Thomas E. Williams II
(850) 258-8670
[email protected]
Emerald Coast Living

History Meets Coastal Treasure: Camp Helen State Park

Posted on - Laura Bernstien

Photo Credit -




Camp Helen is one of the most unique state parks in Florida and is located here on the panhandle. It has an environment endowed with lots of mineral and cultural resources. It has water on 3 sides from the Gulf of Mexico and Lake Powell on the eastern side. Lake Powell is currently one of the biggest coastal dune lakes that you will find in the world. The uniqueness of Camp Helen rests on its borders and the activities around it. The lake sometimes crosses the land that separates it from the Gulf of Mexico causing the water from both bodies of water to mix. This results to the water being ‘brackish’ and inhabited by both fresh and salt water marine life.


Historical studies show that human beings have been occupying that area for over 4000 years. Robert E. Hicks purchased 185 acres in 1928. He used it as a family summer retreat venue. In 1945, the Alabama company, Avondale Textile Mills purchased it and named it Camp Helen. The company acquired this property to use it as a resort destination for their employees going on vacation. This resort destination for the company served them until in the year 1987. The state of Florida took over its ownership in 1996 and restored most of the buildings.


After the taking over of Camp Helen by the state of Florida, it was renamed as Camp Helen State Park. This state park has undergone lots of renovations. As a result, the history of the the location has been preserved but it is also a popular hangout for us locals, who often use it as a launch place for paddle boarding. It also hosts events such as wedding an public events such as Halloween events.


The best thing about Camp Helen State Park is its location.  It is located between the west end of Panama City Beach and Santa Rosa Beach, right outside of booming Inlet Beach.  The location is close to Rosemary Beach, Inlet Beach, the Sunnyside area of Panama City Beach, and more.


On my first visit to the state park with my parents, we just walked around and looked at the historic building.  However, things to do here include swimming, birdwatching, fishing, biking and hiking, paddle boarding, and more.  I have taken my dogs for a walk here many times since my first visit and I spent a day on the stretch of sand between Lake Powell and the Gulf of Mexico.  I have yet to visit when the inlet is open but I know that coastal dune lake is one of the most environmentally sensitive and unique dune lakes in the world so I’d like to try to catch it on a day that it is open.


Camp Helen State Park

23937 Panama in City Beach Pkwy

Panama City Beach, FL 32413

Phone: (850) 233-5059