Gulf Islands National Seashore.

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Our first Thanksgiving in Tennessee we headed back to Illinois to visit with family. It was cold enough to make us change future holiday plans. We decided to visit our family in the warmer months and to share our Thanksgiving joy long distance, via telephone. (We love them dearly and see them several times a year in said warmer months). With that plan in mind, dear husband suggested we head South to the Gulf of Mexico. With his extra days off of work and the distance being within a day’s drive, it seemed a viable option. We did a little research and found the Gulf Islands National Seashore with camping near Fort Pickins.

Wednesday night we arrived and were in a hurry to set up camp. We were pleased to hear that a bike trail ran along the inner island right from our campground directly to the Civil War fort. Thursday morning we were up and ready to explore via bicycle power. From then on we sort of settled into a three-day exploration pattern of bike, climb, beach, repeat.

The clear azure water and near white sandy beaches were a pleasant surprise. I honestly never knew such tropical looking beaches existed along the US shoreline. The steady beating of water lured my boys up to the edge, and ahem, right in the water, shoes, socks, and all! We laughed when my youngest son complained, “My shoes are so heavy, I must have sand in them.” My more cautious older son waited until we got his Crocs out to dive in, just shrieking but laughing, “It’s cold!”

Gulf Islands National Seashore was an excellent mini-break for Thanksgiving. The peacefully empty shorelines balanced the crowded campgrounds. The handy bike trail and tons of forts, batteries, weaponry, in-land marshes, and wild animals gave us plenty of new things to enjoy. We do adore National Parks, but this was an extra-special tropical surprise.

Click here for more info on Fort Pickens, Fort Barrancas, and the National Naval Air Museum.

(Note: We found this blog post from a fellow Airstreamer with tons of details about Fort Pickins if you plan on going.)

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