As sometimes will happen in Florida, a beautiful day will present itself and yet still bring with it less than ideal conditions. Such was the case of this particular visit to Henderson Beach State Park in Destin, Fl. The forecast called for sunny skies and a high of 83 degrees, which in the middle of June is a very welcome relief from sweltering temperatures, but on this day it also brought red flags (dangerous conditions for swimming) and purple flags (dangerous marine life) as well as a high bacterial level warning. Swimming was not in the cards today.
Fortunately Henderson Beach State Park has a few other amenities up its sleeve. There is a lovely beach to lay out on, covered pavilions with grills, picnic tables, and restrooms, a campground, playground area and a nature trail. The park is also convenient to the heart of Destin where visitors can have their pick of water parks, movie theaters or shopping.
Henderson Beach Nature Trail
The 3/4 mile loop nature trail begins in the west parking lot next to the playground area across from pavilion “E.” This trail takes hikers through an old dune and coastal scrub habitat and is home to several protected and endangered species of plants and animals. Several markers along the way point out the unique features of this fragile ecosystem.
Hiking in Florida during the summer is best done during the cooler early morning hours or just before dusk. If hiking mid-day bring plenty of water, sunscreen and take frequent breaks. Another useful tip is to hike slowly and take in the sights. Listen carefully and wildlife may reveal itself to a patient visitor. This area is home to the endangered Gopher tortoise and beach mouse. Other more common animals are fox, squirrel and raccoon.
Camping at Henderson Beach State Park
The park hosts 60 campsites capable of supporting either tent or RV setups. Sites have both water and electricity hookups, picnic tables and grills. Bathing facilities have heat and air, vending machines and a coin operated laundry. The camping area is positioned well away from the day-use area and has its own beach access and boardwalk. As this is a popular spot in Destin, reservations should be made well in advance of a visit.