Waking Up to Beach Views /// Vanlife US

Reluctantly and with the goal of making up some time, we left Savannah after just one day of ‘speed sight-seeing’. As soon as we drove south out of Savannah the temperature climbed and snow and ice gave way to clear roads. It was a long but easy drive to Cape San Blas, FL and we arrived at the St. Joseph Peninsula State Park just after dark. Hungry and ready for a break from driving, we arrived at the park entrance to find… a locked gate. Hmmm, I suddenly remembered reading something on the park’s website about calling if arriving after dark. Ooops.

We backtracked to a nearby restaurant to ask if they would mind us camping overnight in their parking lot. They weren’t keen on this alternative arrangement but kindly let us use their Internet and phone to call the State Park. I got in touch with a very grumpy and reluctant Park Ranger who finally agreed to open the gate for us. He grumbled away about “Canadians filling-up the park at this time of year” (as if that were a bad thing) and confiscated my license to make sure we wouldn’t leave without paying in the morning.

Despite our botched arrival, Cape San Blas and the nearby town of Apalachicola were stunning. Cape San Blas is a white-sand peninsula on the Gulf, lined with large dunes and houses on stilts. Our campsite backed onto a lagoon full of herons, egrets and palm trees. Apparently the lagoon is also full of alligators but we weren’t lucky enough to meet one.

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Apalachicola is an adorable, quiet, historic little town on the ocean. It’s one of my favourite places in Florida… artist studios, cafes & restaurants, gift shops, traditional mainstreets, palm trees, harbours with Bubba Gump-style fishing boats, friendly pelicans, delicious seafood… I could go on. What made me particularly happy that day was that it was warm enough for t-shirts and ice cream. A sweet moment after so many days of snow, ice, long johns and toques.

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After a few nights on Cape San Blas, we set off for 2 days of driving to the Bolivar Peninsula, just east of Galveston, TX. It was an exhausting couple of days but we were delighted that the claims of ‘ocean front camping’ at the Walmart in Long Beach, MS were true! I take back my earlier claim… maybe Walmart can be a destination.

On the Bolivar Peninsula, we found the best camping yet. With the purchase of an annual $5 pass, we can camp anywhere on Crystal Beach for all of 2018. We were a little worried about Slow Sally getting stuck in the sand but the beach has been so compacted by vehicles that it’s not a problem. We’ll be here for a few more days until we can bring Walter to the Vet to get his Health Certificate for Mexico.

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Lessons Learned:

  • Florida State Parks don’t do the ‘put money in an envelope’ after-hours system… they are fortified!
  • Dogs aren’t allowed on the beach in the St. Joseph Peninsula State Park. Luckily, they are allowed on the entire stretch of beach outside the park boundary.

Both these lessons could have been learned the easy way by carefully reading the park website (eye roll).

Pro-camper Tips:

  • There’s a great little seafood restaurant on Cape San Blas, FL called Indian Pass. It’s a perfect place to stop for a bite on the way in or out of the St. Joseph Peninsula State Park.
  • If you’re visiting the south shore in Texas, Crystal Beach is a must. You can get a beach-parking pass for $5 at any of the local stores and the beach camping does not disappoint!

4 thoughts on “Waking Up to Beach Views /// Vanlife US

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