Some call the stretch of coastal Florida from the towns of Carrabelle to Seaside the Forgotten Coast. It’s also known as the Gulf Coast.
I’d call it the Sweet Coast. With it’s sugary beaches and laid-back vibe, it was just what my soul needed.
My friend Margie gave us a lovely book as a Bon Voyage gift. The Most Scenic Drives in America should live on everybody’s coffee table. The images alone will make you want to pack a bag and head off on an adventure. Route 98, the drive along this coast of Florida is one of the featured routes. Tall pines flanked the roadway, with glimpses of the Gulf occasionally peering through.
I booked two nights at a campground directly off Route 98…the Ho-Hum RV Park. Yep, you read that correctly. This campground prides itself on its simplicity. When you rent a spot at the park, you get your water, sewer and electric hookups, a beach, a pier and a few nice porch swing chairs to view the Gulf. Each morning I took my coffee and watched the dolphins play in the water. How much better does it get?
This is what I woke up to each morning at the Ho-Hum RV Park. Far from Ho-Hum!
Well, seeing dolphins from a distance isn’t nearly as fun as seeing them up close. So, yes, it did get better as Brad and I jumped in the kayaks and frolicked with the playful creatures just off the coast of where we were camped.
We slowed our roll as we spent the few days reading, relaxing and exploring the area a bit. We drove to the little town of Carrabelle. The large marina featured charter boats in search of local fish…tarpon, grouper and red snapper (my favorite!). We were hungry when we arrived in Apalachicola. The law mandates that no building can be taller than three stories, which made for a comfy feel to the town.
I love vibrant, active old downtowns, and Apalachicola definitely has it going on. Lots of retail, including several shops in converted old cotton warehouses. The seafood restaurants looked enticing, but as we had Luna with us, we opted for Tamara’s On the Go food truck. With a bright yellow exterior and adorable courtyard tucked around the truck, it was perfect to chill with Luna. The chef created a delicious gluten free gyro salad for me. Yum.
We drove the rest of the route, passing by St. Andrews State Park (we hiked here later in the week) and into our next destination, Panama City Beach. Our campground, Sun Outdoors Panama City Beach, was right next door to Zoo World. One morning I was greeted by their resident giraffe as she poked her head over the tall fence, as if to say hello. I woke at daybreak one day to the sounds of lions roaring their morning greeting.
Route 98 isn’t as pretty in Panama City Beach. The stretch is filled with kitschy family activities…putt-putt, go-karts and more discount beach stores than you can count. We did enjoy taking Luna to the small section of beach where dogs are allowed. Pier Park Dog Beach extends from the pier to a short distance away. Strong winds brought riptides, so we kept Luna close to the edge. We walked around the fun outdoor Pier Park Shopping Complex after to let our pup dry off. 🙂 We loved watching a young woman zig and zag while rollerblading on the streets, bopping away to the music piping outside of the stores.
Our daughter Kyle encouraged us to drive from Route 98 to Highway 30A and discover the towns along the way. Her husband Will’s family spent many summer vacations in Rosemary Beach when he was a boy. Will whisked Kyle to the town for a weekend getaway, and she fell in love with this charming town. Serendipitously, Brad’s second cousin Jane, and her husband Gary, were renting a home in the neighboring town of Seaside during our time in the area. We went from kitschy to kismet!
Out of all the areas that we’ve ventured to over the years, I can honestly say I’ve never seen such a unique place. Each of the towns, Alys Beach, Rosemary Beach and Seaside were well-planned and restrictive on their building codes. Think of Hilton Head on steroids.
Our first stop was Seaside to visit Jane and Gary. Each of the homes have names on their white picket fences. Pebbled pathways wind through the community, from the adorable square filled with shops ranging from a book store to a market with delectable edibles.
Hanging out on the outside second-level porch of Jane and Gary’s rental. Heaven.
The community church hosted a wedding the Saturday evening we were there. As the church sits amongst the quaint homes, there is a strict sound ordinance. No music after 9 PM. Perfect timing for us…we had just come back to the rental house after a dinner at the fun and delicious Café Thirty-A. The four of us decided to take Luna and their pup, Bear, out for an evening walk. When the wedding band struck up “An American Girl” as their last hurrah, I couldn’t resist. I hung out on the outskirts of the crowd, dancing away. Life is too short…dance when you can!
We had such a great time with Jane and Gary. They’ve been coming to the area for years from their home in New Orleans, so we were in excellent hands for travel guides. We took many walks, ventured to the farmer’s market Saturday morning, and hung out at the beach one afternoon. They even joined us for a cookout at the coach!
Brad and I ventured on a bike ride through Rosemary Beach. The town had a European feel to it, with it’s cobblestone streets and town square
Biking in Rosemary Beach and the town square.
Before our time in this area was just a memory, we drove to Econfina Creek, a spring fed, quiet waterway. We got a great workout paddling up stream, then turning around and floating on the return. We packed a lunch, and unlike the borrowed photo below, we didn’t see a soul. So, once again, YOLO, so what does one do in a secluded creek to cool down? I felt like a kid again as I dove into the water, naked as a jaybird, and jumped out just as fast. That water was dang cold.
Photo credit: Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors
Our travels are winding down…but adventures still await in Dora and Red Bay, Alabama. Stay tuned, and thanks for coming along on our journey.