Stepping onto the board walk at Deer Lake State Park is like stepping into a time machine. A few paces down the walkway and visitors are suddenly transported to a place where time stands still. All around is a moonscape of sand dunes guarding the remains of a maritime forest and a rare coastal lake where ancient creatures once thought extinct, are very much alive.
Deer Lake is a Florida State Park
Part of the Florida State Park system, Deer Lake State Park is a day-use facility that offers a wide variety of activities. Encompassing 1,920 acres on both sides of Scenic Highway 30A in South Walton County, the park includes a rare freshwater coastal dune lake, hiking and biking trails, a picnic area, and a boardwalk to the beach.
The fully ADA accessible boardwalk traverses the dunes and offers excellent wildlife viewing as well as a glimpse into what Florida beaches looked like before development. The white sugar-sand beach offers visitors the chance to enjoy a day of swimming, fishing, sunning and beachcombing. There are no bathrooms or food vendors, so bring a picnic cooler.
The Gulf Coast Beach is Part of Deer Lake State Park in Florida
The beach at Deer Lake State Park is remote yet anchored by beach houses and residential communities. Although often overused, pristine is truly a word that describes this shoreline. The pure white sand, a hallmark of the Northwest Florida gulf coast beaches, washed down from the Appalachian Mountains eons ago and offers a vivid contrast to the aqua colored water of the Gulf of Mexico. Visitors may bring beach chairs and fishing gear for a day of fun.
Northwest Florida Endangered Ecosystem
Coastal dune lakes are extremely rare and found in only five places in the world; the American Northern Pacific Coast, New Zealand, Australia, Madagascar and Northwest Florida. The lakes found in New Zealand and Northwest Florida are the rarest, in that they periodically “blow out” into the gulf, sending brown colored tannin-filled water outward while allowing the salty gulf water back into the lake. This action creates a delicate and potentially endangered ecosystem for creatures living in the lake.
Deer Lake State Park contains eleven distinct natural communities including beach dune, sandhill, scrub, basin swamp, depression marsh, coastal dune lakes, blackwater stream, and estuarine tidal creek, making the park home to a diversity of plant and animal life. Rare plants include yellow pitcher plants, rosebud orchid, pine lilies, and the largest populations of Curtiss’s sand grass in Florida. Deer Lake State Park protects these endangered ecosystems, allowing them to flourish naturally as they have for thousands of years.
Dear Lake State Park is located on the Northwest Florida gulf coast about half way between Destin and Panama City Beach. For more information about the park and activities, call 850-267-8300 or visit the Florida State Parks website.