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Previous trips can be accessed by clicking the following links:

2013
Iceland, Finland, Estonia, Russia, Mongolia, China, Thailand, Cambodia and South Korea

2014
Germany, Poland, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Israel, Jordan and Denmark

2015
Hawaii, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Nepal, India and England

2016
Latvia, Lithhuania, Ukraine, Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania, Greece, Egypt, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Ethiopia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa, U.A.E. and Denmark.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Grayton Beach: Our Piece of Heaven on Earth

After driving down the Eastern Seaboard, we finally arrived on May 17th in Florida, our destination for the next four weeks. We stopped for the night in Neptune Beach in the NE part of the state.
It was so blissful walking along the beach the next morning as the sand was packed as hard as concrete which made it easy to walk on unlike the beaches much further west on Florida's Panhandle, our home away from home for one twelfth of every year.

If we'd had more time at Neptune Beach, we could have walked for miles along the beach. But we had a couple of hundred miles to drive that day before we could reach our final destination.
Only on Florida's Atlantic beaches, we've discovered, it it possible to ride bikes along the beaches since the sand is so hard.

For about the last dozen years or so, Steven and I've been staying at Grayton Beach State Park on the Panhandle for about three plus weeks every summer. For those unfamiliar with Florida, the park is located about a 45 minute drive east from the nearest big city, Destin. Until three years ago, we stayed in the camping area of the park, which is separated from the cabin area by more than a mile.

You can see from this photo why this whole area is called Florida's Emerald Coast! Every morning, Steven drives my car the short distance from our cabin to this almost desolated section of the state park beach as it's so far from the camping beach. I prefer to walk the short distance to get that extra bit of exercise and also catch up with family and friends on the phone en route.
This was the first year we can remember where we've had such consistently high winds and also so much precipitation. On May 25th, we could only think of Judith Viorst's book called 'Alexander and his terrible, horrible, no good and very bad day.' That was the day the winds were so strong, our beach umbrella blew away and was totaled, my laptop crashed and I lost a lot of work done on our fall South America itinerary, the TV we brought from home gave up the ghost AND my hometown NHL team, the Ottawa Senators got beat by the Pittsburgh Penguins in double overtime of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals!
Often in the evenings, we go for walks along the beach. Loved this scene of kids playing in a shallow 'pool' not far from the beach. The brown sign indicates the park boundary.
We aren't always this lucky having the gorgeous, white sandy beach to ourselves but the threatening skies must have scared off other beach goers!
The gaily painted fence camouflaged utility equipment in the hamlet of Grayton Beach.

As long as we've been coming down to Grayton, we've seen this man walk past us while we're sitting in our beach chairs every afternoon without fail. I wonder if he, like us, is only here in the summertime or if he lives nearby.
Over the years, we've spent countless hours when we were camping riding our bikes or, more recently, walking in the neighboring idyllic communities of Seaside and Watercolor.
The Chapel at Seaside on the village green:
We never grow tired of strolling along the quiet lanes with the adorable homes, each one with a sign naming the home and its inhabitants.





Even though we've ridden and walked on the miles and miles of trails countless times through the communities, they were still as enjoyable this time as they were our first time.










Each year we return to our favorite restaurant in the area for a delicious pizza. 
This was the first time, though, we'd seen what looked like a bachelorette party at the restaurant!
One of our traditions each year while eating pizza there is to come up with ideas for future Big Trips, i.e. our overseas trips. On May 28th, we hatched plans for vacations through 2020 and wrote them down in Steven's little notebook.
After dinner, we stopped for a moment so I could mail some cards in the so-so cute Seaside Post Office.

As we walk over the dunes along the boardwalk to the beach each day, one of the small highlights has been watching the magnolia bushes bloom.
Oops, another windy day and high waves at the beach which meant the No Swimming flag was up.

Oh well, it meant another day with few other people on the beach!



The winds at least made for some pretty patterns in the sand even if the blowing sand stung us like crazy.
Suellen: As you aptly named Steven, here's the Sherpa!
For a change of pace one evening, we walked along County Road 30A, the road closest to the beach that stretches for miles and miles. You know this area of Florida is so popular when so many out-of-state cars sport the telltale light blue 30A decals. I was delighted to see one on a car in our local King Soopers grocery store parking lot a few weeks before we left for this trip!

Even the local Walmart got into the 30A marketing frenzy by selling the same-named beer.  
We have ridden and walked umpteen times past this ice cream creamery in the small community of Blue Mountain Beach but the consistently long lines have deterred us from stopping until one night this year. After all, we had to see what the fuss was all about, huh!
Another gorgeous sunset on the beach on our walk back to Grayton.








The park's cabin area and state beach is just before the homes in this photo. The camping area is another mile and a half beyond that. In between are some private homes and then the town of Grayton Beach. Its residents are allowed to drive trucks right down on the beach.

Another day at the beach with our friendly companions.

Luckily, access to the gorgeous sand dunes is prohibited by state law.
When approaching the boardwalk each morning, we always wonder what color the beach flag will be. We were always relieved to see the yellow one as it signified calm waters.
After our umbrella was destroyed when it blew away, we bought a beach tent, something we had rarely seen until this year at the beach. It made so much sense as it protects me much better from the hot rays of the sun than the umbrella while providing some ventilation. Steven has only used it once or twice, preferring to sit in the sun all day long. 
This was the first version of the tent we bought. Sitting in it felt like I was in a cocoon as the vented 'windows' didn't come down far enough so I could look out at all.
We were camping at Grayton just weeks after the 2010 BP oil spill. Even now, all these years later, we still sadly see signs of that horrific disaster.
On June 1st, I couldn't resist taking photos of the beautiful blooms on the magnolia bush beside the boardwalk, since that was the last time we'd see them for a few days.

It was almost impossible to believe two great weeks at the park had already sped by. That meant we had to leave the park for a minimum of three nights before being able to return for up to 14 more nights. The park is always so popular, we have to make reservations exactly 11 months to the minute in advance to be guaranteed a spot the following year. 
The park's two-bedroom cabins have no wifi, no TV and limited amenities but they have worked well for us once we learned to bring much needed kitchen items from home AND to make connections with park management when faced with a malfunctioning fridge, missing blankets, etc.




We keep coming back to Grayton Beach year after year as, for us, it's the most beautiful, affordable AND, most importantly, the most relaxing place we've discovered. It has the perfect combination of a gorgeous beach, superb walking or biking trails nearby and the most charming communities of Seaside and Watercolor a short hop away and is 'just' 1400 miles from Denver! Here at Grayton Beach, we can recharge our weary batteries by being 'beach bums' and while away hour after hour reading books to our hearts' content.

Next: Three days with the Pensacola pelicans!

Posted on June 8th, 2017 from Grayton Beach, Florida.

6 comments:

  1. Why it's every bit as nice as Lanark County in the summer! :)

    Thanks for sharing, you guys!

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  2. Love, love that part of Florida as well. I think a beach tent might be the only thing that keeps me from turning into a lobster! -Will

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  3. You've sold me on this piece of paradise in Florida -- gorgeous !!

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  4. Wow, what a nice beach cottage. Not like I had imagined. Its nice and hot back here in Denver, minus the humidity of Florida. Lil Red

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  5. Hello Annie and Steve ~ Thanks for finding us at One Road at a Time. It's always nice to connect with those who travel similar paths in redefining retirement! Safe travels as you look to have a full fall season of travel ahead of you. I look forward to following. Patti

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  6. Now I understand the draw of this little place and why you return year after year. Just stunning.

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