Americans love the beach and every year families flock to the coast for their vacation. Beaches span across the nation from “sea to shining sea” with thousands to choose from since the U.S. coastline covers 12,383 miles. For the past 27 years “Dr. Beach”, also known as Professor Stephen P. Leatherman of Florida International University, comprises a list of the very best beaches. He studies 650 individual beaches using all-encompassing criteria with features like sand quality, cleanliness, annual weather temperatures, number of sunny days, average water temperatures, sand color, water color, the width of the beach, wildlife, vista views and on-site amenities to name a few. Grayton Beach State Park down along Scenic 30A in South Walton was named in the Top 10 as the 4th Best Beach nationwide on his esteemed Forbes list for 2017. This comes as no surprise to visitors and residents along the Emerald Coast, although many would argue that it should have been rated as the very best!
Grayton Beach State Park regularly receives recognition as a “Blue Wave Beach” by a national program after extensive research. This environmental certification is awarded as the nation’s highest acclaim for cleanliness and pristine beauty. The enchantingly beautiful beach park encompasses 2,000 acres of forested bright crystalline shoreline. It is nestled beside a precious exotic 100 acre Coastal Dune Lake. These bodies of water are only found in Madagascar, parts of Australia, the Pacific Northwest and here where they parallel the coast along South Walton's Scenic 30A. Their proximity to the gulf is separated by sugary dunes with a creek that intermittently opens and closes. This creates a unique blend of fresh and salt water that supports a huge habitat for fish, wildlife, and indigenous plants.
The expansive Western Lake straddles Scenic 30A across to the beach on a narrow isthmus that crosses over from Grayton Beach into the aptly named picturesque community of Watercolor on its eastern shore. Wildlife includes Florida Black Bears, Deer, Grey Foxes, Great Blue Herons, Snowy White Egrets, Pelicans, Ducks, Osprey and American Bald Eagles. There are both salt water and fresh water fish available to catch. Visitors are allowed to canoe, kayak or paddleboard across the lake and explore the pristine salt marsh ecosystem. A boat ramp is provided for launch which can also include small engine trolling fishing boats. Canoes may be rented through the park ranger’s station nearby at $10 for five hours use or $15 for the whole day. You will often see families enjoying this experience as they paddle across the serene waters of the lake that mirrors the sky toward the sugary dunes near the gulf. The forest beside it has towering Lob Lolly Pine Trees, Oaks, Magnolias and Palmetto Palms. A nature trail meanders on a nine-mile round trip path along the shoreline and through the woods provided for adventurous hikers and heavy duty bicyclists. A paved bicycle path adjoins the park and runs the full length of Scenic 30A from Dune Allen Beach to Rosemary Beach, passing through lovely coastal villages, the gorgeous gulf, and several other coastal dune lakes.
The star of the show is the beautiful beach itself that faces the luminescent emerald toned waters of the glowing gulf. Pods of delightful dolphin may often be seen here frolicking in the distance. Besides sunbathing on the powdery white sand or luxuriating in clear gulf waters, you may also try your luck at surf fishing for Pompano, Redfish, Bluefish, Black Drum or Whiting. Sunsets occur over the gulf during the winter months that would rival Key West and bright full moons light up the shoreline with silvery magic during the summer. Grayton Beach State Park is handicapped accessible and provides adequate ramps, Mobi-Mats and Beach Wheelchairs. Leashed pets are allowed in designated areas and on inland trails but not directly on the beach. A special one-mile nature trail takes park visitors from the beach parking lot across the dune ecosystem, along the salt marsh and back through the pine flatlands near the shore. Picnic Pavilions are available on a first come, first serve basis. These include picnic tables and places for grilling. Three of these pavilions are right near the beach, and two additional ones are located near the boat ramp on Western Lake. There are also bathroom facilities, dressing rooms and showers available to rinse the sand off your feet.
This top rated beach and the sensational scenery is a must see! Many of our distinctive South Walton vacation rentals are nearby that include giant beachfront homes and cozy cottages. Take a look now at these deluxe accommodations here on our user-friendly website for aerial views, pictorial images, descriptions, seasonal rental rates, and calendar availability dates. Then get ready to enjoy your own piece of paradise with your loved ones near this award-winning beautiful beach.