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

February 23, 2012

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, click here.

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.

Several of the lakes are surrounded by private property, as homes have been developed around many of the lakes. The lakes themselves are public property, however it can be confusing where one can attain public access.

There are many public access points to the coastal dune lakes and parking is at a premium at many locations.

According to the Walton County Sheriff’s Department, parking on the county easement along Scenic Highway 30A is permitted. Unless there is signage indicating not to park in an area, one can park along the county easement. A vehicle cannot block a driveway or access to one’s private property. You cannot park within 15-feet of a stop sign, or park near an intersection where it hinders the view of traffic. A vehicle cannot block any portion of the bicycle path.

Below is a list of access information and recreational activity available on the area’s coastal dune lakes.

Public access points on Walton County’s coastal dune lakes

Fuller Lake: No public access, lake is located within the Coffeen Nature Preserve at the Four Mile Village community. Call for guided tour. (850) 622-3700.

Morris Lake and Campbell Lake: These two lakes along with an unnamed lake are located within Topsail Hill Preserve State Park. The park currently does not permit any private vessels on Morris Lake, however offers canoe, kayak and stand up paddle board rentals on Campbell Lake. Rentals are $35/ 1/2 day and $55/ full day. Hiking, fishing, bird watching. ::MAP::

Stallworth Lake: No public access.

Allen Lake: Limited access along Scenic Hwy. 30A. Hiking, fishing, bird watching.

Oyster Lake: Oyster Lake has limited access near the footbridge between Scenic Hwy. 30A and Lake Causeway walkover bridge, and along Scenic Hwy. 30A. Hiking, fishing, bird watching.

Oyster Lake can be accessed on each side of the footbridge and off of Scenic Hwy. 30A. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Draper Lake: No public access

Big Redfish Lake: There is a small, undeveloped county easement trail on Blue Lake Road. Limited parking. Hiking, fishing, bird watching.

Little Redfish Lake: Limited access off of Scenic Hwy. 30A. Hiking, fishing, bird watching.

New YOLO boarder explores Western Lake. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Alligator Lake: Very limited access along Scenic Hwy. 30A (steep incline). Fishing, bird watching, kayaking/canoeing/paddle boarding.

Western Lake: Western Lake is the most explored coastal dune lake in Walton County. Grayton Beach State Park offers adequate parking and boat ramp facilities within the park. The park also offers canoe rentals. There is a County boat ramp at the end of Hotz Ave., in Grayton Beach with limited parking. YOLO Board Adventures offers stand up paddle board rentals at two locations for paddling on Western Lake. Click here for more info. Fishing, bird watching, kayaking/canoeing/paddle boarding.

Eastern Lake: County park on the corner of Lakewood Drive and Lakeview Drive offers adequate parking, picnic tables, grill and boat launch. Fishing, bird watching, kayaking/canoeing/paddle boarding.

Deer Lake: Deer Lake State Park offers a scenic boardwalk to the beach. Deer Lake can be accessed from the beach. Hiking, fishing, bird watching.

Camp Creek Lake: Limited access along Scenic Hwy. 30A. Fishing, bird watching, kayaking/canoeing/stand up paddle boarding.

Lake Powell: Lake Powell is located predominately in Bay County. Heading east on U.S. Hwy. 98, cross over bridge into Bay County, turn left at Publix and the entrance to the Bay County park and boat ramp facility will be on the left. Camp Helen State Park also offers a scenic vista for bird watching, hiking and fishing. There are no boat launch areas at Camp Helen. Fishing, bird watching, boating, kayaking/canoeing/stand up paddle boarding, personal watercraft.
Camp Helen State Park: ::MAP::
Lake Powell public access: ::MAP::

To learn more about Walton County’s coastal dune lakes, contact Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance at

    1. Interesting article. Always wondered about parking along 30A. How can you access Deer Lake from the beach? The dunes are protected. Do you mean to go up the inoutfall?

    1. I will be staying in Seagrove Beach next week and was wondering if there are any large mouth bass in any of the dune lakes, Western or Eastern lake or either of the Redfish lakes? If not, what types of fish are in those lakes what what baits work best?
      Thank you

    1. Yes, there are some large mouth bass in our area coastal dune lakes. The species of fish that are abundant are dependent on the lakes opening and closing to the Gulf of Mexico. Depending on how you fish, you can catch bass a variety of ways. Give Copeland’s a call at (850) 835-4277. They will point you in the right direction and also issue visitor fishing licenses. You need a fresh and salt water license to fish in the coastal dune lakes.

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