The Beautiful and Intriguing Coastal Dune Lakes in Florida's Panhandle

By
Patti Jewel
Florida Coastal Dune Lakes
Photo Credits
Patti Jewel

One of the most unique features along Florida's Northwest beaches are the coastal dune lakes along scenic 30A. It is an unexpected and natural geological feature of the coast line that is beautifully rare. There are only a few other places on the planet where coastal dune lakes exist and Florida's Panhandle has 15 of them, most of which are in Walton County, Florida.

  • Fuller Lake
  • Morris Lake
  • Campbell Lake
  • Stallworth Lake
  • Lake Allen
  • Oyster Lake
  • Draper Lake
  • Big Redfish Lake
  • Little Redfish Lake
  • Alligator Lake
  • Western Lake
  • Eastern Lake
  • Deer Lake 
  • Camp Creek Lake
  • Powell Lake

What is a Coastal Dune Lake?

A coastal dune lake is a permanent body of water in a dune system within a couple miles of a coast. Typically irregular in shape and size that both change consistently as the water levels change and they create a transitory connection with the coastal waters. This creates an ecology in the lake that is both fresh and saltwater. 

What is so Unique About Florida's Coastal Lakes?

What makes these lakes so unique is the way they connect to the Gulf waters when the lake levels are high. The outfall of water from the lakes push through the dune system and the beach front and forms a river or channel that flushes the tea colored fresh water out across the beachfront into the Gulf. Each time these outlets form, they are different and offer an interestingly changed shoreline. 

These connections between fresh and salt water creates a changing chemistry in the lakes. The water can then flow in both directions depending on tide levels and weather that can change the salinity levels of the lakes where some may be completely fresh and at times some can be highly saline.

Florida's Coastal Dune Lake Ecosystem

These coastal dune lakes are a haven for birds and other wildlife. While they can at times contain high salinity, alligators may also be present. Fish are typically fresh water though salt water species exist throughout many of the lakes. A Florida fishing license is required to fish on any of the coastal dune lakes and it is recommended to purchase both a salt water and fresh water fishing license if you intend to fish on these lakes. Most of the lakes offer outdoor activities including hiking, kayaking, paddle boarding and fishing. See our list below for specifics on each lake. 

Several of the lakes are part of the Florida State Park System where anyone can go and experience these natural phenomena. This includes Topsail Hill Preserve State ParkGrayton Beach State ParkDeer Lake State Park and Camp Helen State Park. All of the lakes are public property, however, many of them are surrounded by communities and homes that make it difficult for the public to access them.

Seeing these lakes from the beachside offers a beautiful natural view of this rare coastal dune connection with the Gulf of Mexico. Sometimes the best way to see them is to walk in the sand along the shoreline.

 

The 15 Coastal Dune Lakes in Florida

Each of the Florida Panhandle's coastal dune lakes is unique in size, shape, accessibility, and outlet features. From West to East along Scenic Highway 30A, this is a full list of the coastal dune lakes with a brief summary, approximate acreage, and how the water connects with the Gulf. 

Fuller Lake

No natural beach outflow

Fuller Lake is located in the Sandestin area to the west of Topsail Hill Preserve State Park and has limited public access and only by appointment from within the Coffeen Nature Preserve. 

 

Morris Lake & Campbell Lake in Topsail Hill Preserve State Park

Natural outflow across the beach

Campbell Lake at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park Beach

Morris Lake & Campbell Lake are the two coastal dune lakes along that are located within Topsail Hill Preserve State Park. Both are open only to park visitors for boating and fishing during park hours. The 75 acre Morris Lake and the 90 acre Campbell Lake connect directly with the Gulf to outflow excess waters. 

 

Stallworth Lake

Natural Outflow across the beach

Stallworth Lake is a small lake in the Dune Allen Community with no public access except by walking along the beachfront from another beach access point. This small 11 acre lake is a hidden treasure to the private homeowners who border the lake. It outflows directly across the beachfront.

 

Allen Lake in Dune Allen Florida

No natural beach outflow

Dune Allen Lake

Allen Lake is not directly connected with the beachfront as it sits on the north side of the roadway, Scenic 30A. This 20 acre lake outflows through an underground system under the roadway to the Gulf and there is limited public access to the lake. 

 

Oyster Lake

Directed beach outflow

Oyster Lake is a 22 acres coastal lake located in the Dune Allen Community with limited public access near the pedestrian bridge that crosses the outflow of the lake to the Gulf. This outflow runs under Scenic 30A and has a directed flow to the Gulf. 

 

Draper Lake

Natural Outflow across the beach

Draper Lake is located on the west side of Blue Mountain Beach and is surrounded by private communities. This 38 acre lake can only be access by the public beachside by walking from the Gulfview Heights Beach Access. 

 

Big Redfish Lake and Little Redfish Lake in Blue Mountain Beach Florida

Natural Outflow across the beach

Big Redfish Lake and Little Redfish Lake are two sister lakes in the Blue Mountain Beach community. Scenic 30A crosses both of these lakes and showcases the beauty as your drive through the area. The 22 acre Big Redfish Lake and the 10 acres Little Redfish Lake both outflow across the beach front to the gulf when water levels are high. Fishing and non-jet boating are permitted in both lakes.  Both lakes are hard to get to unless staying in one of the connecting beach communities or homes. Big Redfish Lake can be accessed from an undeveloped county easement trail on Blue Lake Road and Little Redfish Lake has limited access areas on Scenic Highway 30A. The beachside outflow can be access from a public access point on either side of the two lakes. 

 

Alligator Lake in Grayton Beach Florida

Natural Outflow across the beach

Alligator Lake sits between Grayton Beach State Park and the Gulf Trace neighborhood in Grayton Beach. This 12 acre lake outflows directly across the beach to the Gulf. This unique combining of waters and the lake waters making it's way to the Gulf waters is a fascinating natural phenomena that occurs when water levels in the lake are high. This lake is easily accessible to the public and offers fishing, kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding and birding. 

 

Western Lake

Natural Outflow across the beach

Western Lake Grayton Beach

Western Lake is probably the most well-known coastal dune lake in the area as it is located in the popular Grayton Beach State Park and extends across from the Grayton Beach community to the WaterColor community. This large 200 acre lake offers boat ramps both within the State Park and outside of the park that are open to the public for boating and fishing. Kayak, canoe, paddle board rentals are also available. 

 

 

Eastern Lake

Natural Outflow across the beach

Eastern Lake is located in Seagrove Beach and is mostly bordered by private homes. This 62 acres lake stretched under Scenic 30A and has public access at the county park with a boat launch for kayaks, canoes and paddleboards. Access is also available from a public walkover (no parking) next to the ouflow of the lake to the Gulf beachfront. 

 

Deer Lake in Seagrove Florida

Natural Outflow across the beach

Deer Lake State Park Coastal Dune Lake

Deer Lake is part of Deer Lake State Park and is accessible through the park entrance on the east side and the public beach access at Walton Dunes on the west side. This 38 acre lake is one of the larger coastal dune lakes in the area and has some of the most beautiful and unique outflows along the beach. The Deer Lake State Park entrance takes visitors across a boardwalk that spans the huge dune system with the lake on the right. Visitors can hike, fish and enjoy nature and birdwatching. 

 

Camp Creek Lake 

Natural Outflow across the beach

Camp Creek Lake in Watersound

Camp Creek Lake spans 70 acres across the WaterSound community and private homes and runs from the Gulf beachfront at WaterSound Beach and under Scenic 30A to the north. There is limited access to this lake as it is mostly boardered by private homes and the community of WaterSound on the west and Seacrest on the east. One of the best places to view this lake is from the beachside. Access from WaterSound or Seacrest communities. 

 

Powell Lake in Panama City Beach 

Natural Outflow across the beach

Powell Lake in Camp Helen State Park

Powell Lake is the largest coastal dune lake in Florida and spreads across Inlet Beach, Camp Helen State Park, and the west end of Panama City Beach. The outflow at times has been so large that there was once a pier at the beach where the pilings still stand. 

The lake can be accessed from Camp Helen State Park and at Lake Powell Park where there is a boating ramp that allows Jet Skis and motorized boats. This is the only coastal dune lake in Florida that allows for jet propelled boats. The area on the east side of the lake along the beachside is the private Carillon Beach. 

 

Visiting Florida's Rare Coastal Dune Lakes

If you love exploring on the water in a kayak or canoe, these lakes will be fun to explore anytime of year. If you love the beach and are more interested in the outfalls of the lake water, it is best to visit when water levels are high. The outfalls vary from season to season and day to day. It rains in Florida year round so anytime of year can cause a channel to form connecting the waters across the beachfront. In the summer rainy season, there are always channels forming and the outfall channels can be quite large after very heavy rains.  When the water levels are low, there will be no beachfront connecting channel. Florida's coastal lakes are also highly impacted by hurricanes and storm surges so they can change drastically when weather conditions are severe.

 

 

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