Our week at Fort Pickens Campground in the Gulf Islands National Seashore sped by. When we weren’t walking on the pure white sand at the beach, exploring Fort Pickens and the batteries, or visiting the National Naval Aviation Museum we were wandering around the Florida Gulf Coast.
One day we took Blondie outside of the National Seashore to go to the Pensacola Beach Dog Beach. A small section of beach has been set aside to allow dogs on a leash to enjoy the beach.
A Legendary Beach Bar
One day we took a drive along the Gulf to the Florida-Alabama state line to visit the famous Flora-Bama Bar. The bar has been called the “Last Great American Roadhouse” and ranks among the “Best Beach Bars” in the world. The wooden building is located on the beach between high rises and we almost missed it as we drove along the Gulf road. Originally built in 1964, it has survived fires and hurricanes. After suffering a direct hit from Hurricane Ivan in 2004, the building was restored.
It was quiet the day we went. Their busy season starts with spring break. Their “Interstate Mullet Toss and Gulf Coast’s Greatest Beach Party” brings huge crowds in April.
Besides the famous beach bar, there are two restaurants, a liquor store, a marina, and plenty of parking across the road on the bay. We enjoyed a lunch of shrimp po’boys at their Old River Bar and Grill overlooking the bay before heading back to our campground.
Gulf Coast Good Eats
For us, no trip to the Gulf Coast would be complete without a trip to a seafood market. In our quest for Stone Crab Claws we stopped at Joe Patti’s Seafood Market in Pensacola. The huge seafood market has been in business in Pensacola for many years and sells every kind of fresh seafood and related items you can imagine. Iced down in the display cases were fresh grouper, redfish, snapper, other fish, gulf shrimp, scallops, stone crab claws, oysters, and seafood of every kind. Also available are made in house shrimp and other salads, smoked mullet dip, seafood spreads, seafood chowder and other specialty items. Then there were smoked sausages and other specialty meats along with many Cajun specialties. In another room were sauces, condiments, and kitchen items to help prepare and eat the seafood.
The place was packed but we were served quickly and left happy with Jumbo Stone Crab Claws, shrimp salad and smoked mullet dip for dinner. Best meal we had on the entire trip.
Located just a short drive from the entrance to the Gulf Islands National Seashore, Peg Leg Pete’s in Pensacola Beach was recommended to us by several of our friends so of course we had to give it a try. Our friends didn’t steer us wrong. The Cajun fried shrimp appetizer and Grouper Sandwiches were excellent.
Wildlife and Sunset Vewing
Even sitting in our own campsite we were entertained. One day an armidillo walked into our campsite driving Blondie wild.
We walked out on the fishing pier at Fort Pickens to see what the fishermen were catching. One fisherman was reeling in a stingray as we arrived and we saw another catching Drum in a cast net. As we walked along the pier a Great Blue Heron walked right in front of me before hopping up on the railing to put on a show. There were actually two herons on the pier and when the first one flew off, another took his place on the railing.
We enjoyed more beautiful sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico.
Evacuating the Campground
As the week went on the winds picked up and the waves got bigger.
When you check into the campground at Fort Pickens, you are taking a chance that you may have to leave early because of the road flooding. There is a low section of the road between the campground and the entrance to the park that is subject to flooding. During big storms, the campground has been known to flood. The winds had been picking up all week and storms were forecast starting on Thursday, March 10, our departure date.
On Wednesday afternoon we returned from our wanderings to find a notice on the door to our RV that the campground was closing at noon on Thursday. Several campers left that afternoon while everyone else (like us) started packing up and getting ready for an early morning departure. The luck of the Irish was with us since we were scheduled to leave anyway.
After leaving the campground we drove through a section of the Fort Pickens Road that was underwater.