Emily & Silent Partner
In our continuing series on places we’ve stayed in the Airstream, I am proud to introduce T. H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park.
Florida’s state park system portal can be used for searching availability and making reservations here. This park sits deep in Florida’s “Forgotten Coast“, a stretch of low-speed roads and lazy beach towns stretching from Mexico Beach to St. Marks. You will need to put forth some patience to get here but possibly for this reason T. H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park was easy to book, quiet and we managed a single site for our entire stay.
Amenities & Activities
T. H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park has one entrance on Cape San Blas Rd., which follows an utterly mind-boggling route beginning at Port St. Joe on the mainland all the way to the edge of the park’s wilderness preserve. I describe this as mind-boggling because there are parts of this peninsula that couldn’t be more than a hundred yards (91 m) wide, granting you incredible views of the Gulf Coast and St. Joseph Bay simultaneously as you make your way in.
There are two campgrounds in this park, the Sandy Pines northern camp and the Gulf Breeze southern camp, which is where we stayed. There is a rather extraordinary system of boardwalks connecting these camps which offers not only convenience but truly exceptional access to the peninsula’s wetlands, bird watching and sunsets.
Our site had 50-Amp electric and city water but no sewer so we towed to the dump station once a week. Traffic through the campground was generally light, noise was very low and the people were friendly. Pads were white sand and crushed coral so we spent a fair amount of time vacuuming the Airstream.
There wasn’t a single location in these campgrounds that wasn’t far from one water feature or another – I estimate our site was hundred yards (182 m) from the gulf-side beach and a quarter mile (.4 km) from the bay side.
Trees were sparse making satellite reception a snap. Cell service was poor but still acceptable when combined with our booster. The entire Peninsula sits at the awkward border between the Eastern and Central time zones so cell-phones often randomly toggled between times. At the time we visited there was no WiFi.
The campsite had wonderful hot showers and very good laundry but as always no change machine and no quarters at the entrance. As with the other parks we visited the gate was closed at night and operated with a rotating code supplied to you at check in time.
There was very little choice in mountain biking here of course so I mostly took Cape San Blas Rd from the park south and back again every day at lunch time.
You can ride on the beach but we weren’t ‘rockin fat bikes so the effort was fruitless.
I did speak to one man who rode a 27+ all the way from Sandy Pines to the northern tip of the preserve and he gave it a very good review.
This park was bursting with incredible wildlife as the northern half is a wildlife refuge, and therefore prohibits most human activity except with a pass. We routinely saw deer, bird, crabs, turtles, otters and even dolphins.
My silent partner and I snorkeled in several locations around the park and we had the best success at Eagle Harbor which is immediately before the campgrounds. The water was shallow and warm(ish) considering it was winter. We did need our 3mm wet-suits including head protection. In these adventures we saw scallops, jelly fish, sponges, conch shell and a variety of fish.
Below is a some video of a small inlet close to where we snorkeled.
T. H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park offered endless walks along the beaches and boardwalks. We enjoyed a particularly intense storm which stirred up quite a bit of sea-life onto the beach including Portuguese man o’ war which the local crabs feasted on.
There was also somewhat of an unspoken tradition around sunset where everyone migrated to the gulf side to watch our sun disappear.
We barely scratched the surface on activities at this park and surrounding area. I mean, we didn’t even manage to break out the kayak. This simply means we need to go back!
We also made several runs into town (keeping in mind Port St. Joe is over an hour investment round trip) where we bought some snorkeling gear, filled propane, ate some good breakfasts and found some good pizza. The locals were friendly and the traffic light.
What Could Go Wrong
As I mentioned earlier this area sits exactly on the border between the Eastern and Central Time zones, which makes the cell phones crazy. While mostly just annoyance we did get nailed one morning when we drove into Port St. Joe and found all the restaurants had just switched to serving lunch. Some helpful folks directed us north by 15 minutes where ‘suddenly’ it was an hour earlier and breakfast was aplenty.
Cell reception here was… odd. Signal strength was wildly variable and our MiFi absolutely refused to respond to the booster. I wound up using the iPhone tether instead which got me through but there were times where even the booted signal was poor. I suspect this might be because the towers are on the mainland making for some strange water/signal interaction. If you depend on the internet for your living like I do I would ensure you have more than one cellular device, the iPhone rescued us in this situation.
I’ve mentioned the “it” factor in previous posts, and boy does T. H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park have “it”. Endless sugar-white beaches, snorkeling, biking and bird-watching kept us busy for days. The park rangers were incredibly friendly and everybody was easy going. Guests not interested in camping can even rent cabins.
To this day we talk about our visit and we absolutely can’t wait to go back. If that’s not the sign of someplace with a soul, I don’t know what is. I give this park two thumbs and two big toes up. If you have the time and means absolutely put this park on your to-do list.