If you read our post, What If Your Journey South Goes South?, then you know we had some DIFFICULTY on our first adventure when it came to pulling the camper. Let me get you up to speed. Fifteen minutes into the trip, our truck blows going up Monterey Mountain.
We were concerned, to put it lightly, the truck would not be fixed in time for our reservation depending on the severity of what made it croak going up the hill just a week prior. After a few repairs, and a week in the shop, all is good under the hood and we have a green light to try this traveling thing once again. So with a rocky start under our belt and a new hose on our truck, we are ready to hit the road and try our luck at St. Augustine, Florida.
Our trip was around 9 hours so we camped halfway to break up it up and also to get a break from our 14 month old’s collection of songs coming from her “pie pad” as she calls it. We arrived at St. Augustine to discover that our long awaited beach front location that I had been dreaming about got hit by a storm and the campground currently had no power.
Unfortunately, our 5th wheel camper is only accessable when our pop outs are out and you guessed it, we needed power to make that possible. The attendant at the campground told us with a big smile on his face to go have dinner and it should be back on around 10pm.
That was hours away with a 14 month old who has a 7pm bedtime and has been in the car all day with no good nap. That was an eternity! Okay maybe a little dramatic, but I got over it after a slight emotional breakdown. The power returned by 10pm and we finally got settled in and our getaway to St. Augustine was underway!
Despite the everyday downpours (which we loved because it cooled us off, but be prepared), we took in the history, had good times with friends and family that came to stay with us, and became overjoyed watching our daughter see the beach for the very first time. She ingested an obscene amount of sand and we spent the whole day fishing seashells out of her mouth, but she had a blast and that’s what this adventure is all about!
We booked an oceanfront/midpark campsite at Bryn Mawr Ocean Resort. This resort itself is quite crowded this time of year (July,) but you have great access to the not so crowded beach area. The beach in this vicinity permits pets and vehicles providing a relaxed and laid back atmosphere.
This resort features two pools. One pool is a heated adult only pool with hot tub and the second swiming area is a gigantic family friendly pool. Bryn Mawr is located about 20 minutes from St. Augustine, the oldest city in the US, currently celebrating its 450th anniversary this year.
St. Augustine is a beautiful yet fascinating piece of history. Not only do you have a lovely beach, but it’s a charming historical town with plenty of tours, shops, and tasty food. Here are 3 reasons why you should visit St. Augustine, Florida.
1) Trolly tours
Don’t judge me, but I am a sucker for tourist attractions – especially trolly rides! Its is the easiest way to hear the history of a town while you get chauffeured around hitting up all the hot spots in one swoop. You know what I am talking about if you have ever visited cities such as Charleston or Savannah which offer similar experiences.
There are a couple of companies that provide the trolley narrated tours while allowing the freedom to hop on and off the trolly as you wish at specified numbered stops. When you are finished sight-seeing at that stop, another trolly will arrive in 15 minute increments to wheel you to the next stop.
This allows you to explore the city on your own time frame while hearing the history of the town from the local experts. These companies also allow you to customize packages and bundle your experiences together to decrease the price. This was a fun way to be able to see some extra sights without the extra hit to our wallet.
Not convinced trolly tours are for you? A great piece of knowledge before heading into “the old city” is parking can get expensive! We didn’t learn that the trolley tours offer free parking when you purchase a tour package until we had already racked up a parking debt in the parking garage. Parking is very limited so this is a good perk and a fun way to visit the city.
2) Unique “Old City” History
Among the stops of the trolly tours we took a stroll down historic George Street, got booked at the old city jail, stopped our aging at the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park (Florida’s oldest attraction), and educated ourselves at the beautiful Flagler College, a once luxury hotel built in 1888 .
Also located downtown is the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, the first permanent location of Ripley’s Believe it Or Not, museums (our favorite was the Pirate museum), restaurants, shops, walking and ghosts tours are among the few exciting excursions in St. Augustine.
3) Beach Life
If you want to get out of the “city life” St. Augustine is a great area for deep sea fishing, sandy white beaches, or go visit the St. Augustine Lighthouse.
Make sure to visit the Alligator Farm. This place is fun for all ages and can be included in your trolley tour packages as well. We loved this attraction and our kids had a blast seeing tons of alligators and many other animals. Scheduled alligator feeding times are worth the stop and don’t forget to check out the bridge that goes out over the water where you can see an unreal amount of alligator wildlife up close.
If it’s fun and sun or a little history and mystery your looking for, this is the place for you!
Now that I’ve covered what TO do in St. Augustine, let me discuss what NOT TO DO on a trip from back from St. Augustine. DO NOT try to maneuver a 43ft 5th wheel through a tiny gas station during rush hour in Chattanooga, Tn.
With about an hour and a half left on our trip back to middle Tennessee, the lack of truck stops and the need for diesel got the best of us when we tried to fit our hefty camper at a gas pump that is not intended for “big boned” campers like ourself.
It was a last second decision to whip it in there. This one quick turn of the wheel left us with $7,000 of damage to an axle and the side of our camper when we ran into a cement barrier protecting a gas pump.
This mistake could have been avoided if we had done a better job planning out our stops along the way. We are realizing the importance of “slow and steady” more and more each and every trip.
We have defiantly learned our lesson and we continue to grow and learn every day. It’s a journey of highs and lows but even though our record doesn’t show it just yet, we are getting better daily.
We could play it safe, give up, stay in our comfort zone and go back to the luxuries of a home again, but what is the fun in that? We want to give this our all and not look back on what we missed. I want to say, “we went for it and it was the best time of our lives!”