Thursday, March 21, 2013

Winter Sojourn 2013 - Santa Rosa Island and Pensacola

After 4 days, we packed up and headed west again on Route 98, through the “Red Neck Riviera”, Panama City Beach and all the beach towns along the panhandle coast.  What a change from where we had come.  Miles of congested traffic, high rise condos, motels, mini golf, bars, eateries, scooter rentals, retail outlets, beach supply stores, etc. After 30 minutes of driving through this “development on steroids” I had more appreciation for The Forgotten Coast.  There are some nice small towns along Rt 30A like Seagrove, Rosemary Beach, and Watercolor that hug the water, but traffic just crawls at a snails pace.  Miramar Beach, Destin, and Fort Walton Beach are all heavily developed and look no different any other large developed areas in Florida. 


We made it to Navarre, which was busy with traffic but much less developed.  I chose Navarre so we could explore Santa Rosa Island and the Gulf Islands National Seashore.  We stayed at Emerald Beach RV Park which is a nice small but well maintained park for large RV’s.  It sits right on the water near the bridge to Santa Rosa Island.

We spent a day exploring the Santa Rosa and Fort Pickens areas of the Gulf Island National Seashore.  These sections are on Santa Rosa Island near Pensacola (Gulf Islands National Seashore also has sections in Mississippi)  Santa Rosa Island is a barrier island that is narrow and barren; there’s just white sand and blue green waters on each side.  The white sand and lack of significant vegetation make a very  unique landscape.  In my opinion, it's the nicest section of beach between Port St Joe and Pensacola.  Here’s some pictures of the beach and short video of part of the drive along the road thru the Fort Pickens section.




At the western end of the island is Fort Pickens, a turn of the century US military fort that is now part of the national  park.  The fort is very well preserved and you can walk thru most of it.  It was constructed in 1829 and was in use by the military for almost 100 years.  It has two claims to fame.  First, it remained manned by Union soldiers during the civil war, one of the few forts in the South to do so.  Second, Geronimo was imprisoned there for two years, starting in 1886.  Here’s some pictures of the fort.  The barracks were Geronimo and 15 other Apaches were held is also pictured below.



Fort Pickens barracks where Geronimo was held



The other noteworthy thing we did while in Navarre was to visit the National Naval Aviation Museum at the Pensacola Navel Air Station.  It is one of the best aviation museums in the country. The museum is free and has over 100 different naval aircraft on display.  Its quite a collection that you can get up close to.  We spent over 3 hrs walking thru all the displays. I would highly recommend this museum for anyone visiting the Pensacola area.


F4U Corsair Fighter
P-40 Tomahawk Fighter
F6F Hellcat Fighter Bomber

After 3 days, it was time to pack up and head home.  We had been gone almost 80 days, 25 of which we spent camping in the RV.  We have stayed at 9 different destinations in Florida.  We visited 7 state or municipal parks, 6 national parks, and 15 different beaches (4 of which were top rated in the US).  We had gotten to see some of the best parts of Florida.  By the time we got home we had driven over 6,400 miles.  Below is a link to a Google Map that shows our route in Florida along with the places we stayed.  Click on the little blue balloons to see the names of the places we stayed.

Winter Sojourn 2013 Route Map

It was quite a trip.

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