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A Day of Discovery Beyond the Beach

While the sugar-white sands are always welcoming, there are so many amazing attractions awaiting you beyond the beach. So, head up Highway 331 for a daylong exploration of some of the great sights, tastes and traditions offered just north of the Choctawhatchee Bay.

Start your day off right with some organic coffee and fresh-made pastries at Perla Baking Co. in DeFuniak Springs. They use sustainable products as much as possible, helping to make their farm-to-table fare all the better. Their name is a hybrid abbreviation of “perfect lake” which sets up your next stop quite nicely.

Perla Baking Co. in DeFuniak Springs

A walking tour of Lake DeFuniak lets you stroll back in time with an amazing display of architectural artistry. Nearly 200 historic buildings surround the lake, about 40 of which are noted on the National Register of Historic Places. Classic Victorian homes are prevalent, and even many of the newer homes offer an Old World elegance ­– constructed in styles such as Queen Anne and Colonial Revival.

Some of the incredible buildings were part of the Chautauqua Assembly that once thrived here. Built in 1896, St. Agatha’s Episcopal Church showcases what is known as the Carpenter Gothic style. And the Chautauqua Hall of Brotherhood once filled up for presentations by luminaries such as Harriet Beecher Stowe, William Jennings Bryan, and Red Cross founder Clara Barton.

Chautauqua Hall of Brotherhood

While the assembly closed nearly 100 years ago, you can still take an informative walking tour around Circle Drive. Eighteen detailed signs carry you through the history of this once-gated resort. These are complemented by a map of the 1884 campus, offering a great then-and-now sense of perspective.

Though not directly affiliated with the historic assembly, the Chautauqua Vineyards & Winery in DeFuniak Springs is a beautiful spot to unwind after your tour of Circle Drive. Most of the working vineyard is located off-site, but about 10 “preview rows” offer a showcase on the front lawn as you pull in. During harvest season, you can even pick fresh grapes to get a taste of the origin of their distinct wines. Muscadine varieties are the specialty here – Carlos for white and Noble for red. They offer complimentary tastings and a very popular Old Vine Wine Club.

Chautauqua Vineyards & Winery

Next, head over to Freeport’s Casey Park to spend some time at the Freeport Veterans Memorial – a moving tribute to active, retired and fallen service members. The memorial has been evolving for more than a decade and now consists of multiple venues, including an eternal Freedom Flame and the Grace Project, which honors women in service. This beautiful park is a perfect place to relax and reflect at the end of a day of exploration.

Freeport Veterans Memorial

Altogether, it may feel like a pretty full day (it really is), but this is just the smallest sample of the endless activities Walton County has to offer. So, start planning today, and discover all the beyond-the-beach fun in these warm, welcoming communities.

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