white sand beach

The Unbelievable World of The Emerald Coast

florida sunset

Something particularly magical happens on the Emerald Coast of Florida around sunset; even the birds quiet their squawking for Mother Nature’s show.

The powder soft white sand beaches of Fort Walton County and Santa Rosa Beach are memorable, but even my memories couldn’t begin to hold up to the actuality of it all.  The moment we first hit the sand it all came back; the familiar squeak between our toes from the ultra fine sand, the unbelievable pastel sunsets, and the insanely friendly people. Almost nine years ago we said our wedding vows on one of these beautiful beaches near Seaside, Florida.  We haven’t been back to the area since and I can’t think of even one good reason as to why.

I mean look at this place…it’s like a fairytale!

dolphins at sunset

We had one glorious week here and now I am wishing we would have stayed longer.  We struggled to split our time fairly between the many fellow travelers in the area and the miles of coastal beaches and trails.  It was an action packed week of social gatherings and eye candy galore.

florida hiking trails

We wandered around the picture perfect town of seaside, hiked our fair share of sandy dunes, walked endless miles of snowy white beaches and pinched ourselves often just to make sure it was all real.

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best small town

food truck in seaside florida

airstream shops

Our home for the week was Topsail Hill Preserve State Park.  It’s one of the pricier state parks in the area ($42 a night) but it had full hook ups (even cable), loads of hiking trails and the scenery can’t be beat! We visited in early January and we pretty much had the run of the place.

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sand dunes emerald coast florida

We made friends with one of the rangers and he filled us in on all kinds of cool info about the park:

  • Topsail Hill is named for a dune resembling a ship’s topsail
  • They have the largest stretch of uninterrupted beach in Grayton County
  • It’s home to some of the only coastal dune lakes in the world
  • There are still “cat-face” scars in the tress from the late 1800’s from workers collecting sap for turpentine
  • You can still see iron and rebar tracks in the dunes from World War II because a section of the park was used as a testing range for the first missiles in the United States.

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best hiking topsail hill state park

white sand beach

florida state park

topsail hill state park

florida state park

It’s crazy how quickly our appreciation and amazement for the preserve grew after learning just a little about the history and importance of the area.

Outside the park and down the road at Grayton Beach State Park were our fellow traveling friends Jennifer and Deas (Nealys on Wheels).  They used to live in the area before starting their traveling adventures but considering this is a long stretch of very small towns…they are still very much locals with a finely tuned connection to the people and the goings on.

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red barn best food          Santa Rosa Beach Florida

One of their regular dives is The Red Bar on Sunday afternoons for lunch, socializing and live music.  Lucky us, not only did we get the chance to hang out with old friends but we made new ones too!  It was our first time to cross paths with Sean and Kristy of Long Long Honeymoon (they are way cool so if you see their shiny airstream, go introduce yourself)!

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As if all these cool kids weren’t enough, it turns out Betsy and Nancy (RV-A-GoGo) are workcamping at Topsail State Park(30hrs a week in exchange for their site)!  They are working the store for the month of January so if you make it to the area, go say hello.  They have incredible back stories and travel tales, we were so caught up in conversation we must have forgotten to snap a photo!

A few of our other faves from our short time in the area: Coffee and Gourmet Chocolate at Amavida Coffee and Tea along with Live Music and Upscale Food at The Bay. Its pretty obvious our Florida travels are off to an unbelievable start!

If you’ve experienced the unbelievable world of Santa Rosa Beach or any of the Emerald Coast and have some favorite places of your own to share or just want to start a conversation, tell us all about it in the comments below.

Hope to see ya on the road!

Disclaimer – A big thanks to Topsail Hill Preserve State Park for hosting us!  As always all opinions and experiences are our own.

Hello there! I honestly don’t know what to say, so I am going to tell you a bunch of random facts instead. I'm a fish eating vegetarian who hates spiders and loves snakes. I almost never took vacations growing up. I wanted to be Pippi Longstocking (still do). I misspell about every other word I write and still struggle with grammar. I love splurging on a good high tea (which is really hard to find these days). And whatever you do, don’t tell me I can’t do something, because then I'll HAVE to do it!

Comments (28)

  • Brad Dumon

    Loved Red Bar but the wait is hard to take. Try going to Stinky’s Fish Camp next time but go at like 4:30pm. George’s in Alys Beach is also one of our favorites.

  • Deborah Kirkle

    We only were able to stay one night at the Topsail Hill park as we have business in Georgia to attend to. We don’t pull a car so left and had to u turn down the road as we passed the sign to Seaside, but we found an area we can ‘t wait to come back to. It was a Friday afternoon and not a place in the world to park a 40 ft. motor home so we didn’t even get to eat at the food trailers and my husband is still dreaming of gourmet grilled cheese. The little drive by the gulf both before and after Seaside is a must see in my mind. If I could afford it, I would gladly retire in one the villages where you can walk to fun eateries and shops. There is no signage other than the names of the villages on the main drag so I thank you all so much for your suggestions. I know if you liked eating there it will be good You have made our quick trip across the country so much more enjoyable enjoying white sand in both New Mexico and Florida. Now we are parked to take a nap at a Harvest Host winery where the sweet tasting was free and a fun little gift shop. It’s Three Oaks Winery and less than a hour north of Panama City.

    • Don’t forget to sample the royal reds when you’re back on the coast, if they’re in season they are simply divine!

  • I highly recommend Eden Gardens State Park! The photo ops were wonderful at the park! We toured Topsail just to look around as they were booked for our trip, but we enjoyed our campground in Freeport! We enjoy following you guys on your travels! Thanks for sharing! Here’s our post about our Emerald Coast trip if you’re interested!

  • Michel Le Rouzes

    Always great to hear from you guys…how is the Bounder going?
    Vancouver Island the whole island ….and on the west coast Tofino one of the coolest place in North America…great food surf national park miles and miles of beaches..a ne pas manquer.
    Haida Gwaii…but that could be an other program altogether!

  • Liisa

    You TWO, are my favorite young ROCK stars… your posts, it’s like people mag of RV life….the joys, the sites, the people and the LOVE of being where you are, as that is always where your HEART is!! Someday, maybe someday, we will meet you on the road in our little 25 ft luxury Serenity by the people at Leisure Travel, Canada!!
    Always the best, warmly and keep on keeping on….Liisa and ED From Marin County California

  • You guys did basically the same trip we did last year in April. We spent a few days at Topsail and a few at Grayton. If you could take the park at Topsail and move it to Grayton’s Beach location, it would be awesome. We love Seaside.

    The food at “The Great Southern Café” is awesome.In between Topsail and Grayton on 30A is a place called “Goatfeathers”. It’s a restaurant and seafood market. While at topsail we went to the seafood market and bought oysters and shrimp. They steamed them for us and even made sure all the oysters were open for us. We took them back to the campsite and had an awesome feast. The guys in the market were awesome and friendly. Our other favorite place to eat is at the “Back Porch” in Destin. It’s beach front and has great food. The “Back Porch Oysters” that are on the appetizers menu are awesome. It’s a half dozen oysters with crabmeat dressing and melted cheese on top.

    We will be doing a two week trip to Florida this summer, but unfortunately we will not make it that far over. We are headed down to the keys and then back up the gulf coast, but not out to the panhandle…

    Brian and Angie
    RVing Illustrated

  • Vinceinva

    Nice to see pics of the old stomping grounds. I grew up down the road in Panama City Beach and remember when there was really nothing in Sea Grove…actually very little between PCB and Ft Walton, nothing in Destin but fishing boats. The whole “emerald coast” has taken on quite a transformation in the last 20 years.
    Those truly are still the worlds most beautiful beaches.

  • I wish you could have stayed longer too! It was fun to hang out for a few days. Hope to catch you again somewhere else!

    • (Very small sidenote….just was re-reading this and the county is Walton, not Grayton.)

  • Ahhh, your spectacular pictures make me glad that we are staying at Topsail another month. Great to finally meet you. Safe travels.

    • Hope to see you both again. Enjoy the sugary soft sand 🙂

  • Andrew Silver

    We were at Topsail over Thanksgiving! Very nice park. We also spent 2 days at Emerald Beach RV park in Navarre and 3 nights beachfront (we splurged) at Camp Gulf. Wish our paths had crossed, would love to meet you guys someday. We have a Fleetwood as well (32BH).

  • Aaron and Beth Jones

    We love Destin Area Beaches…Beautiful pics Guys,

  • Pat S

    Don’t miss dining at Stinky’s Fish Camp. Good food and great ambiance. I recommend the Oyster Plank – 3 dozen oysters prepared many ways served on a piece of drift wood.

  • paul van

    Totally awesome state of mind. Squish your toes in the white powder they call sand and take a swig of an ice cold beer! Great pics! They bring it all back.

  • You two continue to be an inspiration. We haven’t driven Bessie to FL yet (YET!), but we’ll be sure to plan to visit the Emerald Isle when the time comes. Thanks so much!

  • Jim S.

    Top Sail middle of winter and empty? Would think there would be many RVers from the north claiming that place, unless it is not far enough south. What is the weather there like there? Your pictures there says the weather is perfect. Nice reporting.

    • It’s a little bit chilly here so I think it’s just not far enough south for many snowbirds.

  • I’m from SE Forida, but have lived here in East Tennessee since 1977. When I see these lovely pictures of the beautiful weather and seaside down there, it makes me so homesick I can hardly stand it! January is so beautiful in South Florida. Best month of the year.

  • mary van

    So many fond memories as a young adult in this area. We used to vacation there every year as a teen.

    I can’t believe it has been 9 years. I’m not the only one getting older!

    • yea, yea, yea…I hear you loud and clear mom…even through my old man ear hair 🙂

  • Roy gress

    We are glad you guys enjoyed topsail. It is one of our favs in the panhandle. We just discovered the cool canyon views of Torreya State Park near Tallahassee on our last adventure. 14 miles from I 10 on narrow winding roads but the overlook campsite was worth it.

    Roy & Jacqui Gress
    Sorrento, Fl

    • Torreya sounds great, we’ll have to look it up as we head north again. Thanks for sharing.

  • mike

    You guy’s are great, I have only been following your posts for a short amount of time and I wish I would of done just what you are doing when I was your age. I have 2 more years until I can retire and then I am buying a Thor ace 30.1 and taking off. The only problem is I am to old and stiff and sore to do all that fun stuff you are doing, but I am going to give it a shot.
    Jason I love your shoe laces.
    I live in Ft. Lauderdale and I just want to worn you of all the crazy and rude drivers in south Florida, be careful on the I-95 and the turnpike they will run you off the road.
    I will keep watching your travels and live thru you for awhile, keep having fun and who knows maybe I will see you on the road someday, unless you are on your sailboat by then.
    good luck

    • Thanks Mike,
      We have noticed FL drivers are a little wild. See ya on the road!


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