Living in Florida for over a decade, visiting the Panhandle has been something we have been meaning to do. The Santa Rosa beach area has plenty of parks and campgrounds to chose from. We camped at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park. There are plenty of trails to get some exercise, including paved portions open for biking. We hiked the trail to Campbell and Morris Lakes, which are Coastal Dune Lakes, a rare type of lake formed by sand dunes. They can only be found in Madagascar, New Zealand, Australia, and here in the Panhandle. The hike out only took about 30 minutes to Campbell, and then another 30 to Morris on both a paved trail, and then a sandy trail. Be aware that the trails are nature trails, which means you may see some wildlife like the Pygmy Rattlesnake I almost stepped on, and the alligator we saw swimming in Morris Lake. I definitely recommend bringing or finding a walking stick to hit on the ground in front of you as you walk.
Of course we headed out and about to check out the surrounding areas. We explored the areas around Destin, Seaside, Panama City, and Pensacola. Each of these stops had things that set them apart from the others.
Seaside is about 15 mins East of the Santa Rosa area on 30A. It has a cute Central Square that was all decked out for the holidays. There were lovely shops and restaurants and a row of Airstream Food Trucks serving up a variety of tasty treats. We split a platter at Barefoot BBQ, which was delicious, and then spent the rest of the day at the beach. The sunsets here are simply breathtaking. Later in the week we enjoyed Paella and some wonderful wine with new friends at 45 Central. They only make it a couple of times a week so make sure you check ahead of time! This new planned community really became our favorite place in the Panhandle.
Destin is a newer city with a great waterfront area filled with shops and restaurants. If you are looking for a more high end destination on the Panhandle, Destin is a great location for you. If you continue towards Pensacola, you will come across miles and miles of beautiful sand dunes. This entire area is very picturesque.
Panama City seems to be geared more towards the Spring Break crowd, though there is a newer section that was filled with chain restaurants, bars, and shops. The rest of the area is filled with novelty stores and the tourist trap area similar to International Drive in Orlando with wax museums and mini golf courses.
Pensacola is a military town that has a great historic area to stroll around. Many of the buildings are similar to those in the French Quarter, built with bricks and iron works. There are a few small, but nice parks, and public art pieces throughout the area. The Veterans Memorial Park has some magnificent statues and memorials, including a replica of D.C.'s Vietnam Wall. Of course there are tributes to the Blue Angels all throughout the city.
One thing that all of these places have in common is miles and miles of gorgeous beaches, with sugar sand and sparkling clear water, all a part of the National Gulf Seashore. It is some of the coolest, softest, and whitest sand we have ever seen and the water explains why they call this the Emerald Coast.
All photos were taken and are owned by Third Rock Explorations. Copyright Protected 2019.
We often hear how lucky we are to not have to work and to just travel full-time, but the truth is, travel is a lot of work. We started our journey around the world 6 months ago, and we have quickly learned that this isn't going to be all play, no work.
Currently, we are traveling around the United States in a small van that we built to live out of, not in. Most of our nights are spent camping, staying with friends, or in hotels. We usually spend an average of 2-3 nights in most places, with some of our bucket list stops averaging 5-6 nights. This means, that we usually spend a few hours driving to our new location, then we have to set up camp or pack our bags to bring up to the hotel room. We then have time to catch up on our Journals, eat dinner, check in on things back home, and then plan the next couple of days in that location. This means researching our "To Do/To See" lists and coordinating how long each activity takes along with drive time and proximity to other activities. We generally like to be out exploring about 6 hours each day, though many are much longer than that. We also research our followers suggestions and any suggestions we've received from locals, and see if they are a good fit for us. Sometimes we get so many great suggestions that we end up extending our stay. Toni is in charge of looking up the festivals in the area to see if there is anything fun and unusual going on that we may want to add to our agenda. Sometimes the planning can take hours. We also have to consider hours and days places are open, traffic concerns, weather, and other things that may impact our time there. You would be surprised how often major attractions will be closed on Mondays, throwing a wrench into the entire plan! Now that the schedule is complete, we can get some sleep!
The next morning starts with breakfast, and hopefully a workout. With all of the delicious local eats we find, we have to find a good balance, which is a challenge in itself (which is a BLOG for another time)! We then get on the road to go explore for the day. While we are exploring, we are taking hundreds of pictures throughout the day, both for our memories, and to share with our followers. During lunch we usually take a few minutes to post about our day to keep our followers engaged. After dinner, it's back to camp or our room to journal about our day. We both keep separate journals so we can keep our separate perspectives of each stop. I spend about an hour reviewing all of the pictures of the day, making sure they made it to the cloud, and then choosing ones to share with our followers. After that, I respond to our followers comments, and then spend some time supporting some of their pages with likes and comments. I then check my emails, log our financials, and address any concerns with our business back home. Some nights we get to relax a bit before hitting the sack.
Each day is pretty much the same, until we get to our last day at a location. That evening is spent scouring the Internet for our next "home", and the best deal we can find on it. This means searching camping options, Air B&B, hotels, and our latest option, house/pet sitting options. We have to take into location the cost and the location, along with things like parking. When we stay in cities, parking, if not included,can be quite expensive and also can be difficult to find. Many garages don't have the clearance that we need, even for our small van! There are so many little details involved in the logistics of traveling full-time, so much more that we could have imagined. Thankfully we started in the U.S. so we can work out our schedule and figure out all of these little details. Once we start the International part of our trip, I'm sure it will bring many other logistical headaches that we will have to learn to deal with. In the meantime, we are happy with how smooth the trip has been, and how much we have learned about travel.
Our last day at a location means it's time to pack up, break down camp, load the van, and hit the road, starting the whole process over again! We try to schedule "down days" to catch up on our website, write some reviews, BLOG, and business projects, but just like at home, when you take one thing off of the "To Do" list, 3 more things are added. This is one of the reasons that keeping up with our BLOG has been so difficult...we are still working, a lot! Travel is a wonderful experience and we are truly lucky to be in a position to take this adventure, but make no mistake, if you are planning to travel full-time, be prepared to work!
All photos were taken and are owned by Third Rock Explorations. Copyright Protected 2019.
exploring the big easy
New Orleans has always been on our bucket list for a long weekend, but not for Mardi Gras. We arrived in New Orleans the first week of December, and the city is decked out in red bows, garland, Christmas Trees and lights. The decorations along with the iron works throughout the city, make you feel like you've stepped into a Dicken's Christmas Story, without the snow (UPDATE: It's snowing in New Orleans today!). Walking around this historic city just seems magical this time of the year.
Yeah, I know, Mardi Gras looks like an amazing party, but if a huge mass of very drunk people behaving badly isn't your scene, then consider New Orleans around Christmastime (Note: There are family friendly parades all through Carnivale, including on Mardi Gras). If that is your scene, the good news is that there is always a party going on down Bourbon Street. There are plenty of opportunities to partake in the festivities and if you enjoy people watching, there are plenty of partying people to watch every single night! Worried that you are missing out on the parade? Plan your trip around the annual Christmas Parade that runs down Canal Street. No, it's not as large as the Mardi Gras parade, but there were a lot of floats and people throwing beads, stuffed animals, cups, candy, and all of the traditional Mardi Gras swag! If it's not enough floats for you, head to Mardi Gras World and check out where the floats, as well as other sculptures for Disney and other parks and casinos are made. The tour shows you how these floats are made and not only will you see some old props, but you will get a preview of the floats and props they are working on for the next Mardi Gras! Did you know that they start celebrating the first week in January and there is at least one parade every single day until Mardi Gras!