Camping at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park – Santa Rosa Beach, FL

After our less than ideal stay in central Florida (I mentioned it at the end of this post) it was time to move on to greener pastures, or in this case, back to the beach! We had reservations at Topsail Hill Preserve State park, which is in Santa Rosa Beach, FL (about 30 minutes from Destin). It had great reviews, and we were excited to head to the panhandle and get back to the clear water of the Gulf.

The drive from Reddick, Florida to Santa Rosa Beach was too long for one driving day, so we broke it into two. We stopped at a little county park called Coe Landing outside Tallahassee. It was a really good place for a quick stopover because it wasn’t far off the interstate, but it was far enough to not hear the noise of the highway.

Tim on the dock at Coe Landing
Tim on the dock at Coe Landing

Coe Landing sits right on a large lake and a lot of the sites are lake-front. It is a very small park, only about 20 sites, and we enjoyed the peace and quiet for the 15 or so hours we were there! We did not use any of the facilities so we cannot comment on those. When we can, we prefer to just use the shower/toilet in Trudy.

One of the campsites at Coe Landing
One of the campsites at Coe Landing

Off we went the next day to Topsail Hill Preserve State Park. Little did I know what was waiting for me there! We had 12 days reserved at the park, which I was really happy about. Travel days are stressful, packing up and moving is time-consuming, and I was ready to spread out somewhere for a little while. This stop was our longest one yet and I was ready for that!

Beach

Topsail Hill is home to my favorite beach in the USA so far. We visited more than a dozen beaches in the first few months of RVing, and Topsail Hill checked all the boxes for me. I just love the clear water of the gulf, the powdery white sand…the water here was more blue than anywhere else we had been. Every day that I went to the beach, it felt like a gift. I just remember soaking it in every single time.

The beach was about 1.5 miles from the campground, but there were no cars allowed on the path. So you either had to walk, bike, or take the tram. I loved that no cars were allowed near the beach access. This means fewer people at the beach! You could see the built up high rise condos of Destin in the distance. The juxtaposition of sand dunes for miles with the leering high rises in the distance makes me all the more grateful that some lands are set aside to be preserved.

Tram at Topsail Hill
The park is very large, so this tram shuttles visitors from one end to another every hour or so. In peak season, it runs more often.
Part of the boardwalk leading to the beach at Topsail Hill. I love how the forest meets the beach. It was different from any other landscape we’ve seen in Florida.

Freshwater Lakes

The landscape at Topsail Hill is also unique in that there are multiple freshwater lakes right in the park, extremely close to the beach. One day, Calla and I went on an “alligator hike” with the Ranger. Sometimes state parks have planned activities that we take advantage of. We may or may not have had had to make an early exit due to Calla getting impatient!

One of the freshwater lakes – yes, we saw an alligator here!
Sunset at one of the freshwater lakes
Sunset at one of the freshwater lakes

Campground

The campground at Topsail Hill is very nice. It used to be an RV Resort before it was purchased by the state, so the sites are a little close together for our liking. There are a decent amount of trees in between, so at least there is some privacy. The pads are concrete or gravel, and there were full hookups. Supposedly there was cable throughout the park, but we hooked ours up and could never get it to work. The Ranger said they have a lot of problems with it.

There are a lot of sites, and most of them would easily accommodate a big rig. From the campground, you can easily walk to the little gift shop they have there, or you can ride your bike to the beach or to any of the lakes. There were a lot of trails in the park. The main route was paved, but the ones that branch off are sand only.

Our second campsite at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park
Our second campsite at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park

We had to move sites about halfway through our 12 day stay because we couldn’t get reservations on the same site 12 days in a row. The move was about a 2 minute drive away, and we liked both of our sites equally. We’ve had better sites, we’ve had worse sites. The main draw to Topsail Hill is the beach, IMO, not the campground.

Campground Map - Gregory Moore RV Resort
Campground Map

 

Our Special Visitor

During our stay at Topsail Hill, we had a very special visitor. Tim’s dad drove down from Pittsburgh with his teardrop camper and stayed at the campground for over a week! He got a lot of quality time with Calla and we loved having him around. We shared many meals (lots of fresh seafood!) and made a lot of new memories.

Calla and her Pap

 

Tim’s dad’s teardrop camper in the campground. Isn’t it cool?!
3 Generations – at the boardwalk in Destin

Destin

This state park has a secluded feel, but is only about 30 minutes from Destin. As soon as you get out of the park, you’re on a pretty busy highway, with all the stores and restaurants you could ever want. There’s a really good outlet mall about 15 minutes from the state park. We also went and visited the boardwalk in Destin, which was a cool way to spend a couple hours. It was beautiful, but EMPTY! I can only imagine how much this place hustles and bustles during high season. There were ziplines, games, restaurants, and gift shops galore – but no one there!

boardwalk sunset in Destin FL
Sunset from the boardwalk

So, Topsail Hill Preserve State Park…home of the best beach in Florida (my opinion). I felt so fortunate to have spent 12 days in this paradise.

Calla stands guard while Tim swims