Covered in old-growth pines, some of which are more than 300 years old, the park offers a vast array of options for visitors to partake in, whether it’s a few hours on the water, a picnic on the beach or under a pavilion, or a few days’ camping under the stars.
Kayaking in Fred Gannon State Park. - Fred Gannon State Park
What Makes It Great
A diverse menu of activities make Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park a wonderland of natural fun. Encompassing 800 square miles of shoreline against Rocky Bayou State Park Aquatic Preserve, which connects to the Choctawhatchee Bay and eventually the Gulf of Mexico, the land was once on loan to the US War Department in the 1940s for gunnery and bomb practice in World War II. Named after Col. Fred Gannon, the civil engineering director at nearby Eglin Air Force Base in the 1950s who proposed the land’s conversion into a public space, it became a part of the state park system in 1966 after its roads and trails were completed.
Home to Florida’s most delicate ecosystem — estuarine sea grass beds — the park is a perfect place to spot otters, dolphins, trumpeter swans, beautiful aquatic flora and the eponymous red cedar tree for which one of the park’s hiking trails is named. With 42 campsites for tents and RVs to spend the night (four of which are ADA accessible), the park offers water and electric utilities at each site, as well as picnic tables, fire rings and a handful of waterfront views. Public showers with heat and air conditioning make your stay a bit more comfortable, especially when you’ve spent the day basking in the sun on a boat, cycling around the paved roads inside the park or hiking one of its three stunning nature trails.
Who Is Going To Love It
Fantastic for families, friends or solo travelers who want the flexibility to explore the park’s various offerings alone or in small groups, the preserve serves an array of energy levels all at once. Boats can’t be docked overnight (although overnight parking is available), so plan accordingly if you’re intending to camp out. RVs and pets are welcome, making it a phenomenal spot for a group camping trip complete with four-legged friends.
Picnic areas can be reserved through the park service, and canoes and kayaks are available for rental (although you can bring your own, too). Whether you want to cap off a slow nature walk with a lazy campfire dinner or put your athletic limits to the test atop a bike or on the water, there’s something for you here.
Fred Cannon State Park Directions, Parking, & Regulations
If you’re coming from the west, take I-10 east to Highway 85 and travel south until you get to Highway 20. Go east for five miles and turn left when you see the park’s signs. If you’re coming from the east, take I-10 west to Highway 331 and travel south until you get to Highway 20. Go west for 25 miles and turn right when you see the park’s signs. Parking is available onsite.
As for rules, bikes must stay on the park's paved roads, overnight docking of boats is not permitted, and campsites must be reserved in advance. Pets are permitted in camping areas and some other areas of the park.
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