/** google analytics tracking */

Explore Ocala with Nana & Grandchildren

Explore Ocala with Nana & Grandchildren

I am delighted to present a guest blogger this month – Barbara Fitos, Executive Director of the Community Foundation for Ocala Marion County. Barbara also has another title: she is Nana to four awesome grandchildren. For her blog she shares lively descriptions of the connections between generations and the joy of the Fitos4 having adventures together in Ocala.

By the way, Barbara makes the best cheese grits this side of paradise. Just thought you should know.

Her dream is to someday have a regular column called “Through Barbara’s Eyes”.

And so it begins here. Enjoy

 

SATURDAY MORNING MAGAZINE Guest Blog by Barbara Fitos

Those of us blessed to be grandparents have a special bond …we can share photos and anecdotes endlessly and when a dear friend, colleague or mere acquaintance joyously announces that they are about to become one – we each smile knowingly and say “Just wait!” Perhaps most importantly, we are there to support each other in life’s sorrows – illness, separation or loss. It matters not what we are called – I inherited my dear mother’s “Nana” title – because we carry that name proudly and whether our grands live in close proximity or hundreds of miles away we as grandparents are linked forever to their lives.

My only son Joseph was raised here in Florida and both sets of his grandparents still resided in my hometown in New Jersey.   Thus time spent with them was precious whether here in Florida celebrating Thanksgiving in shorts – something Nana Rose never adjusted to! – or the Christmas holidays in New Jersey seeing snow for the very first time. Memories and legacies abound.   Some of my fondest memories are of Grandpa Fitos taking long afternoon walks around our neighborhood on a very patient journey of discovery with his two year old grandson…and of course, visits to the iconic Silver Springs.

Ocala - pop pop and great grands
Pop Pop and great grands

Grandchildren live just an hour away from Ocala

And now my son has blessed me with four wonderful grandchildren who I affectionately call the “Fitos4” – yes I said “only” and “four”!   Further blessings abound in that they reside only a little over an hour from Ocala.   With four in tow, they are obviously an active and busy family.

As such, memory sharing plays an important role in their family tradition-making. The grands, for example, curiously want to know about Daddy as a little boy – “Nana – did Daddy really do….?” Well…

My dear Mother – their great grandmother “Nana Rose” passed away long before the grands were born. My youngest granddaughter came rushing out to meet me during one Sunday dinner visit with a photograph in hand saying – “Look, Nana, do you know who this is?   Daddy found this picture!” It was a photo of my Mother with my son – so very special making the connection that Nana Rose was indeed my Mother! Three of the four grands were blessed to know my Dad – their “PopPop”.   He spent the last six years of his life here in FL with all of us – a bridge to the generations…grace abounds!

Mamie & Pop, my son’s in-laws and Marah’s extended family, are vital in creating family memories – Thanksgiving dinners, a special Christmas Eve celebration. While they reside here in Ocala they have a beautiful home on Lake Ontario in upstate NY – a summer vacation tradition eagerly awaited each year.

Overnights provide unique opportunities for exploring and creating new experiences (although only two of the four at a time – wisely!). All things in NanaB’s world belong to NanaB – like the lovely little park across the street.   “Nana, let’s go to your park!” Once there, however, the conversation went like this – “Nana, this is a very nice park but it has no swings!” So off we go to explore the park around the corner, complete with swings, slide & monkey bars – better!

Favorite local pastimes in Ocala for Nana and Grandchildren

Favorite local pastimes include visiting Brick City Center for the Arts when dog houses ruled; Downtown Farmers’ Market; Christmas on the Square (carriage rides with “real horses, Nana!”) .

Ocala - downtown square with Christmas lights
Ocala – downtown square with Christmas lights

Future planned outings include the labyrinth at Sholom Park; Silver River State Park; Art Camp at the Appleton Museum; Turkey Trot at the Frank DeLuca YMCA (for my “Runner Girl” – taking after her Mom – an accomplished marathon runner).

And this “library lady” would be totally remiss without mentioning books, books and more books.   Books that I cherished when my son was little to be passed on to another generation…Good Night Moon, Pat the Bunny, Where the Wild Things Are, the Best Christmas Pageant Ever…and discovering new finds on trips to the library and bookstores – the favorite to date “The Day the Crayons Quit” – a read aloud-laugh out loud delight.   And my dear friend and brilliant author, Lucy Beebe Tobias’ “Mary Margaret Manatee” is a must!

Ocala is the horse capital of the world

And, of course, living in the “Horse Capital of the World” grandparents and grands alike must see and visit some of the amazing farms that surround us. The generosity of spirit of owners and breeders is evident in the open farm policy of many who welcome tours and visitors on a regular basis.   The Founding Chairman of our Community Foundation, Frank Hennessey and his lovely wife, artist Carol Hennessey, are the proud owners of Hennessey Arabians .   Foaling season is not to be missed! And the grands have a standing invitation to come and see up close and first hand this amazing breed.

Ocala horse drawn carriage & grandchildren
Ocala horse drawn carriage & grandchildren

Equestrian events abound throughout the year as well. HITS – Horses in the Sunshine – the annual hunter/jumper winter circuit featured the prestigious World Cup in 2015. The famous Live Oak International that for over twenty years has hosted the premier combined driving event brings equestrians from all over the world to Ocala, FL for this four day event in late March. Ocala’s own Florida Horse Park features year round events including polo.   And one unique event perhaps not as well-known is fox hunting. The Perry Plantation in Gainesville, FL is home to Misty Morning Hounds Hunt Club that hosts traditional fox hunts throughout the season (without live foxes – licorice/anise scents are used instead!) complete with traditional attire, the blessing of the hounds and a sumptuous breakfast following the early morning hunt – spectators follow the route in tally-ho wagons.

We as grandparents are privileged to share in the lived lives of our grandchildren and have that rare opportunity to enrich their lives and ours in creating these special memories of beaches and theme parks, sports events, holidays and birthdays… but most especially those unique community places that become the essence of family life…Blessings to all my fellow “G’Mas” and “G’Pas”.

Ocala - sign to Nana

MORE TO EXPLORE

Pet friendly travel with your canine

Paddle, float and be free

Knott House Museum and More History

 

 

Florida Beaches are Simply Sublime

Florida Beaches are Simply Sublime

Wahoo! I was just there – Gulf Islands National Seashore in Pensacola – a long ribbon of bright white sandy beach so alluring it had to be singing a siren song:

“Come, sift the sand between your toes. Stay here. Stay here. Forget your worldly cares. Stay . . .”

Floarida beaches - beach sand
Different types of beach sand. Photo by David McRee

And the emerald green waters of the Gulf of Mexico echo the beach promise of sun and fun.

Florida beaches will have their way with you

Yep. Florida beaches can and will have their way with you. The sand sighs as you take off your shoes, sink into the sand and sift sand between your toes. There is the promise of natural detox plus getting gritty and feeling great. All this without even getting wet yet. Just stroll and watch the pelicans skim the water’s surface. Bend down and do the shark tooth shuffle, looking for castoffs from the deep. Inhale. Renew. Revive.

And the sunsets, ah well, line up and enjoy the awesome sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico. Here’s a thought – go to the Sandbar Waterfront Restaurant in Anna Maria, take an outside table and have a front row seat for the sunset.

Floarida beaches - sunset
Sunset photo by David McRee

Sunrises over the Atlantic are pretty spectacular too. Once a photographer and I showed up at Anastasia State Park early, before sunrise, to do a newspaper story on a gentleman doing sandcastle building practicing for a national competition. As the sun came up, casting golden light on the water and the beach, his castle grew taller and taller and more amazing. I looked around and thought: “It doesn’t get any better than this.”

You are nodding your head. You know what I’m talking about. Still it comes as a nice surprise that others are nodding their heads too. Nine Florida beaches, including Gulf Island National Seashore in Pensacola are among the top 25 beaches in the United States, just named in a Travelers’ Choice 2013 award posted by tripadvisor.

The other beaches are Canaveral National Seashore, Titusville; Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin; Pensacola Beach, Pensacola; Clearwater Beach; St. Andrews State Park, Panama City; Fort DeSoto Park, Terra Verde; Siesta Key Public Beach, Sarasota; Pass-a-Grille, St. Pete Beach.

Florida beaches - Mexico Beach
Mexico Beach in the Panhandle. Photo by Lucy Beebe Tobias

My goodness! The only other state to come close to those numbers is Hawaii. These Travelers Choice awards are like winning the Oscars. Everyone wants to go see the movies that won. Let’s go experience all the beaches that one – a nice spring project for you.

Florida beaches include some friendly for dogs

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Obi, my Welsh corgi, accompanied me to the Panhandle last week. Dogs are not allowed on Pensacola or the Gulf Seashore beaches but we found a small beach on a bayou that did the job. Obi isn’t about to get his paws wet. At Bayview Park dog park in Pensacola he enjoyed running around in the sand with other dogs while one dog got really serious about digging a deep hole at the waterline – all the way to China?

Florida beaches - dog beach
Dogs getting acquainted at Bayview Park, Pensacola. Photo by Lucy Beebe Tobias

Patricia Collier is the keeper of a site for Florida Pets that includes lists of dog-friendly beaches. For example, one of the award-winning beaches, Fort DeSoto Park in Terra Verde has a Paw Playground and beach so if your best friend has four legs and likes water, here you go.

Florida is shaped like an upside down boot dipped in water on three sides with a total of 663 miles of beach and 2,276 statute miles of shoreline. Oh, and in addition, Florida has more than 11,000 miles of rivers, streams and waterways – many of these shorelines sport sandy beaches.

The beach sands are calling. Will you answer the call? I have to go now, the sun is setting on Lido Beach and I don’t want to miss it.

Florida beaches - Lido Beach sunset
Lido Beach sunset, Sarasota. Photo by Lucy Beebe Tobias

In my Florida travels I meet fantastic people who are travel writers, residents, newcomers, guides and entrepreneurs, all are digging into the Florida places they love and finding treasures worth keeping.

In his own words, here is David McRee whom I got to know when he served as Beaches Expert for VISIT FLORIDA the same time I served as Authentic Florida Expert. David loves Florida beaches and he is the real deal, he grew up near Florida beaches. Be sure to check out his beach blog. You will like it.

The continental United States has thousands of miles of beaches along its coastal states, but it is Florida’s beaches that reach into the warm waters of the Caribbean.

I started enjoying those beaches with my family before I could even walk. More than fifty years later those are still some of the fondest memories I have: Daddy teaching me to dog paddle, Mama trying to keep me covered with Sea & Ski suntan lotion, and me trying to eat an icy-cold banana popsicle from the beach snack bar before it melts under the hot July sun.

At the beach our senses are awakened. We inhale salty air mixed with coconut oil fragrance and we smell burgers cooking on the grill; we hear the laughing of gulls and the steady roar of the ocean; and we feel the salt from the sea drying to a crust on our skin under the summer sun.

In nature, the most vibrant places are often found at an edge, where forest meets field, where cold meets warm, where east meets west. The beach is the edge where the salt water wilderness meets the familiar.

The beach inspires wonder and invites contemplation. The stark simplicity of water, sand, and sky helps remove us from overwhelming busyness and technological distraction of modern life. We can hear ourselves think again.

Florida beaches - seashells
Seashells on the beach. Photo by David McRee

During my childhood years, my home beach was on Anna Maria Island, a seven-mile strip of white sand and tall Australian pines, with communities where the locals outnumbered the tourists for most of the year.

It was later in life that I discovered the curious variety of beaches in Florida. We have the most famous shelling beaches in the world: Sanibel and Captiva. We have some of the most important nesting beaches for Loggerhead sea turtles in the world on Brevard County’s Atlantic coast beaches.

Florida beaches - beach
Beach photo by David McRee

We have everything from crowded resort beaches with amenities that could challenge Disney World (Panama City Beach and Clearwater Beach) to quiet natural beaches on islands that can only be reached by boat (Anclote Key and Cayo Costa).

We have some of the purest white-quartz beaches in the world. But which is the whitest? It could be Siesta Key beach, or it could be one of the beaches in the western Florida panhandle, like those on Santa Rosa Island. You’ll just have to visit them all to decide for yourself.

But don’t think you have to have a beach with white quartz sand. How about looking for fossilized shark teeth on the dark gray sands of Venice? To really appreciate the beauty of Florida beach sand, dig your toes into the brown-orange sands of Ormond Beach or the biogenic sands of the Florida Keys, made up not of minerals and shell fragments, but of tiny bits of coral and forams–shells of tiny single-cell marine organisms.

Just because you’ve seen one Florida beach doesn’t mean you’ve seen them all. Explore. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll find.

David McRee writes about Florida beaches and islands at BlogTheBeach.com

Floarida beaches - Beach scene
Beach scene. Photo by David McRee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MORE TO EXPLORE

Art and food go together in Puerto Vallarta

Winter Park puts a smile in your step

Watch the sunset in Cedar Key with your canine

BOOK REVIEW: Paynes Prairie

BOOK REVIEW: Paynes Prairie

LUCY’S BOOK REVIEW*

Paynes Prairie: A History of the Great Savanna by Lars Andersen

I’m convinced his mother qualified for sainthood. Seriously. Lillian Andersen used to drive her son Lars to Paynes Prairie so he could spend the day exploring, then picked him up in the evening with his day’s finds which often included snakes. Snakes!

I too was a Gainesville mom but the first time my sons came home from exploring a creek and opened a sack that contained an old rat snake I took one look and said:

“One of us is leaving and it isn’t me.”

No sainthood at my house but I can  and do admire Lars’ mom.

Lars Andersen grew up to be an enthusiastic explorer who shares his love of Florida history, nature and cultural heritage with kayak and walking tours through his Adventure Outpost in High Springs. Just reading the descriptions of upcoming trips is a treat.

Paynes Prairie – a place to explore, love and write about

The place he loved as a boy became a labor of love and a great book as an adult. Want a huge treat? Pick up his book Paynes Prairie: A History of the Great Savanna, published by Pineapple Press in 2001.

book cover

Lars was living in Texas researching North Central Florida history for an audiotape for car travelers. He found, to his surprise, that Paynes Prairie had a big role in this history. Even better, there was no book on the subject.

There is now. Paynes Prairie: A History of the Great Savanna, is an exquisite read that moves from millions of years ago to the present with such easy grace that you’d better buckle up and keep the coffee cup full, you won’t be putting this book down.

The history of Paynes Prairie is the history of migration and it isn’t over yet. In the mid and late Miocene, eons ago, the land bridge across the Bering Strait brought animals that found their way to Florida. Paynes Prairie was a savanna full of grass and they loved it. So did animals coming up from another land bridge joining North and South America.

But these migrations paled to the later arrivals of Indians, Spaniards, French, English, settlers, pirates, politicians – you get the picture. Even though the reader knows the Indians – first Paleo-Indians then Potano, Creeks, Seminoles along with runaway slaves – none will be able to hold on to Paynes Prairie in the face of settlers, Christian missionaries, political greed and a President named Andrew Jackson who loathed Indians – Lars paints the encounters in such a vivid way I found myself hoping the Indians would win. They did not.

Paynes Prairie preserved as a state park

With the migration of settlers who wanted quick access to farmland and distant places, dikes and highways were built and they seriously plundered the natural ecosystem. Debates on how to restore or create ecosystems continue to this day. Mercifully, a 17,346-acre tract of the Paynes Prairie basin became a state preserve in 1970. If you haven’t been, start your journey by reading his book then take a trek to Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park near Gainesville.

It came as a big surprise to me to see the depth of his bibliography – over 90 titles in all.  Lars condenses a huge amount of knowledge into 139 very readable pages. This is the GO TO book on Paynes Prairie. It is available in hardcover and paperback.

Note: the new paperback edition of Paynes Prairie: The Great Savanna: A History and a Guide (2003) offers activities that can be done in the preserve along with maps.

* REVIEWS:Ah, so fine in the evening to make a bowl of organic popcorn and curl up with a good book, preferably about Florida! It is hard work but enjoyable. Reviewing Florida books starts this month. Enjoy.

Lucy and Obi
Lucy and Obi

 

 

ps. Obi likes popcorn too. Well, don’t we all?

 

 

 

 

 

 

More to Explore

Seeing sandhill cranes at Paynes Prairie

Gainesville is good to go for all seasons

Take the winding road to a botanical garden

Gentle Manatees Swim in Florida Waters

Gentle Manatees Swim in Florida Waters

Manatees were here before mastodons stomped down Florida grasses.

Before Indians inhabited prime seaside real estate. Even before Ponce de Leon got himself killed wandering around Florida looking for the Fountain of Youth.

Manatees pre-date Disney and interstates

Yes, way back, some 45,000,000 years ago before Interstate 75 even existed and Walt Disney had yet to invade Orlando.  West Indian manatees gathered then and now in shallow Florida waters during the winter months. These peaceful creatures swim slowly  munching peacefully on sea grasses and water hyacinths.

J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island has a new look at this ancient Florida resident. See their manatee exhibit tucked in a corner inside their free Visitor/Education center. The center is a large round room loaded with worthwhile exhibits and a delightful book store. The Center hours: 9-5 from January through April and 9-4 May through December.

 

manatee exhibit at Ding Darling
Marvelous Manatee exhibit at “Ding” Darling NWR, Sanibel Island

Did I mention the fact that these large aquatic mammals bother no one? Normally, you’d think that would help survival.

But now, after surviving 45,000,000 years a predator has arrived on the scene, slicing and dicing manatees with cruel efficiency even the saber-toothed tiger could not match.

Boat propellers.

A table at the new manatee exhibit lays out the forensic evidence why one manatee died. Among the big clues – boat propellers.

Fast boats. Slow manatees. The combination is a disaster in the making. Manatees that are not killed carry scars from boat encounters. Manatee zones exist in many coastal counties – areas were boaters are supposed to slow down to idle speed.

But wasn’t the point of getting those big-assed motors to go fast? You better believe it. So it comes as no surprise to you, dear readers, that the Pacific Legal Foundation, on behalf of the Save Crystal River, Inc. (pro boater) wants the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to down list manatees, thus ensuring the manatee zones will be gone and they can be run over at will.

Currently manatees are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973 along with the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978.

Read more at Save the Manatee Club web site.

View manatees in Florida

If you’ve never seen a manatee, now is the time. Winter months they congregate in warm rivers. Here are some viewing opportunities:

The park staff at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City counted 302 manatees on Dec. 31, 2012. The St. John’s River water is shallow. Viewing is excellent. But if you can’t get there right away, then check out the free wild manatee cams at Blue Spring State Park.

Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center has an education building and plenty of manatees during the winter months.

Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River is not only beautiful but a favorite warm water hangout for manatees.

Notice I use the word “view” – so much healthier for the manatees than swimming or diving with them (a big tourist industry in Crystal River, please refuse to participate).

Imagine you are sitting in your living room, munching on a healthy salad made of organic greens, when suddenly a snorkeler drops down from the ceiling and gets right in your face. Then he starts snapping pictures, waving his hands and more snorkelers arrive. They start poking you. A nightmare that happens to manatees every day in Crystal River. Mothers, children, fathers, all this stress for manatees even before they leave the safe “living room” (manatee zone) and encounter boat propellers.

Speaking of salads, manatee programs at Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park in Homosassa include feeding a whole lot of lettuce to resident manatees (injured and orphaned manatees are rehabilitated and some are permanent residents). The times are 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:30p.m. daily.

 

manatees at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Outdoor benches provide a viewing area. Also get a look at manatees underwater by going down inside the Fish Bowl underwater observatory.

The saber-tooth tigers and mastodons are gone, extinct. Manatees live on, wild and free, and their existence is dependent on you and me.

Note this advice from Save the Manatee: Call 10888-404-3922, #FWC or *FWC on your cell phone or use VHF Channel 16, marine radio, if you see an injured, dead, tagged or orphaned manatee, or if you see a manatee being harassed.

FOR PARENTS AND GRANDPARENTS

Lucy Beebe Tobias is the author and illustrator of “Mary Margaret Manatee: the adventures of a young Florida manatee” a positive story book for 4-10 year olds that includes a study guide in the back.

manatees

 

MORE TO EXPLORE

Looking for beach bliss and boutique beauty? Ask Third Street Concierge in Naples

You are invited to step into Florida history

Four travel journalists find great food on the open road

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.
P1010311

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.

 

 

 

 

 

More to Explore

Living history reenactors are time travelers

Florida art museums are cool, let’s visit

Art and food go together in Puerto Vallarta

 

Page 1 of 212