The Sunshine State

Destin to Jacksonville, Florida – March, 2016 We were excited to get to Florida and the beaches we love. Our first choice would have been to stay in Pensacola where we have visited many times. But it was spring break season and our campground of choice was booked solid. We were actually quite lucky to get a site for two nights at Henderson Beach State Park in Destin ($37 p/n full hookups).

What a beautiful place. We had never visited Destin before but we will be back. The beach was just stunning! It didn’t hurt that on the day of our arrival the water was as smooth as glass and you could see way out into it.

I couldn’t wait to take my camera out the next day and try to capture the beauty. But the next morning the wind whipped up and the remainder of our stay the surf was rough. It was still pretty but just not the same.

The beach was about a half mile walk from our campsite down a long, twisty boardwalk.

The park’s section of the beach was not very crowded but if you walked in either direction you would come to more developed sections of the beach and the spring break crowds. Some kids feeding the sea gulls made them much more cooperative photo subjects than usual.

There were lots of cute little lizards. This one was quite colorful.

When we first arrived I was a little put off by the number of large bees buzzing around. But they never bothered us and I finally became obsessed with getting a picture of one. They really do not make very good models. But out of about 50 shots I finally got one where the little bugger is more than just a blur. He didn’t pose in front a very attractive background though.

This furry little fellow was obviously very used to being fed. He was sitting on our steps the first day when we returned from the beach. Another time he was making himself at home in our chair.

Jim was sitting outside our last afternoon and I heard him intermittently talking to someone. I thought he was chatting up the neighbor and I guess he was. Mr. Squirrel kept coming closer and closer to him the more he talked and seemed happy to have his picture taken.

We would have loved to stay longer but there were no sites available so we decided instead to head to the Atlantic. That was too far to drive in one day so we stopped outside Tallahassee. We stayed at Ingram’s Marina and Campground on the banks of Lake Talquin.

As are most marina campgrounds we’ve visited, this one was a bit rustic and disorganized. But you get what you pay for and this was a steal at $13 for water and electric Passport America. Our site was level enough we didn’t have to unhook the truck, which was great as we planned to stay one night and get on the road early the next day.

We walked around the area and visited the lake in several spots. The guy that checked us in said if we went out on the lake we’d see plenty of alligators along the shoreline once we got away from the marina. I’m still very much on the fence about kayaking in gator infested waters but I will probably get over that the more time we spend in the south. I did enjoy spotting this cute little fellow near the boat docks.

He was no more than 2 feet long and he stayed there the whole afternoon.

Next up was Jacksonville. Someone I had met somewhere in our travels said the Jacksonville City Campground was one of their favorite places to stay so I made a reservation based on that with very little research. I later realized there are two city campgrounds and I believe she was referring to the other one.

We did enjoy our stay at Huguenot City Park ($22 p/n no hookups) so it worked out for the best. Here is our site which backed up to the St. John’s River.

It was cool to look up and see these huge ships glide past. That path brought us to a fairly deserted beach.

The beach was much wider than this at low tide and almost nonexistent at high tide. Across the river you can see the Mayport Naval Air Station. They flew helicopters over the park all day and as late as 10 pm one night. It was a little loud but the lady at check-in remarked that the number of flights had been unusually high that week.

It was about a mile from our campsite to the end of the peninsula and a beach on the Atlantic. You could drive out onto the beach and many day visitors came out with their families. It was a nice destination to walk to but didn’t have anything on our private section of beach a few feet from our door.

On one of our morning walks we could clearly hear reveille being played over the air station’s loudspeakers followed by the national anthem. At the same time we looked up and spotted a bald eagle of all things on a nearby platform. Of course, it was the one walk I didn’t take my camera on and he was a pretty good distance away.

That’s ok, this bird was begging to be famous.

Across the road from the campground was the entrance to the Kingsley Plantation. It was built in 1897 and is the oldest surviving plantation house in the state.

It was a very interesting place to walk around with tons of information, mostly on slavery. Here are the remains of the slave quarters.

Another interesting place in Jacksonville was Fort Caroline. It was a 20 mile drive from camp. It is a re-creation of a fort built by the French in the 1600’s.

They built it to one third the scale that they estimate the original was. There is lots of great history here about the colonization of Florida, the struggles of those colonists, and about the battles that took place here.

Both the Kingsley Plantation and Fort Caroline are part of the Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve which has a lot more to offer including tons of trails. The entire preserve is free to the public. We will definitely visit more of it when we pass this way again.

6 thoughts on “The Sunshine State

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