RVing Across the Florida Panhandle

The Suwanee River Divides the Florida Panhandle from the Peninsula of Florida

Reflections of cypress trees, with their feet in the Suwanee River.
Reflections of cypress trees, with their feet in the Suwanee River. | Source

RVing the Forgotten Coast on the Florida Panhandle

One winter, while RVing in Florida, we decided to explore the Forgotten Coast of Florida, the Gulf Coast of the Florida Panhandle. Hoping to escape the bustling traffic and crowded campgrounds we had encountered on the Atlantic coast of Florida, we changed direction and headed to the Florida Panhandle. There we found some delightful campgrounds, beautiful scenery, out-of-the-way places and quaint towns that are often overlooked by winter tourists.

Cedar Key

One of the first places we visited along the Gulf Coast was Cedar Key located on a cluster of islands just off the west coast of Florida. It is sometimes compared to Key West. Although it's much smaller and even more remote, when you finally reach Cedar Key, you'll find a tiny town with casual restaurants and a seaside vacation feel. Even the pelicans are laid back as they hang around the docks waiting for fish to fall into their beaks!

The quaint little village, once a prosperous a fishing village, is now home to several casual restaurants and shops. After a seafood lunch at one of the Gulf view restaurants, we headed out to the Wildlife preserve and came upon Shell Mound, a remote little campground run by the county. Unfortunately, we had already parked our RV at another campground, so could not spend the night here, but it definitely went on our list for future reference.

Pelicans are permanent residents of Cedar Key

This pelican stood guard on the boardwalk in Cedar Key, perhaps waiting patiently for a generous fisherman to share his catch.
This pelican stood guard on the boardwalk in Cedar Key, perhaps waiting patiently for a generous fisherman to share his catch. | Source

The town of Cedar Key

This is Dock Street, the main street of the tiny town of Cedar Key.
This is Dock Street, the main street of the tiny town of Cedar Key. | Source

Old Folks at Home

Suwanee River - Way down upon it...

The Suwanee River begins in Georgia's Okefenokee Swamp. For 246 miles, it makes its lazy way through Gerogia and into Florida until it reaches the Gulf of Mexico near the town of Suwanee, Florida. The river actually separates the Florida Panhandle from the peninsula of Florida, so it is a fitting place to begin this article.

Nearby are the Cedar Keys where visitors can visit the Suwanee River Wildlife Refuge, and sample the flavor of the Florida delta and Gulf Coast. There are dirt roads to explore, and those with a boat can meander through the water ways of the delta. While we did some exploring by of Cedar Keys by car and by foot, we camped at the Suwanee River Campground within walking distance of the river. After seeing the pretty little county park at Shell Mound, we would definitely make that one of our stops, too.

For northerners like me, the spelling "Suwanee" may seem wrong as we might know the river from Stephen Foster's song Old Folks At Home that contains the line, "Way down upon the Swanee River..." Well, old Stephen not only misspelled the name of the river, but he never actually saw the river that he made famous! Nevertheless, Florida fell in love with the song and made it the Florida state song in 1935! And who doesn't love that nostalgic old melody?


Walkway to Suwanee River from the Suwanee River Campground

This wooden walkway leads through the swamp to the Suwanee River. There were some bright yellow flowers lighting up dark spots along the walk, and creating a pleasant spring-like atmosphere.
This wooden walkway leads through the swamp to the Suwanee River. There were some bright yellow flowers lighting up dark spots along the walk, and creating a pleasant spring-like atmosphere. | Source

Way Down Upon the Suwanee River on the Florida Panhandle

View of the Suwanee River on the Florida Panhandle.
View of the Suwanee River on the Florida Panhandle. | Source

Walkway to the Suwanee River

From the Suwanee River Campground, take the walkway through the swamp to the Suwanee River.
From the Suwanee River Campground, take the walkway through the swamp to the Suwanee River. | Source

Apalachicola - A quaint maritime town on The Forgotten Coast

The small town of Apalachicola, about 90 miles southwest of Tallahassee, is one of the gems of the Florida Panhandle's Forgotten Coast. Apalachicola is a small, quaint, historic town with a maritime culture. We enjoyed walking around the marina to see the many small fishing boats and strolling through the town visiting gift shops and restaurants. There are some beautifully restored homes and hotels in Apalachicola that make the town worth seeing by driving or walking tour.

Fishing boats in Apalachicola Florida

Fishing boats wait to go out at the docks in Apalachicola, Florida.
Fishing boats wait to go out at the docks in Apalachicola, Florida. | Source

St. George Island State Park on the bay side

Looking across the bay from St. George Island State Park. Florida Panhandle.
Looking across the bay from St. George Island State Park. Florida Panhandle. | Source

St. George Island State Park

Located at the end of the road on St. George Island, the state park encompasses 2,023 acres between the bay and the Gulf of Mexico. There are two campgrounds and many miles of white sand beaches as well as wooded areas which are host to an abundance of birds and wildlife. The beaches are usually almost deserted in the winter months because the water is generally too cool for swimming, but the state park is still very popular with RVers who are there to enjoy the mild weather and beautiful scenery. Be sure to make reservations if you intend to camp here!

St. George Island State Park has miles of white sand beaches.

The sun casts its shadows in the sand in the morning and at the end of the day.
The sun casts its shadows in the sand in the morning and at the end of the day. | Source
A lone fisherman surf fishes on St. George Island State Park beach. In the winter, the beaches are deserted except for a few fishermen and some Great Blue Herons who stalk them hoping for a handout.
A lone fisherman surf fishes on St. George Island State Park beach. In the winter, the beaches are deserted except for a few fishermen and some Great Blue Herons who stalk them hoping for a handout. | Source

Great Blue Heron with a fish at St. George Island State Park

This great blue heron stalked the fishermen until he was able to steal one of the catch and releases.
This great blue heron stalked the fishermen until he was able to steal one of the catch and releases. | Source

Crooked River Lighthouse

We came across the Crooked River Lighthouse in Carrabelle, Florida as we made our way along the Gulf Coast of Florida's Panhandle. The lighthouse stands 100 feet tall, and has been restored to working order. Although it is open to the public, we did not climb the lighthouse, but chose to view it from the grounds below. Even though the structure is much different from the lighthouses along the Atlantic coast that we had visited, the lighthouse was a striking sight against the blue sky and framed by the green pines.

Crooked River Lighthouse

Crooked River Lighthouse, near Carrabelle, Florida, is a working lighthouse along the Gulf Coast.
Crooked River Lighthouse, near Carrabelle, Florida, is a working lighthouse along the Gulf Coast. | Source

Crooked River Lighthouse Photograph

Crooked River lighthouse
Crooked River lighthouse | Source

Sea Gulls flying over our heads try to steal our lunch

Gulls flying overhead try to grab our sandwiches from our hands while we eat!
Gulls flying overhead try to grab our sandwiches from our hands while we eat! | Source

Apalachicola National Forest

The Apalachicola National forest in the Florida Panhandle is the largest forest in Florida at 571,088 acres. With many fresh water streams, rivers and lakes, it’s well known for its biological diversity and recreation opportunities.

Although it is definitely off the beaten path, one of the quietest and prettiest places we found to camp was Wright Lake Campground in the Apalachicola National Forest. There is a small lake with a swimming beach, pretty walking trails through the forest around the lake, and a quiet campground. The long leaf pine forest is home to a dwindling population of the red cockaded woodpecker which depends on the long leaf pine as its habitat.

Wright Lake Campground, Apalachicola National Forest is near Sumatra, Florida. The campground is very reasonably priced, and we loved the spacious campsites and the proximity to the lake.

Wright Lake in the Apalachicola National Forest

Wright Lake is a beautiful little lake tucked away in the Apalachicola National Forest. Surrounded by long leaf pines, it is an area of quiet beauty and solitude.
Wright Lake is a beautiful little lake tucked away in the Apalachicola National Forest. Surrounded by long leaf pines, it is an area of quiet beauty and solitude. | Source

Apalachicola National Forest campsite at Wright Lake

Our campsite at Wright Lake in Florida's Apalachicola National Forest was quiet and sunny. Some RVing Snowbirds choose this hideaway as a roost for part of the winter.
Our campsite at Wright Lake in Florida's Apalachicola National Forest was quiet and sunny. Some RVing Snowbirds choose this hideaway as a roost for part of the winter. | Source

Sunset in Panama City Florida

One of the most peaceful and beautiful times to walk on the beaches of Florida's Gulf coast is at sunset. The sun setting in the Gulf of Mexico reflects oranges and reds in the calm water, and even tints the white sand with its warm colors. When the fishing pier is silhouetted by the setting sun, the picture is irresistible.

This was one of our evenings on the Florida Panhandle, so finishing this article with one of the spectacular sunsets that we enjoyed along the Florida Gulf coast seems appropriate.

I hope you've enjoyed this small taste of the Forgotten Coast and Florida's Panhandle.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Copyright 2011©Stephanie Henkel

We came upon this fishing pier near Panama City Beach just at sunset.

The fishing pier near Panama City Beach Florida is silhouetted by the glow of the setting sun.
The fishing pier near Panama City Beach Florida is silhouetted by the glow of the setting sun. | Source

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Comments 36 comments

davenmidtown profile image

davenmidtown 5 years ago from Sacramento, California

Stephanie: What a beautiful hub... The photography is off the charts and the story is just full of that song... you can't help but here it was you read... this is magical... voted up and shared with the gang.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina

Wow! Voted up across the board including funny because I thought the great blue heron stealing the fisherman's fish was funny. I particularly loved the sunset and the pelican photos. Thanks for sharing this with us. It was really a treat just taking the photo tour.


risingsun13 profile image

risingsun13 5 years ago

nice.


Pollyannalana profile image

Pollyannalana 5 years ago from US

Fantastic. Thanks for sharing!


Vinaya Ghimire profile image

Vinaya Ghimire 5 years ago from Nepal

I have not been in Florida, not even been to the United States; however, this photo gallery gives me the taste of what's it like being there.


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA Author

Davenmidtown -I loved the places we visited across the Florida Panhandle, and found it difficult to narrow down which places to include. Thank you so much for your enthusiastic comments - they do mean a lot to me as I admire your work immensely!


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA Author

Happyboomernurse - I love the pelicans, too, and no matter how many pictures I have of them, can never resist taking a few more! The same is true for the great blue heron - and this one was definitely a comedian. I wish I had him on video as he stalked the fisherman!

Thanks so much for stopping by to comment! You and Davenmidtown got to this before I finished posting the announcement on the contest forum!


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA Author

Rising Sun and Pollyannalana - Thanks so much for stopping by to view my photo gallery of the Florida Panhandle!

Vinaya - The Florida Panhandle is definitely a unique place in our diverse country. I hope that you will visit one day. Thanks for stopping by to view my hub and to comment!


emichael profile image

emichael 5 years ago from New Orleans

What a great journey. This is very well laid out.

I love St. George Island. I went there on vacation with my family last summer. Have you been up in the lighthouse they have on the island?


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA Author

emichael - St. George Island is a very beautiful place, and it must be a lot of fun in the summer when you can swim in that beautiful blue water! I have not been to the lighthouse on the island, but it's on our to-do list for the next trip to the Florida Panhandle! Thanks for stopping in to read and comment on my hub!


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

Incredibly awesome Steph! I've been to Cedar Key a few times. I really enjoyed it there. I've also traveled through the panhandle never took the time to stop so thank you for the photos and the history! :)


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA Author

Sunshine - There are many beautiful out-of-the-way places on the Florida panhandle. We loved the time we spent there, and look forward to RVing on the Gulf Coast of the panhandle again someday. Thank you for stopping by to comment. I'm so glad you enjoyed my photographs!


ehasert profile image

ehasert 5 years ago from Mesa, AZ

Thnx, that was another good one. I love that you make us feel like we were there. We never gave Florida a good chance. We hated the Orlando area & just booked out of there to get to Livingston. Now I'm sorry we didn't know about these places! I think that lone fisherman looks a lot like someone I know!!


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA Author

Haha, Estelle! That lone fisherman might just be someone you know! :) There's certainly a lot to do in Florida, but a lot of places in the center of the state are crowded and expensive, especially in snowbird season. The Florida panhandle has a lot to offer RVers who are looking for a quiet place for a few weeks. Thanks again for stopping to visit my hubs!


ehasert profile image

ehasert 5 years ago from Mesa, AZ

We did stop in Pensacola for a few days & saw the Air museum, which was wonderful! I just wish we had known about those other places. Oh well. Maybe someday we can travel there again. You never know what God has planned. Loveya


randomcreative profile image

randomcreative 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Wow, I think that your photos would want to make anyone visit the panhandle! Beautiful.


Billrrrr profile image

Billrrrr 5 years ago from Cape Cod

Thanks for this informative and interesting hub. I will add this to my list of places to which I hope to go before I go.


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA Author

Estelle- I didn't include Pensacola, though we did visit there. We also loved the Air Museum and all the info about the Blue Angels! Another hub, I guess...


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA Author

Randomcreative - Thanks so much for visiting and for your comment. There are so many beautiful places to see in every state...


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA Author

Bilrrrr - I'm glad you found this hub about the Florida Panhandle interesting. Thank you for stopping by to view my photographs and to comment!


frogyfish profile image

frogyfish 5 years ago from Central United States of America

Thank you for a beautiful hub about my old stomping grounds...even though I have never been to Wright Lake. I did live in Panama City and worked at a beach restaurant one summer...hectic!


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA Author

Frogyfish - Panama City was quiet when we were there- we left when the spring break crowd started moving in! RVing across Florida Panhandle, we came across many places we'd like to revisit, especially the beautiful Gulf Coast beaches (off season!). Thanks for stopping in to read and comment on my hub!


oceansnsunsets profile image

oceansnsunsets 5 years ago from The Midwest, USA

Stephanie, this hub has so many of the things I love most in life, the a coastline, wildlife, lighthouses, sunsets and so much more. It was great to listen to your encounters and recommendations for future spots to go with an RV etc.

It was great to take a little trip there also, in this format. I especially loved the photos of the birds! Thanks for sharing!


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA Author

Oceansunsets- It was hard not to take hundreds of pictures of the great blue herons as they walked the beaches as posed for us on St. George Island! We too love the beaches, the Gulf coast sunsets and the wildlife of the Florida Panhandle. Thanks for visiting my hub. I always appreciate your comments!


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 5 years ago from Western New York

What fantastic pictures! One of these days, I want to get the family down to Florida to indulge in that gorgeous sunshine! It is a 20 hour drive from NY state, though, so it will probably be a while (I don't fancy that drive with my four and six year olds)! The great blue heron is really neat! I love the moss in the trees and the pictures of the Suwanee River. I love traveling vicariously through others' experiences!


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA Author

Leahlefler- New York state is a very long drive from the Florida Panhandle, but I'm happy that you are enjoying a virtual visit via my hubs! We loved seeing the great blue herons on the beach, but we also saw them in New York state when we lived there. It seems they have a very large territory. Thanks for your very nice comments and or dropping by to read my hubs!


stephaniedas profile image

stephaniedas 5 years ago from Miami, US

It is my dream to travel the forgotten coast. It seems much more peaceful than other parts of Florida!


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA Author

Stephaniedas - Although some of the bigger resort cities on the coast are busy, I think on the whole, the Gulf Coast on Florida's Panhandle is quieter and more relaxed. I'm sure you'll enjoy visiting there when you go.


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 5 years ago from Southern Georgia

I am very familiar with this section of Florida's gulf coast and it is indeed a beautiful stretch of coastline. Apalachicola has some of the best oysters I've ever tasted. Enjoyed your photos and remarks in this hub.


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA Author

Hello Randy - Although I'm not a fan of oysters, some of the dishes I've seen pictured look mighty tasty! We saw many oyster boats in Apalachicola Bay while we were there. It seems to be a huge industry there. I'm so glad you enjoyed my hub - Thanks for visiting and for your comments!


mperrottet profile image

mperrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

My husband and I are going to RV in the Florida panhandle as well as visit Gulf State Park in Alabama, so this was a really good hub to come across. Voted Up, interesting, useful and beautiful.


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 4 years ago from USA Author

Mperrottet - We really loved the Florida panhandle, and some nice private parks as well as the beautiful state parks on the Gulf. I know you'll love it! Thanks so much for stopping by to comment. Have a great time RVing the Florida Panhandle!


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

Your photos and details always tempt me to rent an RV and hit the road. Well, not actually "hit the road." Ouch! You know what I mean :)

I really enjoyed visiting with Cedar Key once again! :)


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 4 years ago from USA Author

Sunshine625 - Florida has so many lovely places, especially on the Panhandle where there are still so many undiscovered places to explore. Glad you enjoyed a virtual RV trip with me! :)


susanouzts profile image

susanouzts 2 years ago from Monroe County, GA

Loved your article. You might also try Cape San Blas (St. Joe Peninsula State Park.) It's lovely!


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 2 years ago from USA Author

susanouzts - We love the Florida Panhandle...thanks for the heads up on St. Joe Peninsula State Park. We'll keep it in mind next time we're in the area!

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