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The hustle and bustle of daily life can be stressful, so when you need to escape there’s no better place to decompress and relax than South Walton.
It’s understood that our sugar-white beaches, turquoise waters and natural beauty can soothe your soul, but did you know that over 40-percent of land in South Walton is state-protected or part of a private preserve? South Walton is home to four state parks and a state forest, all prime for exploring, where you’ll find serene vistas and miles upon miles of biking and hiking trails. You’ll also find opportunities for camping, examples of Florida’s unspoiled natural vegetation, rare coastal dune lakes and diverse ecosystems.
Step onto a trail, and into nature.
Topsail Hill Preserve State Park is known for its towering sand dunes and 14 unique plant communities, and has been identified as the most pristine piece of coastal property in Florida. Topsail Hill showcases 1,600 acres of bald cypress swamps, nature trails that traverse mountainous sand dunes and two rare coastal dune lakes – Campbell Lake and Morris Lake. Visitors to Topsail Hill, which offers 3.2 miles of secluded beach, can spend the day soaking up sunshine, biking and hiking through the old growth long leaf pines, or reeling in bass and catfish. Want to stay longer than a day? Topsail Hill has more than 200 campsites and cabins to suite your style.
7525 W. Scenic Highway 30A, Santa Rosa Beach
Grayton Beach State Park has trails that wind through pine flatwoods and around small freshwater ponds which are a natural habitat for wading birds, water birds and lowland birds. Plovers, Terns and Gulls are common sights in this popular bird watching area. Grayton Beach State Park is home to two nature trails – The Flatwoods Trail and Western Lake Loop -- that wind through acres of pristine landscapes. The park features a boat ramp, plenty of space for camping, sunbathing and exploring, whether by foot, bike or paddleboard. Speaking of paddleboards, Western Lake is the ideal spot to go for a leisurely paddle or kayak excursion. Grayton Beach State Park has been hailed as the “Best Beach in the U.S.” by Dr. Stephen Leatherman, aka Dr. Beach, and again ranked as a top 4 beach in the USA in 2017.
357 Main Park Road, Grayton Beach
Deer Lake State Park features a pristine coastal dune lake and bursts with a kaleidoscope of color from the summer wildflowers, plants and various species of birds and butterflies that make their home here. In Deer Lake State Park you’ll find southern magnolias, woody goldenrod and scrub oaks, in addition to rare varieties of plants like the Gulf Coast lupine and spoonflower pitcher plants. Take a stroll along the 1.5 mile Deer Lake Trail and explore the dune ecosystem, one of 11 natural communities in the park. Other favorite activities include fishing, enjoying a picnic lunch or just sunbathing and relaxing on the beach.
6719 E. Scenic Highway 30A, WaterSound
Eden Gardens State Park is home to the Wesley Mansion, which was occupied by lumber baron William Henry Wesley and his family in the 1800s. Nowadays, visitors can tour the historic mansion or stroll through the carefully manicured gardens at Eden Gardens State Park. With gorgeous moss-draped ancient live oaks, camellias and azaleas sprinkled throughout the park, there are plenty of sights to soak up. The approximately 163-acre park is the perfect place to enjoy a serene lunch, an easy stroll through the park ground, fishing in Tucker Bayou, or even host a wedding. An interesting fact about the Wesley Mansion: the drawing room boasts the largest collection of Louis XVI Court furniture found in any one room in the United States.
181 Eden Gardens Road, Santa Rosa Beach
Point Washington State Forest boasts 15,000 acres and more than 27 miles of distinct trails that meander through coastal scrub, wet prairie, swamplands and longleaf pine flatwoods. Point Washington is a haven for bikers and hikers who can traverse trails that vary in length from the more relaxed 2.5-mile Western Trail to the more challenging 11-mile Orange Loop. There are four primitive campsites in Point Washington where visitors can stay the night. While camping you might notice the several species of plants and animals, such as the gopher tortoise, flatwoods salamander and white-topped pitcher plants, that are listed as threatened or endangered.
Topsail Hill State Park, Eden Gardens State Park, Grayton Beach State Park, Deer Lake State Park and Point Washington State Forest provide endless opportunities for visitors to explore nature in South Walton. With more than 40-percent of Walton County’s total acreage dedicated to preservation, hikers, bikers, bird watchers and nature lovers are in for a special treat.
THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT GLIDING ON TOP OF TURQUOISE WATER, PRISTINE BAYS AND RARE COASTAL DUNE LAKES THAT’S INCREDIBLY RELAXING AND REJUVENATING. AND WHETHER YOU’RE LOOKING TO TAKE A LEISURELY TRIP, BURN SOME SERIOUS CALORIES OR REEL IN A BIG CATCH, GETTING OUT ON A PADDLE BOARD OR KAYAK CAN BE AN INVIGORATING WAY TO MAKE LONG-LASTING MEMORIES.
STANDUP PADDLE BOARDS ARE ALMOST SYNONYMOUS WITH SOUTH WALTON THANKS TO THE EFFORTS OF PEOPLE LIKE JEFF ARCHER, CO-FOUNDER OF YOLO, WHO HELPED CHAMPION THE PADDLE BOARDING EXPERIENCE. WHEN IT COMES TO THE BOARDS THEMSELVES, THERE ARE NOW A WIDE VARIETY OF COMPANIES PRODUCING THEM. THEY VARY IN SIZE, DESIGN, WEIGHT AND QUALITY, AND THERE ARE A SLEW OF ACCESSORIES TO CONSIDER AS WELL. WHATEVER YOUR EXPERIENCE LEVEL, THOUGH, YOU CAN REST ASSURED THAT THERE’S A BOARD BUILT JUST FOR YOU.
PART OF A PADDLE BOARD’S APPEAL IS ITS VERSATILITY. IT’S NOT UNCOMMON DO SEE LOCALS AND VISITORS ALIKE SURFING WAVES ON THE GULF, OR CRUISING ON A CALM DAY ON ANY OF THE LOCAL WATERS. THIS CAN BE A GREAT WAY TO EXPLORE SOUTH WALTON’S NATURAL BEAUTY.
OR, IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR A WORKOUT THAT TESTS YOUR BALANCE AND FEEDS YOUR CALM, THE TEAM AT 30A PADDLEBOARD YOGA HAS JUST THE THING: A FULL YOGA WORKOUT ATOP PADDLE BOARD. ARE YOU WILLING TO BUILD YOUR CORE STRENGTH WHILE FLOATING ON WATER?
YOU CAN ALSO FISH FROM YOUR PADDLE BOARD, AND THERE ARE BOARDS MADE SPECIFICALLY WITH ANGLERS IN MIND. THESE CAN ACCOMMODATE A ROD HOLDER AND A COOLER TO STORE YOUR CATCH. IT’S CERTAINLY A UNIQUE TYPE OF FISHING EXPERIENCE – THE STANDING POSITION HELPS WITH SIGHT FISHING, WHILE THE THRILL OF A CATCH IS EVEN GREATER WHILE STANDING ATOP A PADDLEBOARD.
FOUNDED BY RUNNERS AND PADDLE BOARD ENTHUSIASTS LOOKING FOR OTHER WAYS TO TRAIN, SOUTH WALTON’S RUN/SUP, FOUNDED BY TOM LOSEE, COMBINES RUNNING AND STAND-UP PADDLE BOARDING TO OFFER AN INTERVAL-STYLE WORKOUT. RUN/SUP OFFERS A VARIETY OF CLASSES AND RETREATS, AS WELL AS THE COMPETITIVE RACES FOR ALL SKILL LEVELS.
MUCH LIKE PADDLE BOARDS, KAYAK ENTHUSIASTS HAVE MANY EXCITING OPPORTUNITIES TO EXPLORE SOUTH WALTON BY WATER, FROM A SEATED POSITION. THERE ARE ENDLESS ADVENTURES TO BE HAD, WHETHER YOU CHOOSE TO PADDLE IN THE GULF, CHOCTAWHATCHEE BAY OR IN THE COASTAL DUNE LAKES.
KAYAKS CAN ALSO BE EQUIPPED WITH ALL THE ACCESSORIES YOU’LL NEED TO HOLD YOUR FISHING GEAR FOR A DAY ON THE WATER. DEPENDING ON WHERE YOU DECIDE TO DROP A LINE, YOU’LL ALSO HAVE A WIDE VARIETY OF FISH TO TARGET. FROM RED SNAPPER AND SAILFISH TO TROUT AND REDFISH, THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS.
SO WHETHER YOU DECIDE TO PADDLE OR KAYAK YOUR WAY THROUGH SOUTH WALTON, BE SURE THAT YOU SOAK UP THE SIGHTS, SOUNDS, AND RECREATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES THAT COME ALONG WITH IT. AND DON’T WORRY IF YOU DON’T OWN YOUR OWN BOARD OR KAYAK, SOUTH WALTON’S RETAILERS OFFER UP A VARIETY OF RENTAL OPTIONS. HERE ARE A FEW SUGGESTIONS TO GET YOU STARTED: BLACK BEARD’S BIKE RENTALS (GRAYTON BEACH), GULF WIND PADDLE & SURF(SANTA ROSA BEACH), YOLO BOARD ADVENTURES (SANDESTIN), AND PEDDLERS PADDLE BOARDS AND KAYAKS (SEACREST).
WANT TO RACE?
IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN MORE THAN A LEISURELY PADDLE, WHY NOT LET YOUR COMPETITIVE NATURE SHINE WHILE PARTICIPATING IN A PADDLE BOARD RACE?
RUN/SUP OFFERS TWO DIFFERENT RACE SERIES EVENTS. THE SUMMER SERIES IS FOR ALL SKILL LEVELS AND TAKES PLACE AT WESTERN LAKE IN WATERCOLOR. THE RACE, WHICH TAKES PLACE OVER THE COURSE OF THE SUMMER, FEATURES A ONE-MILE TRAIL RUN FOLLOWED BY A ONE MILE PADDLE. THE RACER WITH THE FASTEST TIME AT THE END OF THE SERIES IS THE WINNER. THE SOUTH WALTON RUN/SUP SERIES IS A CHALLENGING MULTI-SURFACE RACE. THIS RACE FEATURES A TWO MILE BEACH RUN FOLLOWED BY A TWO MILE PADDLE ON WESTERN LAKE. TO LEARN MORE ABOUT RUN/SUP, VISIT WWW.RUNSUP.COM/.
PADDLERS LOOKING FOR SOME ORGANIZED (AND FUN) COMPETITION CAN ALSO TAKE PART IN THE YOLO BOARD RELAY SERIES. HELD ANNUALLY, THE THREE-PART EVENT INCLUDES A RELAY-STYLE STANDUP PADDLE BOARD RACE FOR ATHLETES OF ALL AGES AND SKILL LEVELS. THE YOLO RELAY SERIES HAS MEN’S, WOMEN’S, COED, AND SPECIAL OLYMPIC ATHLETE DIVISIONS, AND TAKES PLACE IN THE CHOCTAWHATCHEE BAY BEHIND THE BAY RESTAURANT AT THE FOOT OF THE 331 BRIDGE. TO LEARN MORE ABOUT YOLO BOARD, VISIT WWW.YOLOBOARD.COM.
ABOUT SOUTH WALTON
A 26-MILE STRETCH OF SPARKLING WHITE SAND LOCATED ALONG THE GULF OF MEXICO IN NORTHWEST FLORIDA, SOUTH WALTON ENCOMPASSES A STRAND OF 16 BEACH NEIGHBORHOODS, EACH WITH UNIQUE PERSONALITY, ARCHITECTURE AND ENERGY. SOUTH WALTON IS HOME TO FOUR STATE PARKS, ONE STATE FOREST, AND MORE THAN 200 MILES OF HIKING AND BIKING TRAILS. FIND YOUR PERFECT BEACH IN NEIGHBORHOODS RENOWNED FOR SCENIC BEAUTY, SUGAR-WHITE SAND BEACHES AND TURQUOISE WATER. SOUTH WALTON WAS NAMED ONE OF THE “SECRET FLORIDA BEACHES” BY TRAVEL + LEISURE, BUT IS EASILY ACCESSIBLE AS A DRIVE TO DESTINATION OR BY FLYING TO NEARBY AIRPORTS NORTHWEST FLORIDA BEACHES INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (ECP) OR THE DESTIN – FORT WALTON BEACH AIRPORT (VPS). AN UPSCALE, YET CASUAL PLACE TO UNWIND, SOUTH WALTON REJUVENATES AND BUILDS LASTING MEMORIES. LEARN MORE AT WWW.VISITSOUTHWALTON.COM
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