Beyond Destin: Merritt's Mill Pond

Savannah Vasquez
Cypress trees grow along the banks and even in the middle of the pond. Logs from old trees make for great spots to view turtles sunning.

Looking for a quiet water get away that is different from the beach? Look no further than Merritt’s Mill Pond in Jackson County near Marianna.

Merritt’s Mill Pond is a large spring-fed pond that covers four miles and offers cool, crystal-clear water year-round. Bring your own boat, paddleboard or kayak or rent one at the nearby dive shop, but either way you will find this oasis was worth the drive.

The day Cristian and I ventured to the pond, we were not sure what to expect. We put in at a boat ramp along Hunter Fish Camp Road and were immediately surprised by the amount of plants growing in the water. As we paddled, long strands of pond weeds stuck to our oars and actually made it hard to see how deep the water was in some areas. Along the banks of the pond, and even in the pond, itself stood large cypress trees draped in Spanish moss.

We felt like we were in an enchanted forest as the calm, clear water yielded views of fish and turtles below, and the trees in the water and along the bank made homes for several varieties of heron and other bird life. In some spots the underwater plants did not grow and a pool of crystal clear water emerged; those spots we were sure were springs as more than seven springs feed into Merritt’s Mill Pond.

Because of the springs, Merritt’s Mill Pond is actually a favorite spot for cave divers, as the underground world yields beautiful limestone formations and neat hide-away spots for fish. A nearby dive shop, Cave Adventurers, offers dive gear for rent as well as pontoons, canoes and even clear-bottomed kayaks. Also nearby is a campground that offers RV lots, tent sites and cabins to those wishing for a longer stay.

So if you want to spend the day leisurely paddling, fishing and swimming head to Merritt’s Mill Pond today.

Destin has a lot to offer, and although its beaches are world-famous and its seafood delicious, there are hundreds of hidden treasures in the surrounding area of Northwest Florida that yield for fun adventures, day trips and weekend getaways. This column, which will be featured once a month, will follow the wanderings of reporter Savannah Vasquez and explore the many opportunities in Destin’s surrounding area. I invite you to explore with me Beyond Destin.

Merritt’s Mill Pond is located about two hours northeast of Destin in Marianna Florida. Launch your boat or kayak from Arrowhead Campground, Hunter Fish Camp Road or between Memorial Day and Labor Day from Blue Springs Recreation Area. To find the free boat launch on Hunter Fish Camp Road take U.S. Highway 90 to State Road 71, then after a mile head north on County Road 164 (also called Blue Springs Road). Hunter Fish Camp Road is up about 2 miles on the right. To rent a boat or dive gear from Cave Adventurers, find them at 5211 Limestone Lane in Marianna or online at

Wanna Go?