Often Overlooked Magical Places: The Florida Panhandle {St. Andrews State Park}

{Dates of visit: Jan 17-22, 2014}

Scenes from the road: Only in Bum-fark-nowhere rural Florida can you find the secret to life.
We try to travel somewhat unscripted because spontaneity is where we find the most joy and freedom (sometimes we refer to this as "getting lost" or, to put a positive spin on it, the "accidental adventure"). But a few times a year we end up with some kind of opportunity to meet up with friends or family which helps dictate whether we travel north, south, east or west. We had a date with Clark's daughter and her wife in New Orleans for Mardi Gras so we decided to skirt along the panhandle of Florida on our way west.

Scenes from the road: A necessary stop along Highway 98.
Between this post and this one by Technomadia as well as this one from Nealys On Wheels we were torn between staying at St. Andrews State Park and Grayton Beach State Park. I messaged Cherie (of Technomadia) to ask her opinion on which park was better and her response was perfect...why not split our time and stay at both? And that's exactly what we did.

We had some nice views of the Gulf of Mexico on the drive over.
When we arrived at St. Andrews the sun was setting and the temperature was plummeting and, truth be told, I wasn't so sure it deserved the "top 12 13 camping spots" title that Technomadia gave it...after all it's practically in Panama City (seriously, you can sometimes hear the train and see traffic from your campsite)...but when I woke up to the sunrise over the bay I understood.

Every morning I got up early and rode my bike to where the bay meets the gulf and did a little yoga as the sun came up...

I found shells washed up on the shore on sand not yet touched by any other human (that day)...

And every evening I went to the beach and watched the sun set...

We saw some cool wildlife including deer where you'd least expect them...
Deer tracks on the beach.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at at), it was way too cold for alligator sightings.
But the icing on the cake was meeting both Jennifer and Deas Nealy of Nealys on Wheels and Betsy and Nancy of RV-a-GoGo who drove up from Grayton Beach to meet us for the very first time (in person...we'd stalked each others blogs). How awesome is that?!

Dusty's Oyster Bar in Panama City Beach.

Although it was unseasonably cold (remember the Polar Vortex last winter?) St. Andrews State Park was definitely worth visiting. Personally, I would recommend grabbing a water front site (next time I would try to get spot 118 or 120) but they are all really pretty nice. There's a 2 mile paved road perfect for biking but I found the beach to be a nice early morning ride (no people!). You'll also find a nature trail and, during summer months, kayak rentals and snorkeling. In the spring and summer the park offers boat shuttles to nearby Shell Island. For those who like touristy things like cheesy restaurants and t-shirt shopping, well, that's just right a short drive down the road.

Staying true to our team even in Florida.

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