Road Trippin’ on A1A

IMG_0618On Tuesday we made a great decision! We decided to cancel our reservation for a convertible we planned to drive on our trip to South Florida and the Keys. It seemed extravagant to spend hundreds of dollars to rent a car when our Suburban is only a year old and in perfect condition. The weather forecasts also indicated that we may have some scattered showers. So while it would have been much more fun soaking up the sun, driving a car with the top down along the beach and through the Keys, we settled for practical. Since the predicted scattered showers turned out to be a full day of mist, drizzle, and rain, with no sun, driving the boring Suburban worked great!

 

Never the one to let a little rain stand in the way of vacation fun, we headed south enjoying the quirkiness of the Keys. The weather prevented us from taking those typical Florida Keys photos. You know the ones: world’s largest conch shell, giant lobster, shark, sailfish, gigantic adirondack chair…even the pink Bigfoot. But we did stop on the Seven Mile Bridge for some pictures in the drizzle, and we ate at Hogfish Grill on Stock Island. Not a bad day…just glad we didn’t invest in the convertible.

Honeymoon at Pete’s Pier

justmarried

 

Last Saturday when we pulled in the parking lot of Pete’s Pier in Crystal River the first thing I saw – a car with a “Just Married” sign plastered across the back. As I looked past the car to the pair of green Port-a-Potties I thought, “Why would anyone spend their honeymoon at Pete’s Pier?”

 

crystalriver

Then a few minutes later as we pushed off the dock and headed toward Seven Sister’s Spring I realized just how much I take for granted. Sure, Pete’s Pier isn’t anything special. Small boat ramp. Primitive bathroom facilities. No restaurant.

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But what a beautiful piece of Florida. Clear water. Sunshine. Warm weather. Surrounded by wildlife. People come from all over the country, no, all over the world to visit a part of the world only an hour from home.

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Approaching the spring area, the tour boats packed with divers lined the river…a reminder of how popular the river, springs, and wildlife, especially the manatee, of the area are to the thousands who visit each year.

kayak

 

What a great reminder that our backyard is someone else’s paradise! And, a perfect place for newlyweds to spend their honeymoon.

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(Meghan, thanks for the great manatee pictures!)

13 in 13

Sunrise on Flagler Beach - a good way to start the day.
Sunrise on Flagler Beach – a good way to start the day.

Instead of taking off  a couple of weeks this summer to go on a vacation, we’ve decided to enjoy short adventures throughout the year. To insure we don’t let the year slip away without actually getting away and making time for fun, we made a list we’re calling “13 in 13”. We’ve identified 13 things we want to do to make 2013 special.

Our list includes attending a Rays baseball game, and drinking milkshakes at Mark Light Stadium during the FSU v Miami baseball series. But baseball isn’t the only thing on the list. I want to catch a “big bass” this year so my picture can be added to the fishing file, and I want to see sea turtles hatch. We checked off watching a sea turtle lay its eggs a few years ago so now it’s time to observe the hatchlings.

For years we’ve said we’ll catch the sunrise over the Atlantic followed by the sunset over the Gulf on the same day. That’s on the list for 2013 as well. We’re also planning a couple of camping weekends in Florida parks and one in Bryson City, NC. It’s been two years since we’ve visited western North Carolina where we first met so it’s time for a long weekend.

Biking, kayaking, and boating trips at new destinations in the state made the list. And we’re planning special celebrations for the Fourth of July and Christmas.

It wasn’t easy squeezing 13 adventures in to a calendar already packed with responsibilities for work, an August family weekend, a wedding, and holidays; but we did it. I’m looking forward to “13 in 13”!

Sunset at Cedar Key - the perfect finale.
Sunset at Cedar Key – the perfect finale.

Enjoy Florida’s First Coast

Faver Dykes State Park’s location makes it ideal for exploring the northeast coast of Florida. Only thirty minutes from St. Augustine visiting Castillo De San Marcos in the oldest continuously occupied city in the U.S. is a must. Even if you don’t enter the fort, you can enjoy watching the boats cruising in Matanzas Bay and marvel at the structure. You can also observe the Bridge of Lions and the St. Augustine Lighthouse from the fort. The streets are lined with interesting shops and you should certainly eat lunch at the Columbia, Florida’s oldest restaurant. Enjoy the Spanish cuisine and a pitcher of sangria before strolling through the shops and sampling sweets, and during this time of year make sure you stay until dark so you can see the beautiful Christmas lights lining the city.

St. Augustine Columbia

However, St. Augustine isn’t the only nearby place to visit. Head south down A1A and you’ll find another national park at Fort Matanzas. This park does not charge admission, and you can see it all in only an hour or two. Walk the short trail and then take the pontoon boat across the river to the reconstructed fort. Visitors learn a little about the history of the fort from the ranger and then have the opportunity to explore the tiny fort on their own. Make sure you climb the ladder to the roof for a spectacular view and some pictures.

Fort Matanzas

Continuing south on A1A, public access to the beach is available at a number of locations including Crescent Beach. We found a great little BBQ place located at Bing’s Landing, a Flagler County park with boat ramps, natural trails, picnic tables, and a fishing pier. We ate on the porch at Captain’s BBQ overlooking the water, but you could easily take your food to the park and eat on one of the picnic tables.

What could be better? BBQ and bait in the same location!
What could be better? BBQ and bait in the same location!

Continuing down the Flagler County coast you’ll find several boardwalks to the beach including Gamble Rogers State Park…another campground, this time right on the beach. Perfect for motor homes and campers, but not for tent campers like us. It’s also an access point for sunbathers and surfers. Boaters and canoeists can launch boats on the west side of the highway in the Intracoastal Waterway or just get out of the sun for a picnic under the protection of a pavilion.

flaglerEnjoy Florida’s First Coast!

Faver Dykes State Park – the real Florida!

We spent the past couple days camping at Faver Dykes State Park, and I wanted to share with you since I think it’s a place you’ll enjoy. While this park is only a couple of miles from exit 298 off I-95, it seems like you’re far away from civilization. The park borders Pellicer Creek, and it is a quiet, relaxing place.
The park includes a small campground with about thirty large, wooded sites with plenty of room for our tent, boat, and Suburban. Three nature trails wind through the park, a popular birding site. A boat ramp located in the park allows small boats and canoes access to the river. In fact, they even rent canoes and kayaks for a bargain rate of $5.00 an hour.
The only wildlife we observed were a few deer, but they also claim to have wild turkey, otters, woodpeckers, and bald eagles. Although we didn’t have luck fishing this time, it looks like it should be a terrific place for trout and redfish so I’m sure we’ll try again. Don’t forget to check the date on your fishing license if you decide to cast a line.
Faver Dykes is a great inexpensive place to get away for a day or an overnight camping trip. Park admission is only $5.00 and camping only $19.80 but it’s essential that you take cash since both may be self serve – no debit cards and no change. You can pitch two tents and have two cars on a site so if you camp with friends it’s less than ten dollars a couple.
Hope you check it out.