Florida Panhandle - a study in contrasts

January 14, 2017

We spent the last 2 weeks of 2016 in the Florida Panhandle area.  While we had planned our stays for January through March, we had left December unplanned.  Since we had decided to travel to Crestview to change our residency to Florida, we decided to finish out the year in that area.  And it's an area that has a ton of variety.  We actually stayed in 3 different locations, as we are trying to stick to the 2-2-2 rule.

We've learned from seasoned full-timers the 2-2-2 rule as a way to avoid stress and ensure that you are enjoying your travel, not just rushing to get somewhere.  It goes like this:  Travel no more than 200 miles (in a day).  Arrive by 2pm.  Stay 2 nights.  This allows you extra time in case something happens during travel, getting all set up before dark, and at least 1 day to explore the area.  So, rather than drive from the coast of Georgia all the way to Crestview in one day, we stopped for 3 nights at Three Rivers State park.

Three Rivers is on Lake Seminole, which is pretty much where Florida, Georgia, and Alabama all meet.  The main activity here is fishing, which we did not do, but we had a site right on the lake, which gave us a great view. This area is pretty rural, and does not have a touristy feel to it all all.  Here's a couple pics taken right out the front of our site:
Don't these evening colors look like something painted by one of the Dutch masters?
Nearby are the Florida Caverns - a pretty extensive set of caves. And the only dry caves in Florida.  The building which houses the visitor center and the route through the cavern was built by the CCC during the great depression.  And they've been giving tours ever since.
Yes, those really are the colors.  I just turned the flash off.
From there we went to Crestview, and took care of our residency.  We wrote about that previously, here.  Crestview, while not a big city, is fairly large for the panhandle, and is growing.  While it has all the chain stores and restaurants near the freeway exit, it also has an historic downtown area, that looks much like it did 50 years ago.  Jane found a distillery to her liking.

Then we went to the beaches of the panhandle.  We stayed at Topsail Hill state park, which is near Destin.  It's unusual for a state park in that it has a swimming pool.  Alas it wasn't heated, and with the water temp of around 60, it looked better than it felt.  But the whole coast from Pensecola, to Destin, and on to Panama City has these wonderful white sand beaches.  This is some of the cleanest sand I've ever seen - it really is pretty close to white, and there's nothing in it like stones or dirt etc.  And the water takes on various colors, often looking turquoise.  
The panhandle is also home to several military bases, including Eglin near Crestview, and the naval air base at Pensacola.  You're never sure what might come flying overhead at any time, such as these Osprey helicopters that came by one day as we were on the beach. There's sort of a "Top Gun" feel here.
Nearby is the Eden Garden state park.  This is a donated estate and garden and provides a glimpse into what like a hundred years ago in this part of the country was like for people of means.  It was the main house for a family that ran a lumber mill nearby.  While it looks impressive to us now, at the time it had 7 bedrooms, a dining room, and no kitchen.  The kitchen was in another building.  Don't ask about the bathroom.....  Much of what we take for granted in terms of creature comforts just wasn't available back then.  The building was laid out to try maximize airflow through it, as there was no A/C.  But it looks great.

As you can see, Jane liked this place a lot.

We found the panhandle to be full of beauty and variety.  I'll close with one sunset pic taken from the docks in Destin.

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2 comments

  1. I so enjoy your posts - look forward to each one as I always learn something new, and it expands my thinking as to what "could be" one day. Keep them coming Steve and Jane! Also wondering where/how you spent Christmas??

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  2. Thanks for the encouragement, Maggie! I'll try to write about our non-traditional Christmas soon.

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