White sandy beaches of the powdery variety. Warm water of the gotta-go-swimming variety. Blue skies and even bluer water. Yeah, I had the panhandle of Florida on my mind. For a long time. For years. Literally.
I lived in Florida for a brief 6 month period right before my wife was diagnosed, up until we moved to North Carolina for better treatment options. We lived in a retirement community with the nearest awesome beach about a 45 minute drive away. Because of the sequence of events that occurred shortly after arriving in Florida, we didn’t spend enough time at the beach. We certainly didn’t make it to the legendary beachs of the Florida Panhandle, which I have dreamed of for years.
So as my Summer 2014 trip unfolded and I found myself due north of the Florida panhandle in Tennessee, I knew that there was nothing stopping me from finally seeing the beaches, the water, that I had dreamed of for years. I plotted a rough route down through Alabama that would put me in the Destin, Florida area so that I could realize my dream. I wasn’t disappointed.
Henderson Beach State Park
Florida has a good number of state parks that are located on the water, with excellent beach access. Trouble is said state parks tend to be popular, especially in the summer with families on vacay. And in the winter with the snow birds flooding into the warm south. OK, now that I think about it, I am going to guess that Florida State Parks are pretty damn busy most of the time. Which makes showing up at the spur of the moment bit of an adventure.
After checking out the availability at various state parks in the Destin area I started to get a little panicky and began to rethink my spontaneous behavior. Fortunately I ended up getting a spot at Henderson Beach State Park for 5 days, starting on Labor Day. The very last spot available there. See, things tend to work out!
Henderson Beach State Park has 60 RV sites (in four loops) and over a mile of beach. Of the white powdery kind that I was searching out. Literally located in the city of Destin, the park offered excellent access to civilization, yet offered a chance to get away from the hectic, very touristy area it was located in. Great cell coverage was also a side benefit of its location, which is a great thing for someone working from the road, and a wonderful change from my last location in Alabama.
As I was arriving on Labor Day, there was a bit of traffic in the Destin area. Destin is on a fairly narrow peninsula and has a single main road for access. This means on a major holiday there are thousands of vehicles trying to head back home via this road. The same road I needed to travel to get to my little slice of heaven. Traffic pretty much sucked once I got onto the peninsula. So my timing could have been a wee bit better by delaying another day, but I couldn’t resist the pull of the beach so I suffered through it.
I settled into site 17 which turned out to be an excellent choice (not that I had one). Site 17 is not only the closest (but not too close because of the layout of the park) site to the shower facilities for the loop it is on. This site also offered excellent access to the 1/4 mile boardwalk to the beach. Oh, the beach…
Once I got things setup upon arrival, it was getting late in the day and I needed to see the beach before it was dark. Need might not be strong enough of a word. I HAD to see the beach that I had been thinking of for years. The sand between my toes was marvelous! The water was oh so warm as I stood knee deep in it marveling that I had finally arrived.
Of course it wasn’t all fun and games, all soft sand and warm water, during my 5 night stay. I had to work. But I could think of worse places to work from. I have worked from some pretty impressive places so far – places that your guidance counselor couldn’t even dream of – and this beach is right up there with the best of them.
Henderson Beach State Park has several day use areas with large, open, pavilions with excellent views of the beach and water. In other words, the perfect place for me to get out of the sun and get hard to work (as hard as one can work from such a location). Thing is the pavilions were on the other end of the park which means I had a commute. And by commute I mean I walked the 1/4 mile down the boardwalk to the beach, “struggled” down a half mile or so with sand between my toes, or if I was feeling like taking an alternative route, warm water tickling my ankles, finally arriving at my office for the day. Yeah, traffic was a real pain!
Several nights I would end the day by heading to the beach and soaking in the water, bobbing up and down, watching the sun set to the west. Yeah, that was a pretty rough work week I am telling you!
Florida Highway 30A
Florida Highway 30A is a scenic stretch of road that hugs the beach and offers a wide variety of very neat small towns. It is a road that, like the beaches of the area, I have known about for years and dreamed about visiting for a long, long time. So I took a full day to drive the fairly short stretch of road to get a feel for the area.
Located between Destin and Panama City, but with the “true” 30A experience about mid-point between these two cities, this road did not disappoint. There are interesting little towns/enclaves/whatever entire the route. And by interesting, I mean they range from the typical beach community to master planned developments full of multi-million dollar houses. In one or two of these planned communities I felt like I was in a movie set. Everything was almost too perfect. It was very strange, to say the least.
I completely fell short when it came to taking pictures during this day, except for a couple beach shots and one in Seaside. If you want to see what this area looks like, Google is your friend. Really.
My short stay in Destin was a success. I explored areas that I have heard about for years. I spent some quality time on great beaches and in the warm water. I got a taste of the area and know that I shall return!