'Snowbirds' Flocking to North Florida RV Resort
Call Steve and Kathy Belcher extreme snowbirds.
The Belchers sold their brick-and-mortar home in 2006, giving it up for a life on the road in their 40-foot Cruise Air XL motorhome. They are spending six months, December through May, at the St. Rosa RV Resort in Navarre, Fla., the Pensacola News Journal reported.
“It’s got everything you could possibly want here,” said Steve Belcher, 63, a retired school teacher. “It’s got shops, beautiful beaches, the water is gorgeous. You get sunsets and sunrises from the same spot. You can’t ask for anything better.”
The Belchers are among the hundreds of winter tourists who occupy the campgrounds, condominiums and hotels of Northwest Florida, many of them for several months, in an attempt to flee the cold weather and winter utility bills of the colder areas of the U.S. and Canada.
Roger and Marjorie Beauman from New Athens, Ill., are also staying at the St. Rosa RV Resort. They started their snowbirding careers in 2011, staying last winter in Fairhope, Ala.
“We wanted to be close to the ocean,” said Roger Beauman, 65, a retired Air Force captain. “We’ve had a motorhome for many years, and it was always our goal to be able to travel and see the country. Being warm in the winter is definitely a goal.”
Snowbirds start arriving every year as early as November, but North Florida tourism experts and business people say January is the busiest time for their arrival. Generally, they say the snowbird season continues until spring breakers arrive in March and April.
Although the numbers are hard to pin down, Valeria Lento Palmertree, the director of communications for Visit Pensacola, the Pensacola Bay Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the Visitor Center on Pensacola Beach counted about 200 self-identified snowbirds last year, while the Visitor Center in Perdido Key counted as many as 500.
“Historically, Perdido Key does see a large number of visitors who are snowbirds,” Palmertree said. “They have the opportunity for extended stays because there are so many nice properties out there, and it’s so quaint and pristine. We feel like snowbirds really connect well with activities out there.”
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