My imagination told me the Gulf Coast would provide crystal blue water, warm sunny weather and gorgeous white sand beaches. It was mostly wrong until we got to Florida. Each of four stops are covered here:
1. Galveston Island State Park – Galveston, Texas
Once we were on Galveston Island, the iconic pastel-colored beach houses on stilts brought a fun, vacation vibe. Yup, brown water, extremely foggy weather, and rain escorted us into our awesome beach-front site at Galveston Island State Park February 3rd. Standing water in the visitor center parking lot and in every campsite made the check-in a little tricky. The water receded nicely as the rain stopped but the dewpoint was so high that everything was still wet with sandy, salty air during our stay. Dense fog limited visibility so we never really saw the sunset or the ocean which probably included some hidden oil rigs. It was eerily cool to watch the fog lingering over the wetlands and the sound and smell of the ocean was delightful.
The gulf shores water only looks brown because it’s shallow here and the sand gets churned up. The temperatures were warm and beach hikes were nice, we just needed to towel off our dripping clothing and hair afterward. Oddly, the shells seemed to be chalky with dull colors unless they had creatures still inside.
Beautiful paddling trails were available in the park and we were seeing some water birds but it was SO foggy that we decided not to get the kayaks out until visibility was better. We tried a hike but needed tall rubber boots to get through the mud so we abandoned that as well. Another awesome place to visit again, maybe when it’s clearer too.
2. Tickfaw State Park – Springfield, Louisiana
February 8th, was the first time I’ve ever been to Louisiana but it wasn’t a very good introduction. The huge oil refineries in Texas and Western Louisiana don’t contribute much to the ambiance. Interstate-10 through Western Louisiana was horribly rough and littered with trash everywhere. The RV cabinets felt like they were going to come loose from the frame and there was no relief from constant potholes and ruts. Gifts on that road were two new rock chips and a large crack in the RV windshield. Hello Louisiana! The water here was blackwater with swampy brown, tanin colored rivers and swamps. It was far from my gulf shores imaginings but I loved seeing it and learning about this new environment.
Our site at Tickfaw State Park came with a wooden deck and narrow but level drive. The park is in an awesome wooded cypress/tupelo swamp and I knew animals were around, they were just not showing themselves. Mostly boardwalk trails wind through the swampy landscape and along the Tickfaw river. A seasonal splash-pad play area and lots of beautiful picnic shelters draw visitors in. The visitor center had fun displays and a park movie was shown on a stage decorated like a back water hunter’s cabin. Weird looking skinks and reptiles were on display in the visitor center. It was a very interesting place and I had never seen anything like it. As we were leaving the park after a fresh rain, there was an awesome display of 30 or more white egrets hunting in the black water with cypress knees poking up making the scene look otherworldly. I wish we could have stopped for photos but there was no place to pull the RV over so it remains a picture in my mind.
3. Niceville Florida – Gulf Islands National Seashore, Destin & Pensicola
The February 11th drive in through Mississippi and Alabama to Florida was a first for me and very pleasant. These states are so close together compared to the West. Florida roads were better than Louisiana roads and patrol teams were out cleaning up the trash on the side of the road. Ahhhhh.
Rocky Bayou State Park in Niceville was beautiful. The huge wooded sites were nicely fenced and are 3 times the size of a typical site with good spacing between sites. Hammock posts were thoughtfully included along with a decent picnic table and large fire ring. Our site had a view of the water through the trees. The water here was beautiful and the park had good kayak launching areas. We got some hiking in and spent time photographing the wildlife at a pond that the park is in the process of returning to native habitat, i.e. draining it.
We experienced the well-known quartz ‘white sugar sand’ that squeaks under foot at Destin, Florida, a half hour drive across a toll bridge to the island. The Gulf Islands National Seashore includes areas from Destin all the way to Pensicola where the visitor’s center is located. Now this is what I imagined the Gulf coast would be like! We would love to return to this area and experience it more fully. We toured Fort Pickens in Pensicola area at the Gulf Shores National Seashore site. Fort Pickens is a pentagonal historic United States military fort on Santa Rosa Island in the Pensacola, Florida, area adjacent to undeveloped beaches. Lots of driving through touristy areas on a 3-day weekend gave us time to see all the places we can explore next time!
4. Cedar Key RV Resort at Cedar Key Florida
February 16th, we saw so much damage along the road East of where hurricane Michael hit Mexico Beach so hard in October. It was the strongest storm to make landfall in continental US since 1992. Along the interstate, lots of trees in the beautiful forested area were still down, roofs were tarped over the damage and highway signs lay crumpled on the side of the road. Road crews were removing the down trees with large equipment for miles. Our heart goes out to all who are affected.
Yay, a full-service RV park near the little resort town of Cedar Key. We had mail waiting for us. Rejoicing (that may be a little strong) in catching up on the laundry and trying to get the musty smell out of our bath towels and bedding, etc. from the humidity that started in Galveston and has continued here.
We lucked out with a site overlooking a pond at the end of a row. With only one neighbor and a fence all along one side, it was like a private yard. Bruce was attacked by no-see-ums, biting knats and fire ants. I have a lot of empathy because I’m usually the one that gets all the attention from any little blood suckers and I’m allergic to the bites.
While I was washing everything that would fit in the washer, Bruce washed the RV and the Car. We enjoyed shopping in Cedar Key and a fresh seafood lunch in town one day at a place with live music on a deck overlooking the gulf. We almost got motivated to paddle to a small island but the owner of the kayak rental shop gave us the warnings: leave the beach at least 2 hours before high tide and don’t dilly dally or you could get stuck on oyster bars or mud flats as the tide goes out.
Since Florida is still full of snowbirds and we couldn’t find reservations except at high-priced resorts that aren’t really our style, we decided to hang out in Georgia and come back into Florida in a couple of weeks.