Tuesday, October 2, 2012

St. Andrews State Park - Florida

One of the things we have learned during our brief camping career is that there are some parks that you must reserve a site a long time in advance. As you can guess, these are the popular destinations in premium locations.

We first saw this phenomena when we reserved a space at the Florida State Park at Port St. Joe. The people at Reservations America said that many people book their campsites a year in advance. Not wanting to be left out of the top tier locations during holidays, we started making reservations months in advance.

With that background, we are ready to start talking about our visit to St. Andrews State Park, which is located near Panama City Beach, Florida.

A mere 72 hours before we were scheduled to arrive at St. Andrews State Park, Hurricane Isaac smashed into the gulf coast. While Louisiana and Mississippi felt the full fury of this storm, the Florida Gulf coast in the panhandle received lots of wind and rain from Isaac.

Rosie rode the storm out in Fort Rosie, what we call the warehouse we store her in when not out on an adventure. As soon as the storm moved ashore, we started calling the park to find out if it was still open. Our first call was about 72 hours before we planned to arrive and the park ranger said that there was a lot of standing water in our campground loop. The second call was 48 hours before we were to arrive and the park report remained that our site was flooded. At that point we started making alternative plans for our trip in Rosie.

Our last call was 24 hours before we were scheduled to arrive. This time the park attendant said that the water was receded and that our site should be OK by the time we arrived the next day.

Since we were not sure we were going to actually go camping, we hadn't been diligent in getting ready. Panic entered in as we quickly started getting our supplies ready for the trip. We were able to quickly throw together our camping list and we were able to hitch Rosie to our truck and we were off to visit a new park in Florida, St. Andrews State Park.

The sign at the entrance said that the campground was full, making us glad we had reservations. We stood in line waiting our turn to register, making us believe that the flood of water from Hurricane Isaac was being replaced by a flood of campers.

The rain storm at St. Andrews State Park
It was easy to see that our camping site was recently under water. It had that "mushy" feeling. What surprised us was the number of empty sites around us. It appeared that Hurricane Isaac scared some would-be campers away.

I stayed over the weekend then headed back home so that I could go to work during the week while Becky and Annie (our Yorkie dog) stayed in the park. After work on Friday, I would rejoin them for that weekend then we would pull Rosie home on Sunday.

Who would have thought that the reminents of Hurricane Isaac would start to regenerate into a tropical downpour? I started getting text messages on Tuesday about the pouring rain. By midday, Rosie was sitting in a swamp.

Looking out the back window of Rosie, our Airstream trailer
Becky and Annie were trapped inside Rosie because of the constant rain storms. The sun poked through the clouds on Thursday, giving Becky a chance to explore the park's beach area. The rain clouds stayed away most of Friday, but returned Friday night and Saturday morning. The storm woke both of us up and the all of the sites near us were again flooded.

When we arrived, we thought that our site was perfect. We now know that our site is in the lowest area of the park and easily floods. Maybe our loop should be renamed, "The Swamp."

About the park:

  • Many of the sites are on the water (inlet, not the Gulf). These are good choices because they are less wet when it rains.
  • Sites have 30 amp service and water.
  • Sites do not have sewage connections, but the park has several dump stations.
  • The park has a great area for swimming in the Gulf.
  • There are lots of places to ride your bikes in this park.
  • It is easy to watch ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC in the park via antenna.
  • There isn't wi-fi in the park, but AT&T's 3G coverage is adequate.
  • The restrooms and showers in this park are modern, functional and clean.
  • There is a decent camp store in the park.
  • We saw several deer in the camping area and there were lots of raccoons near the beach.
One of the things we noticed was the surprising number of tents at this park. There was a healthy number of tent campers there during our stay. We hope, against all odds, that they were able to stay dry during the constant rains.

So, are we planning to go back to this park? Sure! This park has a first class beach and it was great between rain storms.

The beach at St. Andrews State Park

Alligator Trail at St. Andrews State Park

Looking at the inlet at St. Andrews State Park

The inlet area at St. Andrews State Park

The inlet side of St. Andrews State Park

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