Coatesville, PA: Camping and Touring the Countryside

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The Brandywine Valley of PA

There is so much to see and do in this region of Pennsylvania but if you are passing through with an RV or looking for a camping experience and want to get a taste for the region, then do it.  We would like to come back and see the entire area at leisure and give a full report.  Until then, this is a brief look at our visit through the KOA and the countryside surrounding Coatesville.

Fields of corn and other agricultural scenes abound in the area around Coatesville, PA.

Fields of corn and other agricultural scenes abound in the area around Coatesville, PA.

Coatesville PA

The Coatesville area is a nice place to explore and is near West Chester and Downingtown.  It is north of Kennett Square which was one of the places we stopped at on the way.  The attraction here is the countryside to me though downtown West Chester most likely (didn’t visit) is well worth a visit.  We unfortunately we had just enough time to explore the back roads surrounding the town which has the Lincoln Highway going right through it so it should be easy to find.

This gorgeous historic structure is one of the many you'll see while driving around the Coatesville, PA area.

This gorgeous historic structure is one of the many you’ll see while driving around the Coatesville, PA area.

KOA West Chester

Located conveniently to Philadelphia and the Brandywine Valley, this KOA campground is perfect if you have a vehicle and can travel to the wonderful scenic countryside.  Another option is to get to the railway station in Thorndale  and catch a SEPTA or AMTRAK train into Philadelphia (the Paoli line) for a great urban experience or hop off at another destination and explore! Chester County’s towns have very good public transport though the campground is in the countryside.

One of the roads in the KOA Coatesville (West Chester/Philadelphia) with cabins in the distance.

One of the roads in the KOA Coatesville (West Chester/Philadelphia) with cabins in the distance.

The KOA has camping cabins and all the amenities you’d expect at a KOA.  The store was well equipped with all sorts of things and the pool looked inviting.  The campground was really hilly and gave you the feeling of being in the middle of nature.

The KOA in Coatesville has a wonderful camp store and terrific amenities for visitors including the pool at the Liberty Lodge.

The KOA in Coatesville has a wonderful camp store and terrific amenities for visitors including the pool at the Liberty Lodge.

Countryside of the Brandywine Valley

This is the area that shines around here in my opinion.  You can roam the back roads of this region and just take in the sights.  There’s small bridges, little creeks, historic homes, small towns, old mills, fields and fields of corn, farmhouses, stone houses, hills, flowers, and just magical scenery.

One of the many creeks and rivers we saw while prowling around the Brandywine area of Pennsylvania.

One of the many creeks and rivers we saw while prowling around the Brandywine area of Pennsylvania.

It is wonderful to drive over the hilly small roads in the area.  It seems that around every corner there is something historic and something interesting.  We stopped at one local market in one of the smaller towns (pretty much a cross roads) and found some incredible food.

The backroads of the Brandywine area are filled with amazing small towns and historic structures.  This is the Embryville Mill.

The backroads of the Brandywine area are filled with amazing small towns and historic structures. This is the Embryville Mill.

The Route 82, Doe Run Drive, is a scenic road that takes you through most of what we saw including the Triple Fresh Market which was at a junction that was just shy of a village.  It connects Unionville with Coatesville.  Alternatively, the Strasburg Road is another great road through the countryside.  The KOA is located off Embryville Road/Route 162 and that is also a pleasant back road – don’t miss the Embryville Mill which is on this road.

There were plenty of fascinating historic structures including this home in the countryside surrounding Coatesville, PA.

There were plenty of fascinating historic structures including this home in the countryside surrounding Coatesville, PA.

This is the type of area that you would like to get lost in knowing that you could find your way to wherever you need to be all in good time.  It is the idyllic Pennsylvania that I completely forgot existed.  I was happy to be reminded of it.

RV Road Trip Note:

This is part of the series of blog posts on a fourteen day road trip from St. Petersburg, Florida to the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania with stops along the way north and south with no real planned itinerary.  We did this trip in our 30 foot class A motorhome in late July/early August with two bicycles strapped to the back.  We traveled to Coatesville, Pennsylvania near Philadelphia from Assateague Island in Maryland.  We drove through Delaware and made a stop in New Castle, Delaware as well as Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.

 

Kennett Square: Mushrooms, Hills and History

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Kennett Square PA

This is a charming little town I remembered as a young kid.  We used to come through here on our way to the Jersey Shore (Sea Isle City) from near Harrisburg, PA.  The one thing I did remember was stopping for mushrooms here.  Phillips Mushroom Farms is still there and you can still stop and buy mushrooms there.  And remember the smell of them from when I was a kid.

It was easy to park along the side of the road in Kennett Square, PA with our motor home.

It was easy to park along the side of the road in Kennett Square, PA with our motor home.

This time, I didn’t smell them. but it was nice to know you could still buy mushrooms at the same place we used to pull into when I was a kid.  I was tempted to stop and get my mother some to see if they were sold in the same cartons that I remembered.  My treat was getting the box once the mushrooms were gone so I could put toy soldiers and things in it.

I thought this tree on the side of a house was so interesting at Kennett Square, PA.

I thought this tree on the side of a house was so interesting at Kennett Square, PA.

Today, Kennett Square is a charming historic town that has plenty to see and do.  I can’t imagine driving through it without stopping.  There’s plenty of parking in the town if you don’t mind walking a few blocks.  We had no trouble parking our thirty foot motor home and taking the bicycles off and riding around.  And you can buy mushrooms in the town!

More shops and sidewalk cafes occupy the streets of Kennett Square, PA.

More shops and sidewalk cafes occupy the streets of Kennett Square, PA.

It is very hilly with the main “square” of the town at the peak of all the hills.  So you want to be select about where you go with your bicycle because if you go down, you eventually got to go up.  But it isn’t all that bad and you can stay on mostly level ground and still see much of the town.

Kennett Square's streets have some charming scenes with sidewalk cafes and boutiques.

Kennett Square’s streets have some charming scenes with sidewalk cafes and boutiques.

In the town there are lots of shops and plenty of great places to grab a bite to eat or something to drink – anything from beer and wine to coffee.  There is at the one end of the town a small supermarket at Liberty Square.  It is actually a number of vendors that together make for a nice market.  There’s ample parking and this is a good place to start a walking tour of the downtown if you were interested in doing that.

This wine shop with tastings is just one of the charming places that are visually appealing as well as tasty in downtown Kennett Square, PA.

This wine shop with tastings is just one of the charming places that are visually appealing as well as tasty in downtown Kennett Square, PA.

We stopped in and grabbed some soda and went on our way but there is a lot to tempt you here.  It isn’t a big store but there is ice cream and some gourmet foods.  We toured around the downtown – again, mostly the two main streets – Union and State Streets.  There’s all sorts of activities downtown too in addition to it just being charming there are events such as art walks and festivals.  It would be nice to time a visit with one of these.

There are plenty of interesting historic homes surrounding the main commercial streets in Kennett Square, PA.

There are plenty of interesting historic homes surrounding the main commercial streets in Kennett Square, PA.

Nearby is Longwood Gardens and if you have time, this would be a great place to stop in addition to the town visit.  We didn’t have time this trip but it is perfect for a several hour stop if you have the time.  For us, its just another reason to visit this quaint town and explore some more!

 

RV Road Trip Note:

This is part of the series of blog posts on a fourteen day road trip from St. Petersburg, Florida to the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania with stops along the way north and south with no real planned itinerary.  We did this trip in our 30 foot class A motorhome in late July/early August with two bicycles strapped to the back.  We traveled to Kennett Square from Assateague Island near Ocean City, Maryland.  We first stopped at New Castle, Delaware before Kennett Square.  We eventually continued on to West Chester, PA where we stayed at the KOA.  All in it made for a fun day of travel between bases.

 

Real Colonial History: New Castle, Delaware

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Historic New Castle, Delaware

I suppose you don’t always appreciate what you have when you live somewhere.  I had never thought of visiting New Castle, Delaware until I started reading about what to see and do in the northeast.  And I lived there for many years up through graduate school.

Historic homes on the Green in New Castle, Delaware.

Historic homes on the Green in New Castle, Delaware.

I have to tell you that I’ve visited Williamsburg and, while it is fantastic, New Castle is more real.  It is rich in colonial architecture and feel and doesn’t feel made up for tourists.  It feels like a real working town that happens to be every bit as rich in history as Williamsburg.

The historic court house in New Castle, Delaware.

The historic court house in New Castle, Delaware.

And I can’t believe how convenient it is to just about everything in the region.  If you live within an hour of here and have never gone, you owe it to yourself to visit.  We parked our motorhome at the end of the main street where there is a circle on the water for easy turnaround.   There were other areas along the waterfront where parking would be pretty easy too should this area be taken.

The old Dutch house in historic New Castle, Delaware.

The old Dutch house in historic New Castle, Delaware.

We pulled our bicycles off the motor home and toured around the fairly compact town on our bicycles.  What a pleasure it is to see this town.  The architecture and feel of it is completely colonial.  The cobblestones on some of the streets seemed like they were during the colonial era.

The historic Amstel house in New Castle, Delaware.

The historic Amstel house in New Castle, Delaware.

We happened on a statue of William Penn and soon learned this is where he landed.  And the statue is on the cutest little green, or common, with stunning homes on both sides of it.  There are tours of some of the homes, such as the Read House Museum, which we didn’t do.  We wanted to really soak up the atmosphere and grab a bite to eat on our way to Pennsylvania from Maryland and this was the perfect timed stop for that day of travel.

This statue of William Penn stands at the Common (or Green as it's called here) in New Castle, Delaware near where he landed in the Colonies.

This statue of William Penn stands at the Common (or Green as it’s called here) in New Castle, Delaware near where he landed in the Colonies.

Lunch was at Jessop’s Tavern on the main road and just down from the square.  It is a cozy place with a fireplace and low ceilings.  The food is English pub food with a bit of Dutch and Swedish thrown in to represent the area’s history.  The Clam Chower I can attest to is excellent.  There is some nice history to the tavern and you can just imagine what it must have been like all those years ago.

Jessop's Tavern in historic New Castle, Delaware.

Jessop’s Tavern in historic New Castle, Delaware.

It would be nice to spend a leisurely weekend in the town – not possible in an RV I don’t think but we didn’t inquire about overnight parking.  There’s plenty to see and do and it is probably spectacular in the fall when the leaves are changing color and a sweater is required to wear.  But that might be the Florida in me speaking.  Still, I’d love to experience it so if you have the opportunity, definitely do it.

On the square in the town of New Castle, Delaware you encounter the most incredible colonial architecture.

On the square in the town of New Castle, Delaware you encounter the most incredible colonial architecture.

RV Road Trip Note:

This is part of the series of blog posts on a fourteen day road trip from St. Petersburg, Florida to the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania with stops along the way north and south with no real planned itinerary.  We did this trip in our 30 foot class A motorhome in late July/early August with two bicycles strapped to the back.  We traveled New Castle, Delaware from Assateague Island in Maryland, near Ocean City.  It was one of two stops we would make enroute to West Chester/Coatesville Pennsylvania near Philadelphia.  

 

Camping with Wild Horses: Assateague State Park in Maryland

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Assateague and Chincoteague

We knew we wanted to go camping along the national seashore and be able to see wild horses and ponies.  So we set off trying to find out where can you camp with the horses along the beach.  We found two options.  The Assateague National Seashore offers camping as does the Maryland State Park Service.  We managed to find two nights in a row at the state park so that’s what we booked.  We were very excited to be able to camp here.  You do need to book up well in advance and keep looking even if you don’t find anything.

Camping with wild horses and ponies means you can't leave a lot sitting around your campsite that they can get into.

Camping with wild horses and ponies means you can’t leave a lot sitting around your campsite that they can get into.

We managed to find two nights in a row a few months before arriving in summer and booked online at the Maryland Dept. of Natural Resources and it was very easy.  However, be warned that not all sites have electric – even for RVs.  We didn’t realize this and when we checked in were told the rules of running a generator.

As night falls, the horses will still be active.  This one went directly through our camp site.

As night falls, the horses will still be active. This one went directly through our camp site.

We spend the first night with no electricity or running water – good thing we were in a self-contained motorhome but they managed to get us a site with electric the next night.  We like our air conditioning too much!  On the non-electric sites you can’t run your generator past 10PM.  It was breezy but it isn’t for everyone.  And the campground staff in the office couldn’t have been any nicer or more accommodating.  They were wonderful.

Horses were common to see just about any time.

Horses were common to see just about any time.

The thrill of seeing wild ponies and horses walking through your campsite is incredible.  These beautiful animals will bed down for the night near your campsite if they want to and they will wander through your site also.

The beach is the other main attraction to camping at Assateauge and it is fantastic and right over the dunes from your campsite.

The beach is the other main attraction to camping at Assateauge and it is fantastic and right over the dunes from your campsite.

We didn’t stop in Chincoteague on the way up and many people have said it is a great experience seeing the horses go between the islands so that might be a great time to include both.

The camp store also has a cafe with picnic tables right on the water (well, with dunes between you and the water).

The camp store also has a cafe with picnic tables right on the water (well, with dunes between you and the water).

But if that timing isn’t right, you really owe it to yourself to book a few nights at Assateague Island – either through the state park or national park.  The campground has a great cafe and camp store with picnic tables right on the water.  There is also a nature center for kids and of course the seashore.

Camp Store location at Assateague.

Camp Store location at Assateague.

At night it is quiet and peaceful and the stars are beautiful.  This is what camping is all about and it is a rare experience to be able to be this close to the ocean when camping.  Only the dunes separate you from the ocean.

Horses roaming freely with the campers at Assateague.

Horses roaming freely with the campers at Assateague.

RV Road Trip Note:

This is part of the series of blog posts on a fourteen day road trip from St. Petersburg, Florida to the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania with stops along the way north and south with no real planned itinerary.  We did this trip in our 30 foot class A motorhome in late July/early August with two bicycles strapped to the back.  This leg of the trip was from Virginia Beach to Assateague via a nice stop in Berlin, Maryland and a pleasant drive up US 113/13 through farmlands and wonderful produce stands to stop at.

 

A really really cool small town: Berlin, Maryland

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Berlin, Maryland

Every now and then you discover a place that you know you should have known about long ago.  Berlin is one of those places.  It was near enough to where I used to live but that was many years ago.  It was near Ocean City, Maryland too.  Regardless, I had honestly never heard of it until we drove up from Virginia Beach headed to Assateague.  It is a cool small town near both Ocean City and Assateague.  This region is known as Worcester County – Eastern Shore of Maryland – DelMarVa and possibly a few others but the regional tourist information can be found here.

Entering the tunnel portion of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.

Entering the tunnel portion of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.

We traveled here up US 13 and US 113 from Virginia Beach.  This is a beautiful stretch of road and of course crossing the Chesapeake is great – the Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel is really quite a marvel still and there’s a nice pull-off area on the north side to really sit back and look at it and the beaches.  Really nice to do.

One the bridge portion of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel with beautiful views.

One the bridge portion of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel with beautiful views.

So without any particular place to go we took our time going north and eventually happened upon Berlin as a place to stop.  We passed by Snow Hill which I am annoyed I didn’t notice earlier as I have a cousin there I discovered and we both enjoy genealogy but next visit.  This is an area of the country right on the coast and is yet still not terribly populated and retains its charm.  Sure, I remember passing a WalMart or two which I found sad but there is lovely countryside to see and more than one roadside produce stand to stop at – which we of course did.

At the scenic overlook you get a great view of the beach and the bridge.

At the scenic overlook you get a great view of the beach and the bridge.

The farm fresh produce and stands along this stretch are well worth a stop or a visit if you’re anywhere nearby some weekend.  I never realized this was here when I lived in DC.  But it is definitely a nice trip for a weekend or even a day away.  So back to Berlin.   Since it is so close to Assateague and to Ocean City, Maryland, it benefits from tourists coming and going from here.

Banner at the town hall proclaiming Berlin the Coolest Small Town in America.

Banner at the town hall proclaiming Berlin the Coolest Small Town in America.

It is a very small town – under 5,000 residents – but is absolutely charming and hip at the same time.  It is billed as America’s coolest small town.  It is cool that’s for sure.  There’s plenty of parking as the town is small and the side streets that tend to be residential have parking on them if you can’t find a spot directly in the town center.  We had a motorhome and parked in a side street without any problem and the town was busy.

There is a very small welcome center with information on the town and the area and we popped in.  We mostly rode our bicycles around the town seeing what there was in the town.  Restaurants, cafes, cool little shops, a bakery, well just loads of things that can occupy your time for a great day out with yourself or friends and family.

The porch of the Atlantic Hotel is a great place to relax after lunch at the Drummer Cafe.

The porch of the Atlantic Hotel is a great place to relax after lunch at the Drummer Cafe.

We stopped at the Atlantic Hotel for lunch and sat on the porch.  The Maryland Crab Soup was delicious and just enough for me.  The food coming out of the kitchen did look incredible though.  It is Drummer’s Cafe that is located inside the hotel and the service and food is definitely something to recommend.   There is a special organic and vegetarian selection too for anyone that requires that.  And a sit down on the front porch of the hotel is great too – excellent people watching!

The town’s commercial district is about six total blocks in size including the side streets.  It is more of a compact town center than a linear one if that makes any sense.  It was nice to ride bikes around and go behind the town and see the houses – though it is a bit hilly.

There are plenty of charming cafes in the town of Berlin.

There are plenty of charming cafes in the town of Berlin.

There is public transport on the 431 or 451 bus in the area stopping at Pitts Street in Berlin according to Google maps, though when you go to the local transport authority’s website and search for how to go from Berlin to Ocean City it thinks you are trying to leave from Germany.  And I couldn’t find the schedules for these routes but eventually did find a map that showed the route existed albeit a someone circuitous route.  It seems all routes go through Salisbury so I will add that to my list of towns I must visit.

A gorgeous bakery is well worth your stopping in anytime in Berlin, Maryland.

A gorgeous bakery is well worth your stopping in anytime in Berlin, Maryland.

Back to Berlin, there are carriage rides and it is the type of town you could just stroll around for a good several hours and then have drinks or lunch.  So plan on a half day to really enjoy it.  You could easily spend the weekend though and I would imagine it is beautiful in the winter and fall though that may be an image in my mind more than anything.

The approach to the main shopping area in Berlin.

The approach to the main shopping area in Berlin.

The point is it is a great town worth discovering and its proximity to the popular Ocean City and Assateague make it quite accessible so don’t pass it over when going to or from those destinations.  Berlin is a destination in its own right.

 

An historic theater in downtown Berlin, Maryland.

An historic theater in downtown Berlin, Maryland.

 

RV Road Trip Note:

This is part of the series of blog posts on a fourteen day road trip from St. Petersburg, Florida to the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania with stops along the way north and south with no real planned itinerary.  We did this trip in our 30 foot class A motorhome in late July/early August with two bicycles strapped to the back.  Berlin was a stop on the way to Assateauge.

Camping at Virginia Beach that’s Fun

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Virginia Beach

This has been a standard tourist destination for quite some time.  In fact, I remember going to Virginia Beach on Spring Break when I was at Penn State as an undergrad.  Yeah, it was cold, but we visited Williamsburg and Busch Gardens in an RV oddly enough.

The boardwalk at Virginia Beach isn't wood and doesn't have any arcades or shops but lots of hotels.

The boardwalk at Virginia Beach isn’t wood and doesn’t have any arcades or shops but lots of hotels.

So I was interested to come back and see what it was all about.  It was not just block after block of beach and hotel but mile after mile of it.  Virginia Beach apparently grew up and became a giant version of itself.  There is no boardwalk shops or arcades, but there is a boardwalk you can walk along (for miles and miles) or ride your bicycle or rent one.  Where can you rent a bicycle in Virginia Beach?  Well, the answer is pretty much everywhere up and down the boardwalk – hardly a block without a rental place.

There are plenty of places to rent a bicycle along the seafront at Virginia Beach.  And I'd highly suggest doing it if you don't have your own.

There are plenty of places to rent a bicycle along the seafront at Virginia Beach. And I’d highly suggest doing it if you don’t have your own.

The main street off the beach is Atlantic Avenue and that’s got loads of great places – I was dying to go into the haunted houses and halls of mirrors – these now have a somewhat nostalgic appeal to people who are gen Y and late boomers as well as the ice cream and frozen custard shops and even the tacky tourist souvenir shops.  It was all wonderful and in some respects a throwback in time – and let’s face it everyone wants to go back in time.  I’m surprised more destinations don’t take advantage of that.

The beach is wide a terrific along Virginia Beach, Virginia.

The beach is wide a terrific along Virginia Beach, Virginia.

My biggest disappointment, which was not a major deal, was not seeing salt water taffy made – it has to be here but for all the miles we rode our bicycles along the boardwalk and Atlantic Avenue I somehow missed it – surely it had to be on each street corner I thought to myself.    Nonetheless, it was an incredibly great place with not an intellectual establishment to be found.  When on vacation, sometimes it is nice to just relax and not bother thinking much – at least for a while.  This is just great pure fun and shouldn’t be over-thought.

A popular spot for visitors to take a photo is at Neptune Beach.

A popular spot for visitors to take a photo is at Neptune Beach.

Having spent a lot of time on the Jersey Shore as a kid (Sea Isle City mostly), I longed for the arcades to be right on the water on the boardwalk with Italian Ice vendors riding their bicycles up and down the boardwalk.  This is a nice boardwalk with none of that crass commercialism.  You can find a lot of it in a much more regulated manner along Atlantic Avenue as I mentioned.  It isn’t quite the same as being right on the water but use your imagination.  I loved it.

The frozen custard is fabulous at Kohr Brothers and is definitely on the must-do list when in Virginia Beach.

The frozen custard is fabulous at Kohr Brothers and is definitely on the must-do list when in Virginia Beach.

Where to camp in Virginia Beach

So, now that you’re interested in Virginia Beach, where can you camp near the beach?  We found the KOA Campground (or Kampground as they spell it) not far down the road from the beach to be perfectly situated.  We rode our bicycles from the KOA/Virginia Beach and there was a pleasant bicycle path the entire way including the bridge which wasn’t too tough to climb over.

The KOA Virginia Beach has an excellent store and services.

The KOA Virginia Beach has an excellent store and services.

We passed a number of things along the way that would be interesting if staying for any length of time.  The Virginia Aquarium is right along the way and there is even a really cool ropes course in the forest behind here.  It is branded as the Adventure Park at the Aquarium and we really wanted to visit it but, again, time got in the way.  There are bike lanes the entire way and even on the beach side there are bike lanes too.  It was very bike friendly and a terrific town to ride around.  We will return here for sure.

The campground was great – lots of things for everyone to do and a nice sized pool with an excellent camp store.  The cable TV was great at the site and there was wireless but for some reason we couldn’t get on.  I’m sure the office could have helped but it wasn’t that critical to us at the time.

The pool was great at the KOA Virginia Beach and included a fun slide for the kids.

The pool was great at the KOA Virginia Beach and included a fun slide for the kids.

Overall this would be a great place to spend a week and go back and forth to the beach.  There is a shuttle bus that lifts you directly at the campground and runs seasonally to the beach stopping at the aquarium along the way.  It is a great thing to have as parking on the beach can be tight.  I’d highly recommend this itinerary and you could do it for a night or an entire season and you can do it with family or just a couple.  It is a destination that is flexible.  Enjoy.

 

RV Road Trip Note:

This is part of the series of blog posts on a fourteen day road trip from St. Petersburg, Florida to the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania with stops along the way north and south with no real planned itinerary.  We did this trip in our 30 foot class A motorhome in late July/early August with two bicycles strapped to the back.  We traveled to Virginia Beach from New Bern and Washington, North Carolina and after Virginia Beach we headed to Assateague Island near Ocean City, Maryland via Berlin, Maryland.

Washington, North Carolina: an historic tour of small town South

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Washington, NC

This was another surprising small town that is steeped in history that we happened upon whilst driving north on the backgrounds.  We were headed from New Bern to somewhere in the Virginia Beach area and stopped here for lunch.  Well, I must admit I was pleasantly surprised.  And it was the first Washington in the United States too – founded in 1776 – the same year the colonies made declaration of their independence from Britain.

The waterfront on the river in downtown Washington, NC, is very nice, filled with boats and has a marina and beautiful walkway.

The waterfront on the river in downtown Washington, NC, is very nice, filled with boats and has a marina and beautiful walkway.

It is a nice small town on the Pamlico River and there is a nice municipal marina along the waterfront with restrooms and a small place for snacks.  The waterfront appears to have been recently worked on with a nice sidewalk and plenty of places to sit.  It appears to be a nice place for events, perhaps an art show, while still driving people into the downtown for food and drink.  It is quite possibly what Washington already does.

The Main Street in downtown Washington NC has many historic commercial buildings - many of which are occupied.

The Main Street in downtown Washington NC has many historic commercial buildings – many of which are occupied.

The town, for the most part, consists of the waterfront and then Main Street which is roughly two to three blocks of commercial center.  Market Street is another main road and also has some interesting architecture on it though it doesn’t have as much in terms of services, shops and restaurants.  Most of the buildings all date to the early 20th century, which I thought strange until I realized a fire destroyed the town center about that time.

I would call it a very good opportunity for redevelopment and re-use of some of the spaces.  The DeMille Building was very cool.  And it apparently has ties to the film director of the same name as he grew up in Washington as his childhood home.  I’ve since learned the building is for sale and owned by the local government.  It is an excellent piece of architecture and would be great to have it contribute to the downtown in more than a backdrop role.

The historic DeMille building in Downtown Washington is fascinating.

The historic DeMille building in Downtown Washington is fascinating.

There’s a number of restaurants in the town center as well as some businesses.  The town probably just needs some residential in its town center and things would really look better.  In the case of Washington the glass is half full which is a very good thing.  It is a small charming town that has activity and businesses.  It is well over the hump and you can’t help but walk downtown thinking of ways to help the town slide into home plate!

This is now a law office facing the waterfront in downtown Washington, NC.  The sign is not one explaining the history of the building but of who the attorney firm is that now occupies the building.

This is now a law office facing the waterfront in downtown Washington, NC. The sign is not one explaining the history of the building but of who the attorney firm is that now occupies the building.

We had lunch after walking around the town and snapping a few pictures and taking in what Washington had to offer.  We happened upon a place called Grub Brothers and it was a nice enough place that has a full bar, a nice menu and plenty of room.  I opted for something totally different, the mac and chili.  And I didn’t regret it at all.  It was in fact excellent and I could fully suggest it if that’s your thing.

Grub Brothers downtown Washington NC has a full bar and some excellent food.

Grub Brothers downtown Washington NC has a full bar and some excellent food.

Grub Brothers is on Main Street and is next to the Turnage Theater which is run by the Beaufort County Arts Council.  There appears to be interest in the arts, musical, performing and visual, by the community and it would be a great place to hang out much longer than a couple hours.

The historic Turnage Theater is in downtown Washington NC.

The historic Turnage Theater is in downtown Washington NC.

This is a good impression for a town to give.  And that is what really counts – it did give that impression.  We look forward to the day we can meander into town and spend some more time discovering a town we wouldn’t mind coming back to – not a common thing.

There is whimsy in the air along the waterfront in downtown Washington NC and this artistic crab is part of it.  Just a fun sight to happen upon.

There is whimsy in the air along the waterfront in downtown Washington NC and this artistic crab is part of it. Just a fun sight to happen upon.

 

RV Road Trip Note:

This is part of the series of blog posts on a fourteen day road trip from St. Petersburg, Florida to the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania with stops along the way north and south with no real planned itinerary.  We did this trip in our 30 foot class A motorhome in late July/early August with two bicycles strapped to the back.  

New Bern, North Carolina: Incredible Architecture & Amazing History

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RV Road Trip Note:

This is part of the series of blog posts on a fourteen day road trip from St. Petersburg, Florida to the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania with stops along the way north and south with no real planned itinerary.  We did this trip in our 30 foot class A motorhome in late July/early August with two bicycles strapped to the back.  

New Bern, NC: A great historic town in North Carolina

How was it that I never had New Bern, NC on my radar?  I had even been to Wilmington, NC for a site visit to a museum for accreditation with the American Alliance of Museums at one point but still hadn’t put New Bern on my list.  While it is only about 30,000 people that populate the town, it still has an impressive downtown.

The Neuse River seen from the KOA Campground/New Bern, North Carolina

The Neuse River seen from the KOA Campground/New Bern, North Carolina

Well, a bit like Wilmington, NC, it is off the main expressway routes and you certainly don’t change trains or planes there.  But it is proof that you shouldn’t always take the most direct route to anywhere.  This surprising historic town is an outdoor museum of architecture from the past couple centuries with fascinating houses in the immediate streets surrounding the town’s commercial districts.

Downtown is filled with many charming brick buildings, including this one that houses a paint-your-own-pottery facility.

Downtown is filled with many charming brick buildings, including this one that houses a paint-your-own-pottery facility.

Camping Nearby on the River Neuse 

We stayed at the KOA nearby across the river and while you can’t really ride you bicycles into the town (which is a shame) it isn’t very far.  The KOA was very nice, as we have found most are, and had a great riverfront dock with boat rentals.  There are the usual cabins and various sites to select from.  The store was nice and there’s a pool.  We really enjoy staying at the KOA Kampgrounds even if we don’t take advantage of all the amenities – at least we know they’re there.

The KOA Campground was inviting at New Bern and this peaceful scene is just one of the reasons this is a great camping experience.

The KOA Campground was inviting at New Bern and this peaceful scene is just one of the reasons this is a great camping experience.

Where to Park Your RV in New Bern

So if you’re coming in your RV, the best and easiest place to park is Union Point Park at the junction of Business 17 and Front Street.  Pull in here and you should have no problem finding a space or three depending on your rig size.  From here you can cycle around the town very easily and enjoyably.  The park is nice and is a good base to explore the town from.

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The facade of the Birthplace of Pepsi looking toward Front Street in Downtown New Bern, North Carolina

Exploring New Bern on Bicycle

The first stop on our bicycle tour of the town was the Birthplace of Pepsi, which is really just the drugstore where it was first developed.  I would loosely call it a museum.  There were artifacts to see but mostly it was the place and the ability to get a cheap fountain drink of Pepsi while you shopped for Pepsi branded merchandise.  Don’t get me wrong, its definitely well worth stopping here – its just that it isn’t quite a museum so don’t get disappointed.  We were not at all having been told by the campground host what to expect.

The Birthplace of Pepsi in New Bern, NC, has a wide variety of merchandise mixed with some fascinating archival pieces or memorabilia.

The Birthplace of Pepsi in New Bern, NC, has a wide variety of merchandise mixed with some fascinating archival pieces or memorabilia.

We rode our bicycles down to the Tryon Palace, but didn’t go in.  It is located next to the North Carolina History Center right on the waterfront (South Front Street) in the downtown.  We were told not to wander too far across the railway line that you will soon discover just beyond the museum.  We didn’t ask questions but did make a note of the comment.  The entire town seemed more than safe but we heeded the advice given by a local.  From what I can tell you could easily spend a day between the palace and the history center.  But we didn’t have that much time.

There is a lot of architecture to see in New Bern, North Carolina.

There is a lot of architecture to see in New Bern, North Carolina, such as its City Hall.

The downtown is interesting but it is the neighborhoods directly adjacent to it that appear even more fascinating with history and architecture.  Many of the homes have plaques noting their origin and the flags are everywhere offering a festive and historic feeling to the town.  You can tell there is great pride when you walk or ride your bicycle around these neighborhoods.

Just one of many gorgeous historic homes in a variety of styles in the neighborhoods surrounding the town center of New Bern, NC.

Just one of many gorgeous historic homes in a variety of styles in the neighborhoods surrounding the town center of New Bern, NC.

If you’re touring North Carolina, this would make for a great couple day stop.  If you’re looking to stay somewhere on your north/south migration along the I-95 and are in no hurry then this is a great place to call into.  Either way, we were pleasantly surprised by New Bern and found it a charming town.

Another historic home in New Bern, NC.

Another historic home in New Bern, NC.

 

A Night in Savannah, Georgia: Camping Downtown

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RV Road Trip Note:

This is part of the series of blog posts on a fourteen day road trip from St. Petersburg, Florida to the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania with stops along the way north and south with no real planned itinerary.  We did this trip in our 30 foot class A motorhome with two bicycles strapped to the back.  

Downtown Savannah, Georgia

We had heard of people being able to spend the night boon-docking, or dry camping as some call it, in the parking lot of the Savannah Visitor’s Center in their RV.  Well, true enough and easy enough it can be done and it was something like $7 if I remember.  It was a phenomenal deal and easy to park.  We were the only overnighters there – it was a Saturday night in July.

RV parking spaces at the Savannah Visitors Center on King Blvd.

RV parking spaces at the Savannah Visitors Center on King Blvd.  You can see the trolley and transportation stop in the distance near the entrance to the Visitors Center.

We fired up the generator and had plenty of water and really enjoyed the hell out of where we were located.  Just so there is no confusion it is the visitor’s center on King Blvd. just off the expressway and fairly easy to find.

We had our bicycles with us so we used them to get around.  However, if you don’t have any transportation, then there’s about every type of tour you could ever want stopping right here.  There’s also city transport too.  There’s so much to do here that there is no way I could go into all the options.  The visitor’s center is filled with friendly people who are glad you’re here and are happy to help.

There's plenty of bicycles for hire in the Bike Sharing program in historic Savannah.  This location is near the City Market.

There’s plenty of bicycles for hire in the Bike Sharing program in historic Savannah. This location is near the City Market.

This isn’t to an attempt to give you everything there is to do in Savannah, but if you are looking for a place to “camp” for the night and find yourself anywhere near here, this is definitely the place to stop.  And we assure you that you will want to return if you’ve never been before.

On arrival you’ll pull into the visitors center and pay for your parking overnight.  They’ll give you a parking receipt that you display on the dash.  There’s probably about 10-15 spaces for RVs and we were the only ones there this Saturday night in July.  Tour buses and rubber wheeled trolleys come and go from the parking lot.   None of the noise bothered us with the gentle hum of the generator and air con going.

City Market

It is a short distance to the city market from the visitors center.  By that, probably five minutes by bicycle.  From there we stopped and grabbed a beer and enjoyed an open air concert by a group that was entertaining the crowds there.  This is a fairly touristy area and there’s s fun little art gallery nearby along with some great pubs.  From here you can either rent a bicycle from the nearby racks or hop your own and start your own bicycle tour of historic Savannah.

Forsyth Park in Savannah is beautiful and easy to ride around, however, beware of strange and random spots in the park where you are required to dismount your bicycle and walk.  This is ignored unless there is a police presence according to one native we asked.  Nonetheless, it is a very strange law.

Forsyth Park in Savannah is beautiful and easy to ride around, however, beware of strange and random spots in the park where you are required to dismount your bicycle and walk. This is ignored unless there is a police presence according to one native we asked. Nonetheless, it is a very strange law.

Forsyth Park

It is an easy ride around town though the squares are a bit challenging.  And Forsyth Park is easy but bicycling is prohibited in certain sections and that appears to be quite random.  So while there are bike route signs and maps, it isn’t the most bike-friendly town.  Still, we had no problems and enjoyed it so don’t let that worry you at all.  Grab a map here and you’ll see it is pretty simple.

Plenty to stop and visit along the bike trail in historic Savannah such as the SCAD store.

Plenty to stop and visit along the bike trail in historic Savannah such as the SCAD store.

On bike you can enjoy the squares and things in between.  The park itself is delightful and worth exploring.  There are a few shops and restaurants at the far side of the park or pick up something for a picnic.  Then cycle back round toward the town and meander a bit more – pass the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and SCAD’s fabulous store.

The Lady and Sons

We took a chance and stopped at The Lady And Sons to see about some dinner and we managed to get seated in thirty minutes on a Saturday night (it did unexpectedly start raining) and I can tell you it was well worth it.  It is excellent food that has the taste like you’ve not had before.  Definitely I would go back.  There is also the gift shop with loads of fabulous tacky things to pick up.  We did.

The Lady and Sons retail store has loads of Paula Deen merchandise and we couldn't resist and bought a few things.

The Lady and Sons retail store has loads of Paula Deen merchandise and we couldn’t resist and bought a few things.

The Riverfront

The point of the cycle round the town is to soak it up and enjoy it, not go from A to B.  Eventually you’ll end up on the riverfront probably and that can be quite challenging for a bicyclist.  if you want to ride down you can (we did) but when going back up I’d head north along the river where the road rises up a bit and eventually meets King Blvd.  You can also use this route to descend by.

The historic riverfront is stunning and filled with lots of shops and restaurants and no shortage of beautiful architecture in historic Savannah, Georgia.

The historic riverfront is stunning and filled with lots of shops and restaurants and no shortage of beautiful architecture in historic Savannah, Georgia.

If you want to spend the night in Savannah, this is the way to try it.  I guarantee you’ll be back.  It is really a spectacular destination with the right mix of locals and tourists with plenty of indoor and outdoor things to do.  There are sufficient bars and restaurants to keep you occupied for days (weeks if you really want to stay that long), and it is a clean city with friendly people.

There are lots of ghost tours of Savannah and it does photograph quite eerily at night.

There are lots of ghost tours of Savannah and it does photograph quite eerily at night.

I can’t wait to return and I hope we’ve inspired some people to give it a try even if you do what we did – park overnight and experience the town briefly.  It works and we wish more historic downtown areas has similar offers.  So far, we’ve found downtown camping in New Orleans, Little Rock and Savannah but know it also exists in New York City.  Urban camping is great.  We’ll be back Savannah!

 

What to do in Brunswick, Georgia

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Background

On this particular road trip we traveled in a motorhome, our own, from St. Petersburg, Florida to the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania and toured along the way up and down.  This story represents our first stop on the first day of this 14 day journey.

Brunswick, Georgia

As you know, if you’ve read any of my blog posts related to travel, we like to get off the exit if traveling on the interstates for our breaks.  There are many reasons for this but the primary ones are seeing the country and the other is supporting local businesses (not that businesses at the exits are all corporate or that there isn’t historically interesting things there).  So this is really just to encourage you to get off the expressway, discover and hopefully return for a longer stay.

While not all occupied, downtown Brunswick, Georgia, has an array of buildings and is capable of having a teeming downtown that is attractive to tourists.

While not all occupied, downtown Brunswick, Georgia, has an array of buildings and is capable of having a teeming downtown that is attractive to tourists.  A bit more investment in the tourism infrastructure could really pay off if done correctly.

Brunswick is not far off the I-95, maybe five or ten minutes, so you have no excuse not to pop in there some time.  It is a charming old town with some history.  There was a time when a drive by Brunswick made you hold your nose from the smell of the paper factories.  Today, thanks probably to the EPA, the town is pleasant and smells more of ocean spray than anything else.

The beautiful Ritz theater in historic Brunswick, Georgia.

The beautiful Ritz theater in historic Brunswick, Georgia.

 

Coming in to town from the expressway, you’re quickly greeted downtown by the jail.  But there are some blocks beyond that that are quite interesting and enjoyable actually.  Downtown Brunswick won’t wow you but will give you a feeling of comfort.  There are a series of squares in the town (think Savannah on a very small scale) that are scattered throughout the downtown – which quite honestly is rather small so don’t be disappointed.  It nonetheless is charming in its own right.

There's a variety of shops and buildings in downtown Brunswick, Georgia.

There’s a variety of shops and buildings in downtown Brunswick, Georgia.

Most of what you’ll want to see is on Newcastle Street.  It is a great place to unpack your bicycle and have a ride around the town.  There are shops and restaurants and some interesting historic buildings.  There’s an old theater (The Ritz) that has been re-purposed and saved – always a sign of a good community – into an arts and theatrical center.  There are also events downtown such as First Friday.  On our trip we happened upon Tipsy McSway’s on Newcastle Street.

Tipsy McSway's entrance on Newcastle Street in downtown Brunswick, Georgia.

Tipsy McSway’s entrance on Newcastle Street in downtown Brunswick, Georgia.

It looked an interesting neighborhood sort of bar and restaurant.  The type of place that you’d become a regular if you lived here.  So we stopped in and had a delicious meal.  There’s indoor and outdoor seating and the place serves many purposes it seems from sports pub to a place for women who lunch to meet.  It was also dog-friendly and LGBT-friendly if you have to single anything out.  I probably would just call it friendly!

The Melty Beef with the fried potato salad at Tipsy McSway's in downtown Brunswick, Georgia.

The Melty Beef with the fried potato salad at Tipsy McSway’s in downtown Brunswick, Georgia.

You can view a detailed map of downtown Brunswick here or if you’re travelling with an RV, as we were, you can easily park downtown and walk a short ways or ride your bicycles.  We walked this time and it was very easy.  There’s plenty to do in the area but we were just stopping enroute to other adventures.  We hope to return to St. Simons Island nearby to experience that as well as Jekyll Island too as this is all part of the region known as the Golden Isles of Georgia. #GoldenIslesGA

The gorgeous sign of The Ritz in downtown historic Brunswick, Georgia.

The gorgeous sign of The Ritz in downtown historic Brunswick, Georgia.

 

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