Bald Point State Park

A secluded, largely undeveloped beachfront on the edge of the Forgotten Coast.

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Bald Point State Park is an ideal spot if you're looking for some oceanfront without someone's vacation home taking up the view. [Franklin County Tourist Development Council photo]
Pros
  • Great spot for a secluded beach break.
  • Also good for paddling, fishing and wildlife.
  • Closest beach to Tallahassee.
Cons
  • Narrow beach that doesn't see much action.
  • Not everyone is looking for isolation.

Just an hour south of Tallahassee, Florida’s capital city, lies more than 4,000 acres of quiet, coastal wilderness at Bald Point State Park near Alligator Point.

The park is positioned where Ochlockonee Bay meets Apalachee Bay, the easternmost point of what’s called the Forgotten Coast. Bald Point features a sandy shoreline, tidal marshes, maritime hammocks, pine and oak trees. The diverse landscape supports a wide range of wildlife including fish, crabs, deer, bear, raccoon, bobcats, coyotes, opossums and bird species from raptors to wrens.

The region was home to Native Americans as long as 3,500 years ago or more, hunting and fishing from settlements long before Spaniards invaded. In the 1800s it became a center of fishing and later turpentine production.

Florida most recently expanded the park in 2002 by purchasing almost 3,000 acres east of the Crooked River from the St. Joe Company, a land developer that has roots as a timber company.

There are some beach houses and small towns in the region near the park, but Bald Point is largely undeveloped. The park ended up largely unscathed from 2018’s Hurricane Michael, which lashed nearby communities, including homes on Alligator Point.

If you’re the kind of person who can’t sit still to sunbathe for hours on end, Bald Point offers plenty of options for activities on land or water. It’s a dream day trip for anyone in need of one-on-one time with nature — as long as you bring bug spray.

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GETTING THERE

Part of the beauty of Bald Point is that the trip there is slow going if you’re not relatively local.

From Panama City, you’re looking at nearly a two and a half hour drive to Bald Point. From the Big Bend it can be shorter, but beyond that and you’re making a serious trip. For a good chunk of visitors, the drive is from Tallahassee, which sits on Interstate 10, and takes about an hour.

From the north you’ll travel through Panacea on U.S. Hwy 319 before heading south on U.S. Hwy 98, the mostly scenic route you would take coming from the east or west.

You’ll know you’re close when you hit Alligator Drive and take a left. If you’re heading to Tucker Lake or Chaires Creek, keep an eye out for Range Road. But if the beach is your desired destination, you’ll stay on Alligator Drive until you head left on Bald Point Road.

The park is open from 8 a.m. to sunset every day of the year. It’s primarily a day trip destination, with only primitive camping facilities for boaters available, but there’s plenty to keep you occupied from morning until evening.

Access fees for the park are $4 per vehicle, up to 8 people, and $2 if you’re heading in on foot or bicycle.

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PARKING

Being a state park, there are designated areas to stop, with use included in the access fee.

Parking for the Sunrise Beach Access point is located on Bald Point Road just across from the beach. North Point Beach Access parking is at the end of Bald Point Road along with a canoe and kayak launch point.

Lots aren’t huge, but thanks to the the secluded nature of Bald Point you shouldn’t have any trouble getting a space.

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BEACH SCENE

A small sand bar curves out into the bay at the North End beach. [Sarah Tyson Alfano | Florida Beach Insider photo]

The beach here has never been crowded, in my experience. I even spent a Memorial Day weekend there one year and it was still quiet — nothing at all like the party atmosphere down at the other end of Alligator Point.

In the park you can get plenty of room between your beach towel and the next group of people! You’re more likely to see people fishing than a bunch of sunbathers.

There are two Apalachee Bay beach access points for swimming and sunbathing at Bald Point — North End and Sunrise. Both are accessible for wheelchairs and strollers with mobi-mats. A beach wheelchair is available to reserve by calling the park office.

Bald Point has picnic pavilions, restrooms and outdoor showers so you can comfortably spend the day at the beach.

Both beaches are narrow but provide plenty of room to put in an umbrella if you prefer a little shade with your sunbathing. The water’s mostly calm and usually warm, by North Florida standards, anyway.

The current picks up and the water gets more brackish as you get closer to the north end of the park where the bays meet. Depending on the tide level, you may be able to bring a beach chair out to a sandbar for a true moment of zen.

While it may be tempting to bring Fido wherever you go, keep in mind pets are not permitted on the beach. Your four-legged friend is welcome in other areas of the park, as long as it’s well-behaved and on a leash that’s no longer than six feet.

Hurricane Michael’s Impact

Bald Point State Park was spared the destruction Hurricane Michael brought to the the opposite end of Alligator Point in October 2018. The Sunrise Beach access was temporarily closed following the storm, but has since re-opened.

If you continue past Bald Point Road on Alligator Drive, it’s possible you may need a four-wheel drive vehicle to proceed, as of this writing. The Tiki Hut, Alligator Point’s watering hole and restaurant, suffered extensive damage in the storm, but there are plans to rebuild.

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WHERE TO STAY

Lodging options are limited near Bald Point State Park. That lack of development is part of its charm.

CAMPING

If you’re aiming to stay in touch with nature day and night, there’s just one paddle/boat in primitive camping site in the park on Chaires Creek. Call the park office to reserve it.

More camping sites are available about 20 minutes away at Ochlockonee River State Park. The Holiday Campground RV park is just a 10-minute drive away.

HOME RENTAL

Alligator Point features some vacation rental homes if you’re looking for more creature comforts. Single family vacation home rentals at Bald Point (some not far outside the park entrance) and Alligator Point can be found through sites like Airbnb and VRBO. Some feature beach access while others at Bald Point are nestled in the pine forest just a short walk from the beach.

Hotels

The Magnuson Hotel Wildwood Inn and Best Western Wakulla Inn & Suites are about 30 minutes away from the park near Panacea, halfway between Tallahassee and Alligator Point.

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Bald Point hosts a clean-up along with conservation partners in the falls and groups like the Sierra Club plan outings to explore the range of habitats.

Prescribed burns help the park manage resources and are usually scheduled in the late fall or winter. You can give a call to the park office or the Ranger Station at Ochlockonee River State Park at 850-962-2771 to get the latest prescribed fire schedule.

Bald Point State Park also boasts about getting some of the monarch butterflies that migrate through the Panhandle in the fall. The main event is at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge just to the northeast, but Bald Point does experience spillover, usually in October or early November.

THINGS TO DO

There is much more to do than just go to the beach, if you're the outdoorsy type. [Franklin County Tourist Development Council photo]

Despite thousands of years of human history in the area, Bald Point is still a sparsely developed nature lover’s paradise. No matter how you plan to spend your day at Bald Point, bring insect repellent. Mosquitoes and other biting bugs are always in season.

FISHING

The fishing pier at the north end of the park is a great spot to drop a line and try your luck at catching flounder, redfish, trout, mackerel or mullet. Surf-fishing or wading out to the oyster beds with your gear are also popular options.

Paddling

There are canoe and kayak launches for park visitors at Chaires Creek and at the north end of the park. If you’re planning to spend time in the Chaires Creek system, be sure to watch the tides so you don’t get stuck on an oyster bed or sandbar.

HIKING

Bald Point features nearly 20 miles of hiking trails. You can go your own way or schedule a tour with a ranger or park volunteer at least two weeks in advance.

PICNICS AND PARTIES

Bald Point offers accessible amenities including a boardwalk and observation deck, outdoor showers and picnic pavilions with grills (BYO charcoal). You could invite friends and family for a beachside party, but remember that Bald Point is known as a quiet escape.

WILDLIFE

You can hit the trails, beach or boardwalk for birding. You’ll have a good chance of seeing migrating hawks in the fall and horseshoe crab spawning in spring brings birds including red knots and marbled godwits. The boardwalk is overlooking the marsh on the North End.

Throughout the year, the park is home to more than 360 species of plants and 230 animal species. Wildflowers bloom along the beach and can be seen from the hiking trails.

Bald Point has a well-deserved reputation as a top spot on the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, with fall and winter being best seasons for birders to visit. In addition to catching a glimpse of migrating birds in the fall, you’re likely to see monarch butterflies as they head south for the winter, as mentioned earlier.

PLACES TO EAT AND DRINK

There are picnic pavilions with grills at each beach access point but no restaurants in the park and shopping options get slimmer the closer your get to Bald Point. If you plan to picnic, you’ll need to come in prepared but leave the beach drinks and beer at home — alcohol isn’t allowed at the park.

On your way to Bald Point, you’ll pass roadside stands selling local favorites including boiled peanuts and Tupelo honey.

The small town of Panacea is home to plenty of seafood restaurants including Angelo & Son’s, My-Way Seafood, Posey's Seafood Steam Room & Oyster Bar and Coastal Seafood. All are within a 20-minute drive from Bald Point State Park.

Sarah Tyson is a ninth generation Floridian who spent her childhood summers on the Space Coast’s beaches. Now, she calls North Florida home and appreciates the diversity of Florida’s shoreline. When she’s not working in communications, she enjoys exploring Florida’s great outdoors with her husband and two dogs.

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