Grayton Beach State Park

Grayton Beach State Park is a beautiful beachfront state park and campground in the Florida panhandle. 

The park protects approximately 2,187 acres, including delicate dune lakes, pristine beaches on the Gulf of Mexico, and a variety of natural ecosystems.

Aerial view of beaches at Grayton Beach State Park

What is Grayton Beach known for?

Grayton Beach State Park. is known for its:

  • Beautiful white sand beach
  • Crystal clear emerald water
  • Excellent campground and cabins
  • Rare coastal dune lakes
  • Diverse fishing, including fresh and saltwater
  • Wide variety of outdoor experiences

Grayton Beach State Park is also known for being named one of the “Best Beaches” in America by the famous Dr. Beach. 

For these reasons, and many others, I rank Grayton Beach State Park as one my favorite state parks in Florida. 

It’s one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever visited and I can never wait for the next trip!

Grayton Beach State Park, Florida woman on beach

Location

Grayton Beach State Park is located in the Florida panhandle. The park sits along the western shores of Western Lake, and just north of the Gulf of Mexico. 

Grayton Beach State Park, Florida crystal clear water

The state park is located in Florida’s “Emerald Coast” region, named after the crystal clear emerald blue/green waters in this area of the panhandle.

Park Map

The main park address is: 

357 Main Park Road, Santa Rosa Beach FL 32459

Sections of Grayton Beach

Grayton Beach State Park is divided into two sections; a main section and a cabin section.

Main Section

The main park section includes the park ranger station, campground and most amenities. 

The main section is located on the western shoreline of Western Lake. 

Cabin Section

A separate cabin section is located about one mile to the west, also off of highway 30A. This section of the park contains all 30 rental cabins. 

Both sections of the park are located along the famous 30A Scenic Highway.

Nearby

Grayton Beach State Park is located near several small beach towns, all situated along highway 30A. 

Aerial view of beaches and nearby towns at Grayton Beach State Park
Image by Google Maps

Nearby beach towns include: 

  • Grayton Beach
  • Seaside
  • Watercolor
  • Rosemary Beach
  • Sunnyside
  • Laguna Beach
  • Seagrove Beach
  • Santa Rosa Beach
  • Miramar Beach
Grayton Beach State Park, Florida aerial view beach

Larger cities near Grayton Beach State Park include:

  • Destin
  • Panama City Beach (PCB)

Grayton Beach State Park is located about halfway between Destin to the west and Panama City Beach to the east. Both are about 25-30 miles from the park.

There are other state parks and natural attractions near Grayton Beach State Park:

  • Eden Gardens State Park
  • Deer Lake State Park
  • Point Washington State Forest
  • Defuniak Springs
  • Ponce De Leon Springs State Park
  • St. Andrews State Park
  • Topsail Hill Preserve
  • Camp Helen State Park

Grayton Beach State Park is located adjacent to the Point Washington State Forest, which sits just to the north of the state park. 

The state forest has an extensive network of trails which are fun to explore on foot or by bicycle. ​​

The state forest is a popular spot for hunting so visitors should take all appropriate precautions and be very careful, especially during hunting season. 

Park Information

Contact Information

The main park contact phone number is (850) 267-8300

Hours

Grayton Beach State Park is open from 8 am until sunset, year-round, 365 days a year. 

The park gates close at sunset. Overnight visitors who plan to arrive after sunset should call 850-267-8300 before 5 p.m. on the day of arrival for the gate combination and instructions. For more details check the park website.

Fees

There is a mandatory entrance fee to enter, as with all Florida state parks.

The fee to enter is $5 per vehicle, with other prices for pedestrians, single-occupant cars, etc.

Park Amenities

Grayton Beach State Park has a ton of amenities. The state park includes:

  • A full-service campground
  • Beautiful beaches
  • Rental cabins with kitchens, linens and basic supplies
  • On-site rentals (Kayak, Canoe and SUP paddle boards)
  • Hiking trails and bike paths
  • A boat ramp for small watercraft
  • Picnic pavilions and bbq grill facilities
  • Water fountains
  • Restrooms facilities
  • Showers for day-users
  • Showers and bath house facilities for campers
  • Accessible amenities
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Pet policy

Dogs are allowed inside Grayton Beach State Park, but only in certain limited areas. 

Dogs must remain on a 6 ft. leash at all times. Dogs and pets are prohibited on beaches and in most recreation and common areas of the park.

Cabin Rentals

Grayton Beach State Park has 30 cabins available for rent. 

The cabins are located in a separate section of the park about a mile west of the main park section. The cabin section feels quiet and natural, and is surrounded by woodlands and pine scrub habitat. 

Aerial view of rental vacation cabins at Grayton Beach State Park
Image by Google Maps

The cabins are not directly beach front; they require a walk of about 5 minutes to reach the beach, via a raised boardwalk over the dunes.

The cabin section has its own stretch of beach which is separated from the main section of the park. Because it’s relatively secluded, this stretch of the beach is often less crowded than the main park beach.

Grayton Beach State Park, Florida crystal clear water, florida

The cabins in Grayton Beach State Park are “Duplex” style buildings. They’re somewhat minimalist, but they’re generally clean and well-maintained. 

The cabins include central AC/heat, and fireplaces for use during cool winter months and cold weather. 

Each cabin can sleep up to six people. The cabins vary a bit, but most are two-bedroom with one bathroom. Most layouts have a queen bed in one room and two twin beds in another bedroom.

Each cabin has a picnic table, grill, water and electric, along with basic utensils, basic linens, basic furniture and kitchen facilities. 

Guests must bring many of their own items, including beach towels, beach gear, toiletries, condiments, and most other consumables or personal items. 

Overall the cabins are basic, but they’re very functional. They offer excellent value and amazing access to the beautiful beaches.

Other details to know:

  • The cabins in Grayton Beach State Park are incredibly popular, and are difficult to book.
  • They’re often reserved immediately, as soon as they become available, 11 months in advance.
  • There is a minimum two-night stay in the park cabins. 
  • Pets are not allowed in the cabins.
  • The cabins don’t include “Housekeeping” as one might get with a hotel. Linens are not refreshed nightly.

Cabin Rental Prices

The price for cabins varies by the season. 

SeasonBase Price per Night*Base Price per Week*
Aug. 1 until Jan 31$110$705
Feb. 1 until July 31$130$775
*Plus additional reservation fee of $6.70 and $7 per night for utility fees.

Please always check the main state park page for updated pricing and policies.

Campground

The Grayton Beach State Park campground is one of the best campsites in Florida. The campground doesn’t offer direct camping on the beach, but it’s very close!

Aerial view of beaches at Grayton Beach State Park
Image by Google Maps

Campground Price

At the time of this writing camping at Grayton Beach State Park costs $30 per night, plus tax and fees.

Campers must also pay a $6.70 reservation fee. RV campers must also pay $7 per night for water/sewer utility fees, but this is not charged to tent campers. 

Please always check the main state park page for updated pricing and policies.

Campground Loops

Campsites are arranged into two loops. Both sit a bit far back from the beach, next to Western Lake. Some sites are waterfront access and views of Western Lake, or the dunes.

Aerial view of campground loops at Grayton Beach State Park
Image by Google Maps

People usually describe the two loops as the “Old loop” and the “New loop”. 

  • The “New Loop” is located towards the north, closer to the ranger station.
  • The “Old loop” is located towards the south end, closer to the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Tent camping is allowed.

Campground Facilities

Each loop has a bathhouse in the middle of the loop, with nice restroom facilities, showers, and laundry facilities. All bath houses and facilities are generally clean and well-maintained.

Campground Hookups

All sites have electricity and water hookups. Some sites have full hookups, including sewer. Some sites may not have sewer hookups, especially sites in the old loop.

The old loop tends to have more tree coverage and more shade and privacy between sites. 

Sites in the “Old loop” are a bit smaller than those in the “New loop” and have less room for maneuvering big rigs. 

  • The campsites are all nice and level
  • Campsites feel private and generously sized
  • Some campsites may be too small for large rigs
  • Excellent bicycle trails in the area
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Downsides of Camping at Grayton beach State Park

The biggest downside to camping at Grayton Beach State Park is the lack of availability. 

It’s very difficult, or impossible, to get reservations because they’re often booked up as soon as they become available 11 months in advance.

The park can also get crowded during peak seasons, especially summer and spring break.

Despite its reputation for being a tropical paradise, the Florida Panhandle can be very cold during winter months, and can even experience freezing weather.

Visitors should be prepared for very cold air and water temperatures, and should not expect to swim during cold weather, or at all, during cold winter months.

Note: Campers should be aware of local wildlife, and behave accordingly. Grayton Beach State Park is home to hazardous wildlife, including alligators, bears, snakes, raccoons, birds and many other forms of wildlife to watch out for.

Please always check the main state park page for updated pricing and policies.

Things to do

The best things to do at Grayton Beach State Park all revolve around the beach and the natural beauty of the nearby dune lakes, which are very delicate and rare ecosystems.

Beach

The state park has approximately two miles of pristine beaches.

The sand is sugar-white and is very fine. The sand consists of finely ground quartz crystal, which was eroded from the Appalachian mountains during previous ice ages. 

The water at Grayton Beach State Park is among the clearest water in Florida. It is often crystal-clear, with an emerald green tint. 

Read more about the places with the clearest water in Florida

Water clarity can vary depending on weather conditions and rainfall. The water can be darker and less clear after heavy rains, when dark, tannic water flows out of the coastal dune lakes, also known as an “Outfall” event.

The dark coloration comes from natural tannin staining from organic matter like tree leaves, and is not the same as “muddy” water.

There are two beach sections. 

  • The section to the east is for the main state park use. 
  • Another section to the west serves visitors who are staying in the state park cabins. 

Popular activities at the beach include swimming, sunbathing, ocean kayaking, shoreline fishing and other beach activities.

Swimming

Swimming is one of the most popular activities in Grayton Beach State Park.

There are no lifeguards on duty at Grayton Beach State Park.

Paddling

Kayaking, SUP paddle boarding and canoeing are all excellent ways to explore Grayton Beach State Park, including inside Western Lake and in the Gulf of Mexico.

Hiking and bicycling

Hiking and bicycling are very popular in the state park and nearby, thanks to the large network of walking and biking paths nearby.

Things to do nearby

  • Grayton Brewery
  • Food trucks
  • Sunday Farmers market in Rosemary Beach
  • Large stores available in Destin and Panama City Beach

Nature, Bird and Wildlife Wiewing

The area is home to a variety of wildlife to watch out for, including alligators, Florida Black Bears, snakes, raccoons, birds and many other forms of wildlife.

There are 13 different ecosystems inside Grayton Beach State Park, including:

  • Coastal dune lakes
  • Wet flatwood
  • Seepage slope
  • Dome
  • Depression marsh
  • Baygall
  • Scrubby flatwood
  • Scrub
  • Sandhill
  • Mesic flatwood
  • Beach dune
  • Tidal marsh estuary
  • Marine

The area is very popular with bird watchers because many rare and migratory birds live in the park and surrounding region.

Alligators

There are alligators inside Grayton Beach State Park. Alligators mostly live in freshwater but are occasionally found in saltwater. Signs throughout the park warn visitors about potential hazards, including alligators, snakes and other natural hazards. 

Read more about alligators in Florida

Black Bears

Black Bears are known to live near Grayton beach, especially in nearby Point Washington State Forest and throughout the western Florida Panhandle. Every year there are many black bear sightings, including some interactions which are dangerous or fatal for the bear and/or humans. 

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Cycling and Hiking Trails

Cycling is a very popular activity inside Grayton Beach State Park. There are numerous trails inside the park, and nearby. The surrounding area is also very well suited for bicycling. 

Many small neighboring beach towns and attractions are connected by walking and cycling paths.

For most people walking and cycling will be most comfortable and enjoyable during cool weather, rather than intensely hot and humid summers.

Trails around Grayton Beach State Park include: 

  • Grayton Beach Hike and Bike Trail
  • Grayton Beach Nature Trail
  • The Lake Loop Trail
  • The paved 30A Trail (Timpoochee Trail)
  • Many miles of trails inside the nearby state forest

There is a 4.5-mile (9-mile round trip) hiking/biking trail that runs through the forest and around the back side of Western Lake.

Grayton Beach State Park, Florida hiking trail

The Grayton Beach Nature Trail is one of the best trails in the park. It wanders past sand dune habitats, upland pine and sand scrub, and the shores of the Western Lake sand dune lake.

Camping

The campground at Grayton Beach State Park is one of the best parts of the park.

Campsites are not directly beach front, but they’re very close! Overall this state park is one of the best beach camping experiences in all of Florida.

This stretch of Highway 30A and the Florida Gulf Coast are very exclusive with expensive and limited beach access. The state park campground provides some of the most and most treasured beach access.

Fishing

Fishing in Grayton Beach State park is unique because anglers can fish for saltwater fish in the Gulf of Mexico, and freshwater fish in the fresh and brackish waters of the dune lakes. 

There is a boat ramp for small watercraft in the state park. Canoe rentals are also available inside the state park.

Boating

Boating is one of the best things to do in Grayton Beach State Park, including in Western Lake and in the Gulf of Mexico.

There is an on-site boat ramp which provides access to Western Lake. 

Only small watercraft are allowed at the boat ramp, i.e. kayaks, canoes, paddleboards and small motor boats with small engines and trolling motors. Jet skis and jet boats are prohibited.

History

Grayton Beach State Park has an interesting story. 

Grayton Beach State Park, Florida ranger station and park entrance

Archeological evidence shows that South Walton County has been home to Native Americans, and was inhabited for thousands of years before “modern settlers” began arriving in the late 1800s.

Tourists began coming to Grayton Beach and the surrounding area in the late 1800s and early 1900s, when Grayton was a small fishing village and resort town.

Like many other state parks in Florida, the beautiful natural area of Grayton Beach State Park was nearly lost to real estate development, especially during speculative “boom and bust” real estate cycles.

Some sections of the park, including the “Cabin section”, were cleared to become residential neighborhoods. Some remnants of the development still exist, like the network of paved roadways.

Brave local residents stood up to the developers who wanted to “pave paradise.” Conservationists saved the pristine natural areas from being turned into condos. 

Grayton Beach State Park, Florida seaside, 30A

Thanks to their hard work, we, and future generations, have a beautiful state park to enjoy.

In 1964 approximately 356 acres were acquired by the Florida Board of Parks and Historic Memorials. Additional tracts of land were acquired in 1985, 1993 and 1995. The park officially opened in 1968.

Today 13 different ecosystems are preserved and protected by the park, including rare and endangered species, as well as the park’s fragile natural environment

Final Thoughts 

Grayton Beach State Park is one of the best state parks in Florida. 

If you can go, do it, you’ll be glad you did! Don’t miss the chance to experience these white crystal sand beaches, emerald clear waters, dune lakes, amazing campground and our beautiful Florida nature.

Cover image by Google Maps