Thursday, March 17, 2016

Anastasia State Park - St. Augustine, Florida

We left the Canopener Rally in Topsail Hill State Park and headed east on I-10. Our next planned stop was Anastasia State Park near St. Augustine, Florida.

Near the water in St. Augustine

This is a park that keeps coming up in our conversations with other campers. Several people said it was one of their favorite places to camp. We decided to investigate for ourselves and reserved a site for Rosie, our 25 foot Airstream trailer.

Rosie at Anastasia State Park

Our first impression of the park wasn't positive. Two very rude drivers practically ran us down as we entered the park. Maybe they were hosting a road-rage rally that day.

Once we were checked in, we started looking for our campsite. We were thankful that Rosie wasn't any larger because some of the turns are very tight in this park. We camped in the Coquina loop, which probably has the larger individual sites in the park.

All of the Anastasia sites are dirt based and the dirt in our site was softer than I would have liked. That meant the blocks we used to level Rosie would slowly sink into the sand during our stay. That just meant that Rosie would slowly start to lean to one side.

We think the big draw to this park lies outside the front gate. Sure, the beach is a nice Atlantic shoreline, but St. Augustine is just outside the park's front gate.

Lighthouse outside the park

Old St Augustine

Flagler College

Flagler College in St Augustine

Another view of Flagler College

St Augustine

A church in St Augustine

St. Augustine is a positive childhood memory for us. It was a school field-trip destination for us as children. Although we attended different schools in Florida, we both made the trip to St. Augustine with our classmates to see the fort, old school, old jail and the Fountain of Youth. In talking with other campers in the park, the main topic is always St. Augustine. The nation's oldest city still has the same draw that beckoned Florida elementary school teachers back in the '60s to schedule field-trips there.

The old school

The fort

In case you are wondering, St. Augustine has much to see and do. We enjoyed exploring the town without worrying about having to stay in our group with our teacher.

But what about the park? It is smaller than I imagined. It is very close to a busy highway, meaning you can hear road noises. The sites in the Coquina loop were very shady and larger than most state park campsites. And while the park was nice, we still prefer our favorite parks along the Florida and Alabama Gulf coasts.

Here are some specifics about this park:
  • It was a challenge to level Rosie in our campsite. We had to use lots of leveling blocks to help erase the left-to-right slope in our site.
  • Staying level was impossible. Our site had lots of soft sand and the leveling blocks simply sunk into the ground.
  • Our site had 50, 30 and 20 amp service. Several times while parked here, our electrical service stopped for a moment and that was long enough for our surge protector to cycle through a two minute restart cycle.
  • Be careful with your electronic gear. We noticed that the park's power would occasionally dip below 100 volts and this can damage your electronics and your air conditioner unit.
  • Our site had a water connection. Unlike some parks we stayed in, the water tasted good here.
  • Our site did not have a sewer connection.
  • There was a dump station in the park.
  • Some of the camping loops shared a bathhouse. Our loop had a bathhouse in the middle of it and it was a hike to get there.
  • The bathhouse was not heated. With "freeze warnings" all around us, that meant the bathhouse was very cold.
  • AT&T placed "two-bars" of service for voice and data over the park.
  • The park provided Wi-Fi service near the camp store.
  • Speaking of the the camp store, it had a limited stock of camping and beach supplies.
  • We were able to watch CBS, CW, Fox and PBS using Rosie's TV antenna. We also received Bounce, Decades, Get-TV, H&I, ME-TV, Retro and THiS digital channels.
We are glad we finally made it to Anastasia State Park. While we enjoyed being there, I don't think this will be added to our "Frequently Revisit" list.

The beach at Anastasia State Park

A manatee warning sign

This would look great inside Rosie!

French onion soup

Trees inside Anastasia State Park

Having a Cuban sandwich from the Columbia Restaurant

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Canopener 2016, Topsail Hill Preserve State Park - Destin, Florida

We attended our first Canopener Airstream Rally in 2015. That was when we learned about the WBCCI's (Wally Byam Caravan Club International) Southeastern Camping Unit. This is a very active unit that loves to spend time camping in their Airstreams. That was a good match for us and we joined that unit.

Look at the Canopener through Rosie's window

One of our memories from the 2015 Canopener was the cold weather. Rosie, our 25 foot Airstream trailer kept us warm that weekend and we enjoyed our time at the rally.

Weather would play a role in the 2016 Canopener. Instead of being cold, we found ourselves dodging rain storms. This time Rosie kept us dry. Just as before, we found that the weather was inconvenient, but not a "show stopper." We were able to enjoy the rally with our growing circle of camping friends.
Topsail is not your typical state park. It was a resort style RV Park that the State of Florida purchased and continues to maintain in the same style. Topsail is famous for its manicured lawns and concrete pads.

The rain fell at the 2016 Canopener

We understand why the Canopener Rally is held in Topsail. It is a large park and able to support 100+ Airstream trailers. It has a good clubhouse and the sites are very nice. (More than 100 Airstream trailers and motorhomes were at the 2016 Canopener Rally!) These are things that rally planners love. It is also a nice park to walk around and visit fellow campers.

Nothing like seeing a park full of Airstream trailers

Rosie at the Canopener

Last year we camped in the outer loop and most of the Canopener events took place in the inner loop. We reserved our site early and were lucky enough to get the last available site in the inner loop this year. Somehow most of the events for the 2016 Canopener took place in the outer loop. I guess we will always be out-of-sync with the center of "action" at the Canopener.

Rosie's camping site at the 2016 Canopener

More Airstream trailers at the Canopener

One of the things we are starting to notice is that we are recognizing other Airstreamers when we attend rallys. There were more than half a dozen couples we knew from the Cajun Caravan or the WBCCI International Rally. That helps make attending Airstream rallys special.
Here are some specifics about this park:
  • There are two main camping loops. We think the inner loop has the nicer sites.
  • Our site had 50, 30 and 20 amp electrical service.
  • Our site had water and sewer connections.
  • There is a dump station in this park. It may be one of the least used dump stations in the Florida State Park system since the Topsail campsites come with sewer connections.
  • Our site had a cable TV connection. Our track record with campground cable TV connections is not great, but it worked this time.
  • AT&T placed a good 4G signal for both voice and data in this park.
  • There was minimal Wi-Fi service near the laundry. For some reason, I only saw the Wi-Fi signal for a fleeting moment while we were in the park.
  • There is a camp store and a coin-operated laundry in the park.
  • There is no need to panic if you run out of milk and eggs. There is a Publix grocery store a few miles outside the park.
  • We found that we needed to buy drinking water at the Publix grocery store because the park's water didn't taste too good.
  • There is a tram that takes campers to the beach at Topsail. It ran every two hours during our visit. I imagine it runs more frequently during the summer months. This may be the only state park on the Gulf coast that we have never made it to the beach.
Will we return to Topsail Hill State Park? Probably, but not before the 2017 Canopener.

Topsail is close to Grayton Beach and its famous trees

Slipping away for lunch

Enjoying the 2016 Canopener