Best Way to Enjoy New Year’s Day: Kayak The Loxahatchee

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On New Year’s Day last year, we planned a group adventure to kayak the Loxahatchee River. The Loxahatchee is one of the most scenic of south Florida waterways.

Kayak the Loxahatchee at Jonathan Dickinson State Park

Jonathan Dickinson State Park, located in Hobe Sound, Florida on the Loxahatchee River, offers a variety of outdoor activities. Our group rented kayaks and canoes, while other park visitors filled the seats of a sunset river cruise. 

The winter months are the best time to kayak in south Florida. It was cool and comfy out on the river; I think these creatures would agree.

One of the reason’s we like to kayak the Loxahatchee is to get up close to the wildlife. You never know what you’re going to see.

Our group chose two person or tandem kayaks, but honestly, I think a single kayak is easier to handle. If only one person is doing the heavy work, then a tandem is great.

The general store handles all rentals and boat tickets as well as hosts a concession stand and umbrella tables to eat riverside. A pavilion with picnic tables stands nearby with extra seating and also convenient restrooms. 

Can’t think of a better way to spend a day than with family and friends.

Mapping your trip down the river

You might be wondering how to navigate your kayak on the Loxahatchee if you’re a visitor to the area. It was pretty easy.

The waterways are wide and easy to paddle. We received a map with the kayak rentals and made sure to agree to an easy path. I then stuck the map in a ziploc bag to keep dry along the way.

There were other people on the water, as well as a regularly traveling tour boat. Seeing other boaters gave us confidence we would be able to contact help if needed. We had no problems.

Happy New Year! Day 1 – A Day Well Spent.

Theme Park Christmas Trees: Which Park Wins?

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Which theme park offers more magic in Orlando this Christmas?

Many guests to Central Florida’s two major theme parks this season are in agreement. The 2020 holiday displays at Universal Orlando rival that of Disney. In some cases, Universal even beats Disney for the best of 2020. Lots of fans are talking about the extravagant theme park Christmas trees this year. Here’s how the two parks compare.

How does the Universal Holiday Tree Hunt compare to Disney’s Christmas Tree Stroll?

Universal has many extravagantly themed Christmas Trees this year worthy of a visit. Such as the Harry Potter, Grinch, and Hello Kitty Trees. Universal’s tree decorators were hard at work this year. The trees are in locations that make sense and add to the experience of the holidays at the park. You can easily purchase many ornaments from the trees to decorate your own themed tree at home if you like.

Disney Changes it’s Tree Trail to Tree Stroll

Disney’s Christmas tree exhibit is staged differently this year due to the pandemic. Formerly a tree trail, it is now a stroll. So, there is no designated area to enjoy the trees as in years past. There used to be a Christmas themed area where you could walk under falling manmade snow and meander down a path lined with holiday trees. Not so this year. They are spread throughout Disney Springs to facilitate better social distancing.

The problem is that the trees themselves apart from each other don’t feel quite as magical. They each contain a showcase ornament in a locked lantern. The rest of the tree’s ornament’s are of less interest, though themed to a specific character or movie. They are large and festive, but each alone leaves the Disney Christmas Tree Stroll a little lackluster.

What was magical about the experience of the Tree Trail was a single destination that combined falling snow, a hot chocolate booth, special treats, and trees with overhead string lights and other holiday set features. The trees this year, standing alone througout Disney Springs in random spots make the Tree Trail less of an event and they seem to just be a part of the background decorations.

When compared to Disney’s Tree Trail in Disney Springs, Universal’s Holiday Tree Hunt comes out the winner for 2020.

But what about snacks and other holiday food and experiences at the parks? Read on to see what AllAboutEars.Com has to say about who wins Christmas this year.

Kraft Azalea Gardens, Winter Park, Florida

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Surprised by owls

This public garden, seated on the shores of Lake Maitland, bursts with old Florida charm. Established in 1938 by George and Maud Kraft, the Kraft Azalea Gardens are situated in a small 5-acre park open from 8 a.m. until dark for 365 days a year and is free to the public. 

A visit here offers a pleasant shady stroll under enormous cypress trees alongside the famed azalea bushes. You can easily take a seat among one of the many benches overlooking the lake to enjoy the lake breeze and bird song overhead.

This Exedra bench pictured below is a popular photographer’s spot. (FYI an Exedra is a semi-circular Greco-roman bench made for conversational seating).


Out in the distance, you can see the Scenic Boat Tours making their rounds. The boat ride starts on Lake Osceola then rides through the channels that connect the lakes. 

On the day of my trip, I could distincly hear two hoot owls calling to each other from somewhere overhead. Suddenly, a rush of wings flew above me – it was an owl! It swooped up to a high branch in an old oak tree and landed next to it’s partner. I zoomed in with my new camera to catch these two up close.

What a magical surprise – a mated pair of Barred owls ! It was abeautiful afternoon well spent in Winter Park.

Links found in this article:

City of Winter Park

Scenic Boat Tours

More on Barred Owls

If you’re in the market for a great lightweight digital camera, I recommend the Canon Powershot 740SX with 40X Digital zoom (Amazon affiliate link).

Visit The Most Amazing Snorkeling Spot In Florida!

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Devil’s Den: The Best Snorkeling In Florida

Where is the best place to snorkel in Florida? That would be the magestical Blue Hole in Devil’s Den, Williston, Florida.

The entrance to the spring head is via these steps which looks more ominous than it really is. You must duck at the bottom depending on your height to get to the platform which is currently submerged due to rain. When we went, it was waist high. We stood there for a few minutes to acclimate to the 72 degree water which at first is cold, but just takes a minute or two. Other people just went right in.

The spring is crowded on weekends, we went on a holiday weekend, which of course has a few more visitors. They do limit the number of people who are in the den and there is a rotation of people coming in and out. This is about as full as it gets. It’s most crowded on the entry platform pictured below where people are getting in and out.

There was still room to explore once you got off the ramp. Some of us lingered on the ramp a little longer than others ; ) It was cold! But I was fine after about 3 minutes, lol. Here is Jeff patiently waiting for me…It really is magical. Felt a bit like a set for an episode of Star Trek. They give you a 2 hour limit and that really is plenty of time for one day.

The park has a few other diving ponds (see below) however they were closed the day we went.

They have food trucks, picinic tables, and a few games but other than that, the spring is really the only attraction at this campground which is small and basically just dirt, grass, and trees. So when camping here, you will want to venture out for some fun beyond the spring. 

We enjoyed this ice cream shop : )

We also recommend a day trip to Rainbow Springs State Park to go tubing which is about a half hour drive from Devil’s Den. Here’s a video to get a glimpse of what tubing is like at Rainbow Springs. You need to rise and shine, because the park limits the number of visitors and often fills up by 10 am and you will see lines of cars waiting for people to leave so you can get in. Rainbow Springs does have a nicer campground than Devil’s Den, but it does not have the full hook ups that our rig needs.

Happy Camping!

What’s It Like to Camp at Fort Clinch State Park?

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We’ve been asked what it’s like to camp at Fort Clinch and were lucky enough to snag a cancellation for the MLK long weekend.

The January temperature was perfect though a bit chilly at times for our beagle.

Fort Clinch State Park has two campgrounds –  one on the oceanside and the other on the riverside. Our site was on the beach with a walkway a few sites down that led directly to the ocean and these hammocks.

We were close enough to be lulled to sleep each night by ocean spray and rumbling tides.

Each morning we went for a walk on the private beach (no dogs allowed).

We walked down to the pier that is currently closed from hurricane Matthew. 

and on Sunday I even got up early enough to see the sunrise over the ocean. Heavenly!

Here’s the view coming back from the beach. There are a few sites (#7 – 10 shown here) that have a slight view of the ocean. The rest are closely nestled in the dunes or sand scrub.

Warning, there are sand spurs in the grassy area around the sites. We had to pull a few out of Penny’s paws and chose to keep her on the pavement when out walking.

Each day we rode our bikes around the park.

On the road to the riverside campground, I spotted mushrooms as big as dinner plates. Upon further investigation I learned these are known as Jack O’Lantern mushrooms. Fun fact – they are bioluminescent! They contain the same enzyme as fireflies! Who knew?

Had I known, I would have gone back to see them in the dark. They are also poisonous, so don’t eat them.

The riverside sites are are few steps away from more spectacular views. Though, none of the sites are on the water or have actual water views, they are shaded which the beach sites are not. 

And then there’s the fort!

There are also mountain bike trails and gorgeous hiking paths between hidden waterways to explore as well as the towns of Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach.

Reservations for the park can be made at Reserve America, and you will probably see that most days are full. But, if you check back in regularly you will see cancellations, especially the week before you are looking to camp. It’s worth the trip, Fort Clinch is our favorite Florida campground so far!

 

Food Truck Invasion

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Food Truck Invasion in Tradition Square, Port Saint Lucie will switch to 1st and 3rd Fridays starting in September 2014. Bring a few lawn chairs and your dog if you like.  Event runs from 5 – 9 p.m. and trucks take credit/debit cards. Watch the sunset over the church steeple or the lake, visit with neighbors and friends from town, enjoy a large buffet of dinner choices. It’s a local favorite, and a great way to start your weekend.

Savannas Preserve State Park

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We decided to step out a few times a week and go on some day hikes instead of just around the block on our daily walks.

This past sunny Saturday morning, Penny and I took a look around the trails at the Savannas Preserve State Park on Walton Road in Port Saint Lucie.

You can pick up a map at the entrance and get an overview of the trails at the park. It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the markings for the trails you choose to follow.

Savannas are an endangered natural system of freshwater marshes. This preserve is the largest and most intact remnant of Florida east coast savannas. The park stretches 10 miles from Fort Pierce to Jensen and hosts 8 miles of trails and is open from 8 a.m. to sundown.

Guided walks as well as canoe and kayak tours are available on weekends with reservations required. The park also hosts an environmental center, but I didn’t think I could bring Penny inside for a tour. ; )

You can find more detailed information about navigating the Savannas Preserve online at Florida Hikes.  Happy hiking!

 

 

 

 

The Children’s Museum of the Treasure Coast

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The Children’s Museum of the Treasure Coast is located in Indian Riverside Park. You can easily spend a day at the museum, then play on the beach and in the fountains.

The kids loved the pet vet exhibit.

The building room.

The body exhibit.

The giant play ship!

Publix shopping exhibit.

They played for hours and then some. Another day well spent.

The Brown Pelican

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I’m continuing my weekly wildlife posts with this week’s subject, The Brown Pelican. As discussed in previous posts, I have a lot of photos of creatures that I know little about, so, I’m working on a series of posts exploring Florida wildlife to get to know my watery world a little better. Perhaps you can to.

Now I knew this was a Pelican, but I didn’t know that there are only 8 living Pelican species and that only two can be found in Florida: The Brown Pelican and The American White.

The Brown Pelican is the smaller of the two but is in no way a small bird. I captured these images of Brown Pelicans at the Fort Pierce Marina. You can see another post on the marina here.

Groups of pelicans are known as a “pod” and they are said to be the largest flying bird and feed mostly on fish. You will find them on and around many a fishing boat and pier.

Adding The Brown Pelican to another “find” on my Checklist of Florida Birds.

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The Little Blue Heron

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Continuing to get to know my Florida wildlife a little better today with my friend here. When I was first told he was a little blue Heron, I thought they meant a baby Heron. Alas, that was the proper name.  You will find Little Blue Herons in the shallows of marine and freshwater marshes. I found this friend above wading in the everglades. Notice the slate blue plumage and the long neck and legs.
This little guy was on the banks of the Saint Lucie River in Stuart, Florida. He looked like a Heron, but where was his long neck? He was simply just sitting with his neck tucked in. I didn’t realize they could do that. I clearly have not been paying that much attention to my featured friends. At first I thought this was a different species of bird. I’m learning! I didn’t realize Herons could change their appearance so drastically. Now that I do know, I think that’s pretty impressive, giraffes certainly can’t do that.

Herons are an unusual looking bird, yet a common sight around Florida waterways. However, there were twice as many of these beautiful birds 40 years ago. Their population is in decline due to loss of feeding habitat.

This is another bird that I wasn’t exactly sure what he was. As I noted in the purple gallinule post, I decided to get to know the subjects of some of my photos better and to keep track of new birds I encounter.

The Little Blue Heron gets marked off my Checklist of Florida Birds.