Goin’ Coastal – A recap of our Florida winter sojourn

After three months of meandering along the extensive coastlines of Florida, we were eager to finally point Betsy west.  In early December we began our winter sojourn along the Atlantic Ocean, exiting on the shoreline of the Gulf of Mexico in March.  This was our second winter in the Sunshine State, and we visited about half of its coastal regions, exploring many natural settings and strolling an array of fabulous beaches – all while being entertained by wildlife unique to the area.  An added bonus was the great time we spent visiting with friends old and new.

Base map image credit to Florida Smart

We entered the state from the northeast, known as the First Coast.  It’s aptly named as it was the first area in Florida history to be discovered and colonized by European settlers.  We spent a week at Gamble Rogers Memorial State Park, and while there we drove along the 6-mile stretch of highway A1A – the Scenic & Historic Coastal Byway – enjoying views of the ocean still unblocked by condos and tall buildings.  The beaches here have an orange hue due to the large amount of crushed seashells they contain.

We spent another week on the Treasure Coast.  Legend has it that several Spanish ships carrying gold and silver were shipwrecked in the area over 300 years ago, losing their treasures to the sea.  But the current treasure here is the abundance of fish available to anglers around Sebastian Inlet State Park, our home base for that stop.  They fished from boats, from the shoreline, and from the pier – with Pelicans, Wood Storks, Egrets, Herons and Ibises as constant companions waiting for a tasty morsel they might be able to grab.

Sebastian Inlet Fishing Pier
This guy was a birdie rock star!
Junior waits for his portion
Lucky to grab a fish bone
An Osprey and Great Egret fight for a spot

Crossing the state to the Gulf Coast, we stayed in Naples for the month of January.  This area is referred to as the Paradise Coast, known for its many beautiful barrier islands from Sanibel down to Marco Island.  Shelling is a big activity here, and I wished I could have taken some of the beautiful and unique specimens with me.  Here’s a rundown of our stay in that area.

Lots of folks were shelling at Marco Island’s south beach
Empty parchment worm housing tubes washed up on the beach at Marco Island

It was at the Nature Coast where we had the most fun exploring the “real Florida”.  Read about our outdoor activities here.

Annoying bugs (i.e.gnats or no-see-ums) were a constant bother at the Nature Coast

At the Forgotten Coast, where a relaxed pace of small-town charm was the norm, we chowed down on the area’s awesome delicacy – oysters!  Here’s my recent post about our visit to this area of coastal beauty, no longer forgotten since hurricane Michael pretty much wiped it out last October.

Just 20 miles north of Panama City Beach is lesser-known Pine Log State Forest, where we camped under tall pine trees overlooking a pond:

We loved our site here
Celebrating seven years on the road with a pound of delicious steamed gulf shrimp!

We thought this stop was going to be a chance to stretch our legs on a nice long walk, but we were dismayed to find that all of the trails were under water.  And we had only one sunny, dry day to enjoy the outdoors – bummer!

This was how it looked from inside Betsy during most of our visit

Steve staved off his cabin fever by staying busy in the kitchen:

We learned that our virtual friends Jeff, Debbie and Rick of We are the Millers + Rick were camp hosting on the Emerald Coast at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park.  We were hoping to meet up with them for a happy hour in the park, but since the weather wasn’t cooperating we got together at a nearby restaurant for some good pizza and beer.  We had a lot to talk about and are hoping to see them again down the road.

With the Miller’s – Rick, Jeff and Debbie

During our final Florida stop we learned that the Emerald Coast got its name from the deep emerald-colored waters along the sugary white sand beaches that are typical in the Gulf of Mexico.  My plans to take a dip in that beautiful water before leaving Florida were unfortunately stymied by a cold snap accompanied by cold winds that kept us mostly inside Betsy to just enjoy from a distance 😦

Sugary white sand

There were several trails at Topsail Hill Preserve SP, but our exercise was limited to taking in the ocean breezes during walks along the beach from our campsite.  Not so bad!

Deep emerald green waters enjoyed by diehard beach bums
White powdery sand beaches where we wished we could have spent more time

The freezer was packed with fresh seafood during our stay, enough to carry us well into summer.  We had no complaints about our 3-month seafood diet!

That wraps up our winter months in Florida.  Despite the mostly nasty weather, it wasn’t so bad after all!




  1. Great recap! There is so much to do in Florida. You took some incredible pictures, I laughed at the one with the birds surrounding the guy with the throw net and shuttered at the one with the no-see-ums!

  2. What a great way to spend the winter! You saw the best of Florida. Thanks for sharing this recap with us. I love that you packed your freezer with seafood before heading west!

  3. It was so great to meet in person & fun sharing traveling stories! I’m jealous of all the bird pictures, we didn’t get to see much wildlife on the Emerald Coast. Awesome pics. Hope to meet up again & go on a hike….you can teach me some birding!!

    • It was just too bad the cold snap messed up our outdoor activities. Who knows when we see you in AZ we can have more time to hike and go bird watching.

  4. Looks like you had a great time in Florida, despite the dismal weather at every turn. It’s been an unpleasant winter most everywhere it seems. I miss those beautiful beaches so thanks for taking me there if only for a few minutes. Safe travels on your next adventure.

  5. What a great winter…even with the rain and cold…enjoying the sights, sounds and especially tasty seafood! Beautiful pictures as always MonaLiza!

  6. Sounds like you fit a lot of sights and activities into your FL excursion. Safe travels west and hope we can connect in AZ.

  7. Thanks for sharing your Florida winter adventure. I really enjoyed reading all about your hikes, wildlife, beaches and camping spots. You seem to find the best rv spot the majority of the time. Most have great views. Safe & happy travels.

  8. We’re sad we weren’t there this winter-our first miss in 5 years. Otherwise we’d have made sure we met up!
    We were Florida residents from 2004 until last month (now South Carolina) But I never knew ALL those coast nicknames! Only a few. I always learn something from you two!!!
    The winter was pretty bad everywhere I think! But what we loved about Florida was that you didn’t go too long without seeing the sunshine

  9. We are really looking forward to Florida next year after this lousy desert winter, but that picture of the noseeums reminded me that there’s a bad side to winters on the east coast too…. I do NOT miss those bugs! Still, as you’ve so perfectly demonstrated, there’s so much to see and do in Florida, it’s impossible to get bored, and, if all else fails, you can always gorge yourself on seafood! Awesome photos of the birds, by the way!

    • Well, I guess we had the better winter this time 🙂 but no we won’t be back. Some bugs got me but they were lying low mostly due to the cold and winds and humidity was lower than the first time we were here. I wish you have a better winter in FL this winter !

  10. It’s always fun to visit Florida without having to experience the bugs and humidity:) It certainly wasn’t a great winter in Florida. I don’t know where one could go this winter for decent weather. I do miss the fresh grouper and shrimp, though. Glad you were able to enjoy the fresh seafood. The beautiful water and white sand sands are perfect. Safe travels as you move west. Fingers crossed the weather is your friend:)

    • Because of the crazy mix of weather, bugs and humidity were not much of the bother. It was the unseasonal cold and constant overcast days that dampen most of our days but we made do of what we got.At least Steve enjoyed what he was wishing for.

  11. Wow, looking at your recap makes me realize just how much you did in Florida. Despite the weather challenges, you had some beautiful beach days and made the most of your time here. I love your photo of the Wood Stork resting, the photo of the birds “helping” the guy with the cast net, and the photo of you looking so happy on the beach. 🙂
    Looks like you’re already putting your seafood bounty to good use. Steve’s shrimp quiche looks fantastic! I agree Gulf shrimp is the best.
    Most of all, we are delighted that you planned your travels so that we could spend time together in Apalachicola. Being with you guys was one of the highlights of our winter. Happy seventh travel anniversary, and wishing you many, many more grand adventures!

    • We would be derelict had we not planned to include you in our route especially knowing you will be staying east this summer. Thank you, we did make do of what we got weather wise since the sunshine state forgot to turned the “sunshine” this winter,

  12. Great recap, I know Debbie was excited to meet you guys. See you out west next winter.

  13. “Making the best of it” seems to be the common refrain among full-time RVers this winter, but you sure managed to! I can’t share the love of oysters, but I’d gobble up some Gulf shrimp YUM. I love the osprey and egret facing off — who won?

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