THE REVERSE SNOWBIRD – RVING TO FLORIDA IN THE SUMMER
Snowbirds is a term for people who leave colder climates to migrate south in the winter to areas like Florida, California, Arizona and Texas. I grew up in Minnesota and went to college in a small town way up north. It was so cold that the college built underground tunnels connecting each building because they knew college kids wouldn’t head out into -20 degree weather to sit in a lecture. After so many cold winters, I understand why people head south when the weather starts to turn cold.
As an entrepreneur I often ask myself, “what if I did the opposite of what everybody else is doing?” Some of the biggest rewards in my life have come from doing the unconventional. Our RV trip to Florida was one of these rewards of going against the grain.
The idea of being reverse snowbirds came after we unknowingly took a trip in the off season to southern Utah. In the winter it felt like we had everything to ourselves! I hiked Angels Landing and watched the sunrise as I reached the summit. I spent over an hour at the top with just myself and my thoughts. It was beautiful!
A few days later I did a huge loop trail in Bryce Canyon and didn’t see anyone the entire hike. It felt like I had the entire national park to myself that day.
We spent two weeks like this. About a month later we were trying to figure out where to spend time exploring and we decided to take this same theory and reverse it for a trip to Florida. We were spending some time in northern Texas when a very rare blizzard rolled through. Everything was frozen, especially Danielle. The next two photos were taken just two days apart. It was in the 80’s and then a few days later in the 20’s.
The next morning Danielle said “what if we ditch our plans and just head for the warmth of Florida?” I agreed and we packed up and headed to the Gulf of Mexico.
The Emerald Coast
The name of this area says it all. The brilliant green water alongside white sand beaches rival some of the best in the world.
If I had to pick a favorite town in the panhandle, it would be Destin. It has secluded beaches but also has the commercialized areas so you can have the best of both worlds. When we arrived, most of the real snowbirds had already left to go back up north, so often we would have beaches almost completely to ourselves. The sand looked like snow.
The Destin boardwalk is filled with shops, restaurants and boating excursions like fishing charters and dolphin cruises.
This guy was telling fishing stories; lucky for him he had the fish to back them up.
We then headed off toward Panama City Beach. We pulled over at this scenic spot and I reached out to the management of the property. They allowed us to boondock for the night.
What a place to work for the day!
After getting some work done, we walked down the trail to enjoy the sunset on the beach.
The next day we enjoyed the Gulf until we headed to Orlando.
A Big Change in Our Lives
On our way to Florida, we found out that Danielle was pregnant! We had to decide whether to settle down or keep traveling through the pregnancy. We own a company that provides social media for RV dealerships and our business had taken off so we decided to continue our travels. One thing was certain, we were going to need a bigger RV!
Danielle researched online and found the perfect floor plan in a 5th wheel for our growing family. We were picked to be on the TV show “Going RV” which is essentially House Hunters for RVs. When we visited the dealership, we immediately noticed the same RV that we had chosen online. We weren’t planning on upgrading for a few months but we can be spontaneous and bought it on the spot!
Setting Up a Base Camp in Orlando
Orlando is a great destination, but it’s also located in an area where you can take countless day trips to unique spots. When we arrived, it was packed with RVers. Within two weeks, the place completely emptied out as the snow birds migrated back up north. We felt like we had this amazing resort all to ourselves!
The property has a lake and they rent kayaks for free! We love to kayak; Danielle especially loves it because she doesn’t do any of the paddling, so it’s a leisurely boat ride for her.
The beginning of the summer is the rainy season, but we also got some great rainbows.
Wildlife would come right up to the deck while we sat out. We saw these birds and turtles almost daily.
We thought this lawn bowling was neat.
I really enjoy the calm lakes where the reflection in the water is so clear.
The Sponge Capital of the World
I wanted to take Danielle on a special day trip. After doing some online research, I found out Tarpon Springs is the Sponge Capital of the world. There is a company called Spongorama which has a free sponge museum and a boat tour that takes you to an island to go shelling.
On the way to the island the captain pointed out points of interest. Once we were on the island we were amazed how tropical it was. They gave us each bags to collect shells.
We shared the island with these adventurers who took this small sailboat to the island. Walking along the shore felt like paradise!
On the way back our boat passed a beautiful RV park on the water!
After shelling it was time to check out the sponge museum.
It was surprisingly educational. I’ve never put thought into how sponges are created, so I found it interesting that these sponges were made right here in Tarpon Springs!
These sponges made us smile.
We headed to grab a bite at one of the restaurants on the water we had seen from the boat. The crew had pointed out that each day local fisherman delivered fresh fish to the restaurant and we watched as we ate.
A Family Celebration
We’ve realized that being full time RVers allows us to see our family more often. It’s easy to pack up and visit them, but since we are often in scenic locations, they often come to us. Danielle’s brother from Maryland came to stay with us on his birthday. Boating is one activity that we prefer doing as reverse snowbirds. Florida stays relatively warm but it can get chilly on the water in the winter. We had great weather so we rented a boat in St Pete for a day on the Gulf. I captained the ship and let them all sit back and relax.
Within 20 minutes of being on the boat, we noticed we were being followed by a pod of dolphins. We cut the engine and sat and watched them splash around our boat for 15 minutes or so before we moved on.
We found a chain of islands just outside of St Pete and did some fishing.
As we were boating around the different islands, we found paradise at Fort Desoto Island. It turns out there is a bridge to the island and RV campground so we vowed to one day RV here and now it’s on our bucket list.
We stayed as long as we could but eventually we had to peel ourselves away and head back to St Pete. It was nice to be able to see Downtown St Pete from the water.
Finding Peace at the River
We left the Orlando area to head further south to the Thousand Trails Peace River RV Resort. It’s a very different setting from the busy city of Orlando because it’s located in the tiny town of Wauchula.
The RV Resort is big and was fairly empty so we got our pick of the top campsites. I found out from a fellow RVer that a month ago almost all the spots had been filled with snow birds!
A neighbor stopped by and let us know the campground happens to be on one of the premiere fossil spots in the country. He ran to his RV and excitedly showed us countless fossils they’ve found. He offered to lend us their fossil equipment so we took him up on it and headed on an adventure to find our own.
Our dogs loved walking because it was the off season and we had the trails to ourselves. This was great because Zoey was a puppy and I was training her to walk next to me without a leash.
I have a good friend who doesn’t camp very often. He and his wife live in Florida, so we were excited to have them visit because the Road Warrior isn’t “roughing it” experience. We took them fossil hunting.
The next day we went hiking. We were reminded why it’s a bad idea to leave food out when we saw these guys eating a watermelon outside of an RV.
Hiking this beautiful trail we stumbled on something incredible… rope swing!!! I think it might be an unwritten rule that if you’re hiking and find a random rope swing that feels relatively safe, you have to give it a try. So I did, over and over I swung down into the warm water. It was so much fun!
I made a friend at the campground who happened to have a canoe. My dad used to race canoes so my brothers and I were raised canoeing and I love the sport. After sunrise, Danielle dropped us 9 miles upriver at a state park so we could paddle back to the campsite. I anticipated it would be beautiful but I was blown away at how gorgeous and secluded the river was.
One of the things we love about RVing is that it seems like most of the RV resorts we’ve visited have heated pools.
We feel it’s important for couples to do things together consistently, no matter what the activity. Often we go bike riding around the campground just before sunset and look at all the different RVs and the different ways people set them up. The dogs love it, too.
Another pleasant surprise was running into our friends that we met at another Thousand Trails Resort in Texas. Since we had just upgraded to our Road Warrior we had a little house warming get together and James played live music at the campfire!
Visiting the #1 Seashell Beach in the World
Sanibel Island is known as the number one seashell beach in the world. It feels like a tropical paradise.
In the winter there are many snow birds that love to come here for the big shells that wash up over night. During our visit, we walked down the beach and were the only people as far as I could see. There were quite a few people fishing and we saw them pull in fish consistently.
Shells are everywhere here! Where the tide comes in, it leaves 3-5 feet of shell “litter” along the beach. Bring a bucket and start picking the ones you like.
The Whitest and Finest Sand in the World
Siesta Key Beach is known for being one of the top beaches in the world. Trip Advisor ranked it as the #1 beach in the US in 2015. After visiting 36 states in the past year, this is our favorite beach. The sand is made up of 99% quartz which makes it perfect for the reverse snowbird visitors because even on the hottest days, the sand feels cool to the skin.
Danielle’s parents planned a vacation around us being in Florida and we all headed to the beach together. We were told that during the snow bird season, if you aren’t parked by 9am, you won’t find a parking spot. There were plenty of spots when we got there. The walk to the beach from the parking lot is beautiful.
As soon as we walked on the beach we felt how cool the sand was on this hot day.
To beat the heat, I went snorkeling around and looking at all the fish in the water.
This is a perfect beach to relax and bring the kids to build sandcastles. Actually, it’s a perfect beach for pretty much anything.
There were a few people fishing and they kept reeling them in.
After spending the day at the beach, we headed over to grab a bite to eat. This restaurant had an old camper van that they converted into the kitchen. The cooks passed the food to the servers through the window. What a creative idea!
We love listening to live music when we eat at the beach.
The reverse snowbird technique worked well for us. Have you tried this? Leave your comments below.