We continue our epic van journey to Florida with camping in the Carolinas
Happy New Year friends! Welcome to 2023! We hope you had a wonderful Christmas, and that this new year brings you health, prosperity, and exciting travel adventures!
As we write this first blog of the new year, we are hunkered down at home while we experience a cold Minnesota winter with a National Weather Service-issued ice storm warning, blowing snow and a winter storm advisory.
Out in the driveway, our 2019 Ford Transit campervan is totally coated in about ¼-inch of ice. Snow is now falling, and we are expected to get about 3 to 5 inches of more snow on top of what is already on the ground from the Christmas blizzard we had just over a week ago.
What better time to relive our trip to sunny and warm Florida this past October and November.
Leaving the Land of Dolly
In our last blog post before we took a short break for the holidays, we had just arrived in North Carolina after driving through the land of Dolly Parton, Pigeon Forge, TN, and The Great Smoky Mountains National Park earlier in the day.
We finally pulled in late Saturday afternoon, Oct. 22, for a quick overnight stay at the Asheville West KOA Holiday campground in Chandler, North Carolina, just outside of Asheville, before getting back on the highway again the next day.
Fall in the Blue Ridge Mountains
Fall was definitely in the air in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the hilly, terraced campground was filled with trees decked out in orange, yellow and gold. We quickly leveled the van and got settled before nightfall. JK needed a hot cup of coffee after a long day of driving.
This pet-friendly KOA facility features 60 RV and tent camping sites. Many of the RV sites are pull-through with full 50-amp hook-ups. The campground is right off I-40 and is owned by the Nance and Polasky families.
There are several camping cabins options, and the property also has a swimming pool (open May through September) hiking trails, magic fairy gardens, a rec room and lounge, laundry, showers, and rest rooms.
Uphill to the bathrooms
Since we try not to use our on-board Porta Potty, if at all possible, we book campsites near the restrooms. This campground is hilly, and it was an uphill walk to reach the showers and bathrooms from our campsite. But camping under the canopy of trees in such a rural mountain setting was worth the slight inconvenience.
Morning came brisk, breezy, and early. We needed our puffer coats while making coffee outside the van.
Before we hit the road, we stopped in at the campground office to say thanks and check out the store. The building was all decked out for Halloween, including a giant rooftop spider and cobwebs!
She had a Southern Colorado drawl
We found out the gal working the check-in counter that morning was actually from Colorado. So, we traded some living in Colorado stories. Funny thing was that she had already picked up the southern drawl quite convincingly.
Back in the van, our final overnight camp spot before getting to Florida was 270 miles south – about a 5-hour drive.
We really love this part of the Carolinas and were surprised by the fall colors and how many trees the area has. Interstate 26 cuts a four-lane swath right through all the trees. Seeing the tall pines growing along the highway reminded us of our time living in Washington State and the forests and tree farms that grew right up to the roads.
Heading to “Low Country”
South Point I-95/Yamassee KOA Holiday in South Carolina was our destination that day. Although it is another KOA property, this campground was very different from the Asheville area KOA.
This South Carolina property reflects the historic “Low Country” that the southern coastal region is famous for. We could feel the slightly warmer temperatures and smell the ocean salt in the air.
Plus, it was the first-time on this trip we started seeing palm trees growing “in the wild” and many other trees laden with Spanish moss.
Centrally situated and close to Beaufort, Hilton Head, and Savanna, Georgia, the “5-Star camper rated” South Point I-95/Yamassee KOA Holiday campground certainly showed off its Southern charms and hospitality.
The owners live right on the property, and staff regularly patrol the grounds making sure everything is in tip-top shape. Every arriving guest gets a personal escort to their camping site after check-in.
Wine, beer, and laundry
This has to be the first campground we have stayed at with a coffee house and a wine and regional craft beer bar. In the mornings, the Swimming Mermaid Coffee House features all your favorite coffee drinks using locally roasted beans.
An on-site pizza and wings kitchen offers food delivery every night right to your camp spot! They even feature delicious breakfast pizza in the morning!
The campground boasts 58 RV sites, with some sites accommodating rigs up to 90-feet. They have a number of tent sites, deluxe camping cabins and an actual retired Louisiana & Nashville Railroad caboose that can be rented as well, right up JK’s alley.
There is a year-round swimming pool, K-9 park, propane fill, RV dump station, and restroom with showers, dimmed lighting at night, and piped-in smooth jazz music. Oh behave!
An expanded playground features a “life size” chess board, tether ball, horseshoes, corn hole games and gem mining for family fun.
There is an adjacent 12-acre private lake that KOA guests are welcome to stroll around. Just be aware there are gators in the lake.
After being on the road for a few days, we had amassed a decent pile of dirty laundry. The campground’s laundry room is located directly behind the wine and craft beer bar in the main building.
It’s 5 o’clock somewhere
What better way to wait out the washing machine and dryer cycles then by sipping a glass of great regional wine or local craft brew! It WAS 5 o’clock, after all! It’s the first time we both really enjoyed having to do laundry! The clothes washers did a good job and the “Express” dryer had a full load of wet clothes totally dry in less than 15 minutes!
We were traveling this time without our fur babies Willow and Tia. So, Kim fell totally in “puppy love” when one of the other campers brought in their two small puppies to the campground gift shop!
We both received some dog therapy in the form of puppy cuddles and licks on the neck!
General Robert E. Lee camped here
The KOA campground is built on historic land. Numbered marker plaques dot the grounds noting the many historic activities that took place here during the Civil War era.
After our usual morning routine of making coffee and having breakfast, we packed up the van and said goodbye to South Carolina. We were northeast Florida bound.
It’s about an hour’s drive to Hilton Head, SC from this campground. Because of our check-in deadline at the hotel in Florida we will have to explore that bucket list locale on another trip.
Escaping Georgia highway traffic
We hopped on Interstate 95 south for the three-hour drive which was bumper-to-bumper the entire way. We checked the Google Maps and exited the congestion. Kim found a great drive into Georgia taking a secondary highway to get us out of the traffic.
We by-passed Savannah but got to experience some of the small towns, old plantations, pine tree groves, and cotton fields that you don’t see from the Interstate.
We finally hit the Florida – Georgia state line as we crossed the bridge over the St. Mary’s River.
NEXT TIME: We see the white sands and blue water of the Atlantic Coast, then park the van for a week at a Florida beach resort hotel for Kim’s real estate conference. Talk to you then!
Be sure to watch our companion videos to our blog post on our JK and Kim in the Camper YouTube channel!