Seaside, WaterColor, and Miramar Beach, Florida

Blue-green water, gentle sunshine, quiet walks on the tourist-free beaches—that’s the Emerald Coast in the winter. We dipped southward and tucked under palm trees for a couple of weeks last December, waiting for Christmas.

Being on the road is great but we really wanted to be with family and friends for the holidays. After Thanksgiving, we decided to go to the beach for a bit and then return to Knoxville and surprise David’s family with our visit.

Our first stop was an overnight stay at Oak Mountain State Park in Alabama, just past Birmingham. Although we were there only briefly, we were impressed by the park’s beauty and abundance of activities. It seemed to be a wonderful place for families to retreat in the summer.

We arrived at Fred Gannon State Park in Niceville, Florida just as the sun was setting. After we parked and leveled the RV, we took a quick reconnaissance walk through the park. It was nice to see the water and palm trees, and thaw out in the mild temperatures.

Some of our favorite beaches, including Miramar and Destin were nearby, so we promptly headed to The Back Porch, a non-pretentious food place by the water. We chuckled at the Christmas display in the sand: Santa and his sleigh pulled by dolphins, Rudolph the Red-Nosed… Dolphin leading the way. The sunshine felt so good! We took our time and savored a delicious seafood gumbo and Bloody Maries.

Our other favorite place in Florida is Seaside/WaterColor/Santa Rosa Beach area. I was familiar with Seaside but WaterColor was new to me. The town looks somewhat unnatural in its perfection, pastel-colored beach homes lining the quiet streets. Across 30A, we visited the iconic Seaside Pavilion and sat for a while, watching the waves before finding our way back to our favorite seafood market in Destin, Sexton’s Seafood Market.

Can anyone really get enough of the beach? Florida in the winter is really wonderful: the sunshine is warm but not overwhelming and we had the beach almost to ourselves. I loved bringing my laptop and working on blog posts from the gazebo overlooking Miramar Beach. I caught up on reading while listening to birds hustle and the water lap at my feet. Paradise!

HarborWalk Marina is a commercial yet nice place to visit and take a stroll. At Christmas time, the marina is extra charming, with plenty of decorations and colorful lights, surpassed only by the colors of the sunset.

Take a moment and relax:

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