Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area, Flagler Beach, FL – April 4 – 15

We based our 2021 winter itinerary around Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area. Sometime last winter, Dave found a youtube video online, featuring drone footage of the campground on the Atlantic and description of a family camping experience there. The thought of camping on the spacious beach, in warm sunny weather, nearly brought me to tears after months of cold, snowy isolation  in pandemic lockdown. Fortunately last May 4, at exactly 8am, when I hit the “Book Now” button on the Florida State Parks website, for an oceanside site, I scored!

The park is located in Flagler Beach, off of A1A, on the Atlantic ocean. The beachside loop of the campground is all sand and dirt, which was only a problem after a heavy rain storm.  The campsites at the riverside loop are gravel and highly groomed like the sites at Henderson State Park. We had a beach overlook next to our site, which we used as our own personal deck, to watch the sunrise and check out the waves. There is a nature trail and a fishing area on the river. There is beach access from the day use area and a seperate beach access from the campground.

There is a paved bike path along A1A, that stretches for many miles in both directions, which we walked or ran almost every day. We walked about 3.5 miles on the nearby Lehigh Greenway Rail Trail one day. Another day we parked at Wadsworth Park and walked across Flagler Beach bridge and through the neighborhood.

One morning, we drove to Daytona Beach. Dave and I had both been there in the 1980’s for spring break and we were curious to see if any of it looked the same. My memory of the place was a 2-lane main road, lined with mostly small motels and hotels. I also remember thinking it was beautiful, though it was my first time seeing the ocean or even a palm tree, It had been my first time traveling away from Michigan (unsupervised) and I never felt so happy and free. That may have influenced my perception. Dave found the hotel he had stayed at. I saw a few very old motels, that could possibly have been where I stayed. Otherwise, it seemed like a totally different place, with huge resort hotels and a  multi-laned main road with extremely heavy traffic. It’s definitely not a place we would return to.

We really like the town of Flagler Beach. It is a small laid-back beach town, with no large hotels, only a few small inns and motels. Right in town, behind the library is the  Betty Steflik Memorial Preserve, with a series of boardwalks and trails running through a marshy area, woods and out to the Matanzas River. On sunny, warm days, the public beach in town was fairly busy and the town only seemed a little crowded Easter weekend, so we stayed away. Later, we enjoyed a couple of midweek happy hours (avoiding too many people) on the upper decks of some restaurants in town, which had great views of the ocean and beach.  The beers were practically free, compared with prices in Maui, Destin and even Michigan.

What we loved most about camping here, was the beach and ocean. We could fall asleep to the sound of the surf and watch the sunrise, while drinking our morning coffee. I am happy to know, as I write this, that we have reservations to return next year.

Campsite at Gamble Rogers State Recreation Memorial State Recreation Area
Beach overlook adjacent to our campsite, Gamble Rogers State Recreation Memorial State Recreation Area
We could see the ocean from inside the RV.
View from the beach overlook, Gamble Rogers State Recreation Memorial State Recreation Area
Tree carving on the nature trail, Gamble Rogers State Recreation Memorial State Recreation Area
The beach at Gamble Rogers Stae Recreation Memorial State Recreation Area. The Detroit Surf Co flag in the background marks our campsite.
The beach at Gamble Rogers Stae Recreation Memorial State Recreation Area
Swampy area along the Lehigh Greenway Rail Trail, Palm Coast, FL
Daytona Beach, FL
Daytona Beach, FL – View from the fishing pier
More fish tacos!
Trailhead at Betty Steflik Memorial Preserve, Flagler Beach
My first sighting of a gopher tortoise at the Betty Stiflik Memorial Preserve. We saw many burrows in Flagler Beach and St. Augustine.
Boardwalk at the Betty Stiflik Memorial Preserve, Flagler Beach, FL
View of the Matanzas River from the Flagler Beach Bridge
Beach access at Gamble Rogers State Recreation Memorial State Recreation Area
There are continuous flyovers by pelicans in Flagler Beach
Sunrise, Gamble Rogers State Recreation Memorial State Recreation Area
The rooftop deck at Finn’s Beachside Pub, Flagler Beach
After spending time in the panhandle. I expected the Mullet count at Finn’s to have something to do with the fish. It actually refers to the hair style.
Flagler Beach
Flagler Beach

Anastasia State Park, St Augustine, FL – March 29 – April 3


The campground at Anastasia State Park was our first on the Atlantic Ocean. It was our 7th campground on this tour. Our first night there was our 60th night in the RV in 2021, our 188th night since we purchased it (188 days of fun!!!!). The beach has four miles of white sand beach, 139 campsites and a .7 mile nature walk, called the Ancient Dunes Trail. Our campsite was spacious with trees and plants providing decent privacy. The trees in the campground were mostly palm trees, red cedar and live oaks, which were covered with spanish moss. It was was quite pretty, with plenty of shade.

The lighthouse is not far from the park, so we stopped by and walked around outside. The area was quite crowded, so we didn’t stay long.

I didn’t take many photos in town, in St. Augustine, since we did not spend a lot of time there. We first went into town during early afternoon on a Tuesday, hoping to avoid Easter weekend crowds.  St. Augustine is the oldest city in the US and also the oldest continuously occupied European Settlement in the continental U.S. There is a lot of history there and some of the buildings date back to the 1700’s.

We went to the historic part of town and found that all of the shops, museums, bars and restaurants were too crowded, for us (note – masks are not required in Florida), so we just walked around outside, as quickly as possible. In the main shopping area, we found it was difficult to keep our distance from the many large families and groups of mostly unmasked people.  We attempted to check out Flagler College, as we were told it is a must-see, but it is currently closed to the public because of the pandemic. We went to the fort, but it was not open on Tuesdays. A couple of days later, I heard from a friend who was visiting there, that there was a line a block long, to get into the fort.

After deciding not to return to town,  a friend recommended The Fountain of Youth as having a nice garden area to walk through, even though the fountain itself is a tourist trap. We drove there, late one morning, taking a different route into town, to avoid traffic. The traffic was actually worse than Detroit area traffic during Friday afternoon rush hour and during road construction.  Rather than spend $40 to look at some gardens and a fountain, with crowds, we left and spent the remainder of our stay in the park. We wish we could have really explored the entire town. It’s quite beautiful and we know we would have really enjoyed it, if there was no pandemic.

The park was full but did not feel crowded. We were happy to have neighbors who were a retired couple, vacationing from Marine City, MI. He retired from an automotive-related fabrication shop. She is an artist who regularly sells her pottery at the annual New Baltimore Art Fair. We just might see them again.  We noticed that this park had a lot of families and people on short excursions. We encountered more unfriendly campers than we had at previous parks. We are hoping that sometime along the way, we will again be surrounded by the friendly, retired snowbirds.

We took walks to the beach, along the beach and on the Ancient Dunes Trail. We spent time on the beach with our chairs and umbrella. I ran a little. It was too windy and rough for surfing or paddling. We also checked out other loops in the campground, to note which we would prefer for a future visit. Dave spent time, daily, cleaning sections of the RV that were covered with bugs from the drive across the state. Meanwhile, the spanish moss, trees and squirrels were covering the top of the RV with debris. (As I write this, we are in the next location, sitting through the end of a heavy rain storm, which started about 21 hours ago. We are hoping it was enough to clean the roof…) We really enjoyed the beach and trails and the park, in general. Unfortunately, we felt a little like we were trapped there, unable to go anywhere else. We will not likely return soon, because the area is so busy and crowded.

Campsite at Anastasia State Park
Campsite at Anastasia State Park
Morning walk on the beach at Anastasia State Park
St. Augustine Lighthouse
Ponce de Leon Hotel, Flagler College, St. Augustine
The fort in St. Augustine – Castillo de San Marcos National Monument
Matanzas River, St. Augustine
St. Johns County Ocean & Fishing Pier
Slushie is happy we aren’t having a camp fire at Anastasia State Park
Heading out to the beach at Anastasia State Park
Hiking the Ancient Dunes Trail at Anastasia State Park

Dr Julian G. Bruce State Park, St. George Island, FL – March 18 – 28

St George Island is sparsely populated with private homes, condos, a few small hotels and a handful of shops and restaurants. The island is 28 miles long and two miles wide, at it’s widest point, with the state park occupying nine miles on the eastern end. The west end of the Island is an exclusive gated community, called The St George Plantation, where many celebrities have homes. There is a paved bike path which runs between the St George Plantation and the state park.

The area is known as “the old Florida”, with no high-rises and a very laid-back, friendly atmosphere. The drive from Appalaciacola is quite scenic, first crossing Appalaciacola Bay to East Point on the 6-mile long  John Gorrie Bridge, then continuing on the 4-mile long Bryant Patton Memorial Bridge (St.George Island Bridge) to the island.

This is definitely our favorite park, so far. The beautiful, long beach is uncrowded, with some campers and some day-use visitors, mostly fishing. The campground is very quiet, with no vehicle or air traffic noise. The only sounds are the surf, the wind and the birds. It is similar to Fort Pickens, without the fort and with less day-use visitors. This was the case even during peak season, with all bridges open, compared with the Fort Pickens’ main access bridge being closed. Most of the campers were retirees, though for a few days, we were surrounded by noisy families. The facilities were pretty decent.

This is also our favorite area in Florida, so far.  St George Island was nearly at full capacity when we were there, though is was hardly crowded at all. Nearby, East Point had a similar look and feel to Algonac, Fair Haven and the St. Clair flats, with open  marshy areas, little traffic and no tourists. We visited the local microbrewery in East Point and found a fantastic seafood market there, where the owners caught the fish themselves. We bought the very best tuna and royal red shrimp of our journey, so far, at Island View Seafood.

Appalaciacola is a  very old town, which at one point, was part of Spain and later, a British colony. It seemed that most of the visitors were from Tallahasee and other Florida towns. We learned that the local lodging was at full capacity, though it was not crowded at all. We really enjoyed Oyster City Brewing Company, which had all of it’s seating outside, on the sidewalk. One day we ran into two local builders, who we had previously talked to at East Point Brewing. They both clearly enjoyed building houses and visiting microbreweries at the end of a work day. They had some great stories. We also met a guy who we had seen riding through town before, on his motorcycle, with his old dog in front of him, holding on. The guy prevoiusly lived on Maui and owned a bike repair business for 20 years. One of his regular customers was Laird Hamilton. His dog’s name was “Mr. Bob Barker”. And so there were more good stories (at a safe distance, of course).

We spent time on St George Island Riding bikes around town and on the trails, walking on the trails,  and sitting on the beach. It was too rough and windy for surfing or paddling.  We saw a couple of alligators and countless birds, including herons, pelicans, egrets, and a bald eagle (which flew over our campsite). We continued to cook all of our own meals, with the exception of some very delicious carry-out calzones from the local pizza place. We bought some fresh fish from a kid working at a food-truck-like trailer, on the island and learned it’s really better to be able to see the fish before you buy it. It’s also better to purchase fish directly from the people who own the market.

We  were told by other campers that we would love Anastasia State Park and the town of St. Augustine, our next destination.  We left St. George Island a few days earlier than planned, so we could spend 6 nights there. We were happy to miss the storms that passed through, after we left, but we regret leaving early.

Spacious first campsite at Dr. Julian G Bruce State Park
Pond with alligators at Dr. Julian G Bruce State Park
This woodpecker spent a fair amount of time, getting every last drop of Keystone light out of the can. He then proceeded to poke holes in my bike helmet foam.
Handicap-accessible path to the beach on a windy day at Dr. Julian G. Bruce State Park
East Point Beer Company, East Point, FL
Appalaciacola Bay, Dr. Julian G Bruce State Park
Appalaciacola, FL
Oyster City Brewing Company, Appalaciacola, FL
Oyster City Brewing Company, Appalaciacola, FL
Scipio Creek Boardwalk, Appalaciacola, FL
Appalaciacola Bay at Dr. Julian G Bruce State Park
Sunset over Appalaciacola Bay at Dr. Julian G Bruce State Park
Sunset over Appalaciacola Bay at Dr. Julian G Bruce State Park
Cycling on the deserted beach at Dr. Ju;ian G. Bruce State Park
Slushie, watching two cats in the window of our neighbors’ RV
Second (less spacious) campsite at Dr. Julian G. Bruce State Park
Cardinal visiting our campsite
Lighthouse and Visitor Center, St. George Island
Blue Parrot, St. George Island
Blue Parrot, St. George Island
Great Blue Heron, Dr. Julian G. Bruce State Park
Sorting my seashells
Sunset over Appalaciacola Bay at Dr. Julian G Bruce State Park
Egret and dunes at Dr. Julian G. Bruce State Park
Sunrise, Dr. Julian G. Bruce State Park