The weather has been cold all over the country this Winter – really, really cold. Even us Floridians are all done with Winter, and we did not get more than a couple of flurries the day after Christmas. In January, we were making Summer vacation plans, and we actually made Spring vacation campsite reservations at the end of last Summer! Planning for Spring and Summer are the only things that got me through wearing 3 layers of clothing to bed each night to sleep under 3 and 4 blankets. We don’t like heat very much, and since we ran out of firewood, the house has been a bit chilly.
After the cold Winter, are you looking for new places to explore and thaw out this Spring? We are going to let you in on a secret – there are some great parks to explore in the Northern half of Florida, including:
- Anastasia State Park in St. Augustine
- Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park in Jacksonville and
- St. George Island State Park on the Gulf Coast near Apalachicola.
These three parks all have beautiful beaches, some of the best in the world. Each one can be a great day adventure and they all also offer camping as well. St. George Island has a relatively small campground, so advance planning or last-minute luck will be needed there during busy vacation seasons, and Anastasia has a larger campground with both RV and tent camping sites. Hanna Park has 300 campsites and there are usually sites available on all but the busiest weekends (e.g. Father’s Day).
Anastasia boasts a special feature, a small windsurfing/sailing beach known as the Salt Run. It is salt water, but in a protected area away from the open Atlantic Ocean right nearby. This is ideal for kayaking and windsurfing. On the first day that our son started learning to windsurf, he was sailing back and forth in front of the launch area within 15 minutes! We have been windsurfing a long time (20 + years), so it was really neat to see our son begin to learn one of our favorite sports. This area also has a large amount of wildlife, including birds, dolphins, and turtles. There is a concessionaire, Anastasia Watersports, offering kayak and windsurfing rentals and lessons, and they also rent catamarans and paddle boards. They are great to work with and super nice people.
Hanna Park in Jacksonville is another favorite of ours. The park has many beach areas and is amazing at low tide, with frequent tidal pools that the kids love to play in. We have seen star fish in the tidal pools in the past. High tide is great for boogie boarding, body surfing and surfing. Hanna Park also has nice mountain bike trails, as well as disc golf, camping, playgrounds and a small children’s water park.
St. George Island is a barrier island on the Gulf Coast of Florida, close to Apalachicola. Think small town and quaint – both St. George Island and Apalachicola! Beautiful white sandy beaches, a great State Park, playground, lighthouse, and good restaurants all make for a good trip to the beach. There are many beach houses for rent and camping is available at the State Park. Last summer we saw dolphin very close to the beach, with babies jumping and playing next to their mothers, while they surfed the low waves. What an awesome sight! I saw an adult dolphin slap his tail on the water at least eight times; don’t know what message he was sending or to whom, but it was incredible. The kids found hermit crabs in shells about the length of a centimeter – who knew a hermit crab could be that cute! We found live sand dollars the size of a penny on the sand bars, and in fact, I thought it was a penny when I picked it up. He tickled the palm of my hand and after showing the kids I put it gently back on the sandbar.
We hope to see you at one of our favorite spots in Florida this year!