I have visited Florida twice within the past year, and I can’t wait to go back again sooner than later. Although it is almost a 24 hour drive for me to get to my destination, the long hours in the car were totally worth it for the experiences had and memories made!
My boyfriend and I stayed at a family home in Punta Gordo during the first trip, and visited a friend in Wellington during the second trip. After the long drive, we didn’t want to waste any precious time, so we located the nearest beach and got our tan and relaxation on.
At Englewood Beach, we found shade under a palm tree, still close enough to the refreshing water. Growing up on the east coast, I have always loved laying out on the sand and exploring what little treasures could be found laying out along the shoreline. We collect shells as we walk along the shore together and stay until the sun sets over the water. The sun doesn’t set over the water in the east, so it is a unique experience for us to see the sun set over the ocean of the Gulf of Mexico.
Other beaches we had the opportunity to check out were West Palm, Riviera, and Miami. But my favorite one of all was a few hours even further south at the Keys.
Key Largo and Snorkeling
We only went as far as Key Largo, because it takes a few hours to get all the way down to the very bottom of the Keys. The first place we stopped at was Pennekamp State Park, which had a cute little aquarium, a trail walk, and two little beaches. Oh, and crocodiles! I was afraid to swim in the water because of all the warning signs. If you were brave enough and had the snorkeling gear, you could snorkel 11 feet down to find the Christ of Abyss Statue. Maybe someday I’ll do it… but if not there are also glass boat tours, which unfortunately weren’t operating due to weather while we were there. The trails were closed off too, so I think we’ll definitely have to make a trip back for the full experience.
The second half of the day, we checked out Founders Park, which had the most peaceful little beach you could imagine! It may have been small but it was everything I could have asked for. A small amount of people, clear water, blue skies, shade from palm trees, coconuts, and the best part of all, plenty of ocean life to see while snorkeling! For my first time snorkeling, there were loads of fish to see, some were even up to 2 feet long! We even found a huge crab (not the hermit crab in the photo below) standing with his claws up above his head, pinching and trying to come after us, which was super funny but we didn’t catch it on the GoPro. Using the GoPro to capture most everything we saw under water in clear footage was so cool to watch later on! I highly recommend this park because of this lovely hidden gem and the other amenities which are available.
The whole time in Florida, I was on the lookout for alligators. We don’t have those up north so of course I’m ready to see some gators! Well, one place almost guaranteed to see them is in the Everglades. We discovered Corey Billie’s Airboat Tours, where the owners have even established relationships with some of the gators. One guy even trains them! Did you know alligators could learn tricks? Me either! They actually bond with the trainer, and he lets you give commands and even hold the gators. I never imagined that would be a part of the experience, but it was so cool! The airboats are made by the owners as well! They pick up a lot of speed in the swamps. One of the female gators has known the owner since she was a baby and will come out to eat marshmallows and let him pet her. I learned so many interesting facts about alligators and getting to see them close up was such a cool experience, and so much fun! This place is definitely worth the drive and is very inexpensive.
Catch Your Fish and Eat it, Too!
We found a Groupon for deep sea fishing in Naples. I’d never been big on fishing but I had an absolute blast! The employees take you out on maybe a 30 minute boat ride to get out there, and they supply you with the bait and fishing rods ready to use. They help you get the fish off the hook and keep your collection in a cooler for you. In the end they even fillet the fish for you and hand it to you in an ice bag, which you can either take home OR head to the restaurant on the dock which will cook it right up for you and throw in some french fries, too! It was really cool to eat lunch at a restaurant and be eating the fresh fish that you just caught yourself! I wasn’t a big fan of fishing in the past because I’d never catch anything and get bored quickly, but this was different. As soon as I dropped my hook, I felt a tug and reeled up another fish. It was so much fun, and the crew was so helpful. I even had dreams about catching fish that night, that’s how much fun I had.
Flying high above the water is definitely a unique experience, but I probably wouldnt do it again. It was expensive and I thought it would feel sort of like a ride but it feels like you’re just sitting up there, which you are. You don’t feel adrenaline because you can’t judge how high up you are. The adrenaline comes when they drop you down slowly and dip your bottom half into the water and pull you back onto the boat. It was thrilling because you really don’t know what creature is going to be there when you drop in! People have claimed to see dolphins, sea turtles and other creatures while up in the sky, but we didn’t see any of that. Still a new experience, I would try it once if you haven’t before but I personally wouldn’t go for a round two.
I think just about everyone knows that Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World, and a bunch of other amusement parks and located in Florida, particularly in Orlando. I won’t talk much about those because…that’s just a lot. We did visit Universal for the first time and I was awfully disappointed. Especially because of the amount of money you spend, just to spend hours in lines and the “rides” aren’t real rides. They’re like watching a 3D movie with moving seats in a theater. The Harry Potter World was the best part. Moving on.
Food and Live Music
Something we always love is to listen to a live band at a bar, vineyard, or restaurant. One place in particular called Hurricane Charley’s was our favorite place to get great food by the water while listening to some great live music. The deck is tropically decorated, the food was amazing, drinks were good, prices were fair, and the best part is enjoying all of this while watching the sun set over the ocean beside you. I would make the trip all the way down just to come back to this restaurant!
Where Would You Go?
Leave a comment if there’s any places or activities you suggest! Like, share, and subscribe if you are interested in seeing more. Thanks for reading and for the support!
Great tips (#9) I think treating yourself right is the best thing you should do. Thank you for sharing.