath house, a parking lot near the beach, and picnic facilities.
The main park also has a boat ramp for paddle boats and YOLO boards – no motorized boats are allowed on coastal dune lakes – and you can surf fish on the beach or find both freshwater and saltwater fish in the brackish water of the lake. Keep in mind there are other creatures in the lake as well, and some of them get pretty big, so if you’re kayaking or paddle boarding, take care around the more remote parts of the lake on the north side.
The Grayton Beach Nature Trail is located here as well. It begins near the beach parking area and meanders for one mile along the lake and the beach through a coastal forest of pines, magnolias, and scrub oaks. Years ago, the trail led through the dune thicket, but in recent years they rerouted the path because of deterioration of the ecosystem. The trail has interpretive signs along the way, but you can also pick up a self-guided brochure at the park entrance.
The Lake Loop Trail is a 4.2 mile hiking and biking trail located on the north side of Scenic Highway 30A. The trailhead is located across from the main park entrance and there is a small, unpaved area where you can park your car. The trail connects to the Longleaf Pine Trail in the Point Washington State Forest, making more than 20 miles of trails available.
Between the forest and the main park lies the Timpoochee Trail, a 19-mile long paved path that passes by coastal dune lakes and through twelve of the 15 beach communities located in South Walton. It also passes by bakeries and ice cream shops, so you might want to do some exploring. For visitors’ convenience, Grayton Beach State Park has bikes for rent.
Grayton Beach State Park is a campers’ paradise and one of the great campgrounds in Florida. The park offers tent camping, full facility hookups for RVs, and 30 cabins. Although there are many activities within the park, the town of Grayton Beach with a general store for provisions, and restaurants like The Red Bar, Grayt Coffee House, and Borego is within walking distance.
The cabins are located on the western portion of the park. They are two bedroom one bath duplex cottages that sleep up to six people. Each has a gas fireplace for use from November through March, central heat and air, full kitchens with utensils, screen porches and outdoor grills. Lines and towels are provided. The cabins do not have televisions, phones, or Internet, so bring a book and some board games. If you just have to check your email, both Starbucks and Grayt Coffee House in Grayton Beach have free WiFi.
Tent camping and RV hookups are also available. The Old Campground accommodates tents and smaller RVs and offers water, electric and a restroom with hot showers. The New Campground features 24 sites each with 50 amp hookups, water, and sewer. The maximum RV length is 40 feet. Book online with Reserve America or call 800-326-3521 to reserve campsites, or cabins up to 11 months in advance.
Grayton Beach State Park lies within the Coastal Lowlands region of Northwest Florida and features 13 distinct natural communities—beach dune, mesic flatwoods, sandhill, scrub, scrubby flatwoods, baygall, depression marsh, dome, seepage slope, wet flatwoods, coastal dune lake (one of only five places in the world), estuarine tidal marsh and marine unconsolidated substrate.
The dunes are home to the endangered Choctawhatchee beach mouse and both loggerhead and green sea turtles build nests on the beach from May through October. The park is on the Great Florida Birding Trail and birds from the common blue jay to the snowy plover inhabit the area. Look for red-tailed hawks, great egrets and bald eagles among dozens of others.
Whether you’re on a budget, or just want to get close to nature, you can’t go wrong by choosing from the many Florida state parks available. But if you want one of the best beaches in Florida, once you’ve seen Grayton Beach, you’ll know you found it.
Grayton Beach State Park
357 Main Park Road
Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459
Hours of Operation:
Grayton Beach State Park is open from 8:00 a.m. until sundown 365 days a year.
For campers, the park gates close at sunset. If you plan to arrive after sunset, please contact the park at 850-267-8300 before 5:00 p.m. on the day of your arrival to get the gate combination and instructions.
Grayton Beach State Park is located South of U.S. 98 approximately halfway between Panama City Beach and Destin. Take County Road 283 south of U.S. 98, turn left at the stop sign on 30A. Approximately half a mile east of the intersection of County Road 30A and County Road 283 the entrance is on the right.
$5.00 per vehicle 2-8 people or $4.00 single occupant
$2.00 pedestrians, bicyclists, extra passengers, passengers in vehicle with holder of Annual Individual Entrance Pass
$24.00 per night, plus tax, Old Campsites - includes water and electricity
$30.00 per night, plus tax, New Campsites - includes water and electricity
Florida residents who are 65 years of age or older, or who hold a social security disability award certificate or a 100 percent disability award certificate from the Federal Government, are permitted to receive a 50 percent discount on current base campsite fees. Proof of eligibility is required.
$110.00 per night or $705.00 per week, plus tax, August 1-January 31
$130.00 per night or $775.00 per week, plus tax, February 1-July 31
Domestic pets are permitted in designated day-use areas. They must be kept on a handheld leash that is six feet long or shorter and be well-behaved at all times. Pet owners are required to pick up after their pets and properly dispose of their droppings.
Pets are not permitted on the beach, in park buildings, or in any state park cabins. Pets are permitted in the campground and on nature trails. Service animals are welcome in all areas of Grayton Beach State Park. For camping with pets, please refer to the Florida State Parks Pet Policy or contact the park directly.
Friends of Grayton Beach, Inc.
357 Main Park Road
Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459
These Northwest Florida State Parks are not far from Grayton Beach.