Florida Road Trip #2: Panama City to St. Augustine

Published: October 19th 2017
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After a good night's sleep, we were feeling recharged and ready to explore more of Florida. Breakfast was included at this hotel, so we headed down to the small breakfast room. I have died and gone to heaven. They have biscuits and sausage gravy. I devoured one plate of them and since it was a self-service buffet, helped myself to a second plate. There was a small selection of other stuff on the buffet, but for me it was all about the biscuits and sausage gravy. Feeling full, we checked out and the reception staff gave us some great pointers on where we should stop on our drive to St. Augustine. Since we had limited time, we couldn't explore Florida in much depth, we only had three nights in total in the state and we had found it hard to leave New Orleans yesterday, meaning we had only had time to stop and visit a couple of beaches on our drive yesterday. We wouldn't be going down into the peninsula part of Florida, but sticking to the area across the top.

We drove for a little while until we reached our first port of call, Mexico Beach. We found the beach, but headed back up to the main road and found a store so we could buy some beach supplies. We needed towels to sit on and some cool drinks. Then we headed back down to the beach and parked the car. This area was so cute, loads of little beach holiday homes. We headed down the public pier and found a spot on the beach. It was pretty quiet, there were other people there, but everyone was spread out, so there was a lot of room. We ditched our stuff and headed straight into the sea. The water was gorgeous, so clear and warm. I enjoyed having a bit of a splash about and floating in it. My friends decided to go for a walk along the beach, but I was content to just chill in the sun for a bit. Although the sun was a bit too strong for me and despite putting on sun cream, I could feel myself burning. Later on, I did go for a short walk along the pier, so that I could look back on the coastline. The sand was so light and the water was all different shades. It looked stunning. Florida would never have been on my agenda for visiting the US, if it weren't for our road trip, but I can see why so many people choose to come on holiday here, it is perfect for a beach break.

Back in the car, we drove further along the coast to reach our next destination, St. George Island. We had to drive across a long bridge to reach the island, the bridge was quite unique as it sloped up and then down as we headed across the water. We saw that there was a lighthouse right there so pulled into the parking lot to check it out. However, we were hungry by now so we decided to find somewhere to have something to eat first. There was a place just across from the carpark, so we headed there. The restaurant we went to was called Blue Parrot. We got to sit out on the deck, which was nicely shaded. We were sitting near the back, so we didn't get a good view of the beach. I can't fully remember what we ordered but I do remember that it did entail some seafood, maybe a seafood platter, we definitely had crayfish or lobster. Whatever we had was good, not amazing and memorable, but definitely not bad.

Fed and watered, we headed over to the lighthouse.Florida is quite famous for the lighthouses that dot its coast and we were going to take a look around this one. We headed into the Lighthouse Keeper's Cottage first as this has been turned into a museum. The house is a replica of the original and contains a great deal of information about the lighthouse. It was all very interesting stuff to read. The staff working there were also really nice, they were very happy to tel us more about how the lighthouse worked and its history. The original lighthouse was built in 1833 and was twice rebuilt in 1848 and 1852. The first lighthouse was built on the western tip of the island, which made it difficult to see ships approaching from the eastern part of the Gulf of Mexico. So, when the lighthouse was damaged by storms in 1846, the lighthouse was rebuilt on the southern cape of the island. The second lighthouse, which was 75 feet tall and used materials from the first lighthouse, only lasted three years. A hurricane flattened it, along with the Cape San Blas and Dog Island lighthouses. The third lighthouse was constructed further inland and pine pilings driven deep into the sand as foundations so that the lighthouse would last longer. The light was not used during the Civil War. The lighthouse became automated in the late 1940s removing the need for lighthouse keepers. By 1992, the lighthouse was in danger due to storms and erosion and the light was deactivated in 1994. In 2005, the lighthouse collapsed into the sea. Replicas of the lighthouse and the keeper's cottage have been rebuilt.

The museum was free to take a look around and we paid extra so that we could go up the lighthouse. I think it was around $5 per person. The stairs started off quite wide, but soon grew narrower as we got nearer to the top. The final ascent was up a small, straight ladder through a trapdoor, which put us on the floor where the light would have been. The views were really good and we could see quite a bit of St. George Island and the Gulf of Mexico. The beach looked really nice and there were lots of cute holiday homes here, too. I could also see the unique design of the bridge we crossed to reach the island. Then it was time for lots more driving as we were pressing straight on to St. Augustine, where we would be spending the night. I liked what I saw on our brief stop in St. George Island. I wish we had made it down to the beach, but we did get to see it from the top of the lighthouse. I think you could spend a long time exploring all the different beaches in Florida. I really wish we had more time to do that.

It was really late by the time we got to St. Augustine. We got checked in to our hotel and there wasn't really anything for us to do tourist wise. I decided to make the most of the opportunity of having a few hour to do some laundry. I hadn't done any since San Francisco and was running out of clean stuff. The joys of living out of a backpack. Looking on google, we had found a laundromat nearby, so we drove there. We got sorted and put the washing on. By this point, I was feeling hungry and since it was quite late our options were limited. There was a fast food place, just across the parking lot so we headed there. I think it was a Wendy's as it was some kind of fast food place I had never been to before. When we got there, the doors were locked and only the drive-thru was open. We were just going to walk it, but felt too stupid so we walked back across the car park to pick up the car and drive across to the drive-thru. Once we had our food we drove back to the laundromat. We ate our food in the laundromat. I totally felt like I was in a movie eating American fast food in a laundromat, I don't know what type of film, it would probably be a crappy one, but I felt like I was doing quintessential American things. After that bit of excitement, it was back to the hotel to get some sleep. I was shattered.

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