Florida Guide > State Parks
Topsail State Preserve
Topsail Hill State Preserve is situated on Santa Rosa Beach which is 10 miles east of Destin. This is an the romantically named Scenic Highway.
There are over 1600 acres to enjoy at this State Park and it is named after the highest dune If you are looking from the Gulf, this dune looks exactly like the topsail of a ship.
Back in the times of the European settlers this area was a turps camp called Quarters. You can see evidence of this era today by the distinctive ' cats faces' cut into the tree bark. This is a deep ' V' that was hacked to release the sap. When you boil this sap, turpentine is produced
Topsail has the best preserved coastal ecosystem in Florida. There are 14 distinct systems in this park including cypress domes, coastal dune lakes, wet priaies, seepage slopes and over 3 miles of those stunning white beaches.
Coastal Dune Lakes are only found now in Floridas Panhandle and the intact dunes play host to the Choctawhatchee Beach Mouse. This is an endangered species and Topsail is one of the few places that you can see these creatures. The dunes reach an impressive 25 feet tall!
Rather less rare are the deer, deer, foxes and frogs that also call this Park their home.
Start your day, as always, with a trip to the Visitor Center which is where you will gather your information, You will find this in the campground off Highway 30a
Of course, one of the main reasons to visit this parks are its miles of sugary beaches. Every 2 hours, a tram runs you back and forth to the sea or if you are feeling energetic, why not walk the path provided. There are showers provided to rinse away the salt water after your swim.
There are miles of trails to explore; you will most likely want to take the Morris Lake Nature Trail which is about 2 and a half miles of scrub and dunes. There are still parts of the iron tracks that remain from WW1 missile development program.
If you are feeling a little more ambitious then try the 5 mile trail called Campbell Lake Nature Trail or even the old jeep trails.
There is a small convenience store here but you are best to take a packed lunch. There are picnic areas provided plus a small pavilion for some welcome shade.
Fishing is good here; fresh water fishing is to be found on any of the coastal dune lakes and here you can expect to catch pan fish, bass and catfish. Pompano, redfish and mackerel abound in the sea.
Topsail is part of the Florida Birding Trail so make sure to take your binoculars and a camera.
Saturdays are a good time to visit this park for that is when the Park Rangers offer their walks and talks. These include interpretive programmes on butterflies, alligators, the coastal ecosystem, fishing, plants and learning about burning. Call 850 267 0299 for more information
As I write, the park has a huge improvement initiative taking place. Among the new attractions are a childrens playground, new toilets and a mile long path to Campbell Lake.
Park admission is a modest $2 per vehicle and is by the honor system. The full address is 7525 w. Scenic Highway, 30a, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida 32459
Nearby parks include Ponce De Leon Springs, Camp Helen, Henderson Beach and Deer Lake.
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Page added on: 11 August 2009
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