The Best Beach Anywhere?

Grayton Beach Sand Dunes

We turned the corner and saw the impossible; snow covered mountains in Florida. We knew our eyes were deceiving us because Florida doesn’t have mountains, or snow for that matter. Had we known about the brilliantly white sand that graces Florida’s ‘Emerald Coast’ we might have expected to see these dunes on our way to Grayton Beach, but instead, they took us by surprise.

Grayton Beach Hobbit Hole

Grayton Beach State Park Hobbit Hole

We spent the first hour of our beach excursion completely ignoring the beach, choosing instead to walk trails winding through the giant white dunes. Even though the ocean was no more than 100 yards away, all of our senses told us we were lost in the desert with blinding sand rising in every direction. After a time, the ‘desert’ gave way to a dense grove of magnolia trees, whose branches were bowed and twisted by years of harsh salt winds. The trees curved around the trail, forming a canopy above, and a hollowed out entrance that has appropriately come to be known as the ‘hobbit hole.’ With a few steps, we left the desert and entered the heart of an old growth forest. We followed the trail through the forest, past a rare coastal dune lake, and back to the dunes where we began. A pretty interesting hike, for a beach.

Which is why we were here, after all, the beach. And it is the best beach we’ve been to anywhere; including those of Hawaii and Barbados. Unlike most other beaches we’ve frequented, there are no towering condos or boardwalk retailers hawking chintz to spoil the scene at Grayton Beach. Visitors find the area the same as it has always been: undeveloped and beautiful.

Grayton Beach White SandBut what sets this beach apart from the others is its sand. Made from quartz crystal worn off the Appalachian Mountains and pulverized by miles of churning currents underneath the Apalachicola River it is as bright, and only slightly coarser, than powdered sugar. Silky and cool to the touch it almost begs to be walked on barefoot. Beneath the waves the glistening crystals reflect so much light that luminescent turquoise striation shine within the otherwise deep blue water.

We set up our chairs as close to the ocean as the waves would permit. I alternated between playing with the powdery sand and gazing out into the aquamarine ocean. The book I brought was left forgotten at the bottom of our bag. A great beach doesn’t need any other distractions.

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30 Comments on “The Best Beach Anywhere?”

  1. Chris March 30, 2011 at 7:15 am #

    That is just mesmerizing.

    Did I mention before that you two are having way too much fun?

    • Brian March 30, 2011 at 7:41 am #

      We don’t prioritize beaches in our travels, but this one kind of blew us away. We completely didn’t expect it, which was part of what made it so great. Who knew the ‘Redneck Riviera’ was so awesome?

      Yeah, we’re having a blast. And we haven’t even gotten to the ‘good parts’ out west yet. Can’t wait.

  2. Dave White Paintings October 27, 2011 at 12:25 pm #

    Wow, what a beautiful beach! From the photo, it looks similar to Caladesi Island State Park, which is near Clearwater, FL. Caladesi has a beach that sort of surprised me in the same way. I hope to visit this beach in the future!

    • Brian October 27, 2011 at 12:34 pm #

      We were in Tampa but never made it to Clearwater or Caladesi – seems like we missed out. Something for next time. Thanks for the tip.

  3. earthriderjudyberman November 6, 2011 at 10:04 pm #

    Stunning photo. I live near Cocoa Beach and rarely venture close to the ocean. But I’d love to see Grayton Beach. Great descriptions.

  4. mflahertyphoto August 7, 2012 at 1:08 pm #

    Haha I always make fun of people moving to Florida to retire (like my entire family!). You reminded me there are gorgeous spots along the Gulf Coast that are pristine and so beautiful. I never experienced better beachcombing than Florida’s Gulf Coast. Enjoy!

    • Brian August 7, 2012 at 4:50 pm #

      The “Emerald Coast” is pretty fantastic. But there are tons of other great places in Florida, too. We spent about three months there over one winter. We moved to a new spot twice per week, or so. We never visited a theme park and still never ran out of things to do.

      • kallistrates December 23, 2012 at 6:15 pm #

        Great blog! Always inspired by other travelers…

  5. amoralegria December 28, 2012 at 5:07 pm #

    Wow, this place is amazing! And I thought the only good thing about Florida was the Everglades! Your photos are incredible. The Hobbit Hole looks like the entrance to a cave. VERY interesting post.

  6. suesilver January 1, 2013 at 2:18 pm #

    What a beautiful part of the world. Thank you for this lovely post.

  7. JZ January 1, 2013 at 10:13 pm #

    I love how you described the sand in the gulf. It is truly the best sand I’ve ever sunk my toes into. Happy travels!

  8. roxyboots January 4, 2013 at 3:50 pm #

    Wow! Gorgeous.

  9. sixtyonabike January 8, 2013 at 5:10 am #

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. It must seem a bit tame to you who are travelling all over the place. In my defence I have done quite a bit of travelling and I love it. Hope you’re having a great time.

  10. sarahryan85 January 11, 2013 at 3:39 am #

    Wow looks beautiful! I think my favourite beach has to be at Lake McKenzie, a fresh water lake with perfect silica sand and crystal clear water on Fraser Island, Australia.

    • shoestringtom January 25, 2013 at 8:52 am #

      I totally agree – this is an amazing beach as well but Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsunday Islands probably equals this. I remember paddling around the clearest water with stingrays swimming around my ankles – and yes they were harmless so long as I didn’t scare them.

  11. LifeWithNat January 23, 2013 at 11:22 pm #

    Very beautiful! The white sands here rival the Maya Beach in Thailand (where the movie ‘The Beach’ starring Leo DiCaprio was filmed), the best beach I’ve visited to date. Butttt…looks like I’m going to have to make a stop at Grayton the next time I’m in Florida!

    • shoestringtom January 25, 2013 at 8:54 am #

      Maya Beach was lovely too – I’ll be talking about the beach on my blog in a few days if you’re interested :-)

  12. Khai January 26, 2013 at 11:40 am #

    The sand is super duper white!!

  13. RDoug January 28, 2013 at 9:29 pm #

    Good job compensating exposure for the blazingly white sand.

  14. honeydidyouseethat? February 17, 2013 at 10:14 pm #

    Just book marked this, as we are heading there next fall. Wow! Thanks for dropping by and liking “Honey.”

  15. L.J. Popp March 24, 2013 at 8:20 pm #

    Yea, I’m going there in May! You’ve whet my appetite. By the way, thanks for visiting my blog!

  16. Shep March 31, 2013 at 8:07 pm #

    I am a beach bum at heart! Looks beautiful. I will be bumming around the beaches of Naples in May. Can’t wait.

  17. Hajara April 19, 2013 at 11:58 am #

    Wow! That’s absolutely beautiful! Thanks for stopping by my blog, all these pictures of lovely places, make me want to get my back pack and gooooooooo!!!

  18. Helena Hann-Basquiat April 26, 2013 at 11:20 am #

    Lovely, darlings! Thanks for checking out my blog so I could discover yours!

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    • Brian March 22, 2014 at 1:09 pm #

      Spambot speaks the truth so it’s comment remains even as it’s spammy links are removed. ;-)

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Surprising Pensacola « Wanderings - April 13, 2011

    [...] drive from the city center. With sands nearly as white, and water almost as blue as those of our favorite beach a little further to the East, its sun and surf provided the perfect salve for our ringing ears and [...]

  2. 8 Favorite Destinations (East Coast Edition) « Wanderings - May 2, 2011

    [...] surprising gem along Florida’s “Emerald Coast,” Grayton Beach is the best beach we’ve ever been to. Its brilliantly-white and powdery-soft sand coupled with turquoise water and zero commercial [...]

  3. 8 Favorite Destinations (East Coast Edition) | Everywhere Once - October 25, 2011

    [...] surprising gem along Florida’s “Emerald Coast,” Grayton Beach is the best beach we’ve ever been to. Its brilliantly-white and powdery-soft sand coupled with turquoise water and zero commercial [...]

  4. Surprising Pensacola | Everywhere Once - October 25, 2011

    [...] drive from the city center. With sands nearly as white, and water almost as blue as those of our favorite beach a little further to the East, its sun and surf provided the perfect salve for our ringing ears and [...]

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