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Old 07-12-2008, 12:05 PM
Location: Central FL
1,683 posts, read 7,574,686 times
Reputation: 834


Had plans for today but it's been raining all day....so I had to cancel. Since tomorrow is get into a state park free day, I thought I would share some of my favorite Florida get away for a day locations. Not all are in state parks...but all are amazing.

Sebastian Inlet State Park is one of the most-visited parks in Florida, and there's good reason for it. The park boasts great fishing, camping and surfing.

The park, situated on the tips of two barrier islands, is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the east, the Indian River Lagoon to the west, with Sebastian Inlet flowing between the two. Families appreciate the calm waters of the Indian River Lagoon and picnic area on the north side of the inlet.

You'll find paddleboat and canoe rentals, picnic tables, full-service hookups for RV's and tents, and three miles of gorgeous beachfront beyond the heavily vegetated sand dunes.

About 11 miles west of Florida's Turnpike, there is Coopertown. It's hardly a town; it's essentially just a restaurant and a base for Coopertown Airboat Tours of the 'glades. There are many opportunities for airboat rides along the Tamiami Trail, and Coopertown is as good a place as any to do it.

The boat is loud. We are given cotton balls for our ears. When the boat stops, the guide's voice penetrates the cotton. "This isn't a swamp," he said. "A swamp is stagnated water. This is a river. It moves. "Well, let's go find some animals."

Five minutes into the ride, the guide pulls out some marshmallows, tosses pieces on the water, and a pair of purple gallinules race to them. He takes more pieces of marshmallows and puts them on his shoulders, and the birds hop on his shoulders. He takes another marshmallow and tosses it on the water near the boat -- and an alligator the size of Oklahoma glides out from behind some grass and snaps it down.

Our guide is not supposed to do this. With a monstrous reptile right there, however, now is not a real good time for a citizen's arrest. "Gators can jump about as high as their tail," he said. He tosses another marshmallow, this one even nearer the boat. I could have flossed its teeth. "In fact, that's his name . . . 'Jumper'. "

The Suwannee River slides slowly south out of Georgia's Okefenokee Swamp, crossing over Florida's border for a 240-mile journey to the Gulf of Mexico. Though the broad lower river is attractive to boaters and fishermen, it's the upper Suwannee that is particularly revered by paddlers. There is much to enjoy here, from the Big Shoals rapids to 80-foot limestone bluffs that rise above the river's tannic water.

Start at White Springs, a charming northeast Florida town just west of Big Shoals State Park, where the river's low level has exposed the namesake limestone shoals that usually churn the water. Paddlers can float west, helped along by the river's gentle 2 to 3 mph current, pausing to explore such places as Stephen Foster Folk Cultural Center State Park and Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, about 20 miles downstream from White Springs. Screened shelters for paddlers are available at Woods Ferry, between White Springs and the music park, and Holton Creek, between the music park and Suwannee River State Park.

You have to go out of your way to get to Cayo Costa, but it's worth it. This state park is an island on the Gulf Coast, reachable by ferry from the north end of Pine Island, west of Cape Coral. On a day trip, visitors enjoy nine miles of unspoiled, little-visited beaches and shady trails through live oak forests. You're likely to see ospreys circling overhead or nesting at sunset, as pictured here. If you're lucky, you may see feral pigs, believed to be descendents of those brought by Cuban fisherman or even Spanish conquistadors, rooting in the woods.

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Old 07-12-2008, 12:30 PM
Location: Central FL
1,683 posts, read 7,574,686 times
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Default Get Away For The Day - Part 2

Florida's cowboy heritage comes alive at Lake Kissimmee State Park with living history demonstrations of the early Florida "cow hunters" in an 1876-era cow camp. The cow camp -- open only on weekends and holidays -- includes Florida Cracker cattle, descendants of the Spanish cattle brought to Florida by early explorers.

Besides deer, bald eagles, sandhill cranes, wild turkeys and bobcats have been seen in the park, which is located on the shores of lakes Kissimmee, Tiger, and Rosalie. Birds are everywhere. Bring all your toys, including your bikes, boat, canoe or kayak. The three lakes offer a continuous canoe trail that extends for many miles, and the fishing is fantastic. I paddled my canoe from lake to lake, casting my fly rod and retrieving more than my fair share of bass (which I returned to the lake, of course!)

When I wasn't fishing, I was bike-riding through the park and on adjacent rural roads, where, just a few miles away, I found a quaint little fish camp with a weekly bar-b-que that was open to the public. At night, the stars are bright, untouched by city lights.

Siesta Key - in my opinion the best beach in Florida
The sand of Siesta Beach is soft and smooth, like velvet beneath your toes, silk between your fingers. It stretches out in a wide expanse of white lapped by turquoise water, and even on warm days the sand is cool and safe to navigate barefoot. The shoreline deepens gradually, so at water's edge it's shallow enough that you can lie down and let the waves roll over you. Or you can just park your towel on the sand and close your eyes, listen to the waves, take a siesta. The greatest thing to do here is nothing. Stephen Leatherman, the Florida International University professor better known as Dr. Beach, says says Siesta Key boasts some of the "finest, whitest sand I've ever seen in the world."

Fantasizing about a tropical islands in sparkling turquoise waters? Then visit Indian Key - a state park accessible by kayak or canoe. What's amazing about this 11-acre island is that it was the original Dade County Seat in 1843. It was home to a wrecking community from the 1830s -- wrecking was legitimate work salvaging goods from shipwrecks. Today you can follow trails that were city streets and see the rubble of foundations. The kayak trip to the island is short and scenic and its rocky shores provides excellent shoreline snorkeling, especially good for kids.

For the serious cyclists, nothing can top the challenge of biking coast-to-coast on one of Floridaís cross-state trails. The Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway is among the most beautiful of these trails, traversing 110 miles of swamps, rolling hills and dense forests.

One of the more innovative segments includes this land bridge, which allows hikers, bikers and wildlife to cross busy Interstate 75 south of Ocala. The 52-foot wide, 200-foot long structure follows a natural ridge to minimize environmental impact.

Built largely along the failed Cross Florida Barge Canal, nature and history come in equal doses on this trail, which runs from Inglis east to the St. Johnís River. Innumerable side trails offer off-road adventure and exploration, and abundant wildlife habitat affords the chance to see Florida black bears, deer, alligators and even manatees.

This one takes more than 1 day...unless you're a REALLY serious cyclist.

Oscar Scherer State Park is a hidden gem along the Tamiami Trail south of Sarasota with a cornucopia of recreational opportunities and outstanding natural areas that have been saved from encroaching coastal development.

There are 15 miles of trails that wind through beautiful natural areas of scrub and pine flatwoods that provide opportunities for hiking, bicycling, and wildlife viewing. The park is home to the Florida scrub jay, a threatened species found only in Florida. Canoeists and kayakers can paddle down South Creek, a blackwater stream that flows into the Intracoastal Waterway and, eventually, to the Gulf of Mexico. At the mouth of the creek, paddle along the Intracoastal and find a landing spot where you can climb out and cross the dunes to the Gulf.

For a cool escape on a hot day, visitors can venture through 65-foot-deep caverns filled with strangely shaped calcite formations at Florida Caverns State Park near Marianna. The cave tour snakes through nearly 3 miles of limestone caverns in deliciously chilly 65-degrees. Bring a light sweater or sweat shirt.
There are more opportunities to cool off at the nearby Blue Hole Spring, where you can canoe, swim, snorkel or scuba dive.

Explore the caves during the heat of the day and then meander through Marianna, which has done a nice job of maintaining and restoring its historic buildings. The Jackson County Chamber of Commerce is housed in a restored 1895 home, and provides a sidewalk tour map of other renovated homes.
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Old 07-12-2008, 03:42 PM
Location: Punta Gorda and Maryland
6,102 posts, read 13,073,001 times
Reputation: 1220
Great Post!

Sounds like there are a lot of great things to do, especially if you like to get outside and enjoy what is going on!

I just got back from a morning of boating and tubing around the Chesapeake Bay with my oldest daughter and her friend.

We will be down there soon, getting out enjoying some of the things you pointed out to do. I have a new friend that is helping.

I hope others get out and seize the day! The things you noted donít have to be expensive, so there really is no excuses.

I hope people donít make one (an excuse) up! Keep your chin up, make it the best day of your life - the rain will only last a few hours.
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Old 07-12-2008, 04:22 PM
Location: Central FL
1,683 posts, read 7,574,686 times
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Thanks Big House. I hope you enjoy Florida.

I couldn't quit without posting my favorite spots of all.....

Houseboating on the St. John's

Hundreds of people a year are discovering the pleasures of plying the waters of the middle St. Johns River aboard a rented houseboat. "It's kind of like camping out, but you're certainly not roughing it. It's a comfortable way of cruising up and down the river," says Tom Lovett, an Orlando lawyer

Houseboaters can tie up or anchor at myriad places to explore or just hang out. On Lake Monroe, they can dock near newly streetscaped downtown Sanford, which offers antiques stores, specialty shops and quaint cafes. Between Orange City and DeLand, they can explore the Hontoon Dead River, picnic at Hontoon Island State Park, or swim or rent a canoe at Blue Spring State Park. Families can grill on board the boat, or stop at riverside restaurants such as the Swamp House Grill at Highbanks Marina in DeBary.

Strolling the historic Greek village of Tarpon Springs
Don't miss the incredible Greek food in Tarpon Springs. Its small population (20,000), clear water and rich cultural background give visitors the feel of an old European city. Take a cheap boat tour with a sponge diver. The last time we went, it cost us $5.00 per person for a 45 minute tour! A great day trip from Orlando with beautiful beaches near by.

Hiking/Biking the Little Big Econ
This one is practically in my backyard. The Florida National Scenic Trail that threads through the Little Big Econ State Forest near Oviedo. Imagine: An intimate path that hugs the limestone and sand bluffs of the Econlockhatchee River among a forest of cabbage palms, magnolia and holly. Virtually any time of year, it's all green and also shaded, something that's a big plus during the summer. The trail traverses river bluff forest, hardwood hammock and uplands environments. Hikers may see deer, as well as otters and wild turkeys.

My number one get away in Florida.....

Dry Tortugas National Park....west of Key West. A day trip away by boat or plane sits the fort, situated on one of a string of islands in the Gulf of Mexico that make up Dry Tortugas National Park. Explore the fort, snorkle all around the island from shore in the crystal clear water and see the most amazing coral in the US. Tropical fish and birds abound. It is an island paradise.

Only two ferries and a seaplane travel to the island every day. The ferry trip is two hours each way, and day visitors spend approximately 4 hours on the island. Both ferry services serve breakfast and lunch and hand out free snorkel gear, but other amenities like an onboard bar and showers vary. Traveling to the island by seaplane takes about 40 minutes, but is more expensive about $100 per person. Try to make it at least once in your lifetime. It is truly amazing!
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Old 07-12-2008, 04:48 PM
Location: Palm Island and North Port
7,486 posts, read 19,894,760 times
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Great job, Pianogal! Very nicely done, I really enjoyed reading your experiences in each place. It looks like you have seen many of the great parks and beaches in Florida.

Maybe you should think about writing a column for the local paper!
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