The Florida panhandle – our north american rv tour – 2nd part

Apalachee Bay at the north end of the Gulf of Mexico

Tuesday, January 30 – Day 13 – 2nd part of our Great North American RV Tour

We said goodbye to our new friends Butch and Judy and left Suwanee16 with fond memories. The weather during our stay on the Suwanee River was pleasant mid 60’s temperatures and one rainy day.

A cool morning with sunny skies as we made our way back to highway 98 and turn north. It feels too much like winter, Lynda and I already miss the warmth of the southern Florida.

Our destination today is only a few hours drive, Holiday Campground in Panacea, Florida on Apalachee Bay at the north end of the Gulf of Mexico.

The drive took us through more swamps, grasslands, pine and cypress forests. The landscape is flat much the same as the rest of Florida.

As we drove through the countryside Lynda and I commented on the obvious difference between the coastal area’s luxury and the depressed rural areas with unkept properties, old cars and rundown RV parks.

Florida Swamps

Surprising, considering Florida has the fourth largest economy in the US and the residents of Florida pay no personal income tax.

We arrived at Holiday Campground on the shores of Apalachee Bay mid-afternoon. The campsites were smaller to accommodate smaller RVs of that era.

The park was 90% full with about 1/3 of the sites occupied by park models. The facilities were old but well maintained, probably built in the 60’s .

RVs were crammed together with little room between neighbors. The cost, however, was acceptable at $40 per night.

Our campsite Holiday Campground,

After seeing pictures of the RV park and the shores of the bay I booked Holiday Campground for 3 nights. I’m realizing pictures can lie, the park looked more inviting than reality.

The bay looked great at high tide but low tide presented several hundred yards of mucky sand between the shore and the water.

The shoreline Apalachee Bay,Florida, Gulf of Mexico

January 31 – February 2

We woke to a cold breezy morning, mid 50’s and partly cloudy skies. We spent the day exploring the park and walking the muddy shoreline inhabited by many skeletons of large fish.

The next day’s weather was warmer although more clouds. The four of us decided to take in one of the local attractions Wakulla Springs State Park a half hour drive north.

$6 entry fee plus $8 for a riverboat ride, which we declined, a little too cool. The springs flow from a 160-foot-deep cavity where mammoth bones had been discovered.

Scientist believe, during the caveman era, the springs were located at the bottom of a cliff. Cavemen would chase mammoths over the edge for an easier kill rather than using spears to bring down the large beasts. Much like the Indians did with the buffalo.

Wakulla Springs has a museum, snack bar, and a viewing platform above the springs. An interesting place to spend an afternoon and worth the $6 entry fee.

On our way back to camp we stopped for a special treat Tupelo Honey recommended by our new friends from Shwanee16. The honey is produced by the tupelo gum tree which grows along the Chipola and Apalachicola rivers of northwest Florida.

Here in the river swamps, this honey is produced in a unique fashion. … The flavor is delicious, delicate and distinctive, the honey never crystallizes.

We ended our day back at camp enjoying a propane campfire and the special honey.

February 2

Another cool morning, the low 50’s as we head west on highway 98 to our next destination Panama City Beach and St. Andrews State Park.

The 115-mile drive took longer than expected, a scenic drive along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico through historic fishing towns, including a stop for supplies at Walmart.

The temperature rose to the low 60’s in the sunshine as we arrived at St. Andrews State Park after a slow drive through Panama City traffic.

St Andrews is a perfect place to camp, large private sites near the water and surrounded by trees. The cost was also acceptable at $266. per week with power and water, but no sewer hookup, too close to the ocean I guess.

Our Campsite at St. Andrews State Park , Panama City Florida

Even though the park is located close to Panama City once in the park it seems like you are miles from civilization, except for your neighbors, of course.

St. Andrews is a full-service state park with many amenities and facilities and plenty to do. Kayaking, hiking, beach walks, biking, birding, and many other interesting activities.

A concrete boat launch suitable for any size boat and a sheltered bay for anchoring or fishing, plenty of parking and a day use area.

Panama City Beach, Florida

Feb. 3 – 8

Panama City, Florida is a good size city on the Gulf of Mexico, after shopping and exploring we realized the area was still enjoying the off-season break. Most beach restaurants and businesses were closed, by March the area will be in full vaction mode.

We enjoyed our stay at St. Andrews, biking and walking the trails, kayaking in the sheltered bay, sitting on the white sands watching the sun sink into the clear turquoise water and wood burning evening campfires.

Panama City Beach, St. Andrews State Park Florida

The weather during our five-day stay was good with only a few showers otherwise mostly sunny and temperatures in the 60’s.

Except for one day when a storm hit the coast causing huge waves pounding the beach. A spectacular site of mother nature’s rath.

St. Andrews Bay, St. Andrews State Park Panama City Florida

Feb. 9 – The Drive to New Orleans

It was time to say goodbye to this seaside paradise and head west. We timed the trip to arrive in New Orleans during Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) and experience this strange phenomenon.

Mardi Gras is the end of feasting and partying the tuesday before Ash Wednesday an Anglican and Catholic tradition marking the beginning of Lent and ritual fasting and abstaining.

Mardi Gras was described to me as Halloween, Los Vegas and spring break partying all rolled into one. A crazy experience that must be experienced to understand.

The drive to New Orleans will be the longest we have done in a couple of months 315 miles an all-day experience. Our route takes us further along the Gulf of Mexico coast through Alabama, Mississippi and finally Louisiana.

The landscape is flat with many bridges over miles of swamps, rivers, lakes, and bayous under cloudy skies but warmer temperatures in the low 70’s, maybe winter is over.

We arrived at St. Bernard State Park mid-afternoon. St. Bernard State Park is between the towns of Poydras and Caernarvon about a half hour drive east of New Orleans along the Mississippi River.

The campground is surrounded by forests and swamps. It appeared it was built on fill brought in to raise the area out of swampland.

Our Campsite St. Bernard State Park New Orleans Louisiana

We reserved our 5-night stay several weeks before, a reasonable cost of $140. for large sites with power and water but no sewer hookup probably because of the surrounding swamps. The campground did have a sewer dump at the entrance.

Looking for dinner, a swamp St. Bernard State Park New Orleans

After camp was set we toured the campground checking out the many different camping setups including several tents.

Darkness soon fell on our new digs…….. with the darkness came heavy rain, the plight of the tent campers entered my mind as I lay in our warm bed listening to the rain.

The next morning, clear skies cool temperatures and sunshine greeted us. Lynda and I took a morning walk through the campground, obviously many of the tent campers did not consider the rain and set up in low areas.

Their sites looked like a laundry mat with all sorts of soaked bedding hung where ever possible.

After a relaxing morning, it was time to head to town (NOLA, New Orleans, Louisiana) and check out the French Quarter, ground zero for the Mardi Gras celebrations.

My next article – the unforgettable sights of Mardi Gras.

If you would like to read about our tour from the beginning click this link.
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Thanks for visiting.

Gord B.

4 thoughts on “The Florida panhandle – our north american rv tour – 2nd part”

  1. Another good article. Suwannee 16 is flooded the road is not the property but are having to boat in and out. So glad you came last year so we could meet and host you .

    1. Wow Judy
      you guys have had flooding for quite a while. I hope there is no damage. It must be a pain in the rear. But you can probably fish from your deck. we are having an uneventful winter warmer than usual temperatures and almost no snow so no snowmobiling. We may decide to head to Arizona earlier than planned.
      Our dog Buddy pulled a muscle on the ice and is laid up, not sure how bad it is but he cannot walk. We will take him to the vet on Monday if he is not better.
      Maybe you and Bonnie should come west to the desert where there is not water problems.
      Talk soon

  2. Hi Gord,
    I have been following along on your adventure. We also would love to do this trip. Would you send a map with your route map out on it. Also do you have any lessons learned from your trip that you would share as we are just in the planning stages.

    1. HI Elizabeth
      I do not have a map of our trip, but if you read the articles from the beginning I do mention which highways we take and also any issues and tips about our trip.
      Thanks for your interest

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