We found beach access on the Gulf at Inlet Beach, the next little community east of Rosemary Beach. If you were driving east on 30A from Seagrove, go all the way to the point where it T's into highway 98 and turn right towards Panama City. In just over a half mile you'll make a right turn on S. Walton Lakeshore Drive. It will take you staight to the beach at a point where there's a break in the dunes, fences and beachhouses where you can get a Hobie down to the beach. After the boat comes off the trailer, you'll have to cross about 60 yards of sand, so don't try this without Cat Trax. There is a power line right over the point where sand meets the pavement, so be sure to back down onto the beach far enough so that when you raise the mast you won't hit it. You'll also need to be careful not to get your drive wheels more that a few feet off the road as the sand is very loose. Front wheel drive works best here as it allows you to back the trailer farther off the road and past the power line without getting the drive wheels into the soft stuff. Stay to one side of the access area so you won't block it for anyone else, especially the beach patrol.
Allow me to elaboarate a bit about the beach patrol. I'm glad they're there and appreciate what they do, but . . . There is a sign about 30 yards inside the access point that says "No Vehicles Beyond This Point". We backed our car and trailer off the road and onto the sand to rig up, but did not go beyond the sign, not even close. Nevertheless, a police officer came by and told us we couldn't rig up there. He also told us we needed a Captain's License to launch off the beach. We thought that was a load of BS, put politely explained to the officer that we hadn't gone past the sign, we had pulled this boat all the way down from Louisiana and were ignorant of the Captain's license. He allowed us an hour to get our boat launched and get the car off the beach, which we did. Deputy Fife was also concerned about where we were going leave the boat overnight. He was OK with us parking it behind the friend of a friend's beach house as long as we pulled it all the way up to the dune line. At the end of the week we unrigged an loaded in the same spot, fortunately we didn't see Barney again. You might want to check on the Captain's licensce but surely it's only applicable to operators taking passengers out for hire.
Parking is also a problem. Once you offload the boat, there is no where to leave your vehicle. You'll need to have someone with you that can drive your vehicle and pull your trailer somewhere else. I assume that you'd sail back to your beach house at Seagrove. If someone were just sailing for the day, there is a public beach park a few hundred yards west of the S. Walton Lakeshore Drive access point. You've got to navigate through a neighborhood to find it, but someone could leave the car there.
I sailed from Inlet Beach down to Seagrove and back a couple of times. It's about eight miles on the water. We had a blast. It's a beautiful area. Unfortunately there is a lot of hassle involved with beach launching these days, if you find a spot, but I'd do it again.
Mark Van Doren
Division 9 Chairman