Henderson Beach State Park
By E. Adam Porter
Destin, Florida, on the northern end of the Gulf of Mexico in Florida’s Panhandle, is a haven for folks hunting exciting water sports and fast paced family fun. But if you would rather slow it down and relax your days away, there is no better spot in Destin than nearby Henderson Beach State Park. Just off the Emerald Coast Parkway, right on the water, this 200-acre state park is an ideal setting for some laid back fun in the sun.
The first thing you notice here, aside from the stunning shoreline, is the absence of high rise hotels, condos and rental huts on the beach. During the height of the early 80’s tourism boom, the Henderson family sold this land to the state, which promised to keep the mile-long stretch of Emerald Coast waterfront undeveloped and open to anyone. Other than the incidental additions of four picnic pavilions, a boardwalk, bathhouses and RV sites, the land looks very much like it has for generations, a pristine place along one of the most picturesque stretches of Florida’s coastline.
WHAT TO DO AT HENDERSON BEACH STATE PARK
Stroll, jog or pick a spot to lounge in the sun along 6,000 feet of sugar sand beach so white it glistens.
Be on the lookout for dolphins and turtles.
Fish from the shore or wade into the waves for some surf fishing.
Swim, snorkel or dive in the stunning jade, emerald and turquoise water.
Picnic on the beach, at your campsite or in one of the beachside covered pavilions.
Bicycle along the paved multi-use road. But stay off the boardwalks, those are pedestrian only.
Hike the nature trails through a rare coastal dune ecosystem.
GETTING TO HENDERSON BEACH STATE PARK
From the east or west, head along US-98. From the north, take FL-20 to the Mid-Bay Bridge (toll required), cross Choctawhatchee Bay and pick up US-98, the main drag through town. Head west. The park will be on your left.
CAMPING AT HENDERSON BEACH STATE PARK
The campground’s 60 sites are separated from the beach by a windbreak of trees and dunes, so there are no waterfront sites. But the shell gravel sites are well kept. Bathing facilities are clean and air-conditioned. Special thanks to Ernie and Lorraine Phoenix, who allowed me to photograph their cool camping setup.
Henderson Beach State Park is located at 17000 Emerald Coast Parkway, Destin, Florida 32541. Reserve online or call 850.837.7550.
*Sunset image credit: “Henderson Beach State Park”