The Unbelievable World of The Emerald Coast

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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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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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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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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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.