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Henderson Beach State Park Guide — Fishing, Hiking, and More 

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Henderson Beach State Park in Florida boasts stunning 30-foot white sand dunes and sparkling emerald-colored warm gulf waters. Visitors can enjoy a beautiful beach, a gentle nature trail that showcases the last remaining coast scrub in the Destin area, an amazing campground, and breathtaking views.

How To Get to Henderson Beach State Park

Where Is Henderson Beach State Park?

This state park is in the beautiful city of Destin, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Florida. Despite its relatively small size of approximately 200 acres, the park offers a plethora of exciting activities and breathtaking sights. This park features a pristine beach, coastal scrub communities, and spectacular views of the Gulf of Mexico.

Henderson Beach State Park Opening Hours and Seasons

Henderson Beach State Park is open every day of the year from 8 a.m. until sundown. However, certain areas may be closed for maintenance or construction. Therefore, it’s recommended that you check the website or call ahead before your visit to ensure that all the activities on your itinerary are available.

Nearest Airports to Henderson Beach State Park

The nearest major airport to the state park is the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport (VPS), which is 18 miles away. This airport offers nonstop flights to many U.S. cities, such as Boston (BOS), Houston (HOU), Las Vegas (LAS), Nashville (BNA), and others. Various well-known airlines serve this airport, including Allegiant, American, Delta, Southwest, and Sun Country. Once you arrive, it’s easy to rent a car or arrange for transportation to the park.

Driving to Henderson Beach State Park

Driving to the park is straightforward. The park is right off the Emerald Coast Parkway. This highway is also called U.S. Highway 98. Be on the lookout for the signs leading into the park.

Taking the Train to Henderson Beach State Park

There is no train service to Henderson Beach State Park.

Taking the Bus to Henderson Beach State Park

Taking the bus is an excellent way to travel around Destin. EC Rider provides bus service to various Destin destinations, including Henderson Beach State Park. The bus routes that drop off at the park include 30, 32, and 33. Riding the bus allows you to enjoy the journey to the park without having to deal with the stress of traffic and navigating an unfamiliar city.

Getting Around Henderson Beach State Park

The best way to get around the park is on foot. There are 2 parking areas where you can leave your vehicle. The rest of the time you can get to where you need to be on foot.

Hot Tip:

The park has a map in its brochure that can help you plan your itinerary.

What To See and Do in Henderson Beach State Park

This park offers visitors a range of activities, including a white sand beach, nature trail, fishing, and wildlife viewing.

Beach

Henderson Beach State Park Florida
Image Credit: Florida Department of Environmental Protection

Henderson Beach State Park is famous for its stunning beach. The beach is family-friendly, stretches for a mile, and boasts white sand made of pure Appalachian quartz. The water has an emerald cast and is perfect for cooling off during hot summer days.

There are plenty of activities to keep you busy, such as sunbathing, building sandcastles, and playing various beach games. You can also spot many types of wildlife on the beach, including dolphins, migratory birds, and sea turtles.

Bicycling

There are no biking-specific trails at Henderson Beach State Park, but it’s an excellent place for cycling. The park features a well-maintained, 1-mile-long paved road that runs through the park, which is ideal for biking. You can also bike on the beach. Exploring the park on 2 wheels is a fun way to enjoy the beautiful scenery, flora, and fauna.

Hot Tip:

Please note that helmets are required by law for cyclists 16 and younger. Additionally, biking on the park’s boardwalks is not allowed.

Fishing

Destin is nicknamed the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village,” making it a paradise for anglers who visit Henderson Beach State Park. The park offers an excellent spot to cast your line into the surf and try to catch a big fish.

Commonly caught fish species here include redfish, flounder, pompano, whiting, catfish, and, if you’re fortunate, cobia. Anglers must possess a valid fishing license and adhere to the park’s regulations on size, quantity, method of capture, and season.

Hiking

There is a short hiking trail in the park that meanders through the area. It provides excellent opportunities for visitors to view the shifting dunes and unique vegetation. The trail is three-quarters of a mile long and is pet-friendly. Guided tours are also available upon request. Another exciting site along this path is the remnants of a bunker that was used by the military several decades ago.

Playground

The park features a contemporary playground with a scenic view of the Gulf of Mexico. This playground is close to the start of the nature trail in the day-use section of the park. Parents can relax in the shaded seating area and observe their children while they play. It is an ideal spot for kids to have fun, be creative, and stay active.

Wildlife Viewing

Henderson Beach State Park is home to a variety of animals, both on land and in the water. If you’re into birdwatching, you’re in for a treat, as the park is home to a great number of wading birds, shorebirds, and migratory birds.

The beach also offers incredible opportunities to see dolphins, sea turtles, and a wide variety of fish species and small reptiles. There are excellent chances to see rabbits, bobcats, and gopher tortoises along the nature trail.

Best Times To Visit Henderson Beach State Park

Henderson Beach State Park is open year-round and provides incredible opportunities for both leisure and recreation throughout the year. However, there are specific times that are more favorable than others to plan a visit.

Best Time To Visit Henderson Beach State Park for Ideal Weather

Wild grasses on Henderson state park beach sea coast.
Image Credit: duydophotography via Adobe Stock

Weather can make or break a vacation, so it’s wise to plan around typical weather patterns. To enjoy ideal weather at Henderson Beach State Park, it’s best to visit in October. This is the month that receives the least rain throughout the year, with an average of just 3 days of rain. The temperatures range from the mid-60s to the low 80s, which is perfect for enjoying the beach and other outdoor adventures.

Best Time To Visit Henderson Beach State Park To Avoid the Crowds

Many travelers wish to come when the park is least crowded. The best time to visit this park to avoid crowds is in October when all the summer travelers have left. There are still warm days, so you can enjoy the beach. You may even get to experience the monarch butterfly migration this month.

Bottom Line:

An October visit will allow you to enjoy the park without crowded areas, long lines, and heavy traffic.

Best Time To Visit Henderson Beach State Park for Wildlife

The Destin area is a great place to spot wildlife throughout the year. However, there are certain times when your chances of seeing animals are higher. For instance, April is the best month to visit if you want to see the wildlife in this area.

During this time, sea turtle season begins, and there is a greater chance of seeing these majestic creatures. Additionally, dolphins are more active, and you can witness migratory birds as they prepare to fly back to their summer homes.

Cheapest Time To Visit Henderson Beach State Park

Saving money while traveling may seem like an absurdity, but with a bit of research and planning, it’s possible to enjoy a budget-friendly vacation. The best time to visit this park affordably is from early to mid-September. This is when flights and accommodations are at their lowest throughout the year in Destin.

Annual Events in Henderson Beach State Park

There aren’t any annual events at Henderson Beach State Park.

Where To Stay in Henderson Beach State Park

There is lodging available within the park, as well as many more just a short walk or drive away. Whatever your needs, you should be able to find a suitable place to stay without difficulty.

Inside the Park

The only accommodation within the park is camping. The park offers 60 campsites for both tents and RVs, all of which include water, electricity, grills, picnic tables, and clothesline posts. There are bathhouses equipped with showers, washers, and dryers. A beautiful trail is nearby and winds through the ancient dunes and coastal shrubs, providing scenic views of the park and the Gulf of Mexico.

Towns Near Henderson Beach State Park

For those who wish to stay close to the park, there are several accommodations just a few minutes away.

Destin, Florida

Destin offers a variety of lodging, dining, and recreation. You can choose from luxury hotels, private vacation rentals, and affordable motels for your stay.

The city boasts numerous restaurants, ranging from fresh seafood restaurants to international cuisine and local eateries. For entertainment and recreation, you can visit museums, water parks, and an exciting boardwalk.

Niceville, Florida

Niceville is 14 miles away from the beach and an excellent place for visitors to stay when they plan a trip to Henderson Beach State Park. This town is relatively less crowded than Destin and offers a variety of accommodations, dining, and recreation. You can choose from several well-known chain hotels and private rentals.

The restaurants here offer a diverse range of cuisine, including fine dining, pizza parlors, and barbecue smokehouses. Besides, you can explore amazing parks, a performing arts center, arcades, and breweries during your stay.

Where To Eat in Henderson Beach State Park

There aren’t any restaurants inside the park’s boundaries, but thanks to its convenient location, there are plenty of options a short drive away.

Capriccio Cafe

Capriccio Cafe, near the park, is known for its gourmet coffee, crepes, pastries, sandwiches, and salads. The meats, cheeses, and coffee served here are imported from Italy, giving you an authentic Italian experience. The cafe is open daily for breakfast and lunch, making it the perfect place to unwind or fuel up before visiting Henderson Beach State Park.

Fudpucker’s Beachside Bar and Grill

Fudpucker’s Beachside Bar and Grill is a family-friendly restaurant in the Destin area. It is half a mile from the park, directly across the Emerald Coast Parkway. The menu features fresh, local seafood specialties, fried alligator, and classic favorites like hot wings and burgers. Another major draw to this restaurant is Gator Beach, where you can feed the gators and have your picture taken holding a live gator.

Pazzo Italian

Pazzo Italian is a mile and a half away from the park. The restaurant specializes in trendy local fare, including traditional Italian cuisine and wood-fired pizzas. The full bar features an incredible selection of fine wines and craft beers. The restaurant is open for both lunch and dinner from Monday to Saturday, making it ideal to grab a bite after a long day at the park.

Henderson Beach State Park Facts

Henderson Beach State Park
Image Credit: Samuel Branch via Unsplash

1. A New State Park Established

This park was opened to the public in March 1991. It was originally a family estate owned by the Henderson family, and it was bought in 1983 to protect the area’s natural features and offer a place for the public to enjoy the surroundings.

2. What’s in a Name?

This park was named after its previous owners, the Henderson family. They were the scions of a timber company that had owned the land since 1938. The family sold their estate in hopes that the land would be preserved for the public.

3. Clausen Tracking Site

The park is encompassed by the Clausen Tracking Site, which the U.S. Air Force maintains. It was established in 1951 to assist national security and rocketry testing programs in the U.S. Visitors can observe the site’s remains from the nature trail.

4. Coastal Dune Scrub

This park preserves the last remaining stretch of the coastal dune scrub in the area. Visitors can explore the nature trail to experience this unique landscape.

5. Endangered Species

Several endangered species call this park home, including the gopher tortoise and beach mouse, which are both protected.

Final Thoughts

Henderson Beach State Park is a breathtaking destination that boasts a plethora of activities for visitors to enjoy. Its main draw is the stunning white sand beach, which stretches for miles and provides a picturesque backdrop for swimming, sunbathing, and beachcombing. With so much to see and do, it’s no wonder that the park attracts a quarter of a million visitors each year.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to visit Henderson Beach State Park?

To enter Henderson Beach State Park, there is a fee of $6 per vehicle.

How much time should I plan to spend in Henderson Beach State Park?

When you visit Henderson Beach State Park, it is recommended you allocate at least a few hours, if not half a day, to fully experience all the park has to offer.

Can I bring my dog to Henderson Beach State Park?

Pets are allowed in some areas at Henderson Beach State Park but not on the beach, playgrounds, or in park buildings. Dogs must be leashed, and owners must pick up after them at all times.

What are some attractions I should check out near Henderson Beach State Park?

Henderson Beach State Park is in a fantastic location that provides numerous possibilities for leisure and amusement. Some of the major attractions that you can explore during your stay here include the Destin Harbor Boardwalk, the Destin History and Fishing Museum, and the Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park.

Amar Hussain's image

About Amar Hussain

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications including Forbes, the Huffington Post, and more.

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