Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Florida Panhandle--the Emerald Coast (March 25)
Our drive from Cedar Key to Niceville (yes, that's really a place!) Florida was long--7+ hours and 400 miles. Florida is really a big state! We had tried to book one of the Florida state parks that are on the beach, but they fill up fast and we had to settle for Rocky Bayou State Park, about 5 miles from the beach, but a nice park and campground on the water. Our plan was to stay in this area for a couple weeks, for a few days of which our friend Lallie was planning to fly down and stay with us. The nearest beach town to us is Destin, FL which is near Ft. Walton Beach. These towns have the most beautiful beaches--white soft fine sand beaches and clear green water. There are also extensive bays, harbors, canals and other water features in this area, so it is extremely scenic. We enjoyed watching the great sunsets from Destin Harbor, Blueharbor Marina (only a 5 minute drive from our campground) and of course the beaches. Topsail State Park is one we'd love to try to stay in next year. It's a lovely, spacious campground with grassy sites and a short bike ride from the gorgeous beach. We also went to Richardson Beach State Park one weekend and it's beach was also great. I did a little diving while here, which wasn't a tropical coral reef like the Keys, but was interesting in it's own way. The visibility was about 40 feet and we did two dives, one on a natural limestone reef with soft corals and sponges, the other on an artificial reef composed of the demolition debris from an old bridge that was replaced. Both had a lot of interesting fish and other marine life. It was fun to get back down underwater and I felt a lot more comfortable having just done some diving a month before in Key Largo. We did some great eating in Destin and one Sunday while Lallie was here, we took advantage of her nautical experience to rent a pontoon boat and explore the bay and bayous around Destin. Very nice and we saw some dolphins too! We'd love to come back the the Emerald Coast some day and hopefully camp right near the beach. It's funny how serendipity works on a trip like this. Case in point: I happened to pick up a "Snowbirders" tabloid newspaper one night at a restaurant and read in the calendar section that there was a bluegrass festival the coming weekend on Dauphin Island, Alabama. I'd never heard of Dauphin Island, but we love bluegrass and had no firm plans other than to drift over to the Alabama coast for a while. On further research, Dauphin Island sounded great, so we booked a couple nights at a campground there and headed off late on a Friday to catch a couple days of bluegrass. Read on to find out about it!