Camp Helen State Park is one magnificent adventure

April 25, 2010

A trail to the beach at Camp Helen. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors
A trail to the beach at Camp Helen. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Take a walk through the woods to a beautiful beach

I was hesitant to share my most favorite place to venture, a little bit selfish in a way, wanting to keep this “secret” treasure all to myself. However, the beauty of Camp Helen State Park should be shared and appreciated by everyone wanting to experience the splendor of the area’s biodiversity.

My friend Sherry McCall and I always look forward to enjoying Camp Helen. We both agree, there is no better place to spend a gorgeous morning.

Surrounded by water on three sides, Lake Powell on the east, a salt marsh on the west, and the Gulf of Mexico on the south, this gem of a park is unique in many ways.

A walk through the woods at Camp Helen. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors
A walk through the woods at Camp Helen. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

There are two paths to the beach from the main park area. You can choose to walk along the lake, or a path through the woods, with a dense canopy of  maritime hammock.

My preference is to walk through the woods to the beach, and walk back along the lakeside.

Walking through the canopy of trees, you will spot a variety of flora, including southern magnolia, towering live oaks above and soft dollops of pale green deer moss coating the ground.

Trekking a bit further, you come upon the sand dunes. Lupine and sea oats are imbedded into the sides of the rolling dunes. In the late spring and early summer, the lupine blooms a velvety, rich deep blue.

Once you arrive at the beach, you will spot a relic of what was once a pier. Looking to the east you will enjoy the Lake Powell outfall and a stunning stretch of shell-filled beach.

Camp Helen is a great place to kayak/canoe Lake Powell, swim, fish and beach comb, It is also a great place to slow down, appreciate Mother Nature at her finest, and have a picnic lunch.

Without saying much more, Camp Helen promises to share surprises and delights for any visitor. Go and experience this special place of discovery for yourself!

Living in the Florida Panhandle has its advantages!

A bit of history
In 1928, Robert E. Hicks purchased 185 acres of land overlooking Philips Inlet, where he built a summer home for his wife, Margret May. Margret named the compound Loch Lomond. Construction of the lodge and out buildings began in the 1930s.

Between 1945 and 1987, Avondale Textile Mills of Sylacauga, Ala. purchased the land from the Hicks and turned it into a resort destination for their employees. During that time, 12 duplex cottages and a recreation hall were built.

The buildings are still standing, with the hall remodeled and some of the cottages with new roofs. One of the cottages has been restored into a restroom facility.

Hours of Operation
Florida state parks are open from 8 a.m. until sundown 365 days a year.

Driving Directions
Camp Helen is located at 23937 Panama City Beach Parkway, Panama City Beach, FL, just west of the Phillips Inlet bridge on the Bay County and Walton county line. The entrance is south of U.S. Hwy 98. Click here for map

Park Fees
There is an honor entrance station. The fee is $4.00 per vehicle and $1.00 per bicyclist or pedestrian.

Camp Helen State Park
23937 Panama City Beach Parkway
Panama City Beach, Florida 32413
Phone: 850–233–5059
Fax: 850–236–3204

Citizen Support Organization
The Friends of Camp Helen
P.O. Box 19338
Panama City Beach, Fl. 32407

Venture Walton is a feature column for outdoor enthusiasts in Walton County, Florida.

Lori Ceier is the publisher of, and can be reached via email at

    1. Yes, my mother, the widow of Robert E. Hicks, finished the construction of our summer home called ‘Loch Lomond’, now Camp Helen, after the death of my father in March, 1932. Later my mother & I spent the entire year there until Mother sold it to Avondale Mills for $75,000.00.
      I returned to my old home on 10 October this year. So sorry to see all the furniture gone & neon lights in dining room. The downstairs bedroom now used for storage. My bedroom w/balcony would be lovely refurnished in the style when it was my bedroom – canopied bed, tea table in front of fireplace with Spodebone china tea set etc.etc.I married in that home & would gladly give my wedding dress for display. Tourists like a touch of history.
      Will appreciate your feed-back.Sincerely
      Margaret Savabe nee Hicks

    1. I grew up in Avondale Village in Bham. And Yes, going to Camp Helen was the highlight of the year. I still remember the wonderful time we had during our week there. Each mill was given a week to spend in that wonderful place. Those were the best years of my life. I’m sooo glad it was saved and turned into a park where more people could go and enjoy.

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