Powerful hurricanes are one of the most destructive forces in nature. Ironically, however, a 1926 hurricane opened what would become Grayton Beach State Park to the rest of the world. In September of that year, the Great Miami Hurricane formed in the Atlantic, devastated much of the state, crossed into the Gulf of Mexico, and then barreled through to the Florida panhandle. That storm flattened the sand dunes in this area, making previously remote areas highly accessible.
Today, Grayton Beach State Park is one of the most popular state parks in Florida. The park's scenery and pristine beaches are almost unmatched. Sandy pine forests, rich wetlands, and a string of inland lakes complement the park's coastal sections. Swimming, boating, and sunbathing are always great options at Grayton Beach State Park. However, be sure you make time for hiking, birding, and some of the other activities that are waiting for you and your family to enjoy.
The park's campground sports over 50 RV-friendly sites, most of which offer full hookups. The park also has over 20 lovely beach-side cabins, a great option for those looking for a quiet coastal getaway. Popular parks nearby include St. Andrews State Park and Apalachicola National Forest.
Grayton Beach State Park is located right off of E County Highway 30A, which itself branches off of US-98. The park sits about midway between Pensacola and Tallahassee. All the roads to the park are paved, flat, and well-maintained. Campsites have gravel pads, but the rest of the park's roads are also paved.
There are no major road hazards to worry about, even for those driving sizable RVs or pulling trailers. Tropical storms, hurricanes, and torrential rain are weather hazards to keep an eye out for, so make sure you take a look at the local forecast before traveling to the park.
Campsites are all back-in with gravel pads. Maneuvering in shouldn't pose much of a problem, as long as you're rig is under the length limits. Ample large-vehicle parking is also available near most of the major trailheads and the beach.
Grayton Beach's gorgeous campground is set on the shores of placid Western Lake. Just under a quarter-mile to the south -- an easy and beautiful walk -- is Grayton Beach itself. Palmettos and other semi-tropical plants cover the sandy ground while scraggly Loblolly pines and twisted scrub oaks provide a bit of shade.
In total, the campground boasts 53 sites. Almost all of these have full hookups, including 50-amp electric, water, and sewage connections. One spot is reserved for tent-only campers, but the rest are RV-friendly (with most being able to accommodate rigs up to 40 feet in length). Four sites are also ADA-accessible. Each site has a picnic table and grill, and showers and other facilities are available too. Sites are well-screened and cozy.
Grayton is consistently ranked among Florida's top beaches, so it's no surprise that its campground fills quickly. Reservations are taken for all sites here, and they can most easily be made online. Spots can be booked up to eleven months in advance.
Unfilled spots at Grayton Beach's campground can be taken on a first-come, first-served basis. Given the park's popularity though, it's a good idea to reserve a spot if possible, especially if you're arriving on a Friday or weekend!
About a mile to the west of Grayton's main campground is its cabin village. Guests looking for some extra creature comforts should definitely look into booking one of these charming bungalows.
There are 27 cabins in total, all nestled into a sandy bit of pine woods just a few hundred feet from the beach. Each cabin comes with two vehicle parking spaces, a gas fireplace for use during the winter, a kitchen, and central heat and air conditioning. These cabins also include screened porches and outdoor gas grills. Like the park's regular campsites, cabins can be booked online, up to 11 months in advance.
Grayton Beach, with its many interconnected trails and spurs, is a sort of choose-your-own-adventure for hikers. One of the most popular long routes, however, is the Western Lake Trail, which takes trekkers through some of the park's spacious pine forests and along the shores of Western Lake. Just a few hundred feet inland from the gulf, this placid lake's waters attract all sorts of wildlife, so be sure to bring your binoculars.
Anglers may snag saltwater fish in the Gulf of Mexico or freshwater fish in the coastal dune lakes. These lakes are mostly shallow and freshwater, although some salinity trickles in from time to time.
Western Lake has a boat ramp, and powered boats are allowed there. The draft is pretty shallow, though, and bass boats have to be careful about aground. It’s probably best to stick with canoes and other unpowered craft. The bass and bream are plentiful in the lakes; the redfish aren’t bad either.
The Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance often holds surf fishing classes in the area. Charter boats are available to those wanting to head farther out into the gulf. Snapper and Mahi are plentiful in the summer.
Wherever you cast your line, make sure you have a proper Florida State fishing license. Anglers should note that there are different permits for saltwater and freshwater fishing.
Take a break from the sand and surf, and walk a short distance inland to Alligator Lake, Western Lake, or Little Redfish Lake. Coastal dune lakes are rare and diverse ecosystems not found very many other places in the world. Several different habitat types, including sand dunes, depression marshes, seepage slopes, and wet flatwoods, all come together here.
The Flatwoods Trail, a four-mile loop, takes hikers on an amble through wetlands and sandy pine forests. Keep an eye out for turtles, snakes, lizards and all manner of wading and shorebirds. Much of the trail is paved, and the unpaved parts are mostly firm and flat. Some parts of the trail can get quite muddy after a rain, though.
The idyllic Grayton Beach is a wonderful place to sunbathe, go for a swim, read a book, or just watch the surf. Here, white sands dip slowly into sea-green coastal waters, which turn a cerulean shade of blue as they grow deeper out towards the gulf.
Grayton's shores are more than just a pretty place to play and relax - they've got a fascinating natural history too. For the most part, the gentle yet relentless ocean surf made Grayton Beach what it is today. But other natural forces, such as wind pruning and salt spray, are at work as well. Shifting sands can transform landscapes. Take a look at some of the "beach bushes," for instance, and you'll see that they are actually southern magnolia and slash pine trees, with only their tops visible.
Birds and wildlife, such as shorebirds and sea turtles, are abundant here as well. Threatened Choctawhatchee beach mice live on the dunes, so foot traffic is prohibited there. Lifeguards are on duty during much of the summer, but parents are still advised to keep a close eye on swimming kids. Sunscreen is highly recommended too!
If you're looking for a longer stroll or bike ride and would like to take in as many seaside views as possible, the Timpoochee Trail is a great option for you. This flat, 18-mile paved trail weaves its way along the coast from Dune Allen to Inlet Beach, passing through Grayton Beach along the way. The trail offers marvelous views of dunes, coastal forests, and, of course, the gulf.
One of the nice things about a south-facing beach is that visitors can enjoy both sunrises and sunsets. These events are especially beautiful in the winter. The beaches tend to be quieter, and the skies tend to be even more colorful. Dusk and dawn are also a great time to bring your camera along!
To preserve the pristine quality of these beaches, picnicking is generally prohibited except in designated areas. Fortunately, Grayton Beach State Park has a number of these. Some picnic spots are near the beach and some are further inland. Take in the salty air and the gentle sea breeze while enjoying your meal, and then post-up under a scrub oak for a nap afterward!
Walk along the Hobbit Hole trail and take in all the best that Grayton Beach has to offer in just one short trek. Start at the beach, cross the dunes, disappear under the oak canopy that gives this route its nickname, and emerge at Western Lake. This is a great trail in any season, and it's not prone to the muddiness some of the more inland trails are.
A small beach campfire can feel great on a cool winter evening. Stay out late to watch the sun set over the water and the stars slowly appear in the night sky. Beach campfires are fires are generally permissible, but you must provide your own wood. Some spots near the dunes may be prohibited to foot traffic.