Where to Stand-Up Paddleboard Like a Local
While stand-up paddleboarding may not have originated in Walton County, this area sure has turned into quite the epicenter, offering so many beautiful waterways and the ability to paddle year-round.
But if you truly want to get the most out of your experience, you need to pick the best spots based on what you want out of your excursion. Are you looking for a beginner spot? The best views? Or maybe something a little more challenging to give you a great workout? Whatever your ideal stand-up paddleboarding trip may look like, there's a place in Walton County that's perfect for you.
If you're just starting out, you're probably looking to get your feet wet (pun intended) without going overboard as you learn the ropes. A nice, peaceful glide through the water while you see the sights and get your mechanics down is just the ticket to launch a lifetime of paddleboarding fun.
Immerse yourself in a 360-degree view of a calm paddle here.
What you need is calm water and a beautiful location so that you'll increase your skill level without getting bored. The perfect spot for this is one of South Walton's coastal dune lakes. Not only are they rare and beautiful, they also offer calm and secluded waters, so you won't be rattled by choppy water or too much nearby activity. Grayton Beach State Park offers a gorgeous dune lake amidst a unique and hike-worthy natural landscape.
North of the Choctawhatchee Bay, Lake DeFuniak is a peaceful place to do a bit of paddling with a view of history. The 40-acre, spring-fed lake is surrounded by Circle Drive, home to hundreds of incredibly maintained houses and buildings from the 1800s – many of which are on the National Register of Historic Places. You can launch from the boat ramp located in Chipley Park, next to the Chautauqua Hall of Brotherhood.
Intermediate & In It for the Views
Say you're more comfortable with your stand-up paddleboarding skills, and at this stage, you're mainly looking to explore nature and see the sights. Dawn and dusk in Walton County offer some of the most breathtaking natural spectacles around. Taking your board out for sunrise or sunset only adds to the experience, as you commune with the water and see the sun peek out or dip down below the horizon. Getting in a workout on top of it is just a bonus!
For some of the best sunsets you can see from a stand-up paddleboard, launch from Hogtown Bayou and hit Choctawhatchee Bay at dusk. It's a calm paddle with spectacular scenery, both natural and in the form of beautiful homes lining the water, and you'll wish the sunset could last for hours.
Straddling the Florida-Alabama line near Paxton, Lake Jackson provides another relaxing option for paddling around and soaking in some scenery. On the Florida side, Walton County Parks and Recreation manages a fee-free public boat ramp, located at 81 Lake Road.
Looking for a Challenge
You've built up your skill level and you're confident in just about any situation. Now, you're looking for something to test your abilities. Push off from Western Lake early in the morning and make your way out to the Gulf to explore! The earlier you head out, the calmer the waters will be, generally speaking. Nothing beats the feeling of a peaceful paddleboarding session on the Gulf – paddling in the open water connects you with nature in a way few other things do.
Or, if you want to set out on a longer exploration, maybe a river adventure is just your speed. Recently, the Choctawhatchee River Blueway received official state designation by the Office of Greenways and Trails. Covering more than 60 miles of scenery, this beautiful paddle trail spans from close to the Alabama border to Cowford Landing, near the opening of Black Creek which empties into Choctawhatchee Bay. Highlights include diving, fishing and wildlife viewing, along with access to the local springs along the way.