Camping the Florida Panhandle to Tampa
The immaculate white sand beaches along the Gulf of Mexico in Northwest Florida provided us with beautiful spots to camp and explore. Growing up in Tampa, FL we never really vacationed in Florida. Vacations were spent outside of the sunshine state...skiing in Colorado, canoeing in Alaska, fishing in Maine. I do not remember spending our down time on a beach, ever. Maybe that was because we lived too close to that environment everyday or maybeee it was because we did not live on the Florida Panhandle. The 200 mile strip of land (which is still in the Central Time Zone) has two main coastlines: The Emerald Coast and Forgotten Coast. Both provide some of the most beautiful landscapes Florida has to offer.
Before jumping into our itinerary, I will preface with how tough finding campsites will be for anyone traveling in Florida during the Winter months (December-March). The entire state of Florida is flooded with "snowbirds" that not only drive slow but also plan up to a year in advance. Meaning if you are like us and typically find your next campsites as you are pulling out of your last, you might find yourself in one too many Walmart parking lots (aka Waldocking). And even worse, you might miss out on some of the best State Parks in Florida. So... attempt to plan ahead and be flexible. State park resi's can be made online with Florida's Reserve America system.
The Top Stops:
Pensacola Beach, Gulf Island National Seashore
- Fort Pickens Campground - Take an afternoon to explore Fort Pickens, just a short mile walk from the campground. Return to your camper and pack happy hour snacks for a beach sunset over the Gulf of Mexico.
- Breathe Yoga + Wellness Center - a beautiful yoga community is attracted to this studio which has two locations close to downtown Pensacola.
- URU Yoga - their Gulf Breeze location is the closest studio to Fort Pickens which offers three to five classes per day.
- Pensacola Bay Brewery - Tuesday is pint night, $3 beers from 4pm - close. Try their "Riptide" Amber, "Lighthouse" Porter and "Blackbeard" Stout.
Santa Rosa Beach
- Grayton Beach State Beach - Take a walk eastward along the beach to downtown Seaside and stroll through the shops and galleries.
- The Red Bar - head into downtown Grayton Beach and be prepared to chill. A jazz band plays almost nightly during dinner. Or arrive after the dinner crowd when the place gets a bit more funky.
- Hamaknockers BBQ - this unassuming joint is soooo delicious and the perfect place to grab lunch on the road when traveling from Grayton to Cedar Key on Hwy 98. The restaurant is about three hours east of Grayton near the coast just as you are nearing the turn south for Cedar Key.
- Sunset Isle RV Park - the closest park to Cedar Key with several waterfront sites. Spots get pricey but the vibe is relaxed and beachy. They have an onsite cafe with BBQ and fudge, what else can you really ask for right... oh and a calendar of events, so if you are feeling social there are get togethers almost every evening and yoga on Saturday mornings.
- The LowKey Hideaway Tiki Bar is a local spot, perfect for a cheap and good drink on the water. And it is walking distance from Sunset Isle. And they have live music nightly.
- Steamers is great for dinner... expect seafood, more seafood and island drinks.
I grew up in Tampa so naturally I have way too many suggestions for this page however... here are a few new additions to town worth a mention:
- Yoga Downtown Tampa - super fun DJ led yoga in the park every Sunday around 5pm or 6pm depending on the season/weather.
- Bella Prana Yoga - very close to where I grew up on Davis Island with an amazing schedule of daily classes. Instructor Eric Wheeler is on point.
- Southern Lights Brewing Company - fun local brewco re-opening soon in Clearwater, Florida.
And just a few more fun shots from our time with family....