The Hurricane That Killed and Flooded Florida

The devastating flooding in the Carolinas due to the huge hurricane reminded me of Florida’s most dramatic flooding crisis.  It may seem strange to some of you since Florida is so flat and its rivers seem to flow slowly.

Ninety years ago in September of 1928, a Category 5 hurricane came eastward over Palm Beach County and flooded the southern half of Lake Okeechobee with a twenty-foot tsunami that killed over 2,000 people.   It was the most violent natural disaster in the history of the state.

FLORIDATRAVELER muck bowl intro

Much like the controversy over the number of deaths caused by last year’s Puerto Rican hurricane, since a majority of the deaths were immigrant workers from the Deep South and some from the Bahamas, no one can be totally sure on the death count.  Bodies were sent southward miles into the alligator-invested waters of the Everglades.

The hurricane called by Floridians Okeechobee hurricane, also known as the San Felipe Segundo hurricane, formed September 6, 1928, off the coast of Africa.  Moving westward, it hit Guadaloupe on September 12 with Category 4 winds and a storm surge that caused 1,200 deaths on the island.

FLORIDATRAVELER flood zone 1928_Okeechobee_Flood

By September 13 it was a Category 5 with sustained wind of 160 mph as it crashed into Puerto Rico.  312 people were killed, the vegetation destroyed, and 500,000 people were left homeless.   People in Florida sounded the alarm.

But as San Felipe Segundo arrived in the Bahamas, it had weakened somewhat to a Category 4 and the damages in the Bahamas was less with just 18 fatalities.

On September 16 it seemed the storm was heading north along the Atlantic Coast which would mean the western side of the storm might get less rain and wind.  It should be noted that in 1928 there wasn’t today’s radar nor cell-phones nor even a decent radio station to communicate into the Florida interior, the Muck Bowl.

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There was no escape from the huge wave.

Suddenly at night when many in rural areas had gone to be, the storm moved westward hitting West Palm Beach with 145 mph winds.  1,711 homes were crushed.

But there were worse things to come.  Hurricane winds move counter-clockwise and as the hurricane moved to Lake Okeechobee, the huge winds blew the waters in the shallow 25 mile by 25 mile lake from the southern end of the lake to the deeper north end.  Suddenly boats were sitting in the muck and the best roads for escape headed eastward into a wind that could blow a horse cart into a canal.

FLORIDATRAVELER finding bodies 1928 hurricane

Faceless People in the Swamp

Most of the farm workers lived in crude wooden house on stilts to avoid gators and snakes.  As the storm passed a giant tsunami wave rushed southward and swept away the cities of Belle GladeCanal Point, Chosen, Pahokee, and South Bay, Florida.  Only a few commercial buildings survived.  The wave could have been thirty feet high.

FLORIDATRAVELER Mass_Grave_1928

Hundreds of square miles in the swamps south of the Lake were filled with floating bodies that would quickly decay or be eaten by swamp things.  Only mass graves could handle the hundreds of unknown corpses.

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The Lake Is So Wide It Looks Like An Ocean

The Hoover Dike, Florida’s largest WPA Project, was built around Lake Okeechobee to prevent future disasters, but it also meant interfering with the flow of fresh water into the Everglades to the south.  The Great Wall of Florida is the first man-made site astronauts see as they return to Florida from space.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted in adventure vacation, attractions, conservation, environment, florida history, Florida parks, Historic Buildings, Hurricanes, mcbobleonard, small towns, travel | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Best Shopping Malls and Shopping Places in Florida

One of Florida’s most popular indoor vacation experiences is to go shopping, although with Florida’s climate, many of the popular shopping spots utilize beautiful outdoor settings.  It seems every area of Florida has discount malls but I prefer going to shopping plazas that are non-traditional in their variety and awesome-ness or have shops you can’t find in nearby malls.

Here are some places you should include on your Florida shopping plans:

The Mall at Millenia (Orlando) at 4200 Conroy Road, Orlando


Orlando is crowded with malls but for some slightly more high-end shopping the Mall at Millenia is my choice. The indoor, multi-level shopping space is only half the size of The Florida Mall, but stores here focus more on the upscale brands such as Gucci, Cartier, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choo, Burberry, and Tiffany & Co.  Located south of downtown, means it is easier to get to from Universal, SeaWorld, Disney and the international airport.

FLORIDATRAVELER MALL AT MILLIA orlando 

Disney Springs off I-10 at Walt Disney World

This monster of a shopping village is more than Disney shops: it has great restaurants, more upscale places then you might imagine, but also the best selection of things visitors want to bring home on vacations.

FLORIDATRAVELER disney-springs-anoitecer

Disney Springs could be called Shopping World

Despite the crowds, the automated free parking facilities make it easy to park provided you don’t arrive weekday afternoons.  The addition of quality nightclubs with movie theaters makes Disney Springs a full day attraction.

International Plaza and Bay Street off Westshore at Tampa Airport

The creation of this upscale 200-speciality shop mall with Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus is often filled with foreign visitors who pop off the airport, book a room in the mall’s hotel, and shop and dine for day.

FLORIDATRAVELER INTERNATIONAL MALL tampa

The restaurant area at International Mall

Bay Street is filled with some 20 restaurants and even the food court’s spots are places like Chipotle, Chick-fil-a, Johnny Rockets, and Earl of Sandwich, not unknown dealers.  There are a dozen deluxe handbag firms, some only found in Italy and Beverly Hills.

Dolphin Mall, 11401 NW 12th Street, Miami

 FLORIDATRAVELER dolphin mall_exterior

Miami is loaded with shopping options, but I am amazed by the Dolphin, the largest outlet-shopping-entertainment complex in Miami-Dade.  It has great transportation options in this overcrowded metropolis.

With massive discount stores by Saks and Neiman Marcus sitting next to Bass Pro Shops and Burlington Coat, you realize this complex has everything, including a 19-screen movie theater, high quality restaurants, and even a Sunday farmer’s market.

Bal Harbour Shops, at 9700 Collins Avenue, off A1A, Bal Harbour

This plant-dominated outdoor mall in the beachside suburb of Bal Harbour is more than an upscale shopping place.  It is a spot where top notch designers want to present their latest selections.

FLORIDATRAVELER bal-harbour miami

There is nothing discount at Bal Harbour. La Perla, Wolford, Agent Provocateur join Oscar de la Renta, and Stella Mccartney.   It is not shocking that the restaurants here are also upscale – a fast snack means Parisian-style treats at Lauduree.

Swap Shop, 3291 West Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale

 Not everyone has Versace tastes or pocketbooks and the Swap Shop is the wildest and probably biggest flea market, farmers market, and 14-screen drive-in in the South.  Everyday 2,000 vendors jam 75 acres of shopping entertainment and the good news is that typical catalog discount stuff won’t get you in the good graces of these shoppers.

FLORIDATRAVELER fort-lauderdale-drive-in-and-swap-shop-

Swap Shop Is 75 Acres of Mad Entertainment

The bright yellow people bridge over Sunrise Boulevard is the yellow brick shopping road to a vast collection of everything.  It may not be the Emerald City but you can purchase discounted emeralds here.

The Galleria, 2414 East Sunrise Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale

 Head toward the beach from Swap Shop and you come to one of Florida’s most world-class shopping meccas.  The two-story structure houses Neiman Marcus, Macy’s, and all the expected glamour chains.  Its valet parking is the best in Southeast Florida and the restaurant list is first class.

FLORIDATRAVELER galleria-fort-lauderdale

 Worth Avenue at  Palm Beach

 Florida’s most famous and glamorous shopping street is Worth Avenue in the heart of Palm Beach.  The island center contains quality shops, but even more wonderful Land Boon architecture, classic hotels, and notable restaurants.

FLORIDATRAVELER Palm-Beach-Worth-Ave-gate

Even if you don’t plan to buy anything, a stroll around this beautiful neighborhood is a worthwhile tourist attraction and you can even find guides online.

The Avenues Mall, 103 Southside Blvd, South Jacksonville

The pride of South Jacksonville off I-95 and near I-295 and the eastside of the St. Johns River, this massive two-story 125-store mall is the best in North Florida.  Besides the traditional big chains and large food court, Avenues has odd places like Subculture and Winey Wench.   The architecture here is amazingly lovely.

Fifth Avenue South, downtown Naples, west of US41

 Upscale Naples has a lot of upscale malls, but I love Olde Naples when the weather is mild and walking along the wide avenue with its tropical plants is so Florida.  People thought shopping might leave here in the 1990’s with the growth of more suburban malls, but Fifth Avenue South has boomed with its delightful mix of sidewalk cafes, unique local shops, and quality urban design.

FLORIDATRAVELER 5th AVenu South

Fifth Avenue South in Naples At Holiday Times

Fifth Avenue South is at its best in the winter months when street festivals and outdoor events attract half of Collier County downtown to enjoy their downtown treat.

 

 

 

 

Posted in adventure vacation, attractions, dining, disney springs, florida history, florida vacations, Historic Buildings, mcbobleonard, museums, Restaurants, Tampa, travel, Walt Disney World, wdw | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Favorite Florida Drives: INDIAN RIVER LAGOON

This is part of a series of driving tours I will present in the next few months with an emphasis on Florida’s natural beauty, historic architecture, and attractions.

Most people vacation in Orlando, Daytona Beach, or Central Florida visit the John F. Kennedy Space Center off FL 405 by traveling east from Orlando on the Beachline Expressway (toll) or coming north or south via Interstate 95.

FLORIDATRAVELER VAB_aerial

With more interactive exhibits, a space ride, the Astronaut Memorial, and such amazing spots as the massive Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and giant rockets, the NASA attraction is a wonderful family attraction.  The fact that you could have a real astronaut as a guide is even more amazing to me.

FLORIDATRAVELER THE INDIAN RIVER TOUR 2018

Cape Canaveral is a massive bird sanctuary and if open, I would drive south along Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and stop at their Air Force Space and Mission Museum.  Exiting Gate 1 will take you to A1A and 528 a mile away from Port Canaveral.

Port Canaveral has some recreational facilities and restaurants but the star of the port are the Disney berths.  Even if you are not taking a cruise to the Bahamas, the Disney Cruise Terminals when any ships are in port is an attraction.

From there you can take an oceanway tour down US A1A as far south as you wish – to Sebastian Inlet or Vero Beach.  Most people like to stop off at historic Cocoa Beach Pier, which has restaurants, gift shops, nearby motels and resorts, and hopefully a great view of surfers if the Atlantic is active.

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Few people can resist stopping at the main store of Ron Jon Surf Shop with all its ocean-going equipment.  The clothing sections will satisfy those who stay on the beach.  The area is starting to look like the largest outdoor sports mall in Florida with nearby Cocoa Beach Surf Company and Oceansports World, huge shops.

If you don’t have enough time to journey south on A1A, you can drive west to the mainland to Historic Cocoa, with a famous theater, the headquarters of the Florida Historical Society, and nice restaurants and shops.

FLORIDATRAVELER PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE

South of Cocoa Beach on A1A is Patrick Air Force Base.  This must be a serviceman’s dream location with its beach cottage rentals, marina, golf course, and location to the family amusement parks.

FLORIDATRAVELER INDIAN RIVER LAGOON

Driving north US1 in Melbourne you are close to the Indian River Lagoon, perhaps the least appreciated body of water in Florida.  It is the most biodiverse lagoon ecosystem in the Northern Hemisphere.  It is 156 miles long and only four feet in average depth.  It combines saltwater and freshwater.

FLORIDATRAVELER -Indian River Lagoon2

Along you drive you will probably note this is a great place for a fishing and boating vacation (boat or kayak) on the riverside and swimming and surfing in the Atlantic.  There are also five state parks and four Federal wildlife refuges on the Indian River/Banana River lagoon complex.

FLORIDATRAVELER Melbourne riverside

If you love architecture: you can drive off US1 whenever you want to look at some expensive riverfront homes with their neat docks and wharves.  Historic buffs may wish on another trip to explore Indian River Drive in Titusville where the mansions go back to the 1890’s.

Off FL 509 is the Brevard Zoo, one of Florida’s three best small county museums with over 400 animals and great educational programs.   ALL in all, Brevard County is a vast vacation spot.

Posted in adventure vacation, attractions, conservation, environment, florida education, florida history, florida vacations, Historic Buildings, mcbobleonard, museums, Recreational Experiences, travel | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

My Favorite Florida Bed and Breakfast Places

When it comes to staying in a great vacation spot at a value place, Florida’s top bed and breakfast houses are a great choice for couples of all ages.  The breakfasts alone at many of these places beats anything you’ll get at a hotel or eatery.

Many of these places are perfectly located near attractions in areas where the hotel prices skyrocket during the prime business seasons.  Everyone in these places often seem to be a voluntary concierge, giving you tips of local restaurants and activities.

Here are some Florida bed and breakfast spots to consider:

 Blue Heron Inn

102 South 7th Street, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034

 Fernandina Island challenges Saint Augustine and Key West as Florida’s bed and breakfast treasure house and the Blue Heron is a real gem.  The Victorian mansion is exquisite in its taste in furnishings and décor, but it is modern with full facility Wi-Fi and big flat screen TVs.  Some rooms have whirlpool tubs.

FLORIDARAVELER Blue Heron fernandina bedroom

Where Blue Heron jumps ahead of its competition is its personal service to guests and a four-course hot breakfast with a menu that totally changes each day. The 1904 inn is minutes away from the rustic downtown, Fort Clinch, and the Atlantic beaches.

Carriage Way Bed & Breakfast

70 Cuna Street, St. Augustine, FL 32084

FLORIDATRAVELER Carriage Way Inn St Augustine

No city in America the size of Saint Augustine has as many highly ranted bed and breakfast spots as the Ancient City.  Any couple that stays in a motel out on US1 is out to lunch!  At night the Victorian area just south of the Plaza turns into the city that make writers and artists arrive in the 1890’s.

This place has a magnificent staff and breakfast and treats guests to tea and coffee and wine.  There is a travel concierge who’ll help you make restaurant reservations and show you all the secret spots that make visiting here so unique.

Inn on the Avenue

309 Flagler Avenue, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32169

New Smyrna Beach has the same beach as Daytona, without the noisy crowds and carnival atmosphere.  It is five minute walk down Flagler past the quaint gift shops and restaurants to the beach.

FLORIDATRAVELER Inn on Avenue New Smyrna

The Inn is a small, happy place where everyone plays with the pancake griddles during the prix fixe breakfast and few miss the daily happy hour where sangria and hor d’oeuvres seem to be the food choice.  This is great location for such a low key experience.

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Harrington House Beachfront Bed & Breakfast

5626 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, Anna Maria Island 34217

FLORIDATRAVELER harrington house anna maria is

This is a no-brainer – if you want a beachside, long-established tremendous bed and breakfast spot on a peaceful island filled with friendly restaurants and happy travelers.

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Fifty guests stay in three houses and some bungalows, all on one of Florida’s best Gulf beaches.  An executive chef comes in and makes a unique breakfast everyday.  Your wish is their command for finding island things to do.

Don Vicente de Ybor Historic Inn

1915 REPUBLICA DE CUBA, 33605 Tampa

If you want to be in the heart of Tampa’s Latin Quarter near the restaurants and nightclubs and a short walk to the trolley to downtown then you might consider this romantic inn.  I know it well for 35 years I taught across the street at the community college.

FLORIDATRAVELER don vicente at ybor city outside

Don Vicente started as the headquarters of the Ybor City Development Company and was once even a hospital.  Jose Marti gave a speech on the steps across the street.  The inn is totally renovated and has some cool public rooms.

FLORIDATRAVELER don vicente ybor lobby

Grandview Gardens Bed and Breakfast 

1608 Lake Avenue, West Palm Beach, FL 33401

FLORIDATRAVELER casa grandview west palm beach pool

This place is half a city block with a 1919 house, a 1925 house, and eight cottages not counting a pool that belongs at a luxury resort.  People have found this spot and is gets booked heavily by repeat business.

FLORIDATRAVELER casa grandview west palm beach bedroom

The breakfast is not a fixed plate, but resembles a restaurant menu of choices.  If you are a couple with an automobile, it is a simple drive to the shops of Worth Avenue in Palm Beach.

Henderson Park Inn

2700 Scenic Highway 98, Destin, FL 32541

The Henderson Park doesn’t fit the image of a bed and breakfast although it resembles a Victorian edifice on Block Island, Rhode Island.  There are two large three story buildings right on the Gulf of Mexico next to Henderson Beach State Park.

Bed and breakfast guests have a huge buffet for dining, but the vast place has a popular restaurant with a view of the Gulf.  The rooms were redone in 2005 with more amenities than most motels.

Heron Cay Lakeview Bed & Breakfast

495 W Old US Hwy 441, Mount Dora, FL 32757

Mount Dora, north of Orlando, is a great village for antique hunting, train rides along the lakes, and a lot of interesting restaurants.  This is a picturesque place on a bluff facing the town.

FLORIDATRAVELER Heron Cay Mount Dora outside

There is a buffet and continental breakfast and Heron Cay even cooks up some special meals.  There is a large swimming pool and something not found at most hotels – a tennis court.

FLORIDATRAVELER Heron Cay mount dora inside food

Happy b&b hunting!

Posted in adventure vacation, attractions, bed&breakfast, Florida Food, florida history, florida vacations, Historic Buildings, Historic Hotels & Inns, mcbobleonard, Recreational Experiences, Restaurants, Tampa | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Snorkeling In Florida Is A Recreation Bonanza For All Ages

I never appreciated snorkeling when I was a kid and scuba diving seemed an impossibility to be with my poor eyesight.  Ironically, now after cataract surgery I can see underwater as an old coot better than when I was in grade school.

Still, I am not attracted to going two miles offshore to a Florida Keys reef where the waters are five to fifty feet; I’d stick as close to the five foot edge as I could.  Diving down into the deep is not my bag so I need to mention places off the beach.

That’s why this article is not telling you about advanced snorkeling sites and too many places where you have to take a long boat trip to your destination.  Plus, people should realize Florida’s clear spring rivers are filled with great fish and manatees, and there are many safe snorkeling spots where alligators don’t line the shoreline.

Here are some neat spots to snorkel in Florida:

 Biscayne National Park

 You don’t have to go to the Florida Keys to see the third largest barrier reef system in the world for its starts just south of Miami’s Key Biscayne with forty islands (keys), nine reefs, and five shipwrecks to explore, many with near shore snorkeling environments in hard-bottom coral communities.

FLORIDATRAVELER SNORKEL key west snorkel-reef-cruise4

Experts suggest Caesar Creek Sandwich Cove as a nice shallow area with hard bottom coral colonies, and Bell Buoy Reef which does require a snorkeling boat trip.   Look at a map of the underwater Park and you realize it is a giant, protected bay.

Carysfort Reef

 John D. Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is a famous place for scuba and snorkeling and Carysfort is in the northern tip, popular with many Key Largo snorkeling firms.  This one is a boat trip to a mature reef with depths of 5 to 25 feet.

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Carysfort was a 118-foot British frigate that hit the reef in 1770 and is six miles off North Key Largo.  As the ocean level rises the island that once held the lighthouse becomes a larger shallow snorkel area.

Pigeon Key and Bahia Honda are two islands where the snorkeling is done right off the beach.  While the latter, a state park with campsites is more famous, the snorkeling program at exotic Pigeon Key covers adults to small kids.

Pigeon Key Snorkel Class Right Off Highway

FLORIDATRAVELER snorkel Pigeon-Key1

Key West Marine Park

 Located on the south side of the urban island from the end of DuVal Street to the White Street pier, the Key West Marine Park has 116 mooting buoys marking the near coastal reef.

Experts pick the remnants of the old White Street bridge (Higgs Beach) and the Dog Beach area at Vernon Street as the best entry points to the reef.   They remind people don’t grab any spiny lobsters in the off-season.

Most people think that you have to go to the Florida Keys to find a large snorkeling area that has clear waters and loads of interesting fish.  You can walk off the beach at these spots.

Bathtub Reef Park

FLORIDATRAVELER SNORKEL bathtub reef park

 Located on Hutchinson Island on the Atlantic Ocean, the Bathtub is a honeycomb worm reef that diverts the surf making a more protected bay for snorkeling.  It is a good experience even for amateur and child snorkelers while experienced people can go over the reef walls into deeper water.

Point of Rocks

 FLORIDATRAVELER SNORKEL point of rocks siesta key_701

The design of the Gulf of Mexico beaches limits visibility in Florida, but there are still spots like South Venice Beach that are fun snorkeling spots.  The best Point of Rocks on the south side of popular Siesta Key, voted by many as the whitest sand in the USA.

This is a mostly residential area but there are access points and it is a short southward walk from Turtle Beach (half way south on the island).  A long row of outcroppings protect fish from large attackers.

Florida’s river springs are popular snorkeling places so if you look up the Florida State Parks to see if scuba is allowed – snorkeling will also be allowed.

Crystal River

 Scuba Diving Magazine lists this huge multi-=spring site as one of the top 25 snorkeling areas in the world.  It is famous for swimming near manatees and the water is mild all year.

floridatraveler SNORKELING crystal river

The Three Sister Springs area attracts the most winter manatees and there are several tour firms that specialize in snorkeling programs.

Homosassa River

floridatraveler SNORKEL Homosassa+Springs

 The same tour people also operate thirty miles south in Homosassa Springs famous for its State Park on US19.   Snorkeling here is equally interesting for besides manatees, both saltwater and freshwater fish mix freely in this wide river.

FLORIDATRAVELER SNORKEL destin east jetty

Snorkel off the East Jetty in Panhandle Destin

So consider a snorkeling trip as part of your outdoor Florida experiences.

Posted in adventure vacation, attractions, conservation, diving, environment, florida history, Florida parks, Florida sports, florida vacations, Historic Lighthouses, keys, mcbobleonard, Recreational Experiences, travel | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Salute To Those Caring For Florida’s Damaged Wildlife

All polls indicate that besides the sun and the beaches, visitors and residents alike admire Florida’s tropical environment which includes wildlife and plants.

With twenty million residents, several million snowbirds, and over one hundred million visitors there is less and less habitat for Florida’s creatures to avoid mankind.  Encounters with humans often lead to injuries and even death despite the best intentions of people. Florida’s big zoos and attractions like Sea World and Busch Gardens have nature rescue programs but I want to concentrate on some of the smaller, lesser known places.

Here is a look at some of Florida’s best animal and bird preservationists. 

The Seaside Seabird Sanctuary at 18328 Gulf Boulevard on the Gulf of Mexico in Indian Shores is a rescue operation in itself.  Lacking in sufficient funding the original Suncoast Seabiard Sanctuary (1971-2016) closed but was reopened with the help of bird-loving volunteers and specialists.

floridatraveler seabird sanctuary

At one time this location was the “largest bird hospital in the world” while its rescues of over 3,000 wild birds each year are much less than the old facility, some 80% of the birds that survive 24 hours are rehabilitated and released.  There are always residents in house and there are presentation and programs everyday for people to visit.

floridatraveler seabird sanctuary2

Down in Key West the brown pelicans and other island creatures have a big friend in the Key West Wildlife Center at 1801 White Street.  Open 24 hours a day, the center’s hospital covers dozens of boating accidents with birds and wildlife.

floridatraveler KEY WEST WILDLIFE CENTER

Highly unusual, the Center also handles the island’s huge stray wild children population.  I wonder if they have treated some of the ancestors of Hemingway’s multi-toed cats?

More than six hundred miles away south of Tallahassee is the Florida Wild Mammal Association surrounded by the dense pine forests in Crawfordsville.  Open since 1994, the center will help any sick, injured, or orphaned creature.

floridatraveler FWMA crawsfordville -raccons

In the Panhandle that could include deer, bobcats, and black bear.

Sanibel Island is a very conservation-oriented place with much of the bayside as part of the famous Ding Darling preserve.  CROW or the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife is a ten acre complex complete with hospital and nature trail.

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“I’m at CROW .. but I’m an owl!”

The island may seem rather urban but the raccoon and owl population often seems as note-worthy as the water birds.

The Treasure Coast Wildlife Center in Palm City has been open since 1974 and covers an area from Lake Okeechobee to urban Palm Beach County to Martin County.

On a typical day the Center may treat a barn owl, baby wrens, and a wounded bobcat.  At least 10% of their cases involve endangered or rare species.

In Miami Sea World is famous for their treatment of manatees and dolphins, but the Pelican Harbor Seabird Station right there on the 79th Street Causeway is filled with brown pelicans and other seabirds usually caught in fish nets and lines.

floridatraveler PELICAN HARBOR at miami pelican012

The Station has serviced a monstrous 30,000 patients, with over 300 species of birds. It is a tourist attraction for nature lovers.

It is not unexpected that there is an active wildlife treatment center in Gainesville.  The Florida Wildlife Care Center gets over 5,000 rescue calls each year.  With I-75 nearby deer, foxes, opossums, and bears can be targets.

This article just touched a few bases, but if you are a Florida resident or snowbird look online for the nearest wildlife rescue place if you wish to donate or volunteer.  These spots could be educational stops for tourists with families.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in adventure vacation, attractions, environment, florida education, florida history, Florida parks, florida vacations, keys, mcbobleonard, museums, Recreational Experiences | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Underrated and Often Forgotten Great Beaches of Florida

Florida has one thousand miles of coastline and miles of terrific beaches, but some beaches are actually underrated and almost forgotten by a majority of tourists and even Floridians.  Why is that?

Sometimes, there are few large resorts advertising the benefits of the beach village and small family motels don’t promote except in local media.  Other great beaches are hemmed in by larger, more commercial communities.

Here are some places to consider:

VERO BEACH may have changed some with the loss of the Dodger Baseball Spring Training City and now a less-promoted smaller McKee Botanical Garden attraction, but it still has a wonderful beach, quality restaurants, and the McLarty Treasure Museum.

floridatraveler VERO BEACH

The funky Driftwood Inn is still on the beach with some nice restaurants within walking distance.  To the south is a Holiday Inn and Suites and a Prestige Hotel, just south of South Beach Park.   Not far north at Wabasso Beach is Disney’s Vero Beach Resort.

floridatraveler FUNKY DRIFTWOOD Vero-Beach-61922

The Historic But Strange Driftwood Inn, Vero Beach

Another often neglected Atlantic beach town is DEERFIELD BEACH, hemmed in by the fancy resorts of Boca Raton and the huge hotels and condos of Pompano Beach.  The beach is very pristine and even in the heart of the winter tourist season not packed since the beachfront is mostly small motels and residences.

Architectural Photography

Royal Blues Hotel in Deerfield Beach

The great 976-foot International Fishing Pier is the beach focus and right next door is five star Wyndham Deerfield Beach and a half-dozen eating places.  A few blocks south is the deluxe Royal Blues Hotel Relais and Chateau.

Fort Myers Beach has been a popular resort spot for years, but first timers usually stay near Times Square, the very active restaurant center on the northern tip by the main bridge.  At the southern tip is the LOVERS KEY area.

floridatraveler lovers-key-resort FORT MYERS BEACH

Lovers Key Resort – Park Across Street

The Lovers Key Resort looks out onto the ocean and the bay where the Calusa Indian Mound Key is visible.  Across the street is Lovers Key State Park, where a tram takes you around the mangroves and lakes before the beautiful beach.  It is a truly natural setting where pirates once roamed.

If you want a strange mix of rustic casual, small crowds but access to luxury and fancy than the ENGLEWOOD BEACHGASPARILLA ISLAND area is your bag.  On the Charlotte County side of Manasota Key are small motels and resorts.  My favorite is the Weston’s WantaB Inn located at the entrance of semi-deserted one mile Stump Pass Beach State Park.floridatraveler ENGLEWOOD -stump-pass

Englwood Beach to north and Palm Island Resort to south

East of Jacksonville is ATLANTIC BEACH, often unnoticed by visitors for it hasn’t the bustle and amusements of nearby Jacksonville Beach.  Atlantic Beach has small deluxe resorts like the One Ocean Resort and Spa and the delightful Sea Horse Inn.

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Uncrowded Atlantic Beach

A big asset to this beach is nearby Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park.  Atlantic Beach was voted by the Travel Chanel one of Florida’s best secret beaches.

While most visitors to Saint Augustine visit St Augustine Beach with its famous  lighthouse and “oldest” alligator farm, few don’t realize that on the northside of St. Augustine Inlet is peaceful VILANO BEACH with the same neat beach.

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Vilano Beach bayside Pier, Beach, St Augustine Beach on right

At the southern tip are several moderate hotels including the beachfront Hampton Inn and Suites.  Don’t expect lots of nightlife, but Saint Augustine is just over the bridge and five minutes away.

 

 

 

 

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