We think Mother Nature is pretty grand, and – call us biased but – we think she shines brightest on Northwest Florida, where the cotton-candy sunsets kiss the turquoise water and sugar-white sand of our iconic beaches and where coastal dune lakes meet lush pine forests. What can we say? We think South Walton is pretty dreamy. To ensure you, too, take a moment to relish in its natural beauty, we’ve rounded up five local natural sights we think you should absolutely see – in no particular order.
South Walton is home to 15 of some of the rarest and most spectacular natural wonders: coastal dune lakes, shallow basins of fresh water created when winds redistribute sand over thousands of years – within feet from the Gulf of Mexico. Aside from being beautiful, coastal dune lakes create unique and nutrient-filled ecosystems, making them ideal habitats for an array of wildlife.
Western Lake is the second-largest and, perhaps, the most popular coastal dune lake in South Walton. Get up close and personal with it by canoeing, kayaking or standup paddle boarding along. All are available to rent seasonally from the WaterColor BoatHouse. WaterColor Inn guests have access to use of these rentals for one hour each day. Kayaking adventure tours around Western Lake are also available and offer a great way to learn more about these beautiful natural rarities.
Deer Lake State Park
Take a hike on the wild side and see 11 distinct ecosystems in one park. Located within close proximity of WaterColor Inn, Deer Lake State Park – named after, you guessed it, Deer Lake (another coastal dune lake) – beautifully boasts magnolias, golden asters, woody goldenrod and scrub oaks. Walk across the dunes atop the boardwalk to access the beach and enjoy an idyllic picnic, take a mid-day swim or cast a line from the shore.
Walk or bike your way through nature on the Watersound Trail, which can be accessed at Village Commons in Watersound Origins . The five-mile trail winds through a slash pine plantation, along which you’re sure to see cypress domes, wetland areas and plenty of wildlife evidence – all among South Walton’s many wonders. The trail is flat and paved, mixed with hard ground and some sandy, hilly areas; it’s clearly marked and open sunrise to sunset for ultimate enjoyment.
Our sugar-white beaches may seem like an obvious must-see choice, but surely, they cannot be taken for granted. Small quartz particles, pulverized and washed down from the Appalachian Mountains over thousands of years, that give the area’s sand its distinct crystal-like appearance. How’s that for all-natural beauty? Along Northwest Florida’s Gulf Coast, our fine sand glistens and seems to sing under your feet as you head down to the shore (we wouldn’t have it any other way). And of course, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the beach: from sunbathing and swimming, to beach bonfires and beachside dining, you’re sure to find plentiful ways to be enchanted by it.
The Gulf of Mexico
Did you know that the body of emerald-green water that provides the backdrop to our iconic sugar-white beaches is the largest gulf in the world and the 10th largest body of water in the world? Its ample surface area and depth make it a powerfully biodiverse ecosystem, which includes coastal wetlands, submerged vegetation, important upland areas and marine/offshore areas. As well, the Gulf Coast’s bounty is plentiful and unlike any other in the world, making it a coveted spot for anglers and seafood lovers alike.
Whether you’re staying at WaterColor Inn, The Pearl Hotel or WaterSound Inn, there are countless ways to enjoy the area’s natural wonders. Be sure to ask the Front Desk for more information on area maps, recreational areas or for assistance in planning an excursion or securing a rental. Happy exploring!
Details included in this story were accurate at time of publication but are subject to change based on seasonal schedules, amenity and/or operational updates. For the most current information, please visit the respective property’s website.