Anastasia State Park and St. Augustine

St. Augustine is America’s oldest city, officially founded in 1565 by Pedro Menendez. We have wanted to visit for a long time and our return from Tampa provided an opportunity.

Anastasia is the third Florida State Park visited on our trip to Tampa and we are big fans of all of them.   Anastasia offers lots of shade and privacy, a very good thing, but it does not facilitate interaction with your neighbors.  We had no neighbors across from us, and thick foliage on both sides.   The sites are on firmly-packed sand and our site, #92, was quite spacious.

With the ample shade and close bathhouse, our setup was minimal.  Also, we wanted to keep it simple as we planned to spend most of our time away from the site.  We had tons of room!   There would be plenty of room for a big rig as well, though the turn off the road is a little tight.

Site # 92
My big guy

We checked out the beach, which is within the park.  It was beautiful, but so windy!  There were 16 mph winds in St. Augustine that day, and I suspect they were a good bit higher on the beach.  There was a boardwalk to the beach, with wetlands on each side.

Boardwalk to the beach
The beach located within the park

It was quite difficult to walk on the beach with the high winds, but this would be a wonderful place on a day with better weather.   I would love to come back in late August or September, after summer crowds diminish.

It was so cold and windy that we decided to build a fire, something we have never done before while camping.   Using wood purchased from the campground store, we had a very nice fire going rather quickly.  Our hot dogs for dinner were cooked over the fire.  After dinner, we sat for a long time just watching the fire and drinking wine.  The night was chilly and the fire was mesmerizing.

Our dinner entertainment

We were up early the next day to see the sights in St. Augustine.  We parked our car at the lighthouse and took the Old Town Trolly Tour bus to the historic district.   It is a pretty small area, but my husband’s knee was not up to a lot of walking, so the trolly was a good option for us.

St. Augustine has many old structures, such as the fortress below.   Castillo De San Marcos is a U.S. National Park and the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States.  Constrution began in 1672 and was completed in 1695.  Unfortunately, we did not have time for a tour, but we plan to visit it the next time we are in the city.

Castillo De San Marcos

There are many “firsts” in Saint Augustine.  The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Augustine was America’s first parrish, founded on September8, 1565.

The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Augustine

Saint Augustine’s oldest house is pictured below.  It was built in 1702.

Oldest House in St. Augustine                                                                                                                    

We spent some time at the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park and drank some of the water.  We surely need it!  It was from the same water source as legend has it that Ponce De Leon drank in his search for the Fountain of Youth.  The water has lots of minerals and a strong sulfur taste.  It was pretty bad, but I am hoping the placebo effect will kick in.

There is a replica of a Timucua Indian village and demonstrations of how they lived.   Timucuas were the indigenous people in St. Augustine during the time that Ponce De Leon was in the area.   The park also provides live canon firings every hour.

Examples of how Timucua Indians lived

The park is beautifully landscaped and filled with peacocks, including albino peacocks like the one below.

Albino peacock
One of many canons in the park

After some educational shows at the Fountain of Youth Park , we had a late lunch at O. C. White’s Seafood and Spirits, which was recommend by a local.  The meal and service were both excellent!

A Trolly bus took us back to the lighthouse and our car.  The lighthouse is on Anastasia Island and quite impressive.  It is 140 feet high with 219 steps to the top.  I am happy to say that I made the climb.  It was not easy, but not too difficult.   It was incredibly windy at the top.   I was told that the winds were over 25 mph.

Stairway to the top
View from the top

It is still a functioning lighthouse and continues to be used for navigation.

The lighthouse at night

The Keeper’s House, built in 1876 was also a part of the tour.  It is a beautiful house with massive live oak trees in the front yard.

The Keeper’s House
Front yard at the Keeper’s House

Time constraints prevented us from doing everything we wanted.  We really needed two full days to see St. Augustine and would also want to some time to spend at the beach if the weather is good.  If we are able to go back to St. Augustine, we want to see the fort, Flagler College, and the Lightner Museum.  There are a lot of touristy places in the city, but the city has a long history and many sites worth seeing.

St. Augustine is an interesting city to visit and Anastasia State Park is an excellent campground.  We highly recommend both!

We have since returned home and are preparing for having family over for Thanksgiving.  We hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Tampa, Stop #3 Family and Local Attractions

Our son, Shawn, and his girlfriend, Laura, were really sweet to us on a recent trip to Tampa. They offered us a lovely bedroom, cooked us wonderful breakfasts, and drove us all over to see the sights. It was also special to be able to spend Veteran’s Day with my favorite veteran!

We were in the Tampa area for four nights, two with  Shawn and Laura  and two at Hillsborough River State Park.   It was wonderful to be with them and to be in Tampa, which offers lots to see and do, plus some pretty great food.

We went to an interesting restaurant our first night, Ford’s Garage Restaurant.   Vintage cars abound and everything automotive is the theme.  Onion rings are served on an oil funnel and tires are around the sinks in the bathroom.  Very cute decor and the food was excellent.  I had the Kobe beef on the high-octane burger with sweet potato tater tots.

High Octane Burger

Our next day was Veteran’s Day and we started the day with a visit to Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center.  The manatees are attracted to the warm water that is produced by the generation of electricity and at peak times, hundreds of manatees are present.  It has been active for thirty years with over 5 million visitors.  However, our visit was early in the season and we only saw a couple of manatees.   We also saw some big fish and a shark.

Shawn and Laura at the Manatee Viewing Center
Shy manatee sighting

Next, we headed to Sarasota and Saint Armand’s Circle on Lido Key.  There was an Art Show that day and we saw some interesting pieces, however,  the parking was horrific.  We spent a good bit of time driving around looking for a spot to park.   Saint Armand’s has many restaurants and shops.   There is a Ringling Brother’s Museum in Sarasota, but we did not have the time to visit.   Lunch was at Cha Cha Coconuts—another fine meal.

Cha Cha Coconuts

Dinner was at the award-winning Columbia Restaurant at Ybor City.  The restaurant was established in 1905 and is Florida’s oldest restaurant.  We were joined by Laura’s mother and aunt and their  significant others.  Our dinner included a Flamenco show, which was entertaining.   The best part of our dinner was the 1905 salad which has an unlikely ingredient, Worcestershire sauce.  Delicious! I would also highly recommend the mojitos and the white chocolate bread pudding as well.

Laura and Shawn
Rose and Jack
Josie and Ross

Our second full day was overcast with a good bit of rain.  We had considered visiting Busch Gardens, but the weather was not great for it.  Instead, we visited John’s Pass at Redington Shores.  We were able to avoid the rain and do some shopping.  We returned via the Sunshine Skyway, a Tampa landmark, and a very cool bridge.

Sunshine Skyway Bridge

We returned to our campsite on this afternoon.  We said goodbye to Shawn and Laura and to the granddogs, Gator and Axel.  It was so great staying with them!

Gator and Axel

On our final full day, we visited Tampa on our own.  We went to the Tampa Museum of Art and also had a nice lunch there.  The museum featured some ancient Egyptian art and the works of Mernet Larson, an artist upon which I was unfamiliar.  Her art was interesting.

Mernet Larson, Getting Measured

The museum is on Tampa’s Riverwalk, which we also visited.  It was a warm, sunny day and the walk was very pleasant.  We discovered that a branch of the Columbia Restaurant is also on Riverwalk.  That 1905 salad was calling us,  so we walked for about a mile with frequent stops along the way to get to it.

Laura’s office in the Pink Palace is in the background
Lots of shaded seating available along the Hillsborough River

The Columbia Cafe did not disappoint.  Great service, a beautiful view, and another 1905 salad with drinks.

Columbia Cafe
Mojito and beer, so good!

After our early dinner, we took a Lyft back to our car and headed back to the campground.  We were on the road to Anastasia State Park, the last leg of our Tampa trip early the next morning.

So long Tampa!

 

 

 

 

Tampa, Stop #2 Hillsborough River State Park

Hillsborough River is a Florida State Park located about a half hour northeast of Tampa. It is a beautiful park with a “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” look with its gorgeous live oak trees and abundance of spanish moss.

We have family in Tampa and this trip was more about visiting them than camping.  We decided to spend a couple of nights at their home, so we left Endeavor, our teardrop, all alone at the park.

We set up our rug, awning, and chairs so it would look like we would return at any time.  Teardrops are so light, it is easy for them to be stolen and we worried a little about being gone so long.

Our time with family was great and we did a lot of cool things in Tampa.  I will cover those activities in a separate post.

On the afternoon before we left to return to the park,  I received a disturbing message via Facebook Messenger.  It went something like:  “Ma’am, this is the Ranger in Charge at Hillsborough River.  I need you to call me ASAP.”  This freaked me out!  My first though was that something had happened to our camper.

I called immediately and spoke with the ranger.  He was concerned about us and said that several people had noticed that we had not been around.  He wanted to be sure that we were okay.  I thought it as really great that he went to the trouble of tracking us down to confirm that all  was well.

We had two nights and one full day with Hillsborough River as home base.  The river and a canoe launch was just across from our site, #32.

River is beyond the trees
Hillsborough River
Cedar Landing Shelter

We sometimes camp with friends and play games at night.  The above  shelter would be nice for this as it is screened and would enable us to be protected from bugs.  Bugs were not bad at all during our time at the park, but we were not outside with lights on for a long period.

There were some nice amenities we did not use.  There is a very large pool, a cafe, and rentals for canoes and bikes.   There is also a playground and several hiking trails.

One thing about Florida State Parks that I really like is that they have dishwashing stations with hot water.   With our limited cooking, I loaded up our dirty dishes in a plastic bucket and carried them to the station for washing.  With no sewer available, this was a lot easier than it is in parks without this option.

We were given a large, heavy-duty cot by our son’s girlfriend and we tried it out one beautiful morning.  It was glorious laying on the very comfortable cot looking up at the gorgeous blue sky and amazing trees!  The cot actually holds both of us.

Our new equipment—thanks Laura!
View from the cot
Path to our site

We had a very relaxing stay at the campground and hope to visit it again.  It is the most beautiful park I have visited in my limited camping experience.  We are big fans of Florida State Parks.  One tip, the bathhouse near site #77 is much newer and nicer than the one nearest site #32.  However, we loved our site and think it would be a good one for bigger rigs as well.

HAPPY CAMPING!

 

Hanging out on the new cot

 

Tampa-Stop #1 Falling Waters State Park

Falling Waters State Park was a place to stay the night on our way to Tampa. It was the first of three Florida State Parks on this trip. The park has Florida’s tallest waterfall, which is 73 feet. A gristmill was powered by the waterfall during the Civil War.

This trip was primarily to visit family in Tampa, but we did not want drive  the ten-hours to get there in one day.  Falling Rivers State Park is roughly at the half-way point, which worked very well for us.

We reserved site #3 and were very happy with it.  It was on a pull-through concrete slab and, for the first time, I parked us at our campsite.  My husband is the back-up king and getting us installed at campsites has always been his job.

This was our first Florida State Park and we really liked it.  It was a small campground, but very well-maintained.  Typical of state parks we have visited, it has electrical and water, but no sewer or cable.  There is an older bathhouse and two newer family bathrooms with heat.  There is also a dishwashing area.

We did not disconnect from our tow vehicle as we were not leaving the park until the next morning.  We had a late lunch in Dothan, Alabama, at the Thai House, so dinner was only minimal snacks.  By the way, the food at Thai House was delicious.

Site #3 Falling Waters State Park

We removed items stored in the cabin and set them under the galley door to protect from moisture. We did not set up any tents, not even the privacy tent, as the bathhouse was very close.  In the photo below, you can see the bathhouse from our site.

Bathhouse in the background

We had a couple of hours of daylight left, which we used to check out the waterfall and the sinkhole into which it flows.  It was an easy walk to the waterfall with a path that was mostly level trail with an abundance of boardwalks along the way.

Trail to the waterfall
Boardwalks along the path

We had inquired if the waterfall had very much water and already knew it had been dry in the area and it was only a trickle, so it was not a disappointment.  It was interesting to see it with the sinkhole below.  It was certainly worth the pleasant walk to get there.

The waterfall
The sinkhole

The sign below reminded me that we are in Florida and alligators are everywhere. Not a pleasant thought when you think about getting up in the middle of the night and walking to the bathhouse. I kept my flashlight close.

Alligators have been known to attack humans

We showered when we arrived back at our camper and had some snacks, then we settled in for the night.   We are off daylight savings time and it gets dark early.  It was cool to be outside, but very comfortable in our camper.

We tested our little makeshift air antenna and were pleasantly surprised to see that it pulled in ten stations, all with a great picture.  Of course, results would vary greatly by location.  I like it because it is so small and easy to store and retrieve.

Air antenna

There was a gentle rain most of the night.  We had our fan vent slightly open but rain did not penetrate our cabin.  We were warm and comfortable.

The next morning, there was very little to do before leaving as we were having breakfast on the road. Next stop, Hillsborough River State Park, which is in the Tampa area.

HAPPY CAMPING

Falling Waters State Park