We’re brainstorming a winter Airstream trip from VA to somewhere warmer. In Part I, we looked at Coastal SC and GA. Part II is all about Florida beaches.
This is Vader, Bugsy’s predecessor. He LOVED the beach, and would chase his water toy into the waves, or his tennis ball along the surf, or his people on their boards, ALL day…
…until he completely collapsed into the sand. After a nap, he’d be refreshed and ready to fetch and chase again. This trip was when he was twelve years old and still going strong.
Bugsy goes nuts when she encounters sand, sprinting in loops like a crazy person, and she loves to jump into water and swim after toys or humans. She experienced little rolling waves on Lake Superior, but she’s never seen real ocean waves. I bet she’d think the ocean is fun.
We were spoiled by our trips to dog-friendly Duck, NC with dogs. It seems Florida doesn’t want Bugsy on many of its beaches. State park beaches have a no dog policy, and many of the campgrounds in our research below are in state parks. If you ask google you can see some lists of dog-friendly beaches, and while we don’t want to spend our entire trip on a beach, we’d like to be able to let Bugsy enjoy beaches without so much hassle. The Florida itinerary option, despite being full of seemingly marvelous destinations, has therefore become less appealing to the Airstream Dog crew.
I put the campgrounds mentioned below on a map, to see how they’re all spatially related. If that might help you with trip planning, take a look here. Remember that we’re coming from VA, so I kept our options toward Northern Florida to minimize the schlep. The campground in Charlotte is the one I mentioned in Part I that would make a good stopover point on the way south.
This campground is on an undeveloped barrier island near Jacksonville, with more than five miles of white sand beach and wildlife galore. You can hike, fish, kayak, and surf, and still be close to the big-city amenities of Jacksonville.
St Augustine is the oldest town in the US, and has a suitably quaint historic area to roam and Spanish colonial architecture to admire. More modern attractions include a lively arts and dining scene, and it’s all just 4.5 miles from the campground at North Beach Camp.
From the shady, highly-rated campground at this state park you have easy access to four miles of pristine beach, surfing, fishing, kayaking, and nature trails, just ten minutes from downtown St Augustine. There’s even a Saturday farmer’s market at the park.
Choose from campsites on the main dune of the beach–some with excellent ocean views–or on the river side, along the Intracoastal Waterway. Flagler Beach, just to the north, was a finalist in the 2013 Budget Travel Magazine contest for “Coolest Small Town.”
Big Lagoon is yet another scenic, nature-filled Florida State Park, offering fishing, hiking, kayaking, and bird watching. Or you can just relax on the beach. Pensacola is under thirty minutes from Big Lagoon.
This campground is where you’d park your RV within the Florida part of Gulf Islands National Seashore (Mississippi has a piece of the National Seashore too). The campground is just west of Pensacola Beach (and 40 minutes from Pensacola) on a barrier island, with white beaches, marshes, and Civil War-era Fort Pickens.
Skinny St Joseph Peninsula fronts the Gulf of Mexico on one side and St Joseph Bay on the other, and the park’s white sand beach has been rated as one of the best in the US. The peninsula is also an internationally-renown bird watching location.
More white sand beaches, emerald water, nature trails, and fishing, and this park is minutes outside the popular tourist town of Destin. We asked friends who lived in Mobile where we should visit on the Gulf Coast and they said Destin, so there you go.
This is a big-time RV resort–pools, hot tub, laundry, tv, wifi–if you’re in the mood for that after visiting all the state parks. Even if you scoff at RV resorts, you may want to take a look at this one, because it has 13 sites ON the beach.
The campground is a half mile from over three miles of secluded beaches, but if you’re not up for walking or biking that distance, you can take a tram. If you’re turned off by trams in nature preserves, you might be turned back on by the 13 miles of trails to explore.
This big park between Destin and Panama City Beach has what some call one of the most beautiful beaches in the US. If you’re tired of sitting around on the gorgeous beach, go for a kayak or canoe on the Western Lake side of the peninsula, or hike, bike, or run the 4.5 mile trail through the park.
I almost didn’t include an option near Panama City, with its reputation as an over-the-top Spring Break destination, but if you visit the so-called Redneck Riviera when school is in session (the beaches are packed in the summer as well as during Spring Break) you can enjoy this park’s fishing, kayaking, snorkeling, diving, and birding, and pop into Panama City for touristy diversions.
St George Island
Another barrier island, another state park. This one has miles of pristine (I’m tired of typing this–) white sand beaches flanked by the Gulf on one side and Apalachicola Bay on the other. Canoe or kayak in the Bay, wander nature trails through pine and scrub, and buy freshly caught fish and oysters at the fishing port of Apalachicola.
Feedback is welcome, as always! What do you think of Option 2, Florida?