I am an equal opportunity outdoor lover. I love the mountains, I love the prairies, I love the forest, and I love the ocean. If I had to pick one, I would unequivocally choose the beach, though.
Like our “estate on wheels,” the beach is one of those places where I always feel at home. There is just something about the rolling waves, the salty air and the sea breeze that makes me feel at peace. Someday, I hope to be able to retire somewhere on a beach, with no cares in the world, but until then I’ll have to make do with a few trips here & there.
With that being said, I am so glad that we live within a 3.5 hour drive to one of our favorite beach campgrounds, Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
Gulf State Park is a large, sprawling state park that can be reached via Highway 59 or Beach Highway 182. The park’s campground is large, hosting over 400 campsites. The park also has its own private beach with a large beach pavilion, 11 bathhouses, a large pool, spray area, bike trails, a small wildlife museum, playgrounds, and sometimes even a food truck to grab a snack when you’re playing by the pool. It is within close proximity to all of the major attractions, restaurants, and beaches of the Gulf Shores/Orange Beach area and is a great place to stay for a beach vacation.
The campground has several different loops and roads and each area has its own bathhouse. All of the roads are great for camping with kids with the exception of the main road through the campground, Raccoon Road. This one gets a lot of traffic; it is not ideal for small kids to be able to ride their bikes around the campground. Many of the campsites are back in, there are also pull through sites. All of the sites have level concrete pads with full hookups. Sites are roomy as well. Some are shaded but since you are at the beach, the shaded areas are few and far between. The sites are easy to back into and the signage, etc is well marked so it is easy to find your site.
When it comes to amenities, Gulf State Park does not disappoint. Like I previously mentioned, the state park has its own private beach for it’s camping patrons. Other guests can come to the beach as well, but they must pay a fee. The private beach is well maintained, clean, and has access to a large pavilion with showers, restrooms, shade and even a fireplace for winter months! It’s a great place to cool off for a bit if you’ve spent too much time in the sun. If you are tired of having your toes in the sand, you can head over to the large pool at Gulf State Park. This pool is plenty big enough for all of its guests and also includes a spray park area. In that central area, there is also a laundromat, snowball stand, a wildlife museum, tennis courts, and a playground. If you are into geocaching, there are quite a few treasures to be found throughout the park and if you want to take your bike out for a ride, there is an amazing bike trail that rides through the back end of the park and will even take you to the main beach road!
Gulf State Park is well maintained, clean, and organized. There are 11 bathhouses through the campground and they are all clean, well appointed, and have ample space and hot water for your needs while you are visiting. Overall, the park is very clean as well; you are responsible for disposing of your trash, there are dumpsters on the way out of the park. There are many park personnel available for questions, all of them have been incredibly helpful and kind.
Overall, we have loved every minute of our stays at Gulf State Park and have had a hard time coming home. For the rate of $40 per night for a stay, the campground is an incredibly way to experience a beach vacation without breaking the bank. If you are looking for a great place to stay near the beach that is only about a 3-4 hour drive from New Orleans, consider a visit to Gulf State Park!
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One of my favorite pastimes when we go camping is to sit next to the campfire and read a great book. Over this last weekend trip to Gator Grounds, I managed to finish two books between trips to the pool! I started one on the way up to Bunkie, and the other I finished on the drive home. I just love getting lost in a good book, it is the ultimate in relaxation when I’m surrounded by the sights and sounds of the great outdoors.
With this in mind, I thought I would go ahead and share some of my favorite recent books that I’ve read that would be great for some R&R at the campsite, I will probably do a similar post as this once in a while, so no worries if you’ve already read any of these!
This book was a great suspense thriller. It is one of those whodunits that leaves you wondering till the very end. I couldn’t put this one down and I brought it back out to the pool with me to read the last chapter while the mister and little guy took a ride in the lazy river. This one got 5 stars!
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt
I really enjoyed this coming of age story about CeeCee and the connections she made with the women around her. This book had moments that made me get teary eyed but I recommend it to everyone who is asking for a great summer read. Another one that I gave 5 stars!
This was one of those books that really made me think. It is a very honest book that looks into the depths of racism, perception, and how something very small can make a huge difference in someone’s life. Another book that I gave 5 stars!
Another suspense thriller by Ruth Ware, this is the story of what a journalist experiences on a luxury cruise. Another unique book having you wondering who did what, it also has you trying to imagine yourself in the luxurious life of the exceedingly wealthy people in the book and understanding what they will do to protect it. I gave this one 4.5 stars!
This book was an unexpected gem that I came across and loved. This is another cute coming of age story of a young lady who loses her mother and lives her life as the daughter of the town pastor. Through her life, she wants nothing more than to experience life outside of the tiny town of Ringgold where she lives. She ponders all of these things once a week while enjoying ice cream at the Dairy Queen. This book is a very fun story with a great message at the end. Another one that I have given 5 stars!
As a Louisiana native, there is one thing I know for sure, summers here can be BRUTAL! Unfortunately traditional camping is not ideal during the middle of a hot, humid Louisiana summer, but there are some options nearby that are still great for a nice weekend getaway. In our family, we typically like to camp at “RV Resorts” that feature pools and other amenities to keep us cool when the mercury is rising.
We just got back from a nice long weekend at Gator Grounds RV Resort & Water Park along Highway 115 near Bunkie, Louisiana. Gator Grounds is a family focused resort that has something for everyone in your family.
We arrived on a Friday evening and check in was simple and easy. Attendants guided us in golf carts to our site and were kind enough to help us back in successfully. We were in campsite #59, a waterfront RV site, with a pond view that was great for our son and his cousins to go fishing! Sites were level with gravel and full hookups. Sites across from us were not waterfront, but did have shade from some trees. There was no cable television or wifi access, though. Our site was roomy enough, but backing in was a little tight and help from staff attendants was greatly appreciated.
When it came to amenities, Gator Grounds did not disappoint. There was both an outdoor water park and an indoor option, which was fantastic when we had rain on our second day. The outdoor water park featured 3 slides, which were gentled enough that small children could do them with no trouble. There is also a nice lazy river, 3 full size pools, one with a volleyball net; 2 outdoor hot tubs, and a small baby pool. The indoor water park featured 2 pools, a slide, a spray park area, and a hot tub as well as showers that are open at all hours, to be used as a bath house. There was also an outdoor theater, a golf course, a playground, the Gator Grill, which served pizza, burgers, ice cream and other items, which a covered dining area. There is also a convenience store where you could get anything you may have forgotten. The pools were all clean; also, because there are several pools, you never feel as though they are too crowded, as everyone is spaced out in several pool locations. If you have smaller children, though, it is wise to keep a close eye out because there are some obstructed views and it could be hard to keep track of them. The patio furniture was top notch, the staff was incredibly friendly and accommodating, and the cocktails were delicious and price well, providing a great value. We also did enjoy that we could bring our tumblers in with our own drinks and have them refilled at the bar for a nominal charge. Outside snacks are not permitted in the pool area, as well as cans and glass bottles, however, we were permitted to bring in our own waters, soda, etc. in our tumblers with no issue.
The children in our group thoroughly enjoyed being able to ride bikes throughout the campground safely as well as the stocked fishing ponds. One of the kids in our party managed to catch a good sized bass, and that was one of the highlights of his weekend. When our kids weren’t at the pools, they still had plenty to keep them occupied and they had a great time. There was also a game arcade, zip line, ropes course, miniature golf, and a playground! There was not a shortage of things to do.
With many resort style campgrounds, golf carts are often a popular option for guests. Gator Grounds does not allow guests to bring their own golf carts; however they will rent them out for a fee. We do not have a golf cart, so this did not bother us. There was a steady stream of golf carts in the evenings, however it was not so much that our children were unable to ride bikes safely.
Gator Grounds is not only kid friendly, it is pet friendly; there are areas designated for walking your dog, and pickup bags are also provided. Our sweet girl had a great time taking morning walks around both loops of the campground.
When it comes to bath houses, this is the one spot where we feel Gator Grounds could up their game. There are no bath houses really close to the campground portion of the resort. There are showers and restrooms in the outdoor pool area and in the indoor pool area. Both are a considerable hike from where we were in the campground. The indoor pool showers require a car, golf cart, or bike ride in order to get there from the campground; these are open at all hours whereas the ones in the pool area are only open during the pool hours. Water temps were great and the showers were roomy and clean, but the distance from the campground was not ideal.
We really enjoyed our visit to Gator Grounds and we plan on making another visit there in the near future. This campground is very family centered, clean, and the staff is incredibly friendly, helpful and top notch. We highly recommend it!!!
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When we bought our first travel trailer, we were new to the camping game but we equipped our camper with the bare minimums- we had a few pots & pans, paper and plastic dishes, and blankets for our beds along with the necessities for a camper like a sewer hose, water hose, electric plugs, etc.
It wasn’t until we got our second camper after we had our son that we realized there were some things that would make our RV experience ten times better—and it was then when we started making a list of those things that we didn’t know we needed in our camper until we started really going camping all of the time. Often, when we here friends get a camper or are taking the plunge to start enjoying the outdoors along with us, these are some of the things we tell them we love, or, we give it to them as an “RV-housewarming” gift!
Without further ado, here’s our Top Ten Things To Get for Your RV
1. MEMORY FOAM MATTRESS– When we purchased our most recent camper, the first thing we decided to do was throw out the mattress that came with the camper and invest in a new one. We purchased a memory foam mattress from Amazon for around $300 and it has been amazing. It came to our house all rolled up and we unrolled it and let it expand in the camper. By far, this was one of the greatest investments we made in our “vacation home” as it is incredibly comfortable and luxurious. We also purchased a new quilt and sheets as well because, as you’ve seen in my past posts, I’m not really a fan of all of the brown that came with the camper.
2. POP UP TRASH CAN– This was one of those things that we didn’t realize we need until one day I happened upon one and we started using it. Before we invested in this, we were using a trash bag tied to the awning. It drove me insane. This trash can starts out the size of a garbage can lid and then pops open to hold a large black trash bag. It fits in our outdoor storage compartment when traveling but holds a lot of trash! And it is easy to clean as it is made of a waterproof fabric. The one tip we have is to keep a few clothespins handy to clip the bag onto the can when needed.
3. PORTABLE FAN – Even though our camper is air conditioned, sometimes the air doesn’t circulate as well as it does at home. Since you can’t mount a ceiling fan in a travel trailer, the next best thing is a portable fan. We are a big fan of the Honeywell Table Fan; we use it to pull air into the rear slide at night because the air doesn’t circulate on its own back there. It is perfect, also, for putting outside on the mini table to cool off when the temps are warm.
4. ELECTRIC GRIDDLE– A few years ago, right after we got our Surveyor, our grocery store was doing an appliance giveaway deal where if you got so many points, you got a free appliance. Since we already had all of the other appliances they were giving away, I opted for this electric griddle. At first, we weren’t sure what we were going to do with it, but once we decided to keep it in the camper, we were sold. We use our electric griddle often when camping; to make bacon, eggs, and pancakes. We also use it to make grilled ham & cheese sandwiches or sometimes even hamburgers if we can’t get the grill ready in time. It is really a useful tool when camping, and a pretty inexpensive option to keep in your camper for easy to make meals!
5. SLOW COOKER– When we purchased an Instant Pot to keep in our home, I brought our slow cooker to keep in the camper and we use it all of the time. One of our favorite things in the fall/winter months is to cook chili all day and come back to camp and relax. It is also great in the summer to cook baby back ribs, hot dogs, or even bake a chicken in without having to heat up the inside of your camper. Stay tuned, maybe someday I’ll share some of my favorite camping slow cooker recipes!
6. MINI FOLDING TABLE- Our camper has a small outdoor kitchen, but when we want to use our electric griddle, slow cooker, or our utensils and spices when cooking, this little table is the perfect size to keep those items while we are cooking or even to place the fan on when trying to cool off.
7. CERAMIC HEATER WITH THERMOSTAT – In the winter months, the rear slide can get a little bit chilly since there is no insulation within the slide’s walls. Also, we don’t like to use the propane heater all of the time in our camper, so we often will use an electric space heater to warm up our camper when the temps drop. We purchased this little heater two years ago and it puts out a lot of heat and does not take up a lot of space. We were really surprised at how well this small heater warmed up our whole camper!
8. AWNING LIGHTS – Whether you choose the traditional globe lights or a simple LED strip, awning lights are a MUST when camping. When we got out first travel trailer, the only light we had was the tiny little yellow light outside the door. If you wanted to sit outside your camper for a bit to hang out in the evening for dinner, etc. There wasn’t much light around to help out. These lights help tremendously for providing ample light in the evenings! We have the big globe style and love them!
9. HAND VACUUM- Last year, in March, we went camping during what was apparently gnat season at Percy Quin State Park. They didn’t really bite us during the day, but they somehow snuck into our camper quite a bit at night. You could hear them buzzing around and it drove me nuts! It was on that trip that we decided to get a hand vacuum to keep in our camper. It comes in handy when you have bugs flying around your lights, if your kids leave little crumbs in your dinette cushions, or if you want to try to control how much sand or dirt gets into your camper carpets when you come in from the campsite. We often use ours when we are unpacking to do a quick clean up before shutting the camper up until our next trip!
10. OXYGENICS SHOWER HEAD – One of my biggest complaints about our first two campers was that the shower heads were too low (I’m tall!) and that they didn’t put out much in the way of water pressure. With limited hot water output, the water pressure was a trickle and took forever. Along with the mattress, one of the first things we changed when we bought our Outback was this shower head. It provides an adequate stream of water without sacrificing all of the hot water in the tank, it is excellent and a great investment!
So, there you have it- some things we had no idea we needed until we had our third travel trailer. While these are our top 10 items, there are more that I could have added to the list…. Tell me, do you have any specific things you would have on your top 10 that weren’t included here?
Just off I-55 in hilly McComb, Mississippi, Percy Quin State Park is one of my family’s favorite campgrounds that is one of our favorite places to camp to get away from the busyness of daily life and enjoy all that nature has to offer. We have had many relaxing yet refreshing weekends around campfires and along the bike trails of Percy Quin that we come back several times a year.
Fortunately, Percy Quin State Park is about 1.5 hours from the New Orleans metro area, right off of I-55. Check in is simple at the main gate and the campground is not hard to find. When entering the campground, we typically prefer the north campground, as its sites are more along the lake and provide breathtaking views of sunsets along Lake Tangipahoa and great fishing off the banks as well! All campsites have concrete camper pads and while some are level, there are also several that are not, as the area is hilly. Be sure to check the grade of your site when booking your reservation at Reserve America. Percy Quin does offer full hookups and all sites have plenty of shade. There are several sites that may be smaller due to steep hills and ravines, be sure to check when booking. There is a camp store within the campground, but it is not consistently open. Sites are roomy and leave lots of room for kids to play and the campground roads are also paved and generally not high traffic so children can ride bikes safely.
There is never a shortage of things to do when visiting Percy Quin. If you like bike riding, there is a great paved bike trail that goes along the lake in front of the cabins. Our family loves taking that ride on every trip we take. Amenities also include bath houses throughout the campground, boating, fishing, a nature trail, tennis courts, a playground, swimming pool, and other water activities along Lake Tangipahoa.
While we do love Percy Quin, there are some improvements that we think can be made. While the bath houses are adequate, they are dated and could use some upgrades. Also, there is never hand soap available to wash your hands with if you use the restroom! Also, the playground area is not part of the campground; it is on the other side of the park in the Day Use area. It would be great if there was a playground available for guests of the campground, as it is a long bike ride or requires a drive to get to the existing playground. These issues aside, we still thoroughly enjoy our visits and continue to head there for nice getaways to reconnect with family.
If you are looking to go camping for a nice, natural location that isn’t a far drive from New Orleans, Baton Rouge, or Jackson, MS, head over to Percy Quin State Park! The scenery is beautiful and there are plenty of activities to keep you busy for your visit!
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Last summer, Pokemon Go was all the rage. People were all over the place trying to “catch” Pokemon with the help of their phone GPS. It brought families out from behind their TV’s and Ipads, and around area parks and other green spaces. There were even Poke Stops at libraries and other fun places.
What if I told you, you could do something similar, but with the possibly of finding prizes in the process? That’s Geocaching, also known as the “World’s Largest Treasure Hunt!”
Geocaching has been around for well over 10 years. It is really simple: you use your smartphone’s built in GPS or a handheld GPS and hints to hide and/or seek “caches” — little gifts hidden around the world. As of 2016, there are over 2.8 million geocaches hidden throughout the world and found by over 4 million geocachers. You could go on vacation to Italy and still be likely to find a geocache that may have something to take home as a really neat souvenir! Some caches are large, others are really “nano” small and some just contain logs where others contain trinkets and prizes to swap out. Many cachers will have a “signature” item like a trading card, rocks, buttons, or even marbles that they swap out on their finds.
The one good thing about most state parks is that they, too, have geocaches hidden within the park. This is a perfect activity for the family when camping- you can go on a treasure hunt with your crew- sometimes just the journey to find the geocache is plenty fun enough, but the feeling of accomplishment when you eventually find it is pretty awesome too. We’ve geocached at Percy Quin State Park, where there are several caches. One of them is pretty well hidden and when we found it- it felt pretty awesome! (and muddy!)
If you want to try geocaching, it’s pretty easy to get started. Your first step is to download the Geocaching app. Once you sign up and get your app installed, you will see markers for all of the cache’s nearby. All you do is click on the marker, read the tips and hints, and start searching! Depending on your terrain, dress appropriately, bring your bug spray, some snacks, water, and your own trinkets to trade in the caches, and give it a try! If you find a cache, be sure to share a pic and log your experience so others will know it’s still there, and if you find a useful trinket or prize, be sure to put one back in. It’s that simple!
Next time you go camping, I hope you and your family will take the time to try geocaching! You never know what you might find!
Nestled in the rolling hills of northwestern Mississippi, just one hour south of Memphis, John W. Kyle State Park is a large, sprawling state park that is home to the Sardis Lake Reservoir and accompanying dam as well as a campground, fishing, boating, and vacation cabins. It is also only about 25 miles away from Ole Miss, which makes its location ideal for anyone wanting to visit the campus or a football game in the fall.
We made our visit to John Kyle State Park in November 2016, right before Thanksgiving. We spent 5 days and 4 nights at the park. We thoroughly enjoyed the scenery and serenity of the campground and were pleased with the size of the campsites. RV pads were mostly level and made of concrete and the roads of the campground were paved and provided ample space to back in. Our campsite was spacious, but not shaded. There were sites with trees that were more shaded, but those were not open to reservations at the time. Sites included full hookups, however, the distance between the water and sewer hookups to RV’s required additional length than what is typical. Be prepared upon arrival- you may need extra hoses! I think someone in our party needed a 65′ hose to get to his camper from the hookup.
Finding the campground within this large state park was difficult; signage was not clear or adequate to find the RV campground. Upon our arrival, which was in the late afternoon, there was no park employee available for check in. I think during our whole stay, we may have seen a ranger/park employee one time.
We aren’t sure if it was because it was before a holiday or because it was an off week, but our group and one or two other campers were the only people staying at the campground in this moderately sized campground; therefore, there was not a whole lot of social activity. We tend to like to socialize with camping neighbors and get to know others who enjoy the great outdoors. Amenities include a playground, bath houses, boating and fishing. The environment was a great representation of the beauty of the outdoors as the leaves were turning colors and the lake was very still. It was nice that our kids could ride bikes and play without risk of danger from speeding cars and trucks. The playground area was well equipped and shaded, and the dam was an interesting excursion that was also educational for the kids.
The one downer of this park is that the bath houses left a lot to be desired. Of course, having an RV, we don’t NEED the bathhouse, but sometimes it is nice to be able to use them to save time and effort during the evenings. The bath house that was closest to our campsite was closed and we had to walk considerably further to another one. That one was incredibly dated, musty, and full of cobwebs and broken knobs and did not look like it had been cleaned in a while.
There isn’t much around this area, however, you can head one or two exits down to Batesville, which is a quaint little town with a train station, many cute shops, a Walmart, Kroger, etc. If you want to stick nearby the park, there is a large Dollar General with a small selection of groceries and basic necessities right on the other site of the interstate.
Overall, we enjoyed our visit to John W. Kyle State Park, as the natural beauty and overall quiet nature of the park was great for our extended family to enjoy some valuable quality time. Reservations can be made at Reserve America. This park would be great for LSU or any SEC fans headed up to Ole Miss for a game or to just spend a quiet weekend of R&R.
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