Florida Bed & Breakfasts Pamper Guests

Florida Bed & Breakfasts Pamper Guests

Florida Bed & Breakfasts – you never know where you will find one.

Wandering around Florida’s Forgotten Coast I found myself in the fishing village of Apalachicola and discovered the Coombs Inn & Suites, three lovely historic Victorian Mansions.

I stayed in the yellow and white Coombs House Inn. The vintage home gleams with polished hardwood floors, boasts tall pocket doors to rooms, high ceilings and high beds.


Florida Bed & Breakfast - Coombs Inn in Apalachicola

Yes, I had to hop up onto my bed and I’m five feet nine. Fun!

Breakfast, ah, what a meal. At a Bed & Breakfast your plan is to sit down and get spoiled.

At a B& B expect:

Full bodied breakfast aromas to die for.

Food made by a cook who really wants to spoil you.

A table spread with linens, fine china, napkin rings and fresh flowers.

Local and national newspapers folded nearby.

Reasons to grab your grub and run? None.

Stay and enjoy the moment, the minute, even the hour. Get to know your fellow guests (if they are up yet), chat with your cook and let out a sigh of relief at being pampered.

Perhaps ignore the newspapers for now as you are officially on hiatus from the daily angst over where the President was born and if climate change is real.

Apalachicola has one blinking light. Lots to see and do within walking distance when breakfast is finally done.

For starters, from Coombs I walked to the Orman House Historic State Park and the John Gorrie State Museum. Until I stepped inside the small Gorrie Museum I had no idea the South as we know it today would not exist without John Gorrie – he invented air conditioning as a way to cool down his fever patients. Who knew?

Apalachicola is dog friendly. Business people bring their canine friends to work. Water bowls are everywhere. And yes, Coombs has a limited number of pet-friendly rooms. They accept pets under 25 pounds for a fee of $25 a day. My Welsh Corgi, Obi, is a tad over that weight limit.

Florida Bed & Breakfasts – inside a historic home

Bed and Breakfast. What a great combination.

Partner B&Bs with a restored historic Florida home, add delightful innkeepers, make a reservation and life is good indeed.

In St. Augustine the St. Francis Inn Bed & Breakfast has been in its same corner spot on St. George Street since oh, 1791. The oldest inn sits squarely downtown in the oldest city.

This B&B was for several years my go to place for a two-day birthday break – my getaway present to me.

The cozy downstairs sitting room becomes a community center where guests catch up with each other’s days and share a glass of wine and homemade cookies in the afternoons.

Their gourmet breakfasts are the stuff of legends. They generate lots of food photos on Facebook.

I’m quite fond of sitting in their walled garden with its old artesian well, weaving stories in my imagination about all the generations of people who have walked here.

Zeke used to be the St. Francis Inn resident cat. He has since passed on but Bootsie is here now and has quickly learned the art of claiming the courtyard and taking a nap in the shade.

St. Francis Inn B&B, in selected rooms, takes pets up to 45 pounds (Obi qualifies) at a rate of $20 a day.

For your calendar notation – the months of August and September are their slow months (read – fewer tourists) with nice packages for mid-week visitors (Sundays through Thursday).

For sure there will be things to talk about back in that cozy sitting room when you take an evening sunset cruise. There are several – the St. Augustine Scenic Cruise that I’ve taken several times and dolphins joined us, leaping in the bow wake. Or the Schooner Freedom Charters with different boat tours have been sailing the waters of St. Augustine since 2001.

From November 19 through early January, when the sun goes down St. Augustine turns on millions of little lights in its historic downtown area – this is a great time to take one of those boat tours and see the lights.


Florida Bed & Breakfast - table set at Alling Inn, Orange CityFlorida Bed & Breakfasts – where breakfast really matters

The Alling House B&B in Orange City, near DeLand, has two really good things going for it:

one = gracious innkeepers Gerald and Nan Hill

two = an older home with five cottages ringed in a circle behind it, all part of the B&B.

Nearby must-sees include Blue Spring State Park, especially during the months of November to April when manatees claim the springs as a winter residence.

Delightful DeLand is less than five miles up the road. Take time to do the mural walk, a chapter in my book 50 Great Walks in Florida.It

It is my belief that when the Greeks are cooking, just show up – so I can highly recommend the Santorini Restaurant on North Woodward Boulevard in DeLand. They are closed Sundays and Mondays.

If you truly are smitten with B&Bs, why not buy one? The Seven Sisters Inn in Ocala is for sale and has been since April, 2016. Also the Laughing Lizard in Indian Rocks Beach is for sale.

Meanwhile, I am content to be a guest occasionally at a Florida Bed & Breakfast and hopefully take my dog with me. Perhaps Obi can meet Bootsie in St. Augustine.

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Florida History Makes a Great Walk in DeLand

Florida History Makes a Great Walk in DeLand

The year was 1876. Henry Addison DeLand took a vacation from his baking soda business in New York to visit his sister and brother-in-law, O.P Terry. They lived in South Carolina.

Perhaps it happened over several glasses of wine before dinner but whatever the occasion O.P managed to convince Henry to travel south and see some land O.P.  bought in Florida.

Regrets set in immediately.  Roads were rutted. The buggy ride was bumpy.  Every day the weather stayed dry and hot. More than once Henry begged: “Turn back” but O.P. insisted that in a few miles Henry would “sit up and take notice.”

They left the swamplands and moved uphill to rolling terrain with tall pine trees. DeLand did indeed sit up and took notice.

Before the day was over he bought 159.1 acres and met some of the settlers. They spent the night with local settlers Captain Rich and his wife Clara. Very excited to hear news from up north, Clara went out and killed a chicken for a dinner feast.

Then DeLand stepped up to the plate in a big way, offering money to rapidly create schools and churches.  DeLand incorporated as a city in 1882.

Naming a town after yourself part of Florida history

Naturally they named the town after him. Wouldn’t you?

Now, 138 years since DeLand visited and invested himself in the area, visitors are still sitting up and taking notice.

For those who like historic buildings, DeLand keeps its past well. The Athens Theater, a restored brick building with an exuberant façade hosts a buffet of plays and cabaret entertainment.

All of downtown historic DeLand has lovely historic brick storefronts and a lively mix of art galleries, restaurants, museums, an historic courthouse, curios and books.   In fact, DeLand’s past is even found on the sides of old buildings. Murals featuring locals as models tell the town’s story.

Florida history painted on the walls of buildings in DeLand

Florida history - mural in DeLand
Part of the mural walk in DeLand, Florida. Photo by Lucy Beebe Tobias

Doing a mural walk is a lovely excursion, so much so it is the subject of Chapter 25 in my book 50 Great Walks in Florida.  Stop by the Main Street Association on Woodland Avenue (this is the ‘main street” area, about 6 blocks long) and ask for the mural booklet that describes where all the murals are, who painted them, and the history depicted.

Words to the wise – for your day visit to this town full of Florida history do not be seduced into parking on Woodland Avenue (the main drag). This is a two-hour parking area and enforced. Instead take any side street and opt for a three-hour parking, or find free parking.

We found for our day visit we needed five hours – an hour to walk around looking at murals, then lunch and browsing.  One recommendation for lunch – Santorini’s Greek Cuisine on Woodland. One reviewer said, “It is better than Greece” Hummm. Test it out!

We followed food and fellowship by browsing in shops including the highly eclectic café Dick and Jane’s where gourmet coffee and sandwiches partners with creative crafts by local artists. Another favorite was Florida Victorian salvage and antiques – a warehouse full of Florida’s past, much of it rescued from the wrecking ball.

Consider doing an overnight visit. This leaves plenty of room for doing more – visiting museums like the DeLand Naval Air Museum and the DeLand Museum of Art.  Be sure and check hours when they are open so you won’t be disappointed by a “closed” sign.


Florida history - aviator jacket
An aviator’s jacket at the Naval Air Station Museum, DeLand. Photo by Lucy Beebe Tobias

On one overnightwe stayed at the DeLand Country Inn Bed & Breakfast. Every room in the 130- year-old house is decorated in historic splendor and breakfast is the full Monty.


Florida history - DeLand Country Inn
The DeLand Country Inn, a B&B in DeLand. Photo by Lucy Beebe Tobias





Bring your walking shoes and build in a block of time to walk around Stetson University campus, directly across the street from the Museum of Art. Their brick buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places.

It comes as no surprise to find out that Henry DeLand along with Dr. John Griffith started DeLand Academy in 1883. In 1884 DeLand Hall opened. It is the oldest building in Florida still in use for higher education. It is in the middle of the Stetson campus.

Tucked away on the campus is Gillespie Museum where rocks and minerals take center stage and many are breathtakingly beautiful.


florida history - DeLand Hall
DeLand Hall at Stetson University. Photo by Lucy Beebe Tobias

Nearby places to visit include DeLeon Springs State Park. Inside the park is the Old Spanish Sugar Mill Grill and Griddle Tables have built in griddles. Order your choices (we favored the buckwheat) and make your own pancakes at your table.  This is a “must do” Florida experience!

Upcoming in DeLand

January 8Wine, Women and Chocolate from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. downtown.

January 10Artisan Alley’s Farmers Market from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Organic and local produce, plants, orchids, breads – held every Friday.

January 18Taste of DeLand. More food experiences! From 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $15 advance, $20 at the door – downtown DeLand becomes an outdoor café. No pets please.


New Year – Let’s Get Walking

Start your New Year off with lacing up your walking shoes and walking the walks in 50 Great Walks in Florida. The scenery keeps changing and the discoveries are delightful. Like a signed copy of 50 Great Walks in Florida? Contact Lucy directly at her e-mail: mailto:[email protected]


Anyone living in the Sarasota area is invited to hear Lucy speak on 50 Great Walks in Florida at a meeting of Singles on the Go on Sunday, January 12 at Grace Presbyterian in Sarasota. Visitors are welcome. Free. Starts at 2:30 p.m., the talk is at 3 p.m. See you!


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DeLeon Springs Boat Tour shows history’s wake

DeLeon Springs Boat Tour shows history’s wake

Breakfast at the Old Spanish Sugar Mill Restaurant inside DeLeon Springs State Park is an event. The tables have built in griddles. Our waitress showed us the button to turn on the griddle (gee, that was the hard part, it was on a table leg, we never would have found it).

As the griddle warmed, she brought coffee, big pitchers of home-milled pancake batters and the sides we’d chosen – blueberries and eggs. We began pouring batter, laughing, enjoying the moment, watching for the telltale bubbles that mean it is time to flip those pancakes.

DeLeon Springs - flipping pancakes
Barbara Fitos flipping pancakes

Our table faced the windows. We looked out at DeLeon Springs headspring with its walled off swimming area and a waterfall spilling over boulders into Spring Garden Lake. This tranquil scene, with 19 million gallons of water a day coming from an underground cavern, empties its crystal clear water into Spring Garden Creek, then onto Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge, the St. Johns River and eventually this water flows into the Atlantic Ocean. What a journey! And it begins here.

DeLeon Springs Boat Tour floats along natural Florida

DeLeon Springs - sugar mill and waterfall
sugar mill and waterfall

Across the way sat M.V Acuera, a 28-seat pontoon boat with a canvas roof cover. On the sides it says Fountain of Youth ECO/History Tours. Our plan: first, enjoy breakfast, and then take a boat trip. It worked but not quite the way we’d envisioned.

DeLeon SPrings boat tour
DeLeon SPrings boat tour

Tours leave at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., noon and 1 p.m. Tickets are $12. The narrated boat ride lasts 50 minutes, going down Spring Garden Creek and into Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge. Reservations can be made at Sugar Mill or call the boat tour (386)-837-5537. To know more, visit the eco-tour’s Website.

BUT, and it is a big “but”, there must be a minimum of eight passengers for a tour to leave the dock. We were just two people ready for the 11 a.m. Apparently no one else wanted to leave the griddles.

So off we went to nearby DeLand, walking around downtown, visiting galleries, shops and museums. Captain Frank assured us he had 12 signed up for the 1 p.m. We returned (your park entrance receipt gets you back in all day) and boarded the M/V Acuera.

DeLeon Springs Boat Tour shares history and sees wildlife

Captain Frank tells us Native Americans used to visit the springs 6,000 years ago. That was long before pancakes. In the early 1800’s Major Joseph Woodruff and his wife Jan bought 2,000 acres, grew sugar cane and indigo.

“He was the first to bring slaves to Florida,” Frank says.

There on the right – an anhinga and a great blue heron. On the left, snowy egrets and moor hens. An osprey sits high in a tree.

DeLeon Springs boat tour - osprey in a tree
osprey in a tree

It is late fall, some color on the trees, most are bare.
“Come earlier in the fall for a brilliant change of color in the fall bright sunshine,” says Frank.

We see white ibis, lots of them, they were the sacred bird of Egypt.

Colonel Orlando Rees bought it in 1831 and made the earthen dam to power a sugar mill. Naturalist John James Audubon visited Rees in 1832 and Rees took him on a boat trip along the waterways, just like we are doing now. This is a great way to see birds. As we smoothly glide along, bird sighting are frequent. We also ask about plants.

Captain Frank points out smooth beggar tick – an unusual name – for yellow flowers blossoming by the water’s edge.

“This is old Florida, the way it looked for centuries, this is what the Spanish saw, what the Indians saw,” Frank says.

DeLeon Springs Boat Tour
DeLeon Springs Boat Tour
DeLeon Springs boat tours
River views

In the reeds an immature lack-crowned night heron and a female cormorant. We see an immature little blue heron – they are born white then turn blue in one to two years.

Alligators, big ones, sun themselves on the banks. Capt. Frank says they have 3,000 pounds of pressure in their jaws. We take his word for it.

A tri-colored heron is spotted in the shallows. Overhead a red-shouldered hawk flies by. A cooter turtle suns itself on a log.

We are floating in the Refuge now, some 20,000 acres of preserved land and water.

DeLeon Springs Boat Tour Floats in History’s wake to a time when rivers were highways

In the 1800s no highways existed. “The only roads were waterways, product was shipped by water, the only way to get to market,” says Captain Frank. He waves his hand outward. “It is 126 miles by water to Jacksonville. Steamboats came in the late 1820s, that is what really settled Florida from the center out, steam boat traffic, towns developed along the rivers and people came.”

And we come today to float in history’s wake, catch a glimpse of immature yellow crowned night herons and watch a kingfisher fly by. There are moments when you just have to say: “it doesn’t get any better than this.”

Short, narrated boat trips are a great way to see authentic Florida. We loved doing breakfast and a boat trip at DeLeon Springs and we’ll be back with family and friends.

Here are more possibilities:

A boat tour on the Wakulla River at Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park located southwest of Tallahassee. Upcoming tours include a photo tour on the Wakulla River on Saturday, Feb. 6 and a Valentine’s Cruise & Dinner on Saturday, Feb. 13.

A tour boat at Jonathan Dickinson State Park in Hobe Sound goes up the Loxahatchee River to Trapper Nelson’s homestead and a ranger-guided tour of the homestead.

A little more adventuresome – From Fort Myers, it is a three-hour (or more) catamaran ride to Key West on the Key West Boat Shuttle. Spend the day or two, return by boat.

Since seeing birds is such a big part of a river boat trip, I recommend a good field guide, particularly the Sibley Guide to Birds.

Pretty amazing that he illustrated every bird. I like the different views. A bird will fly overhead and all you see is the underside. Well, Sibley have those undersides.

©2009 Lucy Beebe Tobias, author of “50 Great Walks in Florida”.. All rights reserved.






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Turtle Walk with Grandchildren & More

Turtle Walk with Grandchildren & More

When I go to book presentations and signings for “50 Great Walks in Florida” the most asked question is: “What is your favorite walk?”

Each one is different. I love them all. As proof, I’d do them all again in a heartbeat. I did 80 walks and the 50 great ones made the cut.

But I always do ask the audience if they have children and grandchildren. Do you? If the answer is “yes” then open your 50 Great Walks to Chapter 30: Guided Nighttime Turtle Walk, Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, Vero Beach.

A nighttime turtle walk will make memories for grandchildren

June and July are nesting season for loggerhead turtles. Starting May 15 at 8 a.m. Sebastian Inlet State Park will begin taking reservations for June walks. Be sitting by the phone. These spots go fast. July’s reservations will be taken starting June 15 at 8 a.m. The number is 772-388-2750.

Another choice: Sea World @ Vero Beach. They too start taking reservations on May 15 at 8 a.m. for June. The phone number is the same 772-388-2750.

Why this walk? Two reasons: I am often asked “What is there to do in the summer in Florida”. Here’s an answer. And, while you may or may not see a turtle laying eggs the night you go, if you do it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Your evening starts late, after dark, with a movie about turtles then patrols go on the beach looking for nesting loggerheads. If they find one, you all walk down the beach to the site. (My recommendation: do not wear flip-flops).

On our nighttime walk, we went to a turtle laying eggs and stood behind her. The children were asked to come up close, get down on the sand and watch her lay eggs, something turtles have done for millions of years. I stood in the back with the adults and I’m not ashamed to say, I cried. It was beautiful, ancient, moving and solid proof that everything on Mother Earth is connected. What we do matters, like not throwing plastic bags on the beach or in the water. A turtle might eat it (looks like a jellyfish) and die of starvation as the plastic stays in their stomach.

Memorial Day weekend happens in May and the weekend is well displayed at Fort Clinch State Park in Fernandina Beach. They have a World War II Event from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 23 and from 9 a.m. to noon on Sunday May 24. Featured are military displays and memorabilia of the Allies, Axis and Home front.

Getting ready for guided Willow Pond Walk at Fort Clinch State Park
Getting ready for guided Willow Pond Walk at Fort Clinch State Park

Stay and do the two walks in 50 Great Walks – Ch. 11: A Stroll Through History: The Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach Centre Street Stroll (whew! That’s a mouthful) and Ch. 12: Nature’s Classroom: Willow Pond Nature Trail, Fort Clinch State Park.

mural in DeLand
mural in DeLand

Finish up May in beautiful DeLand (Ch. 25: Painted History Walk).

On Saturday, May 30 there is a nature hike at Bicentennial Youth Park about reading skulls and bones of animals. Gregg Thompson, biologist and naturalist, will share his extensive skull collection. Cool! Call 386-668-5553.

So, now you know my confession – I cry in the face of beauty and it is not just with turtles. Want to see something beautiful? Bok Tower Gardens near Lake Wales redesigned their Web site and it is a thing of beauty, especially the photographs. Take a look at Bok Tower Gardens.

Lucy Beebe Tobias is the author of “50 Great Walks in Florida” and the Authentic Florida Expert for VISIT FLORIDA.


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