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.