We returned to Santa Rosa Beach on the Florida Panhandle at the end of summer for a quick, three-day trip. The drive is only seven hours from Nashville, so it’s hard to pass up an opportunity to go. With young kids and Mr. Handsome’s busy work schedule, we are in the season of life of taking short, long weekend trips by car. We were able to score a discounted, low-season rate at a one-bedroom condo we had previously stayed at.
The weather was cloudy and cool on the first day, so we went exploring. After driving a short while, we stopped for a stroll at Camp Helen State Park in Panama City Beach.
There are various buildings on the property. The Lodge was built in the early 1930s by the Hicks family as a summer home. According to the Friends of Camp Helen website, the project cost $75,000 and included wooden beams from South America and granite from Spanish ships.
Due to the Great Depression and the death of her husband, Margaret Hicks was forced to find a way to generate an income. She build the Rainbow Cottages (photo at the top of the post) and began welcoming guests. The cottages are closed to the public, but you can look in the windows and imagine what it would have been like to stay there in the 1930s.
The park sits on Powell Lake and Philips Inlet and is located right off the Gulf. Our walk took us along a lovely path down to the beach. Most of it was stroller friendly, which was a win. Before the arrival of settlers, the area was inhabited by Native Americans.
The property was purchased by Avondale Mills around the end of World War II. It became Camp Helen, named after the wife of the founder’s son. The company used the camp as a vacation spot for its employees until 1987. What a nice employee perk that would have been! It became a state park in 1996.
The original water tower built by the Hicks family still stands today.