A sketch of “Eric’s Sea Monster” is in the visitor center at Camp Helen State Park, overlooking Powell Lake, one of the largest freshwater coastal dune lakes in the world.
These lakes are rare biological and geological gems, found only on the coasts of Australia and Africa and along this stretch of the Gulf of Mexico between Panama City Beach and Destin.
Resources for exploring the area
Disclosure: As authors and affiliates, we receive earnings when you buy these through our links. This helps us provide public information on this website.
Location: Panama City Beach
Address: 23937 Panama City Beach Pkwy (US 98), Panama City Beach
Fees: $4 vehicle, $2 cyclist or pedestrian
Restroom: At the visitor center
Land manager: Florida State Parks
Open 8 AM to sunset. Dogs not permitted on beach.
Along US 98 due west from Panama City Beach, entrance on the south side of the highway just west of Lake Powell.
About the Park
A collection of 1930s log-and-stone cottages and a lodge in the Civilian Conservation Corps style sit on a high bluff overlooking the Gulf of Mexico and Lake Powell.
These served as a vacation retreat for employees of the Avondale Textile Mills in Alabama between 1945 and 1987.
Each fall, the Friends of Camp Helen State Park hold a history-and-ghost walk to recapture those spirits of the past.
Beyond the Florida sea monster story, the real secret of Camp Helen State Park is its prime beach access.
The beach is reached by a climb down the bluff and a walk across a breezy causeway to a perfect spot spot for a morning sun and swim.
A natural-surface nature trail, the Oak Hammock Trail, loops between the beach causeway to the uplands through a showy oak hammock.
A second nature wheelchair-accessible nature trail called Oak Hammock Trail North starts at the parking area, passes beneath US 98, and follows the shoreline of Lake Powell.
It provides scenic panoramas before winding through a coastal hammock and pine flatwoods.
Cyclists can use Camp Helen as a (day use) eastern terminus trailhead for the Timpoochee Trail, which starts just to the west across the county line.
See our photos of Camp Helen State Park
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Showcasing the beauty of the South Walton coastline, the Timpoochee Trail connects coastal communities while leading cyclists past Florida’s renowned Coastal Dune Lakes
At Deer Lake State Park, the coastal flatwoods ecosystem hosts rare pitcher plants, Gulf Coast lupine and stately magnolias along a coastal dune lake, with beach access along the Gulf of Mexico at Alys Beach.
Cradled in a cocoon of coastal dunes, Western Lake shimmers in the sun. At Grayton Beach State Park, it’s the focus of both passive and active recreation.