Tuesday, October 4, 2011

BREATHE IN, BREATHE OUT

We arrived at the Gulf of Mexico and the white sand beaches of South Walton County, Florida, to eat oysters from Appalachicola.  Be.still.my.heart!  Locals steered us to great seafood, good deals, early bird specials and where not to go.  We were provided very reliable information most of the time.


We arrived at Topsail Hill Preserve, a 1,640 acre state park, 10 miles east of Destin, in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, and immediately understood why Topsail has received Reserve America's awards for Top Ten Spots for "Amazing Locations", "Fishing Spots", "Hiking Trails", "Tours and Events", and "Unique Cabins".  This region of Northwest Florida is known throughout the world for beautifully pristine emerald green waters framed by unspoiled coastal sand dunes. Lying among the dunes are five natural fresh water lakes which occur no where else in the United States but in Florida's panhandle.  Topsail's three mile beach edges up to the Gulf in undulating waves and twenty foot dunes heaped like spoonfuls of sugar beside the emerald waters.  To get to Topsail, you must turn off Highway 98 onto Highway 30A, recognized correctly as a Scenic Highway.  Ooops, almost forgot to tell you, this is our first visit since we joined the Medicare Country Club set - half off for Florida seniors - see, there are benefits to reaching this wonderful age!


As far as a campground (and RV resort) Topsail has top-rated sites which have most of the comforts of home including cable television, full 50 amp service, and sewer.  The facility is rated in the top 1% for cleanliness and maintenance.  Visitors seem to be interested in swimming, walking and dozing in the sun.  Of course there are many little critters around, i.e., the endangered Chocktawhatchee field mouse, is one, which is scampering all around our site and we hope we don't take any of them with us when we leave!

One of the nice things about our trip to Topsail has been meeting old friends and spending time getting to know and explore the area together.   Upon arriving, our friends, Jim and B.J. Chancey, invited us over for Jim's world renowned babyback ribs, which may be on the Top Ten of our list of best ribs we've ever put in our mouth!  Also, our neighbors from Florida Grande, David and Diane Drinkwater were with us for several meals at a highly recognized local seafood restaurant, "Stinky's".  Once you get past the name, the food was delicious!

If you like oysters then you would have enjoyed our first local place, Buster's, which features a great special from 5 to 6 every night - $4.00 for 2 dozen oysters.  Nothing special, and you get what you pay for is all I'll say.  A couple of days later we enjoyed a very authentic shepherd's pie at McGuire's, a famous and award winning Irish Pub.  We then drove over the Destin Bridge to Okaloosa Island, another beautiful beach.  Crossing the Bridge on the Bayside is Crab Island, where numerous boats enjoy the clear water on a sand bar in the Chocktawhatchee Bay.  Also in this area is Harbor Walk in Destin, an area where the Wyndham Emerald Pointe Hotel is located, but also the location of many shops, a large marina, and where the Annual Seafood Festival was held this past weekend which brought in about 30,000 seafood lovers.  The weather was perfect and so were all the delicious varieties of local seafood.


We enjoyed side trips on Scenic Highway 30A as you travel parallel with Highway 98, but most of the drive you see beaches full of the "WOW" factor.  The unincorporated master-planned communities of Watercolor, Seaside, Grayton Beach, Rosemary Beach, Alys  and other beaches along this road appear to be just like the photos you saw in last month's issue of Coastal Living Magazine.  We attended Seaside's Annual Community Yard Sale, held in their Outdoor Amphitheatre on a Saturday morning.  What a treat - I was completely astounded at the huge turnout.  A side note - Seaside hosted the Hollywood filming of "The Truman Show" starring Jim Carrey.  Along "30A" we loved the classic Airstream Travel Trailer lineup of sidewalk restaurants. Barefoot BBQ, Wild Bill's Beach Dogs, Raw & Juicy Organic Juice Bar and Cafe, The Meltdown Cafe and Frost Bites.  In the middle of all this was the beautiful and historic Seaside Post Office.  The beach is very accessible to the public and these successful developments are recognized with the other above-mentioned locations as part of the new Urbanization plan.
  

We definitely will be returning to Topsail and the Destin area in the future.  It's difficult to describe the natural beauty of this area, the coastline, and the beautiful the beaches in Florida's Panhandle.

All this running around hasn't given me much of an opportunity to organize my thoughts for our Halloween decorations for the coach but here's one I'll show you just to see what you think; and no, this isn't RV!
Halloween decorations 2011
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