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Trip Report: October 2022

Grayton Beach State Park... FL Panhandle Kayaking

Paddle on a Unique Coastal Dune Lake

Grayton Beach State Park is located along Scenic CR 30A in the Florida Panhandle. Paddling at the park is on Western Lake, one of many coastal dune lakes in the area - rare natural features that exist in only five places around the world, with others in Madagascar, New Zealand, Australia, and Oregon. At 200+ acres, Western Lake is the second largest coastal dune lake here, and the most accessible for paddling. Bring your own, or rent a kayak, canoe, or paddleboard by the boat ramp. The water here is clear and it's an easy paddle, subject to wind and sun. The towering sand dunes are notable. State Park fee applies. (map, photos below)

Paddle Florida Panhandle, Western Lake, Grayton Beach State Park, Kayak, Canoe

Paddling Map
Grayton Beach, Western Lake

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Distance: Various
Location: Walton County, FL
Difficulty: Easy
Launch points: Grayton Beach State Park boat ramp
Nearby Points of Interest: Topsail Hill Preserve State Park, Deer Lake State Park, Camp Helen State Park, Eden Gardens State Park, Point Washington State Forest


Friends of Grayton (kayak, paddleboard rentals) - located at Western Lake boat ramp

Support and Advocacy:

Friends of Grayton Beach and Deer Lake State Parks

Paddling at Grayton Beach State Park... Comments and Photos

For us, the beauty and uniqueness made this a worthwhile paddle. A highlight was being able to paddle along the narrow "outfall," where the freshwater lake will occasionally breach the sandbar - depending on weather and tide - and swap waters with the saltwater Gulf. The lake water is clean but tannin stained, which provides a contrast from the bluer waters of the Gulf. Note: Another option for paddling on Western Lake is from the public boat ramp at the old town of Grayton Beach (limited parking), but here we focus on the State Park. Small motorboats are allowed on the town side only, not within the State Park.

State Park Launch

From CR 30A, the Main Park Road runs just under a mile to the beach access - the boat launch is at about 0.7 mile. The large parking area accommodates cars and trailers, with two picnic pavilions adjoining. A kayak/paddleboard rental station manned by the Friends of Grayton is next to the ramp, or launch your own.

Paddling to the Outfall

From the State Park launch, go left and it's about one mile to the Gulf via the Outfall

Paddling to the outfall was a highlight, featuring views of the towering sand dunes. From the launch, bear to the left and go under the bridge at the Main Park Road, then the water narrows as it winds past tall dunes. Fishing was popular in this section. The channel opens up and the water widens on the town side. Bear to the left and the water gradually narrows once again into a channel. Nearing the Gulf, Grayton Beach is to the right and the State Park is to the left. On this day, school was out and it was beautiful weather, drawing many families with children, wading and boogy-boarding - we had to paddle slowly near the Gulf. While the outfall will sometimes open up into the Gulf after heavy rains, this was not the case on this day. We landed on the sandbar between the lake and Gulf - a 20" pull across the beach to Gulf waters - but with more to explore, we stayed on the lake side.

Launch to Outfall

Towards the Gulf

Paddling Around the Lake - Town Side

The lake on the town side is about 0.75 mile around

From the beach, we paddled past the tiny town of Grayton Beach to complete the loop on this part of the lake. One leg dead-ended at CR 30A, we were curious to see the Timpoochee Trail (which we had previously biked - see link below) from the water, but there was too much vegetation.

Old Grayton Beach, founded in 1890, is one of the oldest communities in Walton County. Many older buildings remain, but only one original. The town features a vibrant restaurant, shopping, and art scene. Although we saw a good deal of newer construction along the waterfront, we are confident the town will preserve its funky character and unofficial motto: "Nice Dogs, Strange People."

Paddling Around the Lake - State Park Side

It's about 1.5 mile around the lake on the Park side, with much more if you continue into the coves under the bridges

The lake is larger on the east side, a little choppy on the open water, but still an easy paddle. Two spurs go under bridges that carry CR 30A (and the Timpoochee Bike Trail) over the water. Continue under the bridges to explore some more sheltered backwater areas and even proceed to the community of Watercolor after going under the second bridge.

About Grayton Beach State Park

Located along the Gulf of Mexico between Destin, FL and Panama City Beach, Grayton Beach State Park was established in 1968 and covers about 2,000 acres. There are parking and restrooms, activities in addition to paddling includes the beach (one of the most pristine in the USA), picnicking, camping (RV, tent, and cabins), fishing, and birding. Biking and hiking are on a 1-mile nature trail and unpaved 4.5 mile bike/hike trail (entry on north side of CR 30A - very sandy). The 19-mile, paved Timpoochee Bike Trail (link below) runs past the State Park, parallel to CR 30A. Park Wildlife include alligators, black bear, deer, fox, gopher tortoises, osprey, hawks, heron, sandpipers and many other bird species.

More Information and Resources

Nearby Paddling:

See FL Panhandle Region for more paddling options

Nearby Biking:

Timpoochee Trail
Topsail Hill Preserve State Park

Related Resources:

Florida State Parks - Grayton Beach State Park

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