Tag Archives: Travel and Tourism

Hillsborough River State Park in Thonotosassa, Florida

Fort FosterHillsborough River State Park is a real gem. Though I’ve lived near it for most of my life, I recently took my first visit there.

One of the coolest aspects is the large pool. While it is closed in winter, we could still see how fun it would be for the summertime. They also have a large amount of picnicking spots that come with playgrounds and some good area for biking.

The numerous trails accommodate many levels of hikers. Perhaps the coolest one takes you by the suspension bridge that is fun for all. Hillsborough River is also one of the few places to see rapids in the area and makes this park all that more unique.

If this plethora of outdoor activity isn’t enough, it’s not every day you get to visit a fort. While this one is only a replica, it is still an awesome sight! Fort Foster is a short tram ride through Hillsborough River State Park. Once upon Fort Foster, you are greeted with a large, oval wall made of wooden posts. For more, see our earlier post on Fort Foster.

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Filed under Family travel, Florida, Travel

Alafia River State Park

Who says Florida doesn’t have mountains? Well, we all know it doesn’t really. However, experiencing that feeling in a state park in the lower part of Florida is somewhat of an anomaly. But, Alafia River State Park offers that and more.

Bikers rejoice, cause if you like rugged trails—this park is for you. Hikers and families will also find plenty to do in this beautiful spot. Florida has some breath-taking beauty–but sometimes all those palmettos get a bit tiresome. In addition, the Alafia River State Park offers a break from that. While the palmettos are present, the biggest takeaway might be the awesome green water. Now, green water might sound off-putting, but here it is a beautiful light green color that you don’t see too often. The light that filters through the enormous trees and around the tall “mountains” really sets a fairy-like mood for the park that you won’t experience at most of the state parks I’ve been to. Here you feel like you’ve fallen into an enchanted forest.

The “mountains” come from the fact this is an old phosphate mine they’ve transformed. This creates the highs and the lows and makes it unique for this general area. Check it out at:

 

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Filed under Family travel, Florida, Travel

Guest blog: News About Driving on Outer Banks beaches

The National Park Service is initiating an ORV (off-road vehicle) plan for Outer Banks (NC) beaches. This new regulation will go into effect on February 15, 2012. Some things you need to know before you go:

  • An ORV permit will be required from now on.
  • Every vehicle must have an ORV permit. No piggybacking off someone
  • else’s permit.
  • You must not exceed the speed limit, which is 15mph, unless otherwise posted.
  • There are two types of permits issues: ($50) weekly and ($120) annually. Note: No day rate but there is limited access on Hatteras and Ocracoke beaches.
  • The permits may be obtained at NPS offices during normal business hours, seven days a week, (but not prior to 2/15/12) at :
  1. Bodie Island at the north end of the Coquina Beach parking lot (8101 NC 12 Highway, Nags Head, NC);
  2. Hatteras Island by the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Visitor Center (46368 Lighthouse Road, Buxton, NC);
  3. Ocracoke Island by the NPS visitor center (40 Irvin Garrish Highway, Ocracoke, NC).

You must have a valid driver’s license and vehicle registration. You will be required to fill out a form, pay the money, and watch a brief educational video.

The permit must be prominently displayed on your vehicle while engaging in off-road driving. Maps are available that show designated ORV areas at the permit offices and OB visitor centers, as well as on their website, www.nps.gov/caha

For more information, call 252-473-2111 or visit the park website at: www.nps.gov/caha.

Terrance Zepke, author of Coastal North Carolina and Lighthouses of the Carolinas
Guest Blogger

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Filed under Beach, Carolinas, Travel

Warm Mineral Springs, Florida

A Florida spring with healing properties

That’s Warm Mineral Springs’ claim to fame, anyway. I’m not sure if that is true, but going there is a lovely way to spend the day. I’ve been there many a time and I do feel refreshed. But, keep in mind that you leave there feeling refreshed in a different way than most springs in Florida.

Warm Mineral Springs is, well, warm! It’s 87 degrees year-round. That’s a really nice temperature for water that you soak in. The other difference is that the water has the 3rd highest mineral content in the world. Because of this, it is a destination for many Europeans and visitors from across the world. That’s one of the fun parts of the springs–hearing many languages spoken around you.

Floating and swimming around the spring is a pretty neat experience. It might not be for the faint of heart–there is a sulfur smell and there is floating algae–but it’s usually enjoyed by all. It’s a great way to relax and meet new people. You can truly say this is not a theme park experience and your northern visitors will have something to write home about.

Now, I haven’t been there since the new owners took it over. So, I truly can’t speak for the atmosphere now. But the many visits I made in the past were highlighted by the food. A quick look at the menu shows me the food is a little different, but I see the pierogies on there. I hope they are the same! Try them! The rest of the menu looks updated and more spa-like. I bet they worked hard to create a menu that went with the healing properties-it looks healthy. Let me know how it is.

It’s also worth the time to read about the history surrounding Warm Mineral Springs. Ponce de Leon thought it was the Fountain of Youth and archaeologists have found cool stuff there. Some of the history is detailed at the springs and some also on their website. Don’t miss reading up on this unique aspect of the springs.

Warm Mineral Springs is a unique Florida experience. Check out their website to learn about their hours and prices. I’d love to hear about your experience, don’t forget to share by posting them on Twitter and doing an @pineapplepress. Looking forward to hearing from you.

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Filed under Our Town, Sarasota, Travel

2011 Florida Holiday Events

Author Bruce Hunt is discussing Winter in Small-Town Florida today (Monday Dec 5th) at 12pm on Twitter via a Twitter chat.
Use hashtag #smalltownFla to follow along.
Follow Bruce on Twitter @BruceHuntImages. You can reach us via @PineapplePress

A sampling of Florida’s holiday fun for 2011

Florida is a fun place to spend the holidays, especially if you want a different spin on winter events. Those of you visiting from up north might be surprised about what Floridians created into winter fun!

South Florida

Holiday Historic Lighted Inn Tours: Visit beautiful Key West inns while sampling mouth-watering foods and seeing exciting performances. Dec 9-10 and Dec 16-17. Learn more at www.schoonerwharf.com

Annual Dropping of the Conch Shell: Sloppy Joe’s is home to this annual New Years Eve event. Learn more at www.sloppyjoes.com

North Florida

Pensacola Winterfest: Looks like it’s a month-long celebration in Pensacola this December. Learn more at www.pensacolawinterfest.org

Regatta of Lights: St. Augustine’s spin on Christmas lights. See a parade of boats in historic St. Augustine. Dec 10. Learn more at www.visitoldcity.com

Central Florida

Cruising Downtown DeLand Car Show: Classic cars and crafts bring the holidays to DeLand. Santa Claus is the special guest. Dec. 17. Learn more at www.plantcity.org

Mount Dora Christmas Events: Mount Dora is famous for their many Christmas events. Lights, shopping, and oodles more fun. Learn more at www.mountdorachristmas.com

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Wildlife Rescuers—Responding to Human Impacts

A guest blog by Bonnie Nickel, author of Those Mischievous Monkeys.

There are wildlife rescue groups throughout the state of Florida and beyond, including our own Wildlife Center of Venice, started in 2004. Ours, like many, operates solely on donations from the community, receives no government funding, and is staffed almost entirely by dedicated volunteers.

The facility sits just outside of town and on my research trip, all was quiet with the exception of the rustling wings of a flock of opportunistic vultures looking for a free handout. By mid-day, breakfast had been served and the sick had been tended to. When I arrived, one of the founders and licensed rehabilitators, Linda, was feeding the newest drop-off, a young southern flying squirrel, mauled by a domestic cat.

Young squirrels, rabbits, and birds are frequent patients of the center. When asked, center volunteers said that keeping domestic cats indoors would prevent many injuries they treat. Birds in particular are well-represented at the center. A variety of injuries, from golf ball strikes and fishing line entanglements, to a direct and deliberate strike by a kayak paddle (no kidding), land birds at the center. Over half the birds recover and can be released to the wild. The scores of orphaned squirrels, raccoons, and other mammals have a higher release rate and are often released in the groups in which they have been raised. Occasionally, a rehabilitated but unreleasable bird or animal will be sent to another facility to provide companionship for another unreleasable critter of the same species.

On the day I visited, the center housed herons, anhingas, pelicans (including the unreleasable blind pelican hit by a paddle), eagles, a hawk, a northern gannet, a frigate bird, an owl or two, a purple gallinule, a sandhill crane, 30+ raccoons, an equal number of squirrels, and a tortoise. Since the objective is to return wildlife to its habitat, encounters with humans are minimized and the center is only open to those dropping off injured wildlife.

After years of work, the infrastructure of the center is really taking shape. Donated metal shelters for raccoons replace older wire and wooden enclosures. Eagle scouts have constructed several individual structures for squirrels and large birds. Plans are being hatched for a new hospital structure and a 100-foot flyway for rehabilitating larger bird species. The latter project is next on the to-do list and will be accomplished with help from the Sarasota Bay Parrot Head Club—they are hosting a Casino Night fundraiser on January 20, 2012 with donations going to the Center.

Any wildlife center is, by necessity, a community effort. Besides frequent fundraisers, and dozens of volunteers, our center relies on professionals in the community for veterinary care, and local businesses for food and services. The center participates in a program with the local community college allowing students to earn course credit while volunteering at the center.  This is an excellent opportunity to develop the next generation of wildlife rescuers and enthusiasts.

The center counts 20 volunteers among it wildlife rescuers—those that actually trap or capture injured wildlife. Some of the most effective rescuers are former hunters. They have the skills required to trap an injured bird or animal and a mindset now focused on conservation. The thrill of the chase still exists but the stakes are higher. For the bird with the fishing line wrapped around its beak, or the fledgling eagle that has lost its parents, the rescue can be a matter of life or death. And the rescuers are persistent. One rescuer responded over 15 times before conditions were just right to trap an injured bird. The great blue heron required a foot amputation because of ever-tightening fishing line around its leg. So far, it is responding well and will likely be released.

One of the center’s few paid employees (funds donated by a local foundation) fields 30-60 calls per day. Not all are rescue requests. Some callers seek information about wildlife in their yard giving the center an opportunity to educate residents about local fauna. The staff and volunteers view community education as one of their critical missions. A little curiosity about our natural surroundings, along with the knowledge imparted by wildlife enthusiasts, can go a long way toward adjusting our actions in ways that will prevent many of the injuries seen at the center. Small actions like properly disposing of fishing line, keeping domestic cats indoors, and refraining from feeding wildlife are simple and effective. Oh yeah, and don’t hit birds with your paddle.

At the center, there are always animals to feed, laundry and dishes to be washed, buildings to maintain, wildlife to capture and transport, events to plan, presentations to give, articles to write, the list goes on. No skill goes unused. Hands-on help, donations of supplies, monetary donations, or attendance at fundraisers like the Casino Night are all helpful. Check the website of the center nearest you to see how you can help.

This is critical work, but in the end, are we just tinkering around the margins by rescuing individual birds and mammals? Maybe, but until there’s a sea change in how we treat nature, wildlife centers help maintain endangered, threatened, and keystone species that may otherwise disappear from the planet. The individuals who engage in this noble work deserve our deepest thanks and whatever support we can afford.

Good news on the global conservation front has been scant lately. I ask myself, is it worth itemizing the good news when it’s vastly outnumbered by the bad? I think so. It’s that little thing called hope—focusing on the good bits while we work on ways to negate the bad. Fortunately there’s been some good news around the world lately about reassessing human priorities. Success in this area may translate into good news for the natural world. In the meantime, here are some glimmers of hope:

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Filed under Beach, Guest blogger, Our Town, Sarasota

FIVE REASONS YOU SHOULD VISIT CAPE HATTERAS LIGHTHOUSE

  1. If you make it to the top, you can say that you climbed to the top of America’s tallest lighthouse.
  2. It’s an excuse to visit the pristine Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
  3. To see where and learn how the beacon (which is the equivalent of a 12-story building) was moved. A remarkable feat!
  4. Because it is one of the few lighthouses that permits night tours and full moon climbing tours (seasonally).
  5. The view from the top offers a bird’s eye view of the lower Outer Banks.

For more on Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and all the other beacons that dot the shores of the Carolinas, check out Lighthouses of the Carolinas Second Edition, by Terrance Zepke. For more on the author and her books, visit www.terrancezepke.com


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Filed under Beach, books, Travel

Win a copy of Lighthouses of the Carolinas 2nd ed by Terrance Zepke

Who doesn’t like to win?

Now’s your chance! Head over to author Terrance Zepke’s website and get the details about her upcoming contests. Next week, one lucky contest winner can win a copy of Lighthouses of the Carolinas 2nd ed. Don’t miss out. http://terrancezepke.com/

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FLORIDA: Give me an “F”, Give me an “L”….

F L O R I D A

Give me an “F”! Give me an “L”! Give me an “O”! Give me an “R”! Give me an “I”! Give me a “D”! Give me an “A”! What’s that spell? FLORIDA! Below are some words that help define Florida.

F Fakahatchee

L Lovebugs

O Overseas Highway

R Ringling Brothers

I Islamorada

D Daytona International Speedway

A Alligators

 

To learn more about Florida, read Florida A to Z!

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Your Ultimate Florida Playlist

Twitter Chat August 24th at 1pm with @AlissonClark (#flplaylist)

What’s on your ultimate Florida playlist? Whether it’s a song about Florida or a tune that puts you in a Sunshine State of mind, we want to hear about it. We’ll talk about songs that name-check Florida people and places, music and lyrics that make you feel like you have your toes in the sand, or odes to the state’s history or environment. Favorite musical events, venues and destinations in Florida are fair game, too!

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