With rainy, and possibly severe, weather moving in, our options were to stay at Rainbow Plantation for a few more days or move on over to the Florida panhandle before the rain arrived.
It looked good early, so we went with the decision to move that we made last night. I did one more review of the coastal state parks within a couple hundred miles - Big Lagoon (Pensacola), Henderson Beach (Destin), Topsail (Santa Rosa Beach), Grayton Beach (Grayton Beach), and St. Andrews (Panama City).
The Florida State Parks website was down all weekend, so I was relying on memory until this morning. Ultimately, I selected Grayton Beach State Park since 1) it was about 110 miles away, 2) it was between Destin & Panama City (more secluded with more of an "old Florida" feel), 3) it was farther off the busy U.S. Hwy 98, 4) it has a new 50-amp, full hook-up loop with large gravel sites and paved roads, and 5) it is $12 per night cheaper than the very highly rated Topsail. :)
Florida is another state park system that has sold its soul to the Reserve America reservation system. In a fruitless personal protest, I simply will not use Reserve America and pay them reservation fees for useless or, even worse, incorrect information.
But I do use them to see what sites or how many sites are available and for how long. I found several sites in the new loop available through the weekend and then called the park to confirm we could stay for several days if we decided to do that upon arrival.
By the time we got on the road, around 10:45, the clouds were moving in. We managed to stay ahead of the rain as we traveled east on U.S. Hwy 98 through Pensacola, Gulf Breeze, and Destin.
It started raining just as we reached the entrance to the park a little before 2:00. But by the time we took our Jeep tour through the campground to choose a site, it had stopped.
The ranger at the gate took a look at the size of our rig and didn't even give us the option of the older loop with crushed shell, sandy roads and sites. Those sites have more shade and are more private for $24 per night, but they are also smaller and more difficult to get into.
The new loop has sites that are close together without the level of privacy, but still with plenty of vegetation. With the 50 amps and full hook-ups, they are $30 per night. Plus there is a new bathhouse with laundry.
We selected Site 56 which is HUGE ....
and has complete privacy on our awning side.
The downside to the site is the site on the opposite side is very close and the picnic table area even wraps around the back of our rig.
But perhaps no one will park there while we are here. :) Of the available sites in the loop, only two were booked for the weekend.
The rain held off completely while we got set up and got the satellite dish locked on. But minutes after that, the sky darkened and unleashed some pretty heavy showers for awhile. By the time the rain stopped again, it was too dark to see anything, so we didn't get a chance to check out the park at all.
We signed up for a week, so perhaps the weather will move on out and we can enjoy the white sand beach and clear, emerald waters of the Gulf before we head to our next destination. In the meantime, we'll explore the little coastal towns ... when we're not cozied up inside with our fireplace. :)