As we have already mentioned, we are spending the majority of this winter in Destin, FL (well, Okaloosa Island on the west edge of Destin). It is our first visit to the panhandle, and it is also our first time living in our RV in a stationary location for more than a week. Let’s take a look at why we picked this location, and how it is “panhandling” out for us (I blame my mother for the puns)…
How did we end up in Destin?
We considered a lot of factors in choosing our first long-term rv site. First, you want to be somewhere warm obviously, and on the East coast, the warmest you can find is Florida. So, we began our search for a winter spot in Florida back in August. For any other rookies out there, August is WAY TOO LATE to be booking for Florida. We wanted to stay near Anna Maria Island, which is about half way down the Gulf coast, but all the places had been booked since the previous March! So, then we just started at the southern end of Florida where it is warmest and worked our way up the Gulf coast. We quickly learned some facts about booking for the winter in Florida:
- You really need to plan ahead (like a year ahead) if you have a special place in mind.
- It is expensive. We found that the farther south you go in Florida, the higher the rates. Plus, some resorts are exclusive to 50+ aged people. Dang! I think we fit in well with older people! No kids, no dogs, quiet, genuinely friendly. Still a no go!
- Electric is separate. A lot of the places we called do not cover electric in the regular rate. You are responsible for setting up your own electric and paying for it in addition to your rate. We did not see that one coming.
As we met with more and more places that were full, Chris and I decided to really analyze what was important to us to make the best out of our winter camping. We narrowed it down to the following:
- We wanted a concrete pad. May sound crazy, but it is the little things that make all the difference. Concrete is luxury to us, and if we were going to be in one place for 2 1/2 months, we knew that it had to be part of the deal.
- We wanted to save money. We have huge plans for this next Spring and Summer, and we wanted to be able to save some money for our upcoming travels. We had to find something reasonable.
- We wanted some activity and things to do near us. Some of our favorite RV spots have been remote ones, like Mexican Hat; but for the winter, we knew we wanted some options.
After feeling like the Baby Boomers were outsmarting us at every turn, we finally decided to try Destin. We had heard a lot about it before, and as we did a little research; we found that the panhandle is a nice balance between commercial and remote. So, Chris made the call to Destin West, and they had one long-term spot that had just come available due to a cancellation; so we booked it!
How is Destin working out for us?
Mostly great! We have that concrete pad we wanted, along with plenty of space…
The price is very reasonable. For November and December, we are paying $25 per night. The rates start to increase in January. We usually average around $35/night, so there is a little savings going with a long-term spot. Electric is included, so there is no hassle. We also have great wi-fi, which is included in the rate. That has been a pleasant surprise, because you really never know how well the service will work, and we are on a very narrow island; but it has probably been the best we have ever had in our travels. For February, we move to Alabama, where it is even cheaper for the month. So, we are hoping to be able to save a little extra.
Our RV resort is located on the bay, and the Gulf is across the street and through a hotel that is affiliated with the RV resort. Neighboring the RV resort are an adventure park and a Fudpucker’s restaurant. We have access to the hotel’s amenities as well, such as the gym…
and the hotel’s heated pool…
Within a 20 min. drive there is a ton of shopping. I am still trying to avoid the tremendous outlets in Destin – did not see those coming either. Restaurants abound, along with fresh seafood markets, a Fresh Market (which I love), a Camping World, multiple Walmarts, and pretty much every other store you could imagine. There is also an abundance of state parks and the Eglin Air Force base is close by, so jets are soaring overhead almost daily. There are a ton of activities for kids including the aquarium, tons of adventure parks, and a whole lot more. There is plenty to do, and you can certainly find anything you might need here. We did join the Fort Walton Beach public library, and we even found a church for Sunday worship that has been a real eye-opener for us. It is so fascinating being forced to visit so many different churches in our travels, but that is a whole different story.
The weather has been great in November and December. We knew it would be cooler than the rest of Florida, but we have had plenty of mid-70s days. So, we have been able to enjoy the beach and the pool throughout our stay. Keep in mind, this is the Emerald Coast, people! So, on calm days, that water is incredible!
For our first long-term RV stay, we have been very blessed. It has been a difficult adjustment at times, as we face the holiday season without our families and friends, and the itch to keep moving has not settled for us. But, overall, things are going really well, and we have a lot to be thankful for. I would recommend Destin to fellow travelers looking to wait out the winter, if they have similar priorities.