Heaven is St. Joseph Peninsula, FL
Heaven is located about an hour from Panama City, FL (aka the Redneck Riviera). Heaven is the State Park on St. Joseph Peninsula, a tiny sandbar that juts into the Gulf of Mexico near the middle of nowhere. This area calls itself the forgotten coast. I can’t decide if they’re happy or unhappy that they seem to have been forgotten by the partiers that patronize Panama City or the oldsters that colonize Naples and Ft. Lauderdale. I loved it. It was refreshing to find such a large section of Florida coast that has been relatively undeveloped — and it was beautiful.
We never know what we’re walking into when we head for a park. It could be creepy (like Murder State Forest outside Charleston, SC), it could be disgusting (like the bug infestations we found in Ohio or the group of snake hunters we avoided in Apalachicola National Forest), or it could be amazing (like Skidaway Island State Park outside Savannah). In this case, we had no idea that we were headed for one of the best beaches in the country, with white sand, dunes, and warm, turquoise water, or one of the best campgrounds we’ve found yet.
The beach is irresistible. It is so large and access is so spread out that it feels practically deserted. We walked for miles on what felt like our own private beach. The entire tip of the peninsula is a wildlife preserve, but you can access the area by picking up a free permit from the ranger station. There are cabins to rent, cabins that are the size and quality of a nice beach house. They’re $100/night and can sleep six. There’s laundry and showers. The sites are situated so that you can’t see your neighbors. There’s no cell service (OK, we found one spot where you could pull in a weak signal, but its location is a secret…finding it is half the fun).
There’s just one problem in heaven. They’re called noseeums. We were laid out like a buffet for the noseeums, who proceeded to feast on us each morning and evening. Paul took the brunt of the assault — we counted about 40 bites on just one side of his leg — below the knee. I felt so peaceful here that I didn’t ever want to leave, but I also didn’t want any more bites (or sunburn). We probably should have stayed one more day. Or maybe two more days…or three…
If we ever become Florida residents, or even Florida regulars, this is going to be our spot. Anyone want to go in on one of the cabins?