Florida’s National Parks

Looking for something to do this weekend? Take advantage of free park admission today and tomorrow and visit one of the nation’s 401 national parks as they celebrate National Park Week April 19th – April 27. IMG_4567 Florida is home to three national parks, two national seashores, two national preserves, three national monuments, and a national cultural heritage corridor. Even if you can’t take advantage of the free admission this weekend, the parks are a great value any day of the year.

  • Biscayne National Park
  • Dry Tortugus National Park
  • Everglades National Park
  • Canaveral National Seashore
  • Gulf Islands National Seashore
  • Big Cypress National Preserve
  • Timucuan Preserve which includes Fort Caroline, a National Monument, and Kingsley Plantation
  • Castillo De San Marcos National Monument
  • Fort Matanzas National Monument
  • DeSoto National Memorial
  • Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor from Wilmington, NC to Jacksonville, FL

Yesterday we toured the Kingsley Plantation in Amelia Island exploring the plantation house, kitchen house, slave quarters, barn, and waterfront. The informative self guided tour took about an hour, but unfortunately, the plantation house can only be toured on the weekend due to renovations currently underway.

With our trip to Kingsley Plantation, we can say we’ve visited them all. Time to get started on the hundreds of battlefields, trails, and historical places located throughout the state.

54 Ways to Celebrate Florida!

On this date, March 3rd, in 1845, Florida entered the union as the 27th state. That sounds like reason for celebration. Make March celebrate Florida month. Can you complete ten of these Florida friendly tasks this month?

Visit a Florida State Park

Go to the beach

Wear sunblock

Eat key lime pie

Listen to the music of Floridians like Lynard Skynard, Mel Tillis, Tom Petty, Ray Charles, or Gloria Estefan.

Read a Carl Haisaan book

Eat a Cheeseburger in Paradise

Go fishing

Place a bet on the “ponies” at the Florida Derby at Gulfstream.

Wear flip flops

Travel by boat

Visit the “Ancient City” of St. Augustine

Swim with the manatee



Drink a glass of orange juice

Eat shrimp

Visit a Florida spring

Ride a bike trail

Paddle a canoe or kayak


Register to vote (or update your registration)

Visit a tacky tourist trap


Eat a Cuban sandwich

Sip a frozen tropical drink


Take a hike


Visit a botanical garden

Tour a fort

Take an airboat ride

Drink from the Fountain of Youth

Play golf

Watch a Major League Baseball Grapefruit League spring training game

Enjoy to a festival

Go to Ron Jon

Explore the Rocket Garden at Kennedy Space Center

Drive on Daytona Beach

Eat gator

Smoke a cigar from Ybor City

Collect seashells

Climb a lighthouse

Ride a glass bottom boat


Experience bike week in Daytona

Eat sugarcane

Sleep in a chickee

Collect sharks teeth

Treasure hunt

Drive the overseas highway

Ferry to the Dry Tortugas

Sing the state song while on the Swanee River


Get LOST on the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail (LOST)

Drive Spook Hill

Whale watch from Gamble Rogers State Park

Crack a coconut

Leave a comment and let me know what I forgot, but don’t forget to celebrate Florida! And don’t forget to take pictures!










It’s Ferry Time

I’m not sure why, but I love ferries. We’ve taken a ferry across the Mississippi River in New Orleans, across the Pamlico Sound in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and across the Strait of San Juan de Fuca from Port Townsend to Friday Harbor off the coast of Washington state. Of course, a ferry ride was required to visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island a couple of years ago as well.

Last month we rode the St. John’s River ferry from Ft. George Island to Mayport Village as we traveled on A1A from Fernandina Beach to St. Augustine, and in fact, a ferry ride is required for anyone who wants to take the route down A1A. The fee of $6.00 per car can hardly be collected from all passengers in the time it takes to make the 0.9 mile “voyage”. And while we spent only a few minutes aboard, I stood along the rail taking in the St. John’s…something I couldn’t do while driving or even as a passenger at 50 miles an hour.

For as long as I can remember, there’s been talk of closing the St. John’s ferry as well as effort to save it (Save the St. John’s River Ferry). It’s a costly enterprise that many feel isn’t worth the money required to keep it operational, but since building a bridge at this location is not an option and since it’s an essential link in connecting Maine to the Florida Keys on A1A, I hope the ferry can be saved.

The St. John’s River ferry is one of three ferries operating in the state. The Dry Tortugas Ferry takes passengers from Key West to Fort Jefferson and the Dry Tortugas National Park. This 70 mile, $169 ferry ride is quite a contrast from the one we took across the St. John’s River.  However, this is really an all day adventure. We splurged on the Dry Tortugas Ferry several years ago and started the morning with fruit, bagels, donuts, and juice served onboard while we sat on the deck traveling at 30 m.p.h through the Florida Straits. A guide provided information about our surroundings as we cruised to the island, and then when we arrived, a tour of the fort, a buffet lunch, and snorkeling gear were included. Over nine hours later we arrived back in Key West exhausted. If $169 sounds like too much to spend on a ferry, just think how many people spend that much or more for a day at one of Florida’s theme parks. I’ll take the ferry ride and a real Florida adventure.

Oh, and the third ferry? It’s the oldest one in the state and located right here in the Ocala National Forest at Salt Springs. The Fort Gates Ferry carries a maximum of two cars from Salt Springs to Fruitland on the east side of the river for a fee of $10. It only runs from 8:00-5:30, but not at all on Tuesday and from the Ocala Forest side, drivers need to turn on their lights, honk, or call to get the attention of the ferry operator. This sounds like another ferry adventure waiting for me!