Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Whirlwind Tour of the Florida Panhandle (Holt, FL)

Thursday we were back  on the road.  We drove about 200 miles and stopped at Holt, Fl.  Our plan will normally be to limit our daily drive to 200-300 miles  We're staying 3 nights at the River's Edge Campground. 

It's a little bit out in the middle of nowhere but we like it.  It's an older campground with very large full hook-up sites.

The campground is nicely situated on the Yellow River and is delightfully quiet. The best part - it's a Passport America campground and the grand total for the three nights we will be here: $42.50.  A deal!    After setting up, we went to see the Blackwater River State Park which is located only a few miles up the road.

The park's claim to fame is that it includes one of the few and finest sandy bottom rivers in the world.  The result is a river with sandy beaches and easy swimming areas.  It was all very nice.

On our drive back from the park, we decided to follow a "Florida Birding Trail" sign as they often lead to pretty areas.  This one took us to this swampy area.  No birds, but we thought is was unique.

Also while driving back we did a double take as we passed a large cattle/horse farm with a large wood carving at it's entrance.  It was a "did you see that" moment so we just had to turn around to check it out.

We were amazed by the detail and thought it was very clever!

Friday,  Debbie and I were going to go cruise the coastal area east of Pensacola.  We did go, but the dogs once again laid such a heavy guilt trip on us that we loaded them up to go with us!  We headed south across Eglin AFB through Fort Walton Beach with our first stop being the Henderson Beach State Park in Destin. 

The park is smack dab on the Gulf of Mexico with a magnificent beach area.

We stretched our legs on the short beach area nature trail,

and enjoyed the wildflowers growing in the sand.

We're cruising these areas to enjoy what they have to offer but also to scope out campgrounds for future consideration.  Henderson includes a great campground.  We'd return.

We then traveled to Topsail Hill Preserve State Park in Santa Rosa Beach,which we heard was a very popular park.  After seeing it we understand why! Also right on the Gulf and the campground can only be described as resort like.

It's now on the list.

We continued east with a stop at the Grayton Beach State Park (also in Santa Rosa Beach) .

What can I tell you, another great park with a great campground (I know, too many "greats").  In addition to the campground the attractions here included large beach dunes,

Western Lake, described in their literature as a rare coastal dune lake,

and another scenic nature trail.

This entire coastal drive includes repeated scenic areas, cute beach communities as well as high dollar areas of spectacular real estate.  It's an impressive area!  We consider all locations as a possible final retirement destination and this certainly could be on the list.  Apparently we have lots of lists. We then headed home and stopped at Eglin AFB to check out their campground.  It's modest, but could, under some circumstances, be a consideration for a future visit.

Saturday morning we went to cruise the Pensacola area.  The dogs gave us "the looks" again, but we had to quickly look away and make no further eye contact.  Because of one of our planned destinations, we knew we could not bring them with us today.  Our first stop was the National Naval Aviation Museum on Naval Air Station Pensacola.


I can't tell you that either Debbie or I are aviation enthusiasts.  Despite this, we had a really nice time at the museum.  The quantity of "stuff" is overwhelming.  Fortunately they offer tours.  But in addition to the museum and tours (which are free), they also have an IMAX theater and flight simulator ride which costs $11.50 for a combo ticket.  So before we began a tour of the museum we spent an hour in the theater watching an animal flick called Born to Be Wild.  Great fun!  We then toured.  The man leading the tour has limitless info and presented it with sparkling flair.  We next went on a bus tour of planes outside adjacent to a flight line with a different tour guide.  This tour guide apparently has a wealth of information as well.  He also appeared to be a very pleasant fellow.  But unfortunately his delivery resembled an auctioneer.  We might have understood 1 out of 5 words.  It was not unpleasant nor was it informative.  It was just somewhat comical for us.  We then went back inside to ride in the fight simulator.  Having enjoyed many great rides of this type at Disney, etc., this simulator ride was not at all impressive.  Given the overall quality of the museum displays, we were surprised the simulator was so substandard.   But overall, the museum was surprisingly enjoyable.  We probably only saw a small percentage of what there is to see.  I would go back to try to spend more time with the informative displays.

After the museum we went to see a couple more state parks.  First stop was the Perdido Key State Park.  It's ONLY attraction was entirely unspoiled beach.  Way beautiful!!  

We finished our day at the Big Lagoon State Park.

This one was positioned just inside the Gulf Island National Seashore, located on a, come on now, lagoon!  There was a too tightly (for us) arranged campground and a cool observation tower.

We are only now figuring out that the panhandle of Florida is an area where we want to spend much more time.  When I look at a map I recognize that there is more that we haven't seen that what we have seen.  So I'm thinking this can only get better!

Tomorrow (Sunday) we'll be on the road again.  Planning to stay at another Passport America campground in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

Love the journey!




  1. So many great scenic views! Love all the photos, makes me what to visit Florida and enjoy the warm weather and beaches. I will definitely add these places to my list of things to do when I head down there. Hope you enjoy your trip to Mississippi! Can't wait to see those pics :)
    All the best - Vic Driving Safety Advocate

  2. Lots of "great" info and pix in the post! We've never camped in that area-will have to put it on our list.

  3. The panhandle of Florida is Magnificient...beaches outstanding. We have visited it many times and will be heading up there this summer... We love the Air Museum in Pensacola too. Really a GREAT experience.
    Have fun & Travel safe

  4. Sorry so late in commenting but so glad you are seeing our beautiful Florida panhandle. We are making note of some of the sites you visited that we have not been to yet!! And your pictures are great!

    Safe travels!!