Here are a few more peeks into what we did while we camped in Grayton Beach State Park in April. We really did pack a lot in and make the most of our six days on Florida's Emerald Coast.
Exploring Beach Towns by Bike.
After exploring the 30a bike path (also called the Timpoochee Trail) to the west of Grayton Beach on our quest for fish tacos, the next day it was time to ride towards the east to see what that part of the trail was like. This section goes through several beach towns.
After the planned developments of Watercolor and Seaside, you'll pass through Seagrove Beach, Secrest, Alys Beach (where all the buildings are white!), and Rosemary Beach. The round trip from Grayton Beach State Park was approximately 25 miles, though we turned around maybe a mile from the eastern terminus of the trail.
Here's a basic map of the area, though not all of the towns are shown.
While the trail is fun to ride, there are many driveway and road crossings, especially in Seagrove Beach. With all the bike rentals available, I am sure it could get crazy busy during the high season, though it wasn't bad at all on a weekday in April. I was glad to be riding my mountain bike, as some sections are pretty bumpy, with broken pavement in spots. While you could ride a skinny-tired road bike, I wouldn't recommend it.
For more information on the Timpoochee Trail, here are a couple of links: Overview and Very Detailed.
Finding a Favorite Dinner Spot.
We discovered a good restaurant in Santa Rosa Beach just a short bike ride (approximately one mile) away from the campground. We liked it so much the first night that we ended up pedaling back the following night as well!
We sat on the large outdoor porch with a great pond view.
We even saved enough room to split a slice of this decadent peanut butter pie -- oh my!
Taking a Hike.
There is a nature trail in the park near the beach. It traverses dunes and lush wooded areas. We hiked it on a cool, cloudy Saturday morning, our last day in the park, and shared it only with birds and other wildlife. Perfect.
Heavy spring rain prior to our arrival in the park left a short section of the trail muddy. We both tested our balance on this log and made it across without dipping a foot in the muck. (I confess that Barry had to hold out a hand for me from the other side as I was nervous I might not make it.)
Enjoying the Beautiful Beach.
And of course, there were many beach walks. The section that is part of the state park was almost always this uncrowded. Bliss!
We encountered this sandy homage to a sea turtle....
Although the gulf waters were still too nippy for swimming (except for a few hearty souls), we both dipped our feet in.
We enjoyed walking until the sun set every evening. This is one of my favorite times of day.
We hated to put Grayton Beach in our rearview mirror, but we're so glad we discovered this magical spot.
During our recent trip to the "Emerald Coast" along Florida's Panhandle, we didn't realize just how close our campground at Grayton Beach State Park would be to the charming village of Seaside. I had long been aware of this master-planned community, since my father and step-mother had visited and loved it years ago, but had never managed to get there.
Here's what Wikipedia has to say about its history:
Seaside is an unincorporated master-planned community on the Florida panhandle in Walton County, between Panama City Beach and Destin. One of the first communities in America designed on the principles of New Urbanism, the town has become the topic of slide lectures in architectural schools and in housing-industry magazines, and is visited by design professionals from all over the United States.The town rose to global fame as being the main filming location of the movie The Truman Show. On April 18, 2012, the American Institute of Architects's Florida Chapter placed the community on its list of Florida Architecture: 100 Years. 100 Places as the Seaside – New Urbanism Township.
Reading this, I understand better why this town so appealed to my father and step-mother, who were both architects. And once I finally had a chance to see it with my own eyes, I was charmed as well.
Seaside is only a two-mile walk or bike ride from Grayton Beach State Park. You can take the bike or footpath, or you can walk east on the beautiful beach! We did this pretty much every morning.
This obelisk marks the public entrance to Seaside. There are several other private pass-throughs for residents and guests.
Here's the beautiful beach at Seaside, looking back from the stairs to the Obelisk.
As you walk into the village from the obelisk, you are immediately greeted by a huge mural in shades of lavender and gray. Newly painted, it is a tribute to Vincent Scully, who died in November 2017 at the age of 97. Scully was a well-known professor of art history at Yale University and made a lasting impact on the study of Architecture. His influence inspired the creation of Seaside; thus, his memory is honored here in a prominent place by street artist "Gaia".
Beside the mural, the main public square of Seaside includes an adorable Airstream food truck row and a tiny post office.
As you walk a few streets inland, you'll pass shops, a small community school, a public concert/gathering area, colorful single-family homes in a variety of architectural designs, and small natural parks. You will eventually make your way to the picturesque and well-known town chapel designed by Architect Scott Merrill, who also designed some of the homes in the Seaside community.
If you want to learn more about Seaside's history and see photos of some of the lovely homes, as well as a terrific aerial view of the entire development, check out the Florida Backroads Travel website; they have a great write-up and excellent images.
Now, back to our experiences there!
Of course, when we saw that there was a donut food truck, Five Daughters Bakery, we knew we would have to stop for a sample. Most of the donuts sold here are actually "cronuts", a hybrid between a flaky French croissant and a standard donut. We'd never tried these before.
It was a tough choice!
Since these donuts were pricier than most, we limited ourselves to two to share. One was an expresso/chocolate, and the other a maple. They were super yummy, but not sure if they were worth the $5 price tag each. Seaside is not for the faint of wallet!
The taco bar wasn't open when we happened by, but we still had fun playing tourists.
Another day, we tried the Raw & Juicy food truck in another Airstream trailer. Everything on the menu sounded creative and very healthy. We've been married so long we often find ourselves gravitating to the same menu item, and this was one of those times. We both ordered the Costa Rican bowl, with brown rice, black beans, tomatoes, avocado, lime, and cilantro. It was a delicious and hearty lunch.
Our pizza was the "Farmer's Market", with a mix of veggies that changes seasonally. This corn was so sweet and unevenly cut enough that I believe it was fresh off the cob. This was one seriously tasty 'za!
After lunch, we stopped by the Modica Market, a small gourmet grocery store in Seaside, and picked up an assortment of freshly baked goodies. We didn't eat all this but saved some for the next day's drive, and some went into the freezer. It was all so delicious!
We are glad we finally got to visit Seaside; it is a special place, and I can see why it is revered by so many. We can't afford to live there, but I hope we get another chance to visit one day!
It just doesn't get much prettier than this....
Anyone who knows us (or reads this blog) is aware of our love of Mexican and Mexican-ish food. Barry had read about a restaurant we could reach from our campground at Grayton Beach State Park via the 30a bike path. It was about 7 miles west in Santa Rosa Beach, and per their motto, with a name like Stinky's Fish Camp, it better be good! They advertise Taco Tuesdays, so we were excited to pedal over on our first full day in the area and chow down on a fish taco lunch.
What we didn't expect was a couple of challenges that turned this simple plan into an adventure.
We first took a wrong turn, confused by construction on 30a, and ended up riding into the small village of Grayton Beach. We figured out our error pretty quickly and backtracked to get back on track.
The construction that had caused our confusion was our next challenge. We knew the path was supposed to continue west, but where was it? Barry checked at a bike shop on the corner to ask what was going on. Turns out, the bike path was torn out and being reconstructed along a two-mile stretch of the 30a highway. This essentially cut the bike path into two parts, as most casual cyclists wouldn't brave riding on 30a. But we aren't those cyclists, so we decided to go for it. Riding our cruiser bike (Barry) and mountain bike (me) made us slower than on our lightweight Trek road bikes, so we'd pull over on side roads or driveways if traffic started backing up behind us, since this section of 30a had no shoulder.
Fortunately, we made it through the construction area safely and were happy to get back on the path. There were actually a few small inclines in this area, much to our surprise. East of the state park is dead flat, but west is a bit more rolling. We also had to fight a bit of a headwind in this direction.
After all that excitement, we arrived at Stinky's ready for some tacos. And they had a bike rack -- perfect! Unfortunately, in our busy preparations to get out the door, Barry had left our bike lock behind, and Stinky's had no outside seating, so we wouldn't be able to watch our bikes. So here was our next challenge!
Disappointed, my idea was to turn around and eat outside somewhere else along the way back where we could keep an eye on our bikes. But Barry had a better idea. Since this is a touristy area, there are many bike shops along the path that rent bikes. He brilliantly realized that we could stop in a shop and buy a lock. We needed a lightweight one anyway, as the one he had planned to take is super heavy duty and overkill for most areas. He really didn't want to miss out on our one chance for Taco Tuesday, and I agreed.
It worked out perfectly. There was a shop just a couple miles back down the bike path, and he scored a lightweight lock we ended up using the rest of the week, so it was a handy purchase. And the detour meant we'd built up even more of an appetite for fish tacos!
We were soon back at Stinky's and enjoying a brew, bikes locked safely outside.
The grilled gulf fish tacos were huge and even better than we expected, along with some yummy black beans and rice on the side. Worth every extra pedal stroke!
Pedaling back east with full bellies, we stopped at a public access to check out how stunning the beach looked in full sun. Both sand and water were absolutely brilliant.
This sign caught our eyes as we headed back along the path. We can rarely resist such a sign.
The bakery was tiny and right next to a big bike shop with a huge fleet of rental bikes out front. I bet this place is crazy on the weekends.
There's some colorful bike art out front.
The selections were rather limited, and pricey, so we split a chocolate chip oatmeal cookie. I don't think I've ever had a $4 cookie before (after tax). It was good, but overpriced. Oh well, when in Rome....
I liked the stools with bike wheels and "pedals" to put your feet on. Creative!
On the way back, the stretch of highway in the construction zone was much less busy than in the other direction, and we had a tailwind, so we zipped right through the two-mile stretch.
Before we knew it, we were back at the park. The bike path runs right by the entrance; very convenient!
Pearl's site was at the end of one of the loops, so you can see her nestled in the foliage here, as I approached the campground turnoff.
All in all, a successful Taco Tuesday adventure!
Emily & Barry
We're a long-married, early-retired couple who are currently traveling as nomads with no fixed home base. After years of living in North Carolina (Emily's home state), we spent 18 months living oceanfront on Ambergris Caye, Belize, a year road-tripping the US in a Honda CR-V, a year in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and are now roaming North America in our 32' motorhome, Pearl, following warm weather whenever possible.
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