Women Who Changed Florida: My Honor Roll

I was asked at a conference if I thought Janet Reno was the greatest woman in Florida history.  She was the first female Attorney General in the USA, but she was appointed at a time Presidents realized Cabinets should resemble the U.S. populace.

Most Floridians and surely most Florida visitors know few of the women who most impacted the Sunshine State so I decided to make a list of my top choices.  Since I will be doing a literary landmark article in the future, I excluded noted writers Marjorie Rawlings and Zora Hurston, for which I will then tell an interesting tale.

Here are Florida women you should know:

Julia DeForest Sturtevant Tuttle  (1848–1898)

Julia Tuttle is the only woman considered to be the founder of a major American city (Miami) and one of the true pioneers of the Florida frontier. She first came to the isolated area to see her father’s plantation on the Miami River and while she was fascinated by the potential area, she did not consider leaving Ohio for when her husband died in 1886 she had to manage the family iron foundry.  In 1891, however, her father died leaving her his Dade County real estate.


          Julia Tuttle believed this frontier outpost would become a major American city and purchased hundreds of acres, including the remains of Fort Dallas. While some of the tales about her are mythical , she was able to convince Henry Flagler to extend his East Coast Railroad to Miami in part showing the area’s importance in agriculture and tourism.

She once told supporter and banker J. E. Lummus that “if you live your natural lifetime, you will see one hundred thousand people in this city.”  Lummus saw five times that amount at the time of his death.   She is truly the “Mother of Miami.”

Marjory Stoneman Douglas  (1890–1998)

Marjorie Stoneman Douglas could easily be listed as one of Florida’s ten most influential writers, but she was more than just an author.  She is viewed as the “Savior of the Everglades.”    Moving to Miami as a young journalist for The Miami Herald, Douglas became an outspoken writer for civil rights and women’s suffrage, but her biggest love was for protecting the Florida wilderness.


Her book The Everglades: River of Grass (1947) is Florida’s classic environmentalist non-fiction work and the inspiration for hundreds of writers and political leaders.  She was still a crusader for restoration of her big river when she died at the age of 108 and her humble Coconut Grove cottage is maintained by the Florida Park Service and is a must if you are in the Coral Gables area.

Mary Jane McLeod Bethune (1875-1955)

Best known nationally as a national advisor to President F. D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression, Mary Bethune was a key educator, civil rights leader, and important humanitarian. To Floridians, her career was even more extensive.

In Florida she started a private school for women in Daytona Beach and merged it with a male school to form Bethune-Cookman College.  She served as college President from 1923 to 1942 and 1946 to 1947.  Her house in Daytona Beach is a National Landmark.

Jacqueline Cochran (1906-1980)

Born in 1906 in a shack on stilts in Muskogee, Florida, Jacqueline Cochran is a story rarely matched in history books.  Her real name was Bessie Lee Pittman; she took the last name from her husband Robert Cochran, whom she wed at age 14.  Starting as a hairdresser in Pensacola, this farm girl soon rose to that job in New York City at Saks Fifth Avenue.  But that would not be the end of the tale.

Offered a flying lesson at Roosevelt Field in Long island, she found a new love and within two years had a commercial pilot’s license.  While becoming the first woman pilot in major airplane races, she met Floyd B. Odlum, CEO of RKO Pictures, and he helped start a cosmetic company called Wings.  By 1938, she was the best female pilot in the world, holding more speed, distance, or altitude records in aviation history than any other pilot, male or female.

When World War II started, the very patriotic Cochran volunteered to fly Lockheed bombers across the Atlantic to help save Britain and even recruited American female pilots to serve England.  When the USA entered the war, she overcame all opposition to help start and direct the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP).  In 1948 she joined the US Air Force Reserve as a test pilot.

floridatravel;er jackie cochran

          Rising to a rank of Colonel, Cochran was the first women to break the sound barrier, to land on an aircraft carrier, to fly a transatlantic jet aircraft, and to fly over 20,000 feet.  In 1961 she flew a T-38 higher than any human in history. In case, you think her flying career ended her cosmetic business, she continued it and got Marilyn Monroe to be spokesperson for her lipstick.

Paulina Pedroso (1845-1925)

Paulina Perdroso is often viewed as the female leader of the Cuban War for Independence for Spain and certainly it’s most famous Afro-Cuban.  Born in Cuba, she and her husband moved to Key West as cigarmakers, a move probably triggered by her opposition to Spanish policies in Cuba.  In the 1880’s she moved to segregated Tampa and worked in the factory of Vicente Martinez Ybor, a Spanish-born manufacturer who supported Cuban independence and started Tampa’s Latin City. Her husband Ruberto headed the Marti-Maceo Society, the club of Afro-Cubans since they couldn’t integrate into the white Cuban groups.  Pedroso went with Marti to unify the Cuban cigar workers, both black and white, to support raising money for weapons and equipment to gain Cuban independence from Spain.

floridatraveler PAULINA PEDROSO

          When Spanish agents in Tampa  tried to poison Cuban Revolutionary leader Jose Marti, Marti stayed at the Pedroso boardinghouse at 8th Avenue and 12th Street, since it was protected by stone walls.  Paulina and Marti, who was white, worked to end racial discrimination in Cuban organizations.  The location of the Pedroso house is today a park in Ybor City (Tampa) donated to the people of Cuba by the people of Tampa.  She is a member of the Florida Hall of Fame.

May Austin Elizabeth Mann Jennings (1872 – 1963)

May Jennings of Brooksville was the wife of Governor William Sherman Jennings.  Many viewed his success to his wife’s ability to organize voters via her vast network of Florida Federation of Womens Club members.

Following her husband’s term as governor in 1904, the couple moved to Jacksonville, then Florida’s largest city, where Jennings was an organizer of the Duval County Federation of Women’s clubs and was president of the Florida Federation of Womens Clubs and got an army of women into promoting child welfare laws, reservations for Seminoles, a State Library, state parks, compulsory eduication for all, and conservation laws.


 Club women across the state worked in campaign drives, lobbied legislators and appealed to other organizations for assistance.              After she was widowed in 1920, she was co-founder of the Florida State League of Womens Voters.  As their spokesperson, she lobbied for prison and education reforms.

She was known as the “Mother of Florida Forestry” for her part in promoting and securing the legislative act that created the Florida State Board of Forestry, known today as the Division of Forestry.

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

Winter Park Is The City Of Wonderful Canals

Winter Park is identified across Central Florida as an upscale community filled with a downtown of attractive stores and restaurants along Park Avenue, wonderful lakeside estates, and Florida’s first four year college, ROLLINS COLLEGE

The mix of education, money, and Northern money gives the town a prosperous atmosphere, one that can support the world’s largest Tiffany glass collection at the CHARLES HOSMER MORSE MUSEUM of AMERICAN ART.

After shopping along Winter Park’s wonderful downtown streets and visiting Rollins College, the best thing to do is take a BOAT TOUR of the city’s many canals.  This is the best way to see many of the extensive mansions of the city.

floridatraveler WINTER PARK BOAT TOURS

The Boat Tour Shows A Different Winter Park

The area has attracted New Englanders in large numbers since the 1880’s, although pioneer Favid Mize; Jr atarted Lake View (later Osceola) in 1858 for Southern farmers. When the South Florida Railroad reached the area in 1880 it brought Loring Chase. When he saw the lovely lakes, he recruited a rich New England Oliver E, Chapman to buy land and plant orange groves around a downtown.

floridatraveler WINTER PARK from the air postcard

By 1885 Chase and Chapman sold the property to a group of investors who opened the Winter Park Company with an eye to turn the town into a winter residence of the rich. Later that year the Congregational Assembly selected the town for ROLLINS COLLEGE and the huge Seminole Hotel was built on Lake Osceola to attract the rich.

After touring the shops on Park Avenue (complete with Amtrak station so we once came here for the day from Tampa by train), tour the beautiful ROLLINS COLLEGE campus where being lakeside makes a difference.

floridatraveler WINTER PK Rollins Graphic

On campus is the CORNELL FINES ARTS MUSEUM (1942), the original site of the Morse Art Gallery, and the exquisite ANNIE RUSSELL THEATRE (1932), A Romanesque classic by O. W. Hessler and Richard Kiekael.  Original plays directed by Zora Hurston were once done here.


The Historic Annie Russell Theater

Over at 1000 Hlt Avenue is the KNOWLES MEMORIAL CHAPEL, a Spanish Revival center by G. W. Cram and Ralph Adams.   If you are renting a canoe or traveling on Lake Virginia to get scenic views of the Rollins Campus, you should notice the houses on the south shore, a subdivision called Ellno Willa. (13) At 247 Virginia Drive is the 1925 Spanish style W. B. JOINER HOUSE ; at 181 Virginia is the 1928 HERBERT HALVERSTADT HOUSE. He was Mayor of the city while his wife Gertrude was President of the Womans Club.

The large Italian Renaissance farmhouse at 147 Virginia is the 1925 DR. N. L. BRYAN ESTATE, on two acres with 15-foot outer walls.

Traveling from the Rollins campus east on Osceola it is hard to miss (B) the ALBIN POLASEK MUSEUM at 633 Osceola. It is the house where the great Czech artist/sculptor retired in 1950, but the grounds and building houses a great display of his work.


One Look Tells This Is Not The Typical House

It is much easier to miss (1) the REV. CHARLES W. WARD COTTAGE (1882) purchased by Alonzo Rollins from the towns first Episcopal minister to serve as the first women’s dorm at Rollins. I do not know if Alice Guild stayed here, but she was the first woman in Florida in get a BA from a Florida college in 1890.

floridatarveler winter park WARD COTTAGE

The Ward Cottage

North of Osceola on the eastern shore of Lake Osceola is (2) THE PALMS (1898), a 21 room Georgian Revival complete with boathouse and pagoda and a favorite on the Boat Tours. Edward Hill Brewer, a winter resident built the house. Later noted architect James Gamble Rogers II redid the interior for another owner.

floridatraveler winter park CANAL TRIP

Even In Summer The Canals Are Cooling

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

The Forgotten Coast Is A Unique Florida Vacation Spot

When visitors, snowbirds, and residents travel around Florida, they are confronted with Chamber of Commerce produced symbols: Miami is in the Gold Coast; Clearwater is on the Sun Coast; St Augustine is the First Coast; Fort Pierce is the Treasure Coast.

Few people know where the Forgotten Coast is despite the fact it offers some laid-back vacations options and dozens of activity opportunities.  This is the busy season for Franklin County, but it is a great spot for trips in the early fall months.

franklin st george island inn 2

The St. George Inn on St. George Island

The Forgotten Coast actually has four barrier islands, one of which – St. George Island – has one of the most exclusive and expensive gated vacation communities in North Florida. It also has two moderate inns and dozens of new rental condos. Most owners stay here in the cold months and rent in the summer and fall. You get those pearl white Panhandle beaches without the noise and hustle of Panama City or Pensacola Beach.

The mainland center of Franklin County is Apalachicola, a historic town that was once one of the largest ports on the Gulf of Mexico.  Here are some delightful inns and bed and breakfast spots as well as a large historic district of pre-Victorian mansions.

floridatraveler OYSTER BOATS in apalachicola bay

Oyster Boats in Apalachicola Bay

If Miami Beach is famous for stone crabs, oysters are kings of the many waterfront seafood places.  Apalachicola Bay has since the days of the Apalachee Indians been one of the world’s major oyster reefs.  Taking a boat tour whether to fish or learn about area oysters is an attraction.

Some of my favorite Apalachicola sites include: the 1838 Trinity Episcopal Church, built in New York, and shipped pre-fab; the John Gorrie State Museum, honoring the physician who built the first air-conditioning machine; and the 1837 City Hall, one of many waterfront warehouses which includes a Sponge Exchange and Maritime Museum.

floridatraveler the-gibson-inn-in-Apalachicola-fl-

The Gibson Inn Has Restaurant, Bar, Two Ghosts

To get in the full atmosphere of the town, I suggest you consider the 1907 Gibson Inn, a full service hotel, or the Water Street Hotel and Marina with condo facilities and a pool.

Nearby Carrabelle, home to the world’s smallest police station (it is a phone booth), has lots of restaurants and access to many recreation sites.  Apalachicola National Forest, Florida’s largest at 632,890 acres, offers hiking, fishing, horse-back riding, and off-road ATV usage.

FLORIDARAVEL ER-Smallpolicecarrabelle

The Carabelle Police Station

St. George Island, connected by a four-mile bridge from Eastpoint on the mainland, welcomes visitors to its public beach, restaurants, bars, and small shops.  There are two small inns, with my favorite being the modernized St. George Inn.   The island is 28 miles long but one-third is the exclusive St. George Plantation and one-third is nature preserve.

FLORIDATRAVELER blue parrot restaurant on st george island

The Blue Parrot Restaurant on St George Island

The other Forgotten Coast barrier islands are accessible by boat unless you have an airplane to land on Dog Island.   There are 100 houses and a tiny inn, but this is not a tourist destination for most.


I first remember this island, when a few jokesters created a website that stated Dog Island was a refuge where lost dogs to stay and live freely.  They even sold T-shirts about Dog Island.  It was amusing, but highly illegitimate.

The most unusual island is St. Vincent Island, now a National Wildlife Refuge.  When it was privately owned, exotic animals from Africa and Asia were put here as a game farm. People boat here to see the 500-pound Sambar deer from Southeast Asia and to perhaps catch a glimpse of the rare red wolf population, an endangered species brought here.

If you are driving along the Panhandle of Florida, and want a place where Old Florida dominates and you will not fight for beach space, the Forgotten Coast is a great location.



Posted in adventure vacation, attractions, conservation, environment, Florida Food, florida history, Florida parks, florida vacations, food, Historic Hotels & Inns, mcbobleonard, museums, Restaurants, small towns, travel | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Back In Florida After I-10 Continental Journey

I have returned on a long business trip to the Pacific Coast with most of my driving on the new Southern version of Route 66 – arduous 2,460 miles from Jacksonville I-95 to Santa Monica Pier.  It is too bad they couldn’t find a way to extend I-10 to Jacksonville Beach Pier and give it the same movie glory on the Atlantic – from pier to shining pier.

There may be three longer trans-continental Interstates in the USA, but I-10 is different for one-third of the route (879 miles) goes through just one state – Texas.

Here are some observations relating in most cases with Florida:

 Green and Brown

 Our flag may be red, white, and blue, but the Southern side of this nation could be described as green and brown.  It is summer and the trees and grass are green and high in Florida and the Gulf Coast.  When you go west of San Antonio, the land goes stark brown.  The mountains look like sand piles and even the cactus seem to be small and scarce.

FLORIDATRAVELER texas highway july

I saw no cowboys, no prairie dogs, no roadrunners – West Texas.

Coastal California is browner than it was several years ago.  It is getting expensive in much of the West to truly go natural green even if you are environmentally green.

Urban and Rural

 When you drive across the nation, it reminds me of Florida, the third most populated state.  Highways in Florida cities are packed with bumper to bumper traffic during the daylight but there are still some stretches of empty roadway.


Houston In July

I-10 passes through five of the twelve most populated cities in the United States: Los Angles (2nd to NYC), Houston (4th), Phoenix (5th), San Antonio (7th), and Jacksonville (12th).  Yet fully 40% of I-10 is open desert so isolated that several exits are actually the front door of large ranches.

Water and Waterless

 Florida has a water situation, but except when there is a drought, Florida’s problem is too many people are jammed into Southeast Florida (the Gold Coast) where the nearest water is the Everglades.  Florida has more major springs than any other place in the world and our subtropical climate results in a lot of rain.  Most of our water is in North Florida.

Incredibly, we got a flood alert while at a gas station in Fort Stockton, Texas.  There is nothing around this town for one hundred miles in any direction.  Yet the people were running into the buildings as it started to pour.  I live in Florida so I have seen rain, but in my state rain goes into the ground!   Within minutes two inch waves were flowing down the dusty streets.

Imagine a person in the middle of Texas drowning in 114 degree temperature.

The land west of San Antonio had miles and miles of dry river bed waiting for a few winter rains or even snow.  I kept going over bridges without a drop of water. From the top of a hill, the Colorado River looked very blue but very thin – it was a precious necklace of water which California, Arizona, and Nevada fight over.

FLORIDATRAVELER -Miami summer shower July

In Florida We Don’t Appreciate the Summer Rains

I found it amusing how the tourist areas of New Mexico, Arizona, and California plant cactus is obvious unnatural settings and combinations the way Florida cities stick palm trees at every important intersection.

Bad Highways

 When you live in Florida, you expect to see highway construction projects that never end.  By the time one finishes, it is time to add more lanes.  I must state that Florida’s highways looked quite good compared to other states.  West Louisiana had some bad roads.

floridatraveler traffic at wdw july

Dreams do come true if you have four lanes!

But the real shocker was how many two lane Interstate 10 roads continued far into the most urban areas of big cities.  AAA wanted be to drive through downtown Houston – I did not for the inner circle known as I-610.  But my gosh, do people think you should go around Houston on Route 8 which adds 120 miles to your journey?

Florida has some poorly designed routes, but I saw some dillies for confused tourists out West.  I don’t like the system where two Interstate merge into one and your exit numbers suddenly change before your eyes. That was in San Antonio.  A section of I-10 in Los Angeles weaved around as a two lane street in a residential neighborhood.  You had to believe you had missed a sign.

Of course, I know there will be a traffic jam outside Walt Disney World, but at least you will be in four or five lanes of traffic jam and not in two lanes.

Mass Transit?

 Clearly the nation has a mass transit problem, but the cost of inserting a good system is difficult in the Sunbelt cities.  Most of them are “round metropolitan areas” with suburbs spread out for miles in every direction.  In Florida building a rail-line along the Atlantic Coast which is straight is much easier than figuring a rail route for a booming city like Orlando.

Houston, Phoenix, and Los Angles have extensive toll lanes along their Interstates.   They may be used during rush hour, but at 10 am and 2 pm when I went past those cities, the fast for-pay lanes were almost empty.  In Phoenix you could have filmed a “Fast and Furious” chase episode in them.

A New Motor World

 A few years ago the City of Tampa tried to place bikes for riding downtown. Today that show is over, but Tampa has developed a serious bike culture even adding one way street to help bikers.  Free downtown bike pickup and new bike trails.

FLORIDATRAVELER city scooters July

Think of 100,000 of these scooters on your roadways.

Florida tends to be several years behind the Pacific Coast on trends so I was curious to see how young people go around the traffic clogged Los Angles streets.  In Culver City it was cheap digitally rented motorized scooters.  The scooters were everywhere. People in business suits in scooters. Barefoot school kids.  Scooters scooters. And you think seeing a motorcycle behind you is difficult! The city rounds them up by their GPS at night.

Expect the scooters to reach Florida around 2020.  Anyway, I’m glad to be back in the Sunshine State and ready for some new travel ideas.


Posted in adventure vacation, attractions, business, disney, environment, florida history, Florida parks, florida vacations, mcbobleonard, Recreational Experiences, travel, Walt Disney World, wdw | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Rating The New Stuff At The Big Parks

Summer months mean the huge influx of family vacationers to Orlando’s big vacation destinations.  For many Floridians the arrival of grandchildren means that despite the heat, humidity, and thunderstorms also means a trip to the parks.

If it has been an entire year since you visited Walt Disney World or Universal or other parks, you might want to know what’s new or changed and whether it is worth the time and money.

HERE are the important summer 2018 stories:

Toy Story Will Open at Disney Hollywood Studios June 30

 As a Disney stockholder, I find it embarrassing that WDW is charging people full admission to this park with the entire back area torn down and The Movie Ride closed. They even terminated some of the better counter service food stops as attendance declined.

FLORIDATRAVELER toy-story-land

Little Kids Will Love It

Toy Story will be worthwhile if you have kids under ten years, but it is not enough to motivate teenagers or adults unless you have a multi-park pass.   Toy Story will not add any outstanding full service restaurants.  The food spots look like counter service comfort food.

Alien Swirling Saucers is a three minute “Mad Tea Party ride” in elevation hosted by Toy Story’s vending machine aliens.  The rise motion will be so slow that children under 32″ will be able to walk on with parents.  It will take Fastpass at least until the Star Wars area opens in another year.

Slinky Dog Dash is a three minute outdoor roller coaster that resembles a giant Lego and Erector construction by Andy of Toy Story.  It will have no fast curves and large drops since it is believed kids over 36″ will be accepted.  Fastpass might be needed for the ride looks like the biggest thing in the new area.

The Incredibles Headline Tomorrowland’s Expo

 Call it a big movie promo, but Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland will have a Incredible Tomorrowland Expo with a stage performance with Mr. and Mrs. Incredible, Frozone, and even Edna Mode.  There will be a character meet and greet.

FLORIDA TRAVELER the incredibles

Little kids will like it, but until the ride Tron opens to the left of Space Mountain, Tomorrowland is getting to look like Past-Land.  The show will continue until September 3.

Guardians of the Galaxy Land at American Adventure

 The theater in front of Epcot’s American Adventure has been taken over by another movie and future ride promotion.  The Guardians of the Galaxy  group led by Star-Lord, Gamora, and a video performance of Little Groot make conflict with a musical group from Xandar almost every hour from 1:30 to 8 pm until August 19.

FLORIDATRAVELER guardians of galaxy

The actual Guardians of the Galaxy ride being built in Future World is more than a year away.   The Xandarians are eventually convinced to play American 1970’s and 1980’s rock music.  In Florida’s heat and humidity to wear those outfits requires out of this world motivation.

The actual ride now open in California has much better script writing than the dumb story line of this stage show.  At least those Xandarians can rock!

All The New Disney Spring Restaurants Are Open!

 After much delay the new complex of restaurants and nightclubs on the waterfront of Disney Springs are open.  All of them have wonderfully themed structures; the food does not rate as highly in all places.


The Edison Has Unreal Machine Era Theming

Enzio’s Hideaway Tunnel Bar is a clever rum-running tunnel of rooms celebrating the 1920’s speakeasies and decent Italian and Sicilian food and some American dishes. The place is really a series of bars and small rooms.

Maria and Enzo’s Ristorante is a three story 1950’s air terminal of fantastic design.  The menu is expensive, but we found the Sicilian and Italian food to be more enjoyable than the more promoted Edison.  Try the ribeye or the swordfish.

Floridatraveler maria and enzio Dining Room BEST PIC

Maria and Enzo’s Stunning Airport Terminal Theme

The Edison is a huge vacant warehouse with all the machinery intact and converted into a 1920’s nightclub.  The restaurant has received the most publicity for at 10 pm it turns into a nightclub with flappers, an aerial act, a band, and DJs.  There are bars all over the place with some wild and costly signature drinks.

The new American menu is very original, but that means you may find the selections weird, expensive, and not too tasty.  I enjoyed the Edison Burger and the aged prime rib.  If you like parties, this is the adult night spot at Disney Springs.


Universal’s Volcano Bay Water Park Is Best In Florida

 Ready for its first full summer feast is Universal’s Volcano Bay, a water park that will cause updates at Disney’s two water parks.  Volcano uses more high tech to make your visit easier.  The TapuTapu wearable bracelets let you book places in the lines and not spend your hours melting in the Florida sun.


There is a Universal Express Plus one park pass for just $19.99 that allows a person to ignore all the lines and just pounce to the rides one after another.  There are too many rides to mention, but they resemble the rides at the Disney and Sea World and Busch Garden sites, but newer and more elaborate.

One element that stands out is the diversity of food choices at Volcano Bay.  Universal has a big advantage over Disney since its resort hotels are mostly a walk away.  The Kohola Reef Restaurant and Social Club and Whakawaiwai Eats look like restaurants that belong in the Asian themed resorts.

Universal’s Adventura Hotel Opens in August

 Universal’s sixth and perhaps last on-site resort Adventura Hotel will open in August and is a towering South Miami style tri-wall of curved glass. There will be no table service restaurants, just unique food court places, but there will be a rooftop bar and grille.


The regular rooms are small: 314 square feet standard and 395 square feet deluxe and will compete with the Disney All-Star hotels, which are much older.   The most notable thing is the 575 square foot Family Suites, which fit five and undercut Disney by almost $200.  Weak point for place: just one bathroom versus Disney’s two.






Posted in adventure vacation, attractions, dining, disney, disney springs, florida history, Florida parks, florida vacations, mcbobleonard, music, Recreational Experiences, Restaurants, travel, Universal Studios, Walt Disney World, wdw | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

My Favorite Seafood Spots In Southeast Florida

My New England heritage might be why I enjoy visiting seafood restaurants across Florida and with the longest coastline of any state other than Alaska there’s a lot of waterfront for restaurants to locate.

Here are some great places for seafood lovers along the Florida Gold Coast (Southeast Florida) and the wonderful Florida Keys.  Rates are lower during the summer and the traffic is better for a trip down the coast.

Oceans 234  – Deerfield Beach

 Right on the waterfront at 234 North Ocean Boulevard in Deerfield Beach, Oceans 234 has a gorgeous ocean view.  This is a moderately priced restaurant that doesn’t bury the natural flavor of the fish with a pile of dominant ingredients.  I appreciate that factor.


Redesigned To Show A Great View of the Pier and Beach

Danielle Rosse bought the place from her mother in law and added some  upscale items to the local favorites.  There is a lot of sushi and items for land-lovers.  Oceans 234 does some wild things with lobster tail such as putting a half-pound lobster tail in their lobster mac-n-cheese dish.   The sautéed shrimp linguini is excellent.

Seawatch On The Ocean – Fort Lauderdale by the Sea

I have loved this Caribbean-style ocean-side seafood restaurant for years and my only complaint is the sea grass has grown so high it is blocking much of the view of the Atlantic Ocean.  At first it looks like a Bahamian fishing lodge placed on a large sand dune.  Windows dominate the exterior.


The ocean is a good walk at SeaWatch

There is a nice full bar for those who come without reservations, you might have a long wait.  This place has the best bouillabaisse in South Florida and there is wonderful seafood pasta.  Seawatch does try some exotic dishes which I avoided such as triggerfish schnitzel and New Zealand style orange roughy.

Joes Stone Crab  –  Miami Beach

It is quite expensive and is packed during stone crab season.  Most visitors may wonder why I mention this restaurant for it isn’t stone crab season.  Guess what? I don’t even like stone crab and this famous place open since 1913 has a huge seafood menu.  If you think a meat eater isn’t welcomed – you are wrong.  You can order a 20 oz ribeye and Australian lamb chops.


A Lunch at Joes Stone Crab Is Casual

Not me.  These people know seafood which is why it has been among the most profitable non-chain restaurants in the entire world.  Their salmon and Maine lobster dishes are excellent.  They know how to present those non-shell Florida creatures called grouper and snapper.  The service is super-professional.

Now that we go urban sophisticated, let’s go down to the Florida Keys where fresh seafood and casual eating go fork and knife together.

The Square Grouper Bar & Grill – Cudjoe Key

 The Lynn Bell family came to the Keys and loved the seafood so much, they bought this quaint restaurant at 22658 Overseas Highway.  Don’t ask what a square grouper is unless you want a room full of laughter directed at you.   A square grouper is a carton of marijuana dropped from a low flying plane from Central America or Columbia.


Like Most Seafood Spots In the Keys Square Grouper Is Simple

Just drive into the menu.  There are some burgers and veggie dishes, but seafood is the show.  The fish are on one side of the menu and the ways they will fix those fish fill the rest of the menu.  I’m not just talking about fried and boiled. Would you like a grouper BLT or a grouper reuben or a grouper taco?

Green Turtle Inn – Islamorada

 In 1947 Sid and Roxie Siderious obtained the rundown 1928 Rustic Inn, one of the only structures that survived the Great Hurricane and started a restaurant.  It became a popular local hangout.  When magician Henry “Bastille” Rosenthal obtained the Green Turtle, it became the party place for the island.

Don’t be scared that they serve the endangered green turtles – the only turtles on the menu are farm raised freshwater turtles.  This place serves from breakfast until late evening so start your fishing trip with a lobster benedict.

Key West has some famous hotel restaurants but locals have their seafood favorites.

Blue Heaven – Key West

People line up for breakfast and they line up for dinner.  There are no reservations in this famous moderate restaurant where Ernest Hemingway refereed boxing matches.  The only fights today are to find a parking space. The locals don’t seem to bother for they come on bike or on foot.


The Entrance To Blue Heaven Tells It All

The place is special at dinner when people dine under the stars.  Some people make a meal just of the huge appetizer list.  There are meat dishes but when Florida spiny lobster is in season, that is the top choice.  One added suggestion: don’t feed the chickens even if they seem to like you.

Louie’s Backyard – Key West

 The chickens are replaced with a view of the ocean at the backyard of Louis and Frances Signorelli at was once the home of wrecker James R. Adams.  Their small place became the hangout for Thomas McGuane and Jimmy Buffet.   It closed for a short time but has been redeveloped by Pat and Phil Tenney.

FLORIDATRAVELER louie-s-backyard

What A View From Louie’s Backyard

The much photographed patio, however, is mostly used for cocktails and socializing.  The inside menu is about as upscale as you will find in Key West. with dishes like snapper seviche with avocado salsa and sauted local snapper on onion rolls.  But I think their Bahamian conch chowder matches any other seafood spot on the island.

If you find the price tag at dinner too expensive, Louie’s has a delightful café with some interesting food selections besides the drinks.  There is a lunch menu (OK) and a Sunday brunch which is worth the amount.




Posted in adventure vacation, attractions, beer, dining, environment, Florida Food, florida history, Historic Hotels & Inns, keys, Restaurants, small towns | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

West Volusia: The Other Side of Daytona Beach

When you mention Volusia County to tourists and even most Florida residents, their first images are of the hard packed sands of Daytona Beach and the Daytona 500 Speedway.   If you ask “What else is in Volusia?” – some will add Ormond Beach or New Smyrna Beach, both Atlantic vacation spots.

There is another Volusia on the west side of the county that is often overlooked as a travel destination.  West Volusia actually contains the county seat (DeLand) and the largest Volusia city (Deltona).

I wrote an article mainly about the steamboat towns north of Volusia off US17 and several people asked for more information so I thought I would expand my comments and locations.

People who boat and fish in Florida, however, know about West Volusia.  The entire western side of the county is freshwater with two of Florida’s largest lakes: Lake George in the north and Lake Monroe in the south.  The two lakes are connected by Florida’s longest river: the 273 mile St. Johns River.

FLORIDATRAVELER shady oaks rest on st johns

Boating Along St. Johns and Rivcerfront Restaurant

In the summer the fish camps and houseboat rental places are still active, particularly north of DeLand.   There are also three state parks with a water recreational orientation.

Blue Spring State Park has the largest spring on the St. Johns and while the manatees are gone in the summer that means people can use the clear 73 degree water for swimming, snorkeling, and boating.

FLORIDATRAVELER Blue-Spring-State-Park

Blue Spring Waters With One Manatee

Hontoon Island State Park is connected by ferry service to preserve its Indian heritage and boating facilities.   My favorite Volusia park is DeLeon Springs State Park on the lovely Spanish Garden River.   You should come early to make your own pancakes at the famous Sugar Mill Restaurant.

DeLand on the St. Johns River was founded in 1876 by New York baking soda king Henry Addison DeLand, whose home is a museum also featuring a tribute to Lue Gim Gong, the Chinese-American citrus horticulturalist.  DeLand thought steamboat tourism and orange cultivation would boom the St. Johns Valley.

FLORIDATRAVELER deland _Athens_Theatre

A series of freezes would undermine the orange industry but tourism continued.  Deland also started Florida’s first private college and later got friend Philadelphia’s John B. Stetson of hat fame to develop “Stetson University.”  Next to the beautiful campus is the 1886 Stetson Mansion and there are three other museums at the school that founded Florida’s first law school.

FLORIDATRAVELER Stetson Mansion deland

The Stetson Mansion Is The Oldest of Florida’s Big Houses

The DeLand house is just one of several historic buildings and museums that dot the town and getting a map here for a driving tour is beneficial.

FLORIDATRAVELER cassadega houses

Welcome Believers to Cassadega

At the southern end of  US17 before it reaches I-10 is the river town of DeBary with its great DeBary Mansion, featured in an earlier article.  But let we mention Volusia’s weirdest travel destination.


Off the Lake Helen exit of I-10 is Cassadega, the famed winter home of the American Spiritualist Society.  The Church, the old hotel with restaurant, the Victorian houses, and Spirit Lake are a real experience.  It is such a peaceful place that out of curiosity, I went to Zillow to see what these old houses sold for and discovered there were NO HOUSES on sale that week in the village.












Posted in adventure vacation, attractions, environment, florida history, Florida parks, florida vacations, Historic Buildings, Historic Hotels & Inns, mcbobleonard, museums, Restaurants, small towns, travel | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment