David Miller recommends campgrounds in the Florida Panhandle. He also talks about beaches, museums, restaurants, and parks in the area. David also shares how to see the Blue Angels for free.
My fiancé, Brenda, and I have a 2012 Travel Lite 890-SBRX. At 2,050 pounds dry, the Travel Lite a perfect match for our 2012 GMC 2500. When fully loaded, we have several hundred pounds of payload to spare. Even better, we get about 11.5 miles to the gallon with the camper, and 15.5 miles to the gallon without.
Brenda and I live in Branson, Missouri. To escape the brutal weather this past winter, I planned a camping trip to Florida’s Panhandle. By mid-April, the Spring Break crowds would be gone, and there would be greater likelihood of sunshine and warmth.
With three kids in college, we would need to be back home by mid-May. We decided that a full week with two weekends would give us the time we needed to relax, and save enough vacation days for additional trips throughout the summer.
With a degree in engineering, I have been accused of being very logical. Before departing, we knew which Florida campgrounds we were staying each night, the routes we would take, which meals we would prepare in the camper, and which meals we would dine out. The only part of the trip that was not pre-planned was our return.
Fort Pickens Campground
The original plan was to spend one night on the road on the way down and one night on the way back up. The rest of the time we would be on the beach, sampling seafood, drinking tropical drinks, and taking in historic Fort Pickens.
Above: David and Brenda enjoying the warmth and the Florida’s beaches
There are five main reasons why we chose Fort Pickens campground. First, it’s the closet beach to Missouri. Second, it’s undeveloped and focused on nature, which we find more relaxing. Third, we like history and the fort would give us a chance to learn more United States history.
Fourth, Fort Pickens Campground is economical at $28 a night, with electric and water. And fifth, I had vague memories of camping at Fort Pickens with my parents, and wanted to refresh those memories.
During our planning, we learned about the Parrothead Rendezvous, a tropical rock music festival in Panama City, Florida. From that point forward, we decided to split our time between Fort Pickens and Panama City Beach.
If You Like History, Visit Fort Pickens
Fort Pickens is a historic fort and the centerpiece of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. The fort construction was done originally in 1829 and was used in the Civil War and all the way up to World War II.
Above: The self-guided Fort Pickens tour – click to enlarge
There is a well-marked self-guiding tour through the fort that answers most of the questions regarding the history of the fort. They also have a separate well-marked self-guided tour of the surrounding coast artillery facilities.
The self-guided tour went all though the passageways and underground rooms. They used 21.5 million bricks to build the fort and some of the brick work, such as self-supporting arches, was very impressive. They even had reverse arches; upside down brick arches underground to support the weight of the massive cannons in the soft sand above.
The fort was built by slaves. The supervisors of the construction actually joined the Confederacy, although the fort itself remained in Union control through the whole civil war. There is even a claim that the first shots fired in the Civil War occurred at Fort Pickens.
The giant guns could shoot 400 pound cannon balls several miles out to sea. The 12-inch guns could shoot projectiles eight miles. In 1899 they had a fire where they stored the gunpowder and the explosion threw bricks 1.5 miles away across the nearby bay.
If you enjoy history, Fort Pickens is an incredible place to visit and explore. Obviously, I am just hinting at everything on display. History lovers, put this place on your bucket list.