Expect pleasant surprises at Henderson Beach State Park

March 22, 2011

A view of the Gulf along the natural dune system. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Enjoy natural splendor just east of the heart of Destin

Have you ever wondered what Destin looked like 40 years ago before urban development? Ever wonder what it would look like if you could see more than a mile of rolling sand dunes right on the Gulf of Mexico? Well, fear not, the opportunity to enjoy nature at its best awaits the explorer at Henderson Beach State Park.

As busy as the city of Destin is with bustling traffic up and down U.S. Highway 98, one might almost miss the entrance to this beautiful Florida State Park chock full of natural beauty. As one of the area’s best-kept secrets, Henderson Beach State Park offers 20 acres of ancient coastal scrub habitat. Along with more than a mile of scenic shoreline, you can truly enjoy nature at it’s best.

Take a hike along the dune trail at Henderson Beach State Park. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

One of the highlights of the park is a ¾ mi. pet friendly nature trail through the coastal dune system. The nature trail was built through a partnership between the Friends of Henderson Beach State Park and the park. The trail provides visitors with a rare view of some of the last remaining coastal scrub communities in Florida’s panhandle.

As you walk along the trail you will expect to see sand live oaks, sea oats, Chapman oaks, sand pine, rosemary, wax myrtle, magnolia, golden asters, goldenrod, spiderwort and coastal lupine. A variety of resident birds may be found such towhees, mockingbirds,  snowy plovers, piping plovers and least terns. More than a dozen gopher tortoise burrows are nestled along the sand dunes with five of them currently active. At the top of the trail are remnants of the United States Air Force Clausen tracking site installed in 1951.

Spiderwort blooms along the trail at Henderson Beach State Park. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

The park offers a large day use area with six pavilions on the beach with barbecue grills, picnic tables, shower and restroom facilities. Boardwalks provide access to the beach for swimming, sunbathing, and fishing. ADA access is available along with beach wheelchairs.

Sixty RV campsites are available with each site nestled in scrub oaks and pines. The sites include water and electric hookups, picnic table, campfire ring and access to air-conditioned and heated bathhouse facilities.

Henderson was purchased in 1983 by the Department of Environmental Protection from the Henderson family estate and opened to the public in March 1991. This was the first acquisition under the land conservation program initiated by Governor Bob Graham, Save Our Coast.

Henderson Beach State Park is available for weddings and events. The park also offers interpretive ranger educational programs.

Henderson Beach State Park is a great family-oriented destination. Swim and fish in the Gulf, take a hike along the dunes and enjoy grilling out in a shaded pavilion right on the Gulf of Mexico. It doesn’t get any better! ::MAP::

Admission Fee:
$6.00 per vehicle. Limit 2-8 people per vehicle.
$4.00 Single Occupant Vehicle.
$2.00 Pedestrians, bicyclists, extra passengers, passengers in vehicle with holder of Annual Individual Entrance Pass.

Campground information, click here.
Picnic Pavilion Rental Fees:
$100.00 per day, plus tax. The East Pavilion seats 100.
$100.00 per day, plus tax. The West Pavilion seats 100.
Only one Pavilion can be rented per day to allow other visitors picnic space. Park opens at 8:00 a.m. and closes at sundown. Pavilions cannot be reserved between May 1st and September 30th due to limited picnic space available during summer months.

For more information about Henderson Beach State Park, click here.

17000 Emerald Coast Parkway
Destin, Florida 32541
(850) 837-7550
For RV/camping reservations, go to: www.ReserveAmerica.com