We're traveling along the Gulf Coast of Florida, heading for our South Carolina Christmas destination. Although traveling fast, we only actually drive about three hours a day, so that we have the time and energy to see where we are when once we park for the night. We've stopped at two of the most remarkable state parks we've seen since we started full timing: Gulf State Park in Alabama and Topsail Hill Preserve State Park in Florida. Gulf State Park is in Gulf Shores, near Mobile. It's a gigantic park with almost 500 full service campsites on the shores of freshwater Lake Biddle, just minutes from the Gulf. It has a pool, tennis courts, playground, nature center, store, laundromat, biking and hiking trails, and more. Our site was an expansive pull-through along the canal.
A walk at sunset and again at sunrise yielded some colorful shots of the surrounding area. This is the canal with the resort beach area of Gulf Shores in the distance. The park itself is far enough from all the development to be very quiet and very dark at night.
There are signs everywhere saying "Do not feed or aggravate the alligators." You can bet we tippy-toed around with extreme caution so as not to do so. But we didn't see any alligators.
Just a beautiful sunset from several interesting vantage points.
The next day we pulled out of Gulf SP and moved on to Topsail in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. We treated ourselves to four nights here, to catch up on groceries, laundry, housekeeping and a little rest and recreation. I chose site 122 sight unseen, based on a good guess and the map on the reservation website. I think it was probably one of the only sites in which our TV satellite reception would work because of all the tall longleaf pines. We just got lucky. It's a large level corner pull-through, with a concrete pad, surrounded by grass, shrubs, trees and sand.
We have complete privacy and a nice big "yard." State parks are usually not our favorite places to park, as of yet, because they're a little unpredictable. You might not have a sewer connection, or 50 amp service, or a long enough site. And with extra vehicle charges, and reservation fees, they don't turn out to be a significant savings, if any savings at all. But this place, and Gulf Shores, were totally perfect.
The campground is nestled around several ponds with more alligator warnings. Poor Kona really wanted to swim, but there are no dogs allowed on the ocean beach and certainly not in the fresh water with the alligators!
The park has an extensive trail system, some of which is paved for a tram. There is no car access to the beaches or anywhere outside the campgrounds. The tram trail is great for biking and goes right to the beach and to a large lake.
The park is typical Florida Gulf Coast vegetation - tall long leaf pines with saw palmetto undergrowth.
At the end of the beach trail, a boardwalk takes you through and over the dunes and out to the sugary white sand and the ocean.
The first night we got there just at sunset.
Everything was glowing in pastels.
Even this man-o-war jelly fish washed up on the sand.
We watched flocks of sanderlings (or plovers?) skitter along the flat, wet sand...
...and stayed as along as we could, then said goodnight to the beach.
The four days here were filled with peaceful visits to the beach, bike riding and fun exploration of the nearby beach communities along Route 30-A. Oh, and those chores. Tomorrow we leave for four more days of travel through Florida and Georgia. I'll come back to the blog when we get to South Carolina.