Our Farewell to The Sunshine State!

“Florida is different things to different people. To some, Florida is a paradise. It has warm water, sun-drenched beaches, mysterious swamps, and stunning coral reefs.” – Perry Chang

We truly enjoyed our four winters spent in the Florida sun!  I don’t think I could or would want to spend another winter in cold upstate New York.

I have posted the places in Florida that we have visited and enjoyed muchly.  We’ve traveled and camped at places all around the state and I’ve come up with these places that are our favorite.

Cedar Key is on the Gulf side, about 50 miles southwest of Gainesville, Florida on the Gulf of Mexico.  It sits three miles out into the Gulf of Mexico. Highway 24 is only one road coming into town. It is an Old Florida fishing village of about 700 people that has become a tourist attraction in this part of the state.  There are no high rises or huge apartment complexes. It’s a community of quaint cottages, single-family homes, working water front and aquaculture structures.

Going  through the streets you will see completely re-done  cottages next to weather beaten old houses  and businesses that have never seen a paint brush.  Many of them more than 100 years old and in all kinds of condition.  There is a small beach in a downtown park near the dock. There is also Cedar Key Museum State Park, that shows what it would be like to be John Muir, naturalist and conservation leader, who started his “thousand mile walk” in Indiana and ended it in Cedar Key on October 23, 1867. He then spent several months in Florida, and the only such park in the state that commemorates his accomplishment is Cedar Key.   Cedar Key also other museums, and the entire village has national historic status through the Cedar Keys Historic and Archaeological District and the U.S. National Register of Historic places.

Cedar Key also has a cemetery, boardwalk, exercise machines, and
disc golf all in one area, how can you go wrong!

If your in Cedar Key you’ll have to stop by the Tiki Bar and watch the sunset. It’s also a Motel and RV Campground situated right next to The Gulf, what a great view and decor to enjoy.

On the Atlantic side is St. Augustine FL. It was founded in 1565 by the Spanish Pedro Menedez de Aviles  and it is the oldest continuously occupied settlement of European origin in the contiguous United State. We got to spend just a few days here and enjoyed it. We went to check out the old part of town and Anastasia State Park. Seeing the old part of town was both interesting and fun and it was great to be on the beautiful beach.

Gotta put Nasa in here, we went twice in the four years we were here. We were amazed both times to see what it would be like in space and all it entails an incredible place. Plus Dave wanted to be an astronaut when he was a kid and also watched Star Trek, So passing it up wasn’t an option.

Silver Springs State Park is definitely worth a visit if your in the Ocala area.  It’s really picturesque  and it’s history is s tastefully preserved. In 2013, the state of Florida took over the famous spring attraction, merging it with a neighboring state park and preserving one of the most scenic places of Florida’s natural beauty Silver Springs State Park offers visitors a wide variety of activities to do.

In the 1930s, Hollywood discovered Silver Springs and over the years, scenes from at least 20 movies were filmed here, including Rebel Without a Cause starring James Dean, Distant Drums starring Gary Cooper, the James Bond movie Moonraker, Creature from the Black Lagoon, and six Tarzan flicks.

Episodes of television shows such as Sea Hunt, were filmed at Silver Springs as well. In fact, legend has it that Sea Hunt star Lloyd Bridges learned to SCUBA dive at Silver Springs!

We camped here twice and enjoyed it both times. One of the times there was a festival going on which was really fun. There are a lot of things going on if you happen to stop by. Walk around and if you want definitely take the kayaks out and explore the crystal clear spring or take a ride in the glass bottom boat and enjoy!

We got here on a day when it was 94 degrees, walked the nature trail and went in the Soring. It was a refreshing 72 degrees. The combined daily water flow from Juniper and Fern Hammock Springs is about 13 million gallons. The water wheel and old mill building at Juniper Springs was constructed in the 1930s by members of the Civilian Conservation Corps to provide electricity for the brand new campground. Today, the mill houses interpretive and historical exhibits, and the stone walls that the CCC used to channel the spring into a swimming area have been refurbished to better show off the beauty of this natural wonder.  Those CCC guys were really fantastic!

Coral Castle Before you enter into The Florida Keys, a definite is to visit The Coral Castle in Homestead.

Dave & I are might be a little biased when it comes to Southern Florida because we have spent a lot of our time here, especially because it’s warm in the winter months when we were volunteering in this area. If you’ve been thinking about taking the plunge and going to The Keys, now is the time to do it. “We must not fall asleep in the present because the now moment is the only reality we truly have.”
 Kat Lahr, We had a great time volunteering in The Keys and visiting all the islands through to Key West.

Traveling there by car takes you down a string of palm fringed tropical islands made of coral that stretch more than 120 miles from the Florida mainland down to Key West.   Highlights along the way include Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, Big Pine Key and Key West. Get up close with an amazing array of fish while snorkeling, diving or fishing in the warm turquoise waters. Creeks, coral and costumed spectacles are other lures along the way. Highway 1 is a spectacular ribbon tying together the islands and atolls of this paradise between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic.

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, is in Key Largo, where we spent a lot of time volunteering and exploring. If you like to snorkel, dive or you want to kayak out to the mangroves, or take a ride on a glass bottom boat, or just take a dip in the ocean and snorkel from the shore, It’s one of the best spots to snorkel in the USA according to various surveys, so this is the place you must stop! Even if you don’t want to do any of the above stop in at the aquarium and take a look around the park.

Dave & myself visited all the islands during our stay in The Keys and they all have their own little spark. I won’t bore you with all the pictures in between Key Largo and Key West, but here are some of Key West if you’ve never been but are thinking of going, what are you waiting for, it’s a fun place!

Once your in Key West you have to check out the Butterfly & Nature Conservatory as well as FT. Zach State Park to visit the fort and it also has a great beach.

Close to perfect, but far from normal

You can leave the Keys, but the Keys will never leave you

Easy, Breezy, Keysey

Weak in the Keys

If you made it all the way to The Florida Keys, why not check out our Island paradise Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park in Key Biscayne?   Especially if you have time on your hands and don’t mind tackling the Miami traffic. 

Another definite must if your going to visit Key Biscayne is Vizcaya museum and courtyard. Located right next to Key Biscayne in Coconut Grove. You definitely won’t regret going!

2 thoughts on “Our Farewell to The Sunshine State!

  1. Sandy

    Love this summary. And those black and white sunset photos? Stunning! You’ve given us some great ideas for our next FL trip. 🙂

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