The CurbCrushers took the first week long vacation of 2008 with a trip to the Panhandle of Florida. A CurbCrusher cousin was getting married the last Saturday of May in Pensacola, and with Memorial Day occurring the Monday before, it seemed like a good time to combine a bit of vacationing with family business. So on Monday morning, we started up the motorhome and headed to Topsail Hill Preserver State Park near Destin, Florida.
The adventure began with starting the motorhome. The night before CurbCrusher had paid a visit to the driver’s seat and turned on the driver’s reading light. This light is controlled by the panel dimmer switch, unlike the passenger light which is controlled by a regular switch. The impact of this is that the driver’s reading lamp runs off the motor battery, while the passenger’s reading lamp runs off the house battery. Well, CurbCrusher forgot to turn off the lamp when he was done. So Monday morning when he went out to start the motorhome, it balked. Fortunately there is a battery boost button that will take the house batteries and allow them to jump start the motorhome. This worked, but only after pressing the correct button. CurbCrusher spent about three minutes trying to turn the grade brake on and start the motorhome. Then he leaned over and read the labels on the switches carefully. After switching the Battery Boost switch to the on position, the motor started right up.
What follows can best be described as eight hours of boredom. Up the Florida Turnpiked to I-75, then take a left at I-10. Travel I-10 until you get to exit 85. There only bit of excitement was the stop at Exit 142 to fill up with gas. Lady CurbCrusher had suggested this exit as there was a Super Walmart, and they sometimes have an affiliated gas station with cheaper gas. Well there is a Super Walmart, but the configuration of the gas islands at the gas station were not RV friendly, neither was the Pilot station. The TA plaza appeared to have their gas pumps circled by chain link fence. So the CurbCrushers ended up at the Chevron ( which has an RV friendly icon on the exit signage), which was full ten cents more expensive than all the other gas stations at this exit. Oh, well.
Topsail Hill Preserve State Park is located near Destin, Florida right on the Gulf of Mexico. It is on State Road 30A, right off of US 98. The park used to be a private RV park, which the State of Florida acquired when the owners sold it. The State has converted it into a State park (The Gregory E. Moore RV Resort at Topsail Hill Preserver State Park), but really the only thing to do there is camp and go to the beach. The park has 168 sites and they are all full hookup. There is a small swimming pool, shuffle board, tennis courts and a club house. There are cabins also available for rent, and they appear to be the old park models that were at the former RV Park. All of the campground roads are paved, and there was plenty of room to back in the motorhome. CurbCrusher is not sure that he would have wanted to back up the old fifth wheel into some of the spaces, but others seem to do so with no problems.
All of the sites are paved and have patios. Most sites have concrete pads and as such are extremely level, although some up near the front are asphalt only. There are no grills or fire rings, this is probably because the sites are located in fairly close proximity. It should be noted that even though the sites are close, the landscaping is extremely good at creating private areas around each rig, this is especially true in the 100’s loop. The CurbCrushers noted that since you spend most of your morning and mid-day at the beach, it appears that getting a site that puts your rig facing North is best, since the afternoon sun will be blocked by your right creating a nice natural shady area for afternoon and evening lounging. There are a number of rules at this park. They do not want any carpets on the ground, nor any tents or dining flys. However, a number of people had these things set up, and the rangers did not seem to be enforcing the rules.
The sites are about a mile from the beach. In the CurbCrusher’s case it was exactly .93 miles from the beach boardwalk to the site (Those speedometers we put on the bikes are proving beneficial 🙂 At the back of the campground, there is a bike/walking/tram path that runs down to the beach. It is not entirely flat, but the uphills are not enough to complain about. The tram runs on some schedule, which was of no consequence to the CurbCrushers as bicycles were the transportation mode of choice. Once you get from your site to the end of the tram road, there is a boardwalk that is probably about a quarter mile long which takes you over the dunes and to the beach. There are restrooms at the end of the tram road, and a whole bunch of bike racks.
Once you get to the beach you are rewarded with sugar white sand, turquoise water, small gentle waves, and not a whole bunch of people. Most people congregate near the end of the boardwalk. A two minute walk in either direction and one finds themselves pretty much alone on the beach. A five minute walk and you are alone.
For this trip, the CurbCrushers acquired an InStep bike carrier/Stroller. Little CurbCrusher is too big to ride in one of these things, but it makes a great trailer to haul behind a bike. Over the course of the five day stay at Topsail, there were dozens of people hauling their beach gear behind their bikes on these carriers. There was maybe one person using it for what it was intended, hauling a kid. This thing is great for hauling stuff, CurbCrusher is even thinking of using it at home for grocery shopping, which is only a mile from the house.
All in all Topsail was a great place to camp. It’s easy to spend 3 or so hours on the beach. Come back for lunch and then spend an hour of so in the pool. An afternoon nap, and its time for dinner. The town of Destin is close by, and the town of Grayton Beach is even closer. There is a Publix about 2-3 miles west of US 98 & SR 30A, and a Super Walmart about 11 miles west. There are two other state parks nearby on the gulf. Grayton Beach State Park is about 7 mile east of Topsail on SR 30A. It is an older state park with about 30 campsites (water and electric only) that are all gravel or dirt. Henderson Beach State Park is 11 miles west on US 98 (across from the Walmart). It has 60 sites that are all gravel, water and electric only. If one needs to be in the area and doesn’t want to be near the beach, there is Rocky Bayou State Park, located north of Destin. It has some nice sites overlooking the bayou, and would be a great place to stay if visiting the Ft. Walton/Destin area if you didn’t really care about going to the beach. If the CurbCrushers head back up to this area, the first choice would be Topsail, followed by Henderson, then Grayton.