We woke up in Daytona Beach Shores to partly cloudy skies and some rain, but, we didn’t let that foil our plans for exploring for the day. We saved a few bucks (and tried to balance out the hotel room expenditure!) by eating breakfast at the hotel before checking out, which was a pretty good decision. You can’t go wrong with free eggs, sausage and OJ!
After checking out of the hotel, we made a quick stop at the Ponce De Leon Inlet Lighthouse. The rainy weather made climbing the 203 steps to the top of the lighthouse a bit unappealing, so, we visited the gift shop, snapped some pictures, read about the lighthouse’s history and kept it moving.
We got on the road, with no specific destination in mind, other than “south.” We had been talking about trying to find a State Park that had tent camping sites available for the next few nights because it would be a really cost-effective way to save money on lodging, but, Florida has a bit of a strange system going on with camping in State Parks that took some time to figure out. Camping is available at many Florida State Parks, but, you’ve got to go to ReserveAmerica.com to reserve your camp site. We had never camped at a State Park (FL or otherwise) before so we had no idea that the campsites were booked out nearly a year ahead! After checking ReserveAmerica.com, it looked like we were going to strike out on camping on the cheap at a State Park. After making a few calls, we found out that there may be campsites available at the State Parks for “walk-up.” And walk-up meant that you literally had to go to the State Park, park and get out of your car, walk up to the Ranger Station and say, “Do you have any walk-up campsites available for tonight?” The answer may be yes, but most times, we were informed, it would be no because things had been booked many, many months ago.
After searching for a while, I was able to find one camp site in Jonathan Dickinson State Park for the night of Tuesday, 3/27/2018. Great! We had somewhere to lay our head’s on Tuesday night, but, what about tonight!? ReserveAmerica.com showed one walk-up campsite available for tonight (conventiently the same campsite that I had reserved for Tuesday night), but, we were two hours north and it was already 11am. We agreed that we’d head to the State Park and cross our fingers that no one had already taken advantage of the one and only walk-up campsite in the park for the night.
It must have been a pre-birthday miracle because when we arrived two hours later and scurried into the Ranger Station, the walk-up campsite was still available! We immediately reserved the site and celebrated having a home base and solid place to lay our heads for the next two nights on the cheap! Since we had secured our “home” for the next two nights, we decided to go check out the Blowing Rocks Preserve.
For a $2 per person donation, we were able to wind through the tree hammock and came out to an absolutely breathtaking sight! The water was INSANELY blue! Every shade of blue that I could imagine ever seeing seemed like it was there. I had never seen anything like it. The Preserve closed at 4:30pm and high tide wasn’t until 5:13pm, so, we weren’t able to catch the blowing rocks at their absolute peak, but, we were able to see a few big blows of water through the rocks as the tide was coming in. How cool?!
We headed to find our campsite, which was a 4 mile drive from the park’s entrance. The park was absolutely beautiful! A ton of walking and biking paths winded their way through the lush trees and bushes. There were plenty of places to pull over and park to get out and explore along the road. As we approached a section of the park named “Gator Culvert,” I kept a watchful eye on the side of the road. While crossing a wooden bridge, I saw a bunch of birds that I wanted to go back and check out, so, we backed the truck up to have a look. Much to my surprise, there weren’t only birds hanging out under the bridge, but, there was an alligator, too! Josh joked before we left about staying somewhere where there would be alligators, and I’m pretty sure he jinxed it into reality! We spent a while observing the first alligator we’ve ever seen in the wild and then asked him, really nicely, to just stay there and not visit our campsite.
After getting our tent set up, we had worked up quite the appetite and decided it was time for some food. We settled on a tiki bar called Guanabanas in Jupiter, FL. The food was good, Josh really liked the Lime In The Coconut cocktail, though it was a bit pricey after happy hour ended. With full bellies, we decided that it was time to pick up a few groceries for breakfast tomorrow morning. And really, what’s a vacation without a trip to Walmart? We’ll never know! After the Walmart adventure, we headed back to our campsite for the night.
Despite there being no rain the forecast for the next week, it rained it’s ass off right after we hopped in the tent. Luckily, we stayed dry and had a great night’s sleep in the howling wind.