waves of body of water splashing on sand

Visitor’s Guide to Henderson Beach State Park

Henderson Beach State Park in Destin, Florida, is a beautiful beachfront paradise. This park is a fantastic destination to explore the Gulf Coast and the surrounding area.

With miles of pristine white sugar sand beaches, lush dunes, warm crystal clear water, and wildlife, you won’t find many other places like it. In addition to its beautiful scenery, Henderson Beach State Park offers various activities, such as:

  • Swimming
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Seasonal events

Plan a day trip or an extended vacation in this beautiful part of Florida’s panhandle and have the time of your life.

Ways to Experience Henderson Beach State Park

Camping

Summertime at Henderson Beach State Park is the perfect time for camping. With spacious campsites and impressive amenities, you can easily spend a few days enjoying the outdoors.

This park provides 60 campsites where you can pitch a tent or hook up your RV. Every campsite has:

  • Water and electricity hookups
  • Picnic tables and grills
  • Clothesline posts

There are also multiple bathhouses with hot showers, laundry facilities, vending machines, and a central dump station for waste disposal.

Some state parks don’t allow pets, but at Henderson Beach State Park, pets are welcome. So bring your furry friends along but follow the pet rules, such as keeping your pet on a leash. Also, pets are not allowed at the cabins or beach and must not be left unattended. More about this is in the park guidelines section of this guide.

If you decide to camp at Henderson Beach State Park, you can book a campsite on the Florida State Parks reservation website. Make sure you book a spot early. They fill up quickly.

Fishing

The clear waters of Henderson Beach State Park are home to various fish species, making this one of the best fishing spots in Florida. After all, Destin is known as the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village.” Visitors can cast their lines from the beach or launch a boat off-shore.

You can expect to catch various fish, including:

  • Pompano
  • Flounder
  • Catfish
  • Whiting
  • Redfish
  • Cobia

If you don’t have fishing gear, no worries; you can get bait, tackle, and other supplies at local fishing stores outside the park.

While fishing is allowed, you must abide by the park’s fishing regulations. For instance, fishing between the boardwalks is prohibited, so steer clear of this area. Also, you must follow fishing regulations established by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

You may need a fishing license/permit depending on where you want to fish, the type of fish you’re targeting, and the time of year. Check the MyFwc website for more information about specific regulations and requirements.

Paddling

With the Gulf Coast at your disposal, Henderson Beach State Park is a great place to kayak and stand up paddle board. The clear warm water makes for an unforgettable paddling experience. There is also a reef off the coast that visitors can paddle to.

If you have your own gear, you can wheel it down to the beach or rent it from one of the local outfitters. The local paddle shops will load up a trailer for kayaks and SUPs and meet you in the state park or across the street in Choctawhatchee Bay, depending on the wind and weather conditions.

With a north wind, the Gulf is a fantastic place to paddle, but with a south wind, it’s better to stick to the bay.

Swimming

Dive into the emerald green waters at Henderson Beach State Park for a refreshing swim. This beach is large and has plenty of space for guests to spread out, so it will rarely feel overcrowded.

The waters are usually warm, and the waves can be mild, making this spot an excellent place for young swimmers and families with small children. However, no lifeguards are on duty, so practice beach safety when swimming.

Familiarize yourself with the warning flag signs at the welcome area and the beach. These signs indicate swimming conditions at the beach. Here are what the following flags mean:

  • Two Red flags: The area is closed to the public, so stay out of the water.
  • One red flag: High hazard — strong currents and high surf. Swim at your own risk, or don’t swim at all.
  • Yellow flag: Medium hazard — moderate currents and surf. Swim with caution and stay close to shore.
  • Green flag: Low hazard — calm waters and surf. The water is safe for swimming.
  • Purple flag: Dangerous marine life. Don’t swim here to avoid getting stung or bitten.

Beachcombing

boardwalk at Henderson Beach State Park

The gentle waves at Henderson Beach State Park make it an excellent spot for beachcombing. Are you looking for shells, shark teeth, or sea glass? Check the shoreline and see what treasures you can find.

You can easily find shells after a big storm with large waves, so keep an eye out for days with large swells. But you’re not alone in the search for shells after a big storm — lots of locals and visitors flock to the beach, so you may want to get there early.

Check out the beach at low tide for more shells and debris washed up to the shore. Remember to bring a bag or container to collect your treasures. In addition to shells, you can also look for other items on the beach, like driftwood, sand dollars, coral pieces, and even fossils.

Hiking

Henderson Beach State Park was established to preserve Destin’s last remaining endangered coastal scrub area. Hiking is one of the most enjoyable ways to explore the park. So, lace up your hiking shoes and stroll down a boardwalk or hiking trail.

The nature trail meanders through the ancient coastal dune ecosystem. It provides visitors a rare glimpse at the secondary dune system. As you trudge along, you will find breathtaking views of the park from the top of the dunes.

Bring some water and snacks because you’ll likely be out for a few hours. Wear sturdy shoes and dress appropriately, as some areas can be rough and rocky. And don’t forget to bring a hat and sunscreen — the sun can be intense, even on cloudy days.

If you want a more engaging and educative experience, join one of the park’s guided hikes. They will take you on a journey through the park while providing interesting facts and insight about Henderson Beach State Park.

Bicycling

A bike ride along the park’s mile-long paved road is a beautiful way to experience the park. This could be your hiking or running alternative, and with fellow bikers moving with you, you’ll experience the park in a new way.

You’re allowed to enter the park on your bike, and you can go all the way to the beach. Ensure you stay on the designated bike path and avoid cycling on the boardwalks or hiking trails. Some areas have sand-covered roads, so prepare for a slower pace and more work to keep your balance.

Every biker is advised to wear a helmet and have a light on their bike if they plan to ride at dawn or dusk. In addition, Florida law mandates bikers under 16 to wear a helmet while biking. Observe the park’s guidelines, and you’ll have a great time out on two wheels.

Geocaching Activities

Geocaching is a popular outdoor activity at the park. It’s a high-tech treasure hunt where participants use GPS devices to find hidden treasures called geocaches or caches. You can hide a cache or find a cache, but you should start with finding a cache to get the hang of it.

The most exciting part of geocaching is the thrill of the search and finding a cache in an unexpected spot. It’s also a great way to explore the park as you move around in search of caches. Take advantage of this unique and fun way to explore Henderson Beach State Park.

Here’s how to find a cache when you’re at the park

  • Sign up at Geocaching.com. Enter and search the zip code for Henderson Beach State park (32541).
  • The website will find available caches and provide clues for the search.
  • Select one or more caches to find.
  • Enter the coordinates of the cache in your GPS device and use the clues to search for the cache.
  • When you find the cache (which contains a logbook, pencil, and trinkets), sign the logbook and place it back where you found it.
  • If you take something from the cache, replace it with something of equal or greater value.
  • Go back to the website, log your find and share your experiences with others.

Wildlife Viewing

Wildlife watching is an exciting and excellent way to get up close and observe nature in its natural habitat. Henderson Beach State Park is home to several fascinating species, including:

  • Sea turtles
  • Ospreys
  • Gopher tortoises
  • Bobcats
  • Dolphins

You can easily spot them from the boardwalk, hiking trails, or along the shoreline, but to get a closer look, you should pack a pair of binoculars. Create your NatGeo moment and take photos/videos of these fascinating creatures.

If you are daring enough, you can move closer and observe them, but you should avoid disturbing them.

Important Park Information

  • Take note of warning flag signs posted at welcome stations and the beach.
  • Pets are not allowed on the beach and in cabins. Also, don’t leave your pet unattended.
  • Stay on the designated bike path and avoid cycling on boardwalks.
  • Wear a helmet while biking (mandatory for those under 16).
  • Fishing must conform to the park’s regulations, and you may need a fishing license.
  • For campers: The maximum RV length is 60 feet.
  • Campsites don’t have sewer connections. Use the central dump stations.

Explore Henderson Beach State Park

Ready for your adventure? Pack your bags, grab the sunscreen, and head to Henderson Beach State Park for a day of fun and exploration. You will find plenty of activities and attractions to keep you busy all day.

The park also hosts weddings, reunions, and other gatherings. It’s a special place for weddings and a perfect fit if you’ve always wanted a beach wedding. So walk down the aisle on white sugar sand and say your vows with truly breathtaking sunsets.

Henderson Beach State Park is a unique place with lots of exciting things to do and explore. Visit and soak up the beauty of nature and create unforgettable memories. 

This article originally appeared on Hello Sensible.

Scott and Julie at Miles with McConkey

Scott And Julie McConkey

After 30 years, Scott and Julie McConkey left the corporate world for a life of travel and adventure. What started as a gap year became a second act, and they are now full-time travel bloggers!
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