A beach destination with tons of room to spread out and camp with the family – that’s St. Andrew’s State Park. We spoke with Brian Addison who’s the Park Manager at St. Andrews State Park. He filled us in on the parks proximity to Panama City Beach, fishing on the peninsula, and what visitors can expect when coming to the park. Listen to the full interview here:
Videos by Outdoors
St. Andrews State Park Camping, Florida
Camp Florida: I’m talking with Brian Addison today. He is the Park Manager at St. Andrews State Park in Florida. How’s it going today, Brian?
Brian: I’m doing fine. How are you doing?
CF: Having a pretty good afternoon. So, let’s start with how long St. Andrews State Park has been there and how it got its start?
Brian: Well, St. Andrews, I believe, became a State Park in the early ’50s. Probably right around 1952. It was actually, prior to being a State Park, the United States Army used this area and built some sea coast for protection during the early ’40s. And prior to that, the Army Core of Engineers set a cut here, at St. Andrews, to create an access channel that leads into St. Andrews Bay.
CF: Oh, really interesting. And what are the most popular activities for guests at the park there?
Brian: Well, we’re a peninsula, and so we’re surround on three sides by saltwater. So, it’s swimming, fishing, sunbathing, snorkeling, scuba diving, surfing. We have a boat ramp, where we can launch two boats at a time, so that’s very popular because we have quick access to the park out to the Gulf of Mexico. We also have two nature trails in the State Park. And across the access channel, the State Park on the other side is another portion of the State Park, called Shell Island, which is a barrier Island that has no facilities whatsoever. And our concession manager provides rides over to Shell Island for a cost so that you can experience the real Florida with no facilities on the beaches over there.
CF: Okay. And tell me a little bit about what the camping is like in the park there?
Brian: Camping. We’re the second largest campground in the State of Florida. We have 176 campsites.
Brian: Majority of our campsites are 20 and 30amp. We do have some 50amp service. And if you call our reservation number or call the Park here, we’ll be glad to let you know which ones have 50amp service. Our campgrounds are located on the lagoon side of the Park, so approximately 40 to 45 campsites are actually right on the water, right on the lagoon that leads into St. Andrews Bay. Most of our sites have good coverage as far as camping, as far as trees go. So, you have some shade depending on the time of day. We have four bathhouses inside the campground, and it’s a campground that the first portion has been established since probably the early ’60s, and then the second half of the campground was probably added on towards the late ’60s or early ’70s.
CF: Okay. If I was camping there for the weekend and I wanted to venture outside of the Park, what are some other attractions in the area worth checking out?
Brian: Well, it all depends on what you like to do. If you’re looking at something such as golf, we have probably three or four major golf courses right around here, in the Panama City Beach area. One of them right across the lagoon from us; is a Jack Nicholson design golf course, at Wyndham Baypoint. We have a number of attractions on the beach itself as far as movie theaters, restaurants, local restaurants, chain restaurants, and nightclubs. We have another State Park just a little bit further down, on the West end of Panama City Beach. It’s called Camp Helen, which is a completely different type of State Park than what we have here at St. Andrews. And originally built by a company that was up in Alabama, I believe, and they build this Park when it was a private property for a vacation for their employees to bring families down to enjoy the beach and be able to enjoy the area.
The County and the City have a number of small parks in the area. We also have a number of festivals, especially in the fall and spring. And some during the summer, but there’s a lot in the fall and spring. A number of festivals all throughout Panama City Beach and Panama City area that you can attend. Anything from seafood festival to bike week to pirates festival, and anything else you can think of. If you go to the Panama City Beach Visitor Bureau’s website, I’m sure you can get all that information there.
CF: Sure. So, it sounds like while the Park itself sounds like a great place to relax – there’s a lot of hiking – it sounds like you guys are still very close to just about anything that you’d want to do.
Brian: Correct. We’re on the east end of Panama City Beach. So, like I said, we’re a peninsula, so we have the (Unclear 5:15.8) beach. We have 1.5 miles of beach. That’s other than the two piers that we have. The beach has and white sand, and crystal clear water. And that’s 1.5 miles of that and approximately 3.5 miles of beach. But yeah, as soon as you go outside the Park gate, you know, whether you want something to eat, some type of dancing, or recreating activity, such as golf, or just visiting other Parks, whether they be State or County, there’s plenty of that in the area to attend along with a number of special events that occur almost every weekend.
CF: Okay. I’ve got just two more questions for you. If you could spend only one hour in St. Andrews State Park, how would you spend your time?
Brian: I would spend my time in St. Andrews State Park, if I only had one hour, I would hit one of the two nature trails. We have Harry Pond Nature Trail and we also have another Nature Trail, called Gator Lake. They both are a good example of the habitat off the beach here, in this area. We do have alligators at Gator Lake. That’s why it’s called that. I’d also spend a little bit of time fishing and just a little bit of time relaxing and enjoying the beach area with the calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
CF: Nice. Nice. And if you could spend just one night in St. Andrews State Park, which particular campsite would you choose and why?
Brian: If I could spend just one night, I’d probably try to get a site on the water. It’s very peaceful. It’s a beautiful view, especially in the evening as the sun sets and the early morning, if you’re an early riser, when the sun comes up over the Eastern Horizon. Just enjoyable to listen to the water. Be right there at the water. You can fish. A lot of people fish from their campsites on the water, and it’s just very relaxing.
CF: That’s making me want to drive down there right now, Brian. Sounds great. Well, hey, thank you so much for taking some time out of your day to chat with us at 50 Campfires and let us know about St. Andrews State Park in Florida.
Brian: You’re welcome. It’s been my pleasure.