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17 Amazing State Parks near Destin, FL (+Map)

Transformed by swells of tourists, Destin turned from a fishing village into a nation-famous vacation hub, and not without a reason. The area is absolutely gorgeous and numerous state parks make it easy to explore.
ItIsWild.com: Best State Parks near Destin Florida

Destin has a lot of beautiful attractions like lovely beaches and wildlife. However, the pleasant weather is probably its main one. People come from all parts of the country to soak in the sun. 

If you want an interesting vacation and outdoor fun, consider visiting Destin’s state parks, too. Many of them have family-friendly activities, some are ideal for adventure seekers, and others are perfect for checking out the local wildlife. 

The options are endless. Check out what Destin has to offer!

State Parks near Destin:

  1. Henderson Beach State Park
  2. Grayton Beach State Park
  3. Topsail Hill Preserve State Park
  4. Eden Gardens State Park
  5. Deer Lake State Park
  6. Camp Helen State Park
  7. St Andrews State Park
  8. Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park
  9. Big Lagoon State Park
  10. Perdido Key State Park
  11. Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park
  12. Gulf State Park
  13. Blackwater Heritage Trail State Park
  14. Blackwater River State Park
  15. Ponce De Leon Springs State Park
  16. Falling Waters State Park
  17. Florida Caverns State Park
State Parks near Destin Florida Comparison Table
Comparison Table

1. Henderson Beach State Park

Henderson Beach State Park Destin
Source: unsplash
  • Official Page: Henderson Beach State Park
  • Distance from Destin: 3 miles (5 min) 
  • Activities: bicycling, hiking, geo-seeking, camping, swimming
  • Amenities: beach, campgrounds, campfire circles, parking, nature trail, interpretive exhibit

Henderson Beach is the perfect spot when you want to explore a lovely shoreline anchored by majestic dunes. It’s the nearest park to enjoy Florida’s sun and warm gulf waters.

The emerald coast state park offers more than a relaxing time. Sixty campsites are connected to the beach through a boardwalk, and there are hiking trails, paddling, and fishing to enjoy, too.

The park was designed to protect and preserve the natural features in the area. It also offers the ideal setting for family get-togethers or events.

2. Grayton Beach State Park

Grayton Beach State Park
Source: unsplash
  • Official Page: Grayton Beach State Park
  • Distance from Destin: 23 miles (37 min)
  • Activities: paddling, bicycling, hiking, boating, wildlife viewing, birding
  • Amenities: picnic pavilion, campfire circles, a boat ramp, campgrounds, and restroom facilities 

Grayton Beach is a beautiful 2,000-acre park with a boat ramp on a lake, biking and hiking trails, ocean swimming, and camping facilities. 

The state park is a paradise with pristine sugar-sand beaches and a unique coastal dune lake surrounded by wilderness. 

Grayton Beach stands out for its accessibility. It has a wheelchair-accessible entrance and a wheelchair-accessible car park. The facilities are pet and child-friendly, so it is perfect for family recreation. 

Grayton Beach ranks as one of the most stunning beaches in northwestern Florida.

 3. Topsail Hill Preserve State Park

Emerald Coast Beach in Gulf coast Florida
Source: unsplash
  • Official Page: Topsail Hill Preserve State Park
  • Distance from Destin: 14 miles (23 min)
  • Activities: bird watching, paddling, bicycling, swimming, hiking, and wildlife viewing. 
  • Amenities: interpretive exhibit, a shower station, laundry, parking, and a picnic pavilion.

Topsail Hill gets its name from the gorgeous dunes that rise over the sandy beaches and emerald waters. 

The dunes are responsible for a unique coastal ecosystem with freshwater lakes and abundant coastal wildlife. 

This park is well-developed and offers plenty of amenities. From hiking trails to kayak and bike rentals and a wide selection of accommodation types, it cares well for its visitors.

If you’re looking for a beach vacation with crystal clear water and plenty of fun activities, this is it.

4. Eden Gardens State Park

Eden Gardens State Park
Source: depositphotos
  • Official Page: Eden Gardens State Park
  • Distance from Destin: 23 miles (30 min)
  • Activities: fishing, hiking, weddings, picnics, paddling, and tours
  • Amenities: museum, interpretive exhibit, gardens, picnic pavilion, and restrooms. 

Eden Gardens State Park is home to 163 acres of land that was part of the Wesley homestead. 

Your eyes will immediately be drawn to a gorgeous two-story house with a wrap-around porch and beautiful white columns. The 1897 mansion takes you back to the era of virgin cypress and longleaf pine forests. 

When it comes to activities, this park isn’t as versatile as others on the list. It has a mile-long trail through the manicured gardens and an opportunity to paddle at Tucker Bayou, which leads to Choctawhatchee Bay, but that’s really it.

In a nutshell, it’s a scenic, historic location, perfect for gatherings and weddings, but for outdoor adventures, there are better options.

5. Deer Lake State Park

Deer Lake State Park
Source: depositphotos
  • Official Page: Deer Lake State Park
  • Distance from Destin: 30 miles (46 min)
  • Activities: bird watching, swimming, fishing, and wildlife viewing
  • Amenities: a nature trail, picnic pavilion, parking, and restroom facilities

This park’s main highlight is the unique coastal dune and Deer Lake, separated from the ocean by a sliver of sand.

The rarity of coastal dunes worldwide makes this location special. In this habitat, you can find rare plants like spoonflower, Gulf coast lupine, and Curtiss’ sandgrass. 

The park itself offers a few miles of prime beach real estate with every beach activity imaginable. Also, there is a short nature trail for hiking, but besides that, it’s an undeveloped park, only suited for day trips.

6. Camp Helen State Park

Camp Helen State Park
Source: depositphotos
  • Official Page: Camp Helen State Park
  • Distance from Destin: 33 miles (46 min)
  • Activities: nature study, wildlife viewing, swimming, hiking, and beachcombing
  • Amenities: restroom facilities, a nature trail, picnic pavilion, a shower station, and a beach

Camp Helen State Park is another example of a coastal park that offers access to both the Gulf and dune lakes.

This destination has kayak and canoe rentals, a few miles of hiking trails through the majestic dunes, and plenty of fishing opportunities.

Some people prefer surfcasting on the beach, and others make use of Lake Powell with its brackish water and a unique selection of species.

Naturally, swimming and sunbathing are the most common activities here, but the park is only open during the day, and there are no campgrounds or cabins. 

7. St Andrews State Park

St Andrews State Park
Source: unsplash
  • Official Page: St Andrews State Park
  • Distance from Destin: 52 miles (1 hour 15 min)
  • Activities: picnics, swimming, birding, camping, geo-seeking, scuba diving, surfing, and snorkeling.
  • Amenities: campgrounds, a shower station, an amphitheater, nature trail, picnic areas, and a boat ramp.

This park stretches 20 miles into the beautiful waters of the Gulf of Mexico and has some of the most incredible powdery beaches. This wildlife haven has gorgeous backdrops and a variety of bird and butterfly species. 

Even though you’ll enjoy lovely beaches for swimming and fishing, you also have opportunities to surf, fish, hike, snorkel, boat, and more.

St Andrews is probably the most developed park on the list, with excellent campgrounds, RV spaces, a pier, and a boat ramp. You can spend a month here and won’t get bored.

Pets are allowed, too, as long as they are well-behaved and on a six-foot leash at all times. 

8. Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park

Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park
Source: unsplash
  • Official Page: Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park 
  • Distance from Destin: 13 miles (22 min)
  • Activities: boating, camping, picnics, hiking, wildlife viewing, fishing, and paddling
  • Amenities: a boat ramp, parking, playground, an interpretive exhibit, nature trail, shower station, and picnic pavilion.

The Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou is a highly-rated but crowd-free park with plenty of fun activities and gorgeous natural surroundings.

The former bombing and gunnery practice range is now transformed into a peaceful natural habitat with red cedar trees and 300-year-old longleaf pines.

But it’s not all nature here. The park offers miles of biking and hiking trails, paddling in Rocky Bayou and streams, a boat ramp, and a cozy campground – everything you might expect from a state park.

9. Big Lagoon State Park

Big Lagoon State Park
Source: flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0
  • Official Page: Big Lagoon State Park
  • Distance from Destin: 81 miles (1hr 45 min)
  • Activities: fishing, boating, camping, paddling, and hiking
  • Amenities: a playground, campgrounds, beach, canoe-kayak launch, a shower station, and a water fountain

Big Lagoon State Park is a fun waterfront park near Pensacola. It’s known for its incredible wildlife diversity, especially birds, and a sprawling network of trails and boardwalks.

The park is a stopover for over 23 wood-warbler species, as well as black-bellied plovers, ducks, and sandpipers. You can get a pair of binoculars from the ranger station, climb the observation tower, and spy on this diverse bird kingdom.

Big Lagoon is sheltered from the Gulf swells, making it an ideal spot for kayaking, paddleboarding, and swimming. There are no rentals at the park, but they have a small launch for visitors.

What’s more, the park offers excellent camping facilities, from primitive sites to RV spaces. You can easily spend weeks here exploring.

10. Perdido Key State Park

perdido key state park
Source: depositphotos
  • Official Page: Perdido Key State Park
  • Distance from Destin: 85 miles (1hr 50 min)
  • Activities: shelling, birding, surfing, swimming, hiking, walking, and running
  • Amenities: restrooms, water fountain, a picnic pavilion, and parking. 

Perdido Key State Park is a lovely park that greets you with rolling dunes and white sandy beaches. It is the ideal choice for sunbathers and swimmers. 

In winter, the park turns into a popular surfing spot, and its barrier island location is ideal for accessing both the Gulf and the lagoon behind.

You will find plenty of picnic tables overlooking the beach and providing much-needed shade. It also has showers and water stations but no campgrounds, so it’s only available for day use. 

Wildlife lovers can learn more about the park’s endangered and threatened species like nesting sea turtles and the Perdido Key beach mouse, too.

11. Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park

Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park
Source: depositphotos
  • Official Page: Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park
  • Distance from Destin: 80 miles (1hr 36 min)
  • Activities: birding, fishing, geo-seeking, and wildlife viewing
  • Amenities: mountain bike trails, interpretive exhibits, nature trails, and parking.

Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park is a 4,000-acre nature preserve near Pensacola. It’s a popular day-use destination for hikers and wildlife enthusiasts.

Here, you’ll find almost 100 rare animals and plants, including the alligator snapping turtle, Chapman’s butterwort, and four endangered pitcher plants.

The biggest draw here is the 6.5-mile nature trail that winds its way through the pristine forest and past the bay beaches. 

And besides fishing, this is it when it comes to activities. But don’t miss this untouched habitat; it’s worth checking out.

12. Gulf State Park

Gulf State Park in Alabama
Source: unsplash
  • Official Page: Gulf State Park
  • Distance from Destin: 77 miles (1 hour 57 min)
  • Activities: biking, hiking, birding, paddling, fishing, boating, swimming, camping
  • Amenities: pedestal grills, paved camping pads for RVs, picnic tables, and campfire rings.

Gulf State Park is a bustling and well-developed destination that often feels like a resort rather than a nature park.

Located on the Gulf and with three lakes to explore, the park offers a ton of fresh and saltwater activities. From swimming and surfcasting to paddleboarding and renting beach bikes, there is no shortage of fun.

What’s more, Gulf State Park is home to over 26 mix-use trails, 500 camping spots, and several lodges and cabins. With so much accommodation and things to do, it’s easy to see why this park is so popular.

This may not be the best spot for nature enthusiasts, but as far as family vacations go, it’s hard to beat. 

13. Blackwater Heritage Trail State Park

Rail trail in Florida
Source: flickr/CC BY 2.0
  • Official Page: Blackwater Heritage Trail State Park
  • Distance from Destin: 50 miles (1hr 8 min)
  • Activities: skating, walking, running, picnics, and bird watching
  • Amenities: playground, nature trail, meeting and retreat room, picnic pavilion, and restroom facilities

Blackwater Heritage Trail State Park is a National Recreation Trail, which is a 9.6-mile paved route that takes you through a quaint North Florida town and into the countryside. 

Once a railroad bed, the trail was transformed as part of the rails-to-trails project offering a fantastic place for biking, rollerblading, and running.

Perhaps not the most versatile of state parks, it’s certainly special, and if you like to explore by bike in a safe environment, you can’t beat this park.

14. Blackwater River State Park

blackwater river florida
Source: flickr/CC BY 2.0
  • Official Page: Blackwater River State Park
  • Distance from Destin: 53 miles (1hr 13 min)
  • Activities: bicycling, fishing, tubing, paddling, geo-seeking, swimming, and wildlife viewing.
  • Amenities: a picnic pavilion, nature trail, campgrounds, shower station, and interpretive exhibit

Blackwater River State Park is a highly-rated park near Harold. As the name suggests, its biggest attraction is the gorgeous river that gently flows through the pristine Florida forest and empties into the Gulf.

Despite its name, the water is quite clear, and the white riverbank sand makes for the perfect beach experience.

Apart from swimming, Blackwater River is a popular tubing spot and a designated canoe trail. Unfortunately, the park doesn’t offer rentals, so you’ll have to bring your own tubes.

On land, there are several nature trails teeming with wildlife and with plenty of shade. Also, the park has a campground with primitive and RV sites, making it an ideal weekend park.

15. Ponce De Leon Springs State Park

Ponce De Leon Springs State Park
Source: depositphotos
  • Official Page: Ponce De Leon Springs State Park
  • Distance from Destin: 54 miles (1hr 5 min)
  • Activities: include swimming, wildlife viewing, walking, and running
  • Amenities: restroom facilities, parking, a historic site, and a shower station

Ponce De Leon Springs State Park is centered around Florida’s famous attraction – aquifer springs. It’s one of the nearest springs to the Alabama border and can be easily accessed from I-10. 

Naturally, the main activities at this park are swimming and snorkeling. The crystal clear turquoise water is 68F year-round, so if you want to avoid summer crowds, spring and fall are just as good.

Apart from cooling off at the springs, there are some trails and picnics to enjoy, but that’s really it.

However, if you’re willing to spend more than a day here, there are campgrounds and an RV park nearby.

16. Falling Waters State Park

Pines in State park in Florida
Source: unsplash
  • Official Page: Falling Waters State Park
  • Distance from Destin: 79 miles (1hr 25 min)
  • Activities: camping, hiking, swimming, geo-seeking, birding, and fishing.
  • Amenities: picnic tables, a campfire, fireside benches, and a restroom with sinks and toilets.

This park has one of the most accessible waterfalls in the state. Located just minutes from I-10, it’s a must-visit on any trip across the state.

The park’s centerpiece is the 73-foot waterfall that drops right into a sinkhole and disappears into Florida’s aquifer. It’s a unique sight, to say the least.

Yet, the park has a lot more to offer. The small lake has a designated swimming area with a sandy beach. Nature trails are teeming with birds and other wildlife. And if you decide to spend the night, there is a cozy campground with primitive and RV sites, too.

This small but cozy park packs a lot of fun for its size. It shouldn’t be missed.

17. Florida Caverns State Park

florida caverns state park
Source: flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0
  • Official Page: Florida Caverns State Park
  • Distance from Destin: 68 miles (1h 10min)
  • Activities: bicycling, boating, camping, geo-seeking, horseback riding, paddling, walking, running, swimming, and guided tours
  • Amenities: accessible amenities, campgrounds, canoe, and kayak launch, interpretive exhibit, parking, picnic pavilion, playground, showers

One unique feature of Northern Florida is the series of caverns that can take you to new depths of otherworldly adventures.

This park offers unique opportunities to explore these stunning caves, which were enlarged in the 1930s by Civilian Conservation Corps workers to allow plenty of room to stand up during guided tours.

Anyone who has not yet experienced the Florida Caverns must try to make their way and see how impressive this park truly is.

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