Southerners know and love the Florida Panhandle, but on the yearly race to the Gulf sands, it's easy to miss DeFuniak Springs. While you've probably seen the signs for this community, an inland spot with old Florida charm and a dose of tranquility in the outdoors, the next time you're passing through, you should take the exit and go exploring.
DeFuniak Springs is the seat of Walton County and has a population of about 6,500. It's located about 50 miles inland and is less than an hour's drive to the beach. The heyday of the town was in the Victorian era when many of its historic buildings were constructed. DeFuniak Springs's old railroad depot is now home to the Walton County Heritage Museum. The Walton County Library, the oldest in the state, is housed in a building erected there in the 1880s, and other historic buildings and historic homes are located around the downtown area.
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Explore the Town
While you're in town, don't miss Café NOLA for New Orleans-inspired cuisine and Hotel DeFuniak, which is housed in a 1920 building in the historic district. Just around the corner is Perla Baking Company, a lovely bakery that opened in 2019 and is well worth a visit. It has outdoor seating where you can enjoy pastries and desserts as well as sandwiches and salads. It's located across the street from the Walton County Heritage Museum in the old rail depot and is just a short stroll to Lake DeFuniak. Down the street is Bogey's Bar & Restaurant, where you can order steak and seafood. For a milkshake and and an old-school burger, you can't do better than Ed's Restaurant on US-90. On your way to the beach, stop into Chautauqua Vineyards & Winery for a tasting of red and white flights.
Plan for Adventure
DeFuniak Springs is a destination for exploring in the outdoors too. The town's centerpiece is Lake DeFuniak, a spring-fed lake that is almost perfectly round and is surrounded by the 260-acre Chipley Park. Other lakes in the area are Juniper Lake, Holly Lake, and Lake Stanley, where visitors can go tubing and boating. Also nearby is Ponce de Leon Springs State Park, which is just a 15-minute drive away from DeFuniak Springs. The park is dotted with springs and laced with nature trails; two creeks—Sandy Creek and Mill Creek—also flow through the park.
Don't miss your next opportunity to visit DeFuniak Springs, a quiet town with plenty of charm and a bakery you just have to try.