This will be my last post from the road on this trip. We left Florida on Friday heading back to California. We have about 2100 miles to cover and if all goes well we should be back before Christmas. I will post that misadventure from home.
We left Manatee Springs on Tuesday, heading for the Florida panhandle and Grayton Beach State Park. We took photos at two other state parks as well.
This jewel of a park is a great place to get away for a weekend or a weeklong vacation. Picnic facilities and a swimming area are located near the scenic point where the Ochlockonee and Dead rivers intersect. Ochlockonee, which means "yellow waters," is a mix of brackish, tidal surge, and fresh water. Pristine and deep, the river empties into the Gulf of Mexico.
Trails allow visitors to explore the park and see the diverse wildlife, including the red-cockaded woodpecker, and natural communities such as pine flatwoods and oak thickets. A boat ramp provides easy access to the river. Both freshwater and saltwater fish inhabit the waters around the park, including largemouth bass, bream, catfish and speckled perch. For overnight visitors, there are full-facility campsites with access to restrooms and showers. It's about 7 miles west from the town of Sopchoppy. That name cracks me up.
Pristine white sugar sand beaches and more than 6,000 feet of natural scenic shoreline border the emerald green waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Natural features of the park include sand pines, scrub oaks, and dune rosemary. Boardwalks provide access to the beach for swimming, sunbathing, and fishing. Two large pavilions allow for picnicking and grilling. A playground is the first stop on the nature trail and is sure to be a success with the kids. The nature trail provides visitors a rare glimpse of the coastal dune ecosystem and abundant wildlife and is pet friendly.
Henderson Beach State Park provides 60 campsites that are located in a secondary dune system. The sites include water and electric hookups and access to air conditioned and heated bathhouse facilities. A separate beach access boardwalk with outdoor showers and a playground are included in the campground.
It is located about 20 miles west of Grayton Beach State Park near Destin.
Which brings us to Grayton.
Grayton Beach consistently ranks among the most beautiful and pristine beaches in the United States. The beach provides an idyllic setting for swimming, sunbathing and surf fishing and is the backdrop for golden sunrises and silver moonlit evenings. The nearly 2,000-acre park features a boat ramp that provides access to the lake's brackish waters for both freshwater and saltwater fishing.
Visitors can paddle a canoe or kayak on scenic Western Lake to get a closer look at a salt marsh ecosystem. A nature trail winds through a coastal forest where scrub oaks and magnolias stand, bent and twisted by the salt winds. Hikers and bicyclists can enjoy more than four miles of trails throughout the pine flatwoods. Options for overnight stays include modern cabins and a full-facility campground.
Tuesday night included a beautiful sunset and campfire. These photos were taken from our campsite. Yeah.
While Glenn was snoring away the next morning, I walked down to the beach. OK, this is the kind of sand I have been looking for all along. Pristine white sand. First up, the dunes. You cannot walk on these which is why they provide boardwalks, but they sure are pretty.
The access to the beach is in the day use area. The boardwalk starts from the mammoth restroom.
How is this for a picnic spot?
Finally, the beach.
Even little plants love the white sand.
The Gulf has very clear water. I tried to capture that quality in a couple of photos, but they do not do it justice.
Walking back to the campground you pass the canoe launch on Western Lake, some trails, and a view of the campground over the lake.
Alligators seem to be everywhere. And so do raccoons. It looks like Rocky has gotten himself a new job.
He's probably full from all the food he has taken from us.
Grayton is located on CR 30a, a 20 mile oceanfront loop off of US 98. The village of Water Color is located about 2 miles away, near Seaside. I highly recommend this area for a vacation, either camping or staying at the Water Color Inn and Resort. There are numerous shops and restaurants, with nary a fast food joint in sight. We stumbled upon a spot called Pizza by the Sea and had a slice of pizza for lunch. It was delicious. Reminds me of Laguna Beach or Del Mar, California.
Regards, Park Ranger