Can’t Wait To Camp? Head For Florida’s Barrier Dunes

My wife, Phyllis, and I just returned from several days of camping on a barrier peninsula off the Florida panhandle. We camped in a primitive area that we hiked into, hauling camping gear and water. In this photo, Phyllis walks down a white sand beach on the peninsula not far from our camp. (Sam Cook photo)

Yes, it’s possible to go to Florida during spring break time and see almost no one. Phyllis and I spent the past week at St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, about four miles off the mainland near Appalachicola, Fla. The park is made up of white-sand dunes and, in parts, a pine forest.

Seven miles of the park is designated a primitive area, where camping is allowed, but campers must haul in all their gear and water. We hiked 1 1/2 miles to one of the seven campsites in the primitive area and made camp. Bringing enough water is the challenge, and we hiked back out to our car twice during our stay to bring in more water.

The park, designated in 1968, also has two vehicle campgrounds with a total of about 120 sites. Here’s a link the park website.

Shrimp and oysters are plentiful in the Gulf, and we bought some shrimp on the way to the park. We cooked them for supper that night:

We ate the shrimp straight from the pan. No use dirtying too many dishes when water is at a premium. (Sam Cook photo)

During the day, we would hike the beaches or a trail that ran for 7 miles through the primitive portion of the park. We saw only a few other people each day.

Phyllis walks the trail that runs through the primitive area of the park. Though the entire peninsula is made up of sand, vines and roots hold it in place, and the peninsula supports a pine forest. (Sam Cook photo)

The weather was unseasonably cool during our visit. Swims in the ocean were brief at most. Mornings were chilly.

Phyllis starts the day with a cup of hot coffee and the appropriate layers. (Sam Cook photo)

The dunes on the peninsula are substantial and rise probably 30 or 40 feet above the beach. The sand is soft and sugary, and walking up steep dunes is a good workout. (Sam Cook photo)

Wind has shaped the dunes into significant ridges on the peninsula. (Sam Cook photo)

We were lucky. During our stay, the weather was clear every day and every night. The moon was full or nearly full every night, throwing a lot of white light onto the white sand.

We watched the moon rise through the pines on the peninsula every evening. (Sam Cook photo)
The just-past-full moon set over our tent at St. Joseph Peninsula State Park on our last morning there. (Sam Cook photo)


5 Responses

    1. Sam Cook

      We didn’t try fishing, but I did see some locals fishing. Long rods, heavy weights, baitfish about a foot above the weights. Didn’t ask what they were after. …Sam

  1. Great post! I am traveling to Florida this month and was not looking forward to the crowded beaches, I will have to check this place out!

  2. Eddy Gilmore

    Wow. You certainly get around young man! Geez. I’m grateful to get in a 45 minute run on the Lakewalk these days. Inspiring. Glad to see you putting your gear and muscles to good use so well.

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