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.
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.
But 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.