Fish, hike, paddle and enjoy birding on the coastal dune lakes of South Walton

Sand dunes along the outfall on Camp Creek Lake. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Recreational activities abound along these rare coastal dune lakes

Walton County is well known for its beautiful beaches and great fishing. Less known to those that have never visited the area, are the unique and scenic coastal dune lakes that dot the coastline along the area’s beach dune systems.

Nestled along Scenic Highway 30A, Walton county’s coastal dune lakes are rare geological features that only occur in the Florida Panhandle, Madagascar, Australia, New Zealand and the northern Pacific coast of the United States.

Streams, groundwater seepage and rain are the sources that feed the coastal dune lakes. Storm surge creates intermittent connections to the Gulf of Mexico, called outfalls. This periodic connection empties lake water into the Gulf, and, depending on tides and weather, salt water and organisms from the Gulf flow back into the lakes.

Coastal dune lakes. Click to enlarge. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

In addition to their unique form, the coastal dune lakes are among the most picturesque places in Florida. Local state parks; Topsail Hill Preserve State Park, Grayton Beach State Park, Deer Lake State Park and Camp Helen State Park offer beautiful vistas where one can view the lakes nestled in the sand dunes. The lake outfalls provide great birding opportunities.

Recreational activities along the coastal dune lakes include kayak/canoe paddling, stand up paddle boarding, bird watching and both salt and freshwater fishing.

Fishing is typically fresh water, however salt-water species can be found in the lakes as well. Bream, bass, pan fish, catfish, redfish, flounder, speckled trout and mullet are commonly caught.

A Florida fishing license is required to fish on the coastal dune lakes. It is recommended purchasing a combo fresh/salt water fishing license issued by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). To buy licenses online, go to: https://www1.fl.wildlifelicense.com/start.php

Walton County does not allow jet propelled watercraft (Jet Skis) on any coastal dune lake. However, Lake Powell, which is primarily located in Bay County does. All lakes allow motorized boats except Topsail Hill Preserve, which does not allow any type of boat, kayak or canoe except their kayak, canoe and stand up paddle board rentals on Campbell Lake.