The Island: Cape San Blas, Fl 29.6675° N, 85.3525° W
Where: Located in the southernmost part of the Gulf, i like to say as you are about to head south there is the most quiet, quaint and gorgeous area of Florida called Cape San Blas. If you own an RV its the PERFECT place for you as you can find plenty of parking right on the white sand beaches.
How: Since we have a rented RV in tow, we found a great little spot in someone’s side yard that offered a comfortable, flat place to stop for a few days with only a few steps to the beach.
Why: Admittedly, this wasn’t an area I had really heard of but know of friends who venture here all the time. It’s a beach and it’s not as crowded as some areas so we knew it would be a great spot for us.
What: We soaked up all Cape San Blas had to offer: the quiet, white sandy beaches, local fare and a must stop was Indian Pass Raw Bar. Anything that has raw bar in the name is bound to be delicious. We were delighted with this little country store, seat yourself type restaurant and even more delighted when a couple starting belting out Garth and Trisha songs like pros.
The Island: Party Island/ Betty’s Island, SML 37.0497° N, 79.6394° W
Where: Betty’s Island, nicknamed Party Island, is a small little island on Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia where you will almost always see several pontoon boats (and an occasional cruiser) up on the beach.
How: We recommend hopping on your jet ski or your friends boat for this spot. Kayaking, swimming etc, to the island isnt recommended.
Why: This is a great spot for boaters who are social butterflies and want to make new friends while enjoying to sand, water and sun of SML. If you love sharing space and making new friends then this is the perfect place for you. Bigger boats CAN anchor but its hard. This spot is best for smaller boats and pontoons.
What: While the island is surrounded by nice swimming water, there is an obvious spot where people tend to beach their boats. There are also some fun swings over the water and some primitive camping.
The Island: Destin/Sandestin, Fl 30.3935° N, 86.4958° W
Where: Destin sits in the middle of the Florida panhandle
How: Our next stop in the RV tour brought us to the most delightful beach going spot in the middle of a bustling vacation destination. We parked for two days at Camping on the Gulf and its EXACTLY how it sounds. If you book early, your RV can be parked literally on the gorgeous sandy beach. We were about 5 spots in and it was still gorgeous. While the weather was a bit chilly for too much beach going, we really enjoyed using the wind to our advantage with kite flying and other fun activities.
Why: Driving and parking RIGHT on the beach is our idea of fun!
What: Camping on the Gulf offered plenty to do with the beach, a pool and plenty nearby. We ventured into the town of Destin to play tourist and always found the Blue Chair Bay Rum bus that was on tour.
The Island: Crab Island, Destin, FL 30.3939° N, 86.5050° W
Where: on the north side of Destin Bridge at the entrance to Choctawhatchee Bay
How: Isn’t the shifting sand and tides so fascinating? Crab island was once an actual island but with shifting sands and erosion, crabs island is now a sandbar with water levels from 1-4ft. The only way to get there is by boat, PWC or if you are feeling extra adventurous maybe a kayak or SUP. (This method is NOT recommended based on the current coming our of the inlet.)
Why: Any island/sandbar that requires a boat ride too and we are ALL IN! We were in the Destin area and looking for a fun day on the water.
What: After a short ride aboard the Crab Island Shuttle Boat we dropped an anchor and jumped in the water, and EVERYONE immediately got out! The weather on this day ended up being a bit chilly but by the middle of the trip everyone was in the water enjoying water toys, games, paddle boarding and swimming. There were even some takers for the ice cream boat and the BBQ pontoon boat was a big hit for lunch!
The Island: Okaloosa Island, Fl 30.3980° N, 86.5977° W
Where: Between the Florida/Alabama border and Destin in the Florida Panhandle
How: We took a pit stop during our RV tour to stop and play on the massive dunes on this island.
Why: We were in awe of the gorgeous white sand dunes that seemed to go on forever. The pictures don’t do it justice, they were huge!
What: While this island seems to be a great family vacation spot, we were just passing thru. If you plan to stay there are restaurants, adventure parks, dolphin trips and plenty of family friendly adventures!
The Island: Peridido Key, Fl 30.3035° N, 87.4273° W
Where: Florida Panhandle next to the infamous Florida/ Alabama line.
How: We took a break from our typical boating/sailing and decided to rent an RV and run south to the Florida panhandle.
Why: With a trailer in tow, we camped in Perdido Key and enjoyed all it had to offer. We camped in a state park that offered a playground, lots of outdoor exploring and hiking trails. They also had a beach perfect for swimming and kayaking but it was closed from previous hurricane damage.
What: Perdido Key is a perfect mix of action and relaxation. Flora Bama alone has several restaurants, bars, the yacht club (our fave) and several other options all within walking distance. We had the pleasure of experiencing Easter morning church on the beach right in front of Florabama.
We then hit the yacht club for lunch and watched with envy while boat after boat beached themselves right next to the yacht club stage.
The Island: Snead Island, Fl 27.5313° N, 82.6200° W
Where: in the Manatee River in Tampa Bay
How: We anchored for the night in the Manatee River to ride out a storm. We stared at the shore all afternoon and evening as we rocked back and forth in the waves and storm.
Why: We had a few minutes the next morning to take the dinghy and explore. We wanted to see the abandoned sailboat and the gorgeous flora on shore that was so close.
What: We hopped in the dinghy early that morning and cruised over to an abandoned sailboat that happened to be based in St. Thomas. We don’t know the story but an educated sailors guess would say their anchor drug, they ran aground and were never able to get enough tide to get back afloat. Interestingly, this boat was gone a few months later. After exploring the eerie derelict boat, we headed to a little sand area among the mangroves and trees.
We were greeted with conches, treasures, flora and a cool path that went deeper onto the island. Wishing we weren’t so strapped for time we waded around in the shells discovering a super cool old liquor bottle, several conches and other cool treasures.
The Island: Lido Key, Fl 27.3121° N, 82.5761° W
Where: In Sarasota Bay, Fl encompassing St. Armand’s Key
How: You can travel from Sarasota or Longboat Key and arrive on Lido Key. A small but gorgeous island boasting white, powdery sand beaches, a few restaurants and plenty of nature to go around. Are you in love with Florida yet? We certainly are.
Why: On this trip, honestly, it was just a quick pass thru. This island is definitely on our list to go back and visit and explore more.
What: This island has a little bit of everything without having too much of anything. There are parks, great little neighborhoods, a restaurant or two and the whitest most powderyist sand I’ve ever encountered in Florida. The west coast of Florida is amazing in that each few miles you go, you encounter completely different shells, sand and topography. In Love for sure!
The Island: St. Armands, Fl 27.3187° N, 82.5767° W
Where: Circular Island in Sarasota Bay, Fl
How: While this little circular island is an island, you can access it by car or private boat. There didn’t appear to be any public docking on this small island. There is, however, a marina very close by on the causeway over to the island.
Why: We decided to play tourist for the day and had a great time exploring the large variety of shops and restaurants. We especially enjoyed the Tommy Bahama restaurant.
What: The “circle” was composed of restaurants, shops and novelties all within a short walk. In the middle of the circle stood statues and many street performers looking to make a dollar or two while sharing their talents with passerbys. The outskirts of the circle were dotted with beautiful Floridian style homes, many with their own dock.
The Island: Longboat Key, Fl 27.4125° N, 82.6590° W
Where: Western Florida south of St. Pete and just North of Sarasota
How: Longboat Pass is a gorgeous island in western florida offering resorts, beaches, shopping and plenty of other things to do.
Why: We decided to tuck up into Longboat Key Moorings Club to wait out some very windy weather. We fell IN LOVE with this marina and plan to keep our boat there in the future.
What: Not only was the marina gorgeous, it had a short, easy albeit skinny channel to get in but then plenty of room to maneuver into our slip. We had a pool within sight, Italian restaurant, a pub, Publix and a golf course. The marina has all the amenities including laundry, ships store, bike rentals and a free taxi to the beach where we were waited on all day on the beach by their fantastic beach service. Even though it was windy we made the best of it and limed, relaxed, provisioned and did laundry until the weather improved.