the Florida Panhandle
Friday morning I woke up wanting to move. I didn’t want to spend another day in Wauchula. I got lucky on Reserve America; someone had cancelled Saturday and Sunday at St. Joseph Peninsula State Park in the Florida Panhandle. While Mike was meeting some friends in Sarasota, I looked for a place somewhere in between to lay over for the night.
Around 5PM Friday, we pulled out of Peace River and headed north. Our plan was to drive for a couple of hours, find a rest area, and chill for the rest of the evening. We don’t like to drive more than 250 miles a day and the distance we needed to cover was about 400 miles. Just outside of Ocala, on Highway 75, is a rest area with separate parking for RVs and trailers. We didn’t have to worry about truck engines, the RV spaces were separated from the highway, and the lot was level. We had a quiet night and, contrary to popular opinion, we were not mugged, raped, killed, or panhandled once. In the morning, after a pot of coffee, we resumed our northward trek.
St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, on the Gulf of Mexico, has some of the most beautiful beaches in Florida.
And, while we were there, they were mostly empty.
Our site, #55 in the Gulf Breeze loop, was very tiny, like most of the spots in the loop. We could just fit the short bus and wedge the jeep in front. We had a tiny sitting area but it was paved, helping to keep beach sand out of the RV. When our next door neighbor in site #54 arrived, they originally parked so that their tent side (hybrid trailer) was directly over our fire pit. Yes, some of the sites are that small. If we ever get the chance to return, we will try for sites #1-4. They were right across from the beach, much more spacious, and had a little bit of buffer between sites. The best part of the Gulf Breeze campground is its location just steps from a beautiful white sand beach. We could hear the waves from our campsite.
There is a lot of wandering to be done on the peninsula and that is what we spent two days doing.
There are beaches and bays, marshes and dunes, hillocks and hammocks. Part of the peninsula is a wilderness preserve, where one can wander for hours and not run into anyone.
We also checked out the town of Port St. Joe, a quiet uncrowded town with quite a few decent restaurants and a wonderful little marina. This is a great place to get away from it all without having to be too far from everything.
After two idyllic days, we pulled up stakes and headed further west, to St. Andrews State Park, where we managed to grab a spot on the bay for three nights. St. Andrews is the opposite of St. Josephs in all respects but one: the beautiful beach. The campsites are much larger and a bit more private with many backing to the bay. The campground itself is much larger, busier, and a drive away from the beach instead of steps. The park is located in a populated area rather than removed from it so a drive to the grocery is five minutes instead of twenty.
Like St. Joseph, there is a lot of wandering to be done here. It is a five mile walk from the campground, along the bay, down the channel to the gulf beach and back to the campground.
It is a great place to watch birds and we even had a ‘pet’ rabbit while we were there. Mostly, we just relaxed, wandered, and fought against daylight savings time and the change to the central time zone.