Tag Archives: Florida attractions

Other Spots of Interest in the Salt Springs Florida Vicinity

Salt Springs, Florida Tourist Attractions Off the Beaten Path

Ocala National Forest is a Florida tourist attraction as well as an oasis of solitude and offers a wide variety of activities. Salt Springs sits in its upper half, nestled between Lake Kerr and Lake George. Nighttime activities are mostly limited to hot dog roasts and star gazing unless you care to venture into a nearby bar. You will, however, find restaurants, gas stations, post office, laundry facilities and shopping in the town of Salt Springs, lest you think this might be too much wilderness for your tastes.

A quick trip to the visitor center will familiarize you with the area and offers a chance to learn about on-going efforts to protect this natural habitat from deterioration. If you’re interested in exploring the origins of Paleoindians and the days of mastodons and saber tooth tigers, this is the place for you. Nearby Welaka Maritime Museum is well-known for its hand-crafted wooden boats, but time did not allow, so it is added to our “Must See on the Return Trip” list for this magical area of Florida.

The Salt Spring Recreation Area between the St. Johns and Ocklawaha Rivers and nearby Lake George teems with activities. The campground offers full RV hookups as well as a tent area. Salt Spring vacation rentals abound, as do homes and land for sale, for those who find this area fills their soul with peace and harmony.

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Salt Springs Activities

Approximately 82 feet wide and 25 feet deep, the spring bubbles from the west bank of the Withlacoochee River. Rising deep from underneath the earth, the natural mineral spring water is laden with potassium, magnesium and sodium, giving its name to the area: salt.

Swimming and snorkeling in the crystal clear 74º (F) waters offers up glimpses into a primeval past and certified cave divers explore to their heart’s content. There is no boating or fishing allowed in the swimming pool which is lined with sidewalks and concrete walls that allow for easy access.

Others are attracted to the boating and fishing. Salt Spring, Lake George and surrounding area boat rentals are easy to find and range from paddle boards, canoes, and kayaks to power and pontoon boats. Anglers also enjoy fishing the four mile long Salt Spring Run (downstream of the swimming area and marina, of course).

For those who prefer to discover the area on foot, 1400 miles of scenic trail await you. Besides hiking, you’ll find amenities such as basketball and horseshoes.

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Life is decidedly slower in the forest and time slips away before you get your fill of nighttime bear-watching and wild flower arrangements.

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St. Augustine, FL: European in Flavor, Yet Uniquely American

St. Augustine, Florida: Sights and Sites

Rich in history as the oldest, continuously occupied settlement in the U.S., the historic district of St. Augustine is charming. Unlike Key West’s tropical island atmosphere, St. Augustine is decidedly more European in flavor. The city has wisely preserved the colonial buildings, which lean heavily on the Spanish/Moorish influence. In ways, it reminded me of a seacoast New England, with houses hard up on the cobblestone roads.

We started our explorations at The Fountain of Youth, reportedly the only freshwater spring in the area. Because Florida is very close to sea level and built on limestone, our fresh water supply comes from the aquifers that run through the soft limestone, unlike the deep artesian wells up north. The untreated water smells and tastes like rotten eggs. I’m told the hard water, full of minerals, is good for the heart. I like mine just fine after it’s been through a water softening system, thank you very much. Still, I bought 10 bottles of water in the gift shop to bring home to all my girlfriends. When I got home, I saw that, written in itty-bitty print on the side of the label, were the words: “Not For Consumption.” HUH?!?

The grounds were pleasant and the artifacts discovered over the years were fun to look at. We then went to Old Florida Museum, which is small, hands-on, and better for kids. The Old Fort, or Castillo De San Marcos, is made of coquina, a local compressed shellrock. The short history: The Spanish took the land from the Timacuan Indians, claimed all of North America as “Florida”, then left for home. The French came over and tried to take over as squatters, but the Spanish returned and drove them out. They built a fort; pirates or the English knocked it down, so the Spanish built a new fort out of coquina shell. The soft coquina walls absorbed the cannon shot from invaders, rather cracking them. At night, when the shelling stopped, the settlers would leave the fort, dig the cannon balls out of the walls and lob them back at the ships the next morning.

The lighthouse museum was our next stop, with heavy emphasis on World War Two and the story of the four Nazi spies that landed on the beach there. I loved the architecture of the lighthouse keeper’s home. Its brick basement is unusual for Florida and being so close to the shore, I was surprised it wasn’t flooded. The basement held two of the largest cisterns for rainwater that I’ve ever seen. Guess they didn’t like Ponce DeLeon’s water, either!

The afternoon was spent at the San Sebastian Winery. We bought a case. I also picked up a very cool cork remover that compresses so that you can recork the bottle. After the winery, we went shopping in the historic district, where I found a great clay urn that was perfect for the garden.

We finished the day with a lovely dinner overlooking the bayfront, then back to the hotel room for champagne and chocolate. A longer visit is in order for next time. There were a lot of sights we skipped, many museums we sighed over as we passed them by, and jazz and coffee bars left unexplored.

Key West, A Different World

Welcome to the Unique World Known as the Florida Keys and Discover them all, from Long Key to Key West

The key to the Florida Keys is to embrace diversity and adopt a laid-back, island attitude. The turquoise waters of the Caribbean are always close by and it is easy to find scenic stopping spots along the way, and the strictly enforced speed limits help to encourage a sudden urge to slow down and enjoy the scenery:

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Some Keys had small State Parks, some quite woodsy. I told my husband that I wanted to live on Boca Chica just because the name was so fun. Long Key State Park offers interesting mangrove estuaries, nice beaches, good swimming and fantastic campsites right on the beach.

We did eventually make it to Key West and, of course, the pilgrimage had to start at Sloppy Joes, Hemingway’s fishing guide and favorite bar keep. Restaurants and drinking establishments abound on Duvall and neighboring streets. Just remember that the “Duvall Crawl” may result in the “Hangover Shuffle”.

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We could not overlook the Hemingway House and were glad we took the time to tour the property. The descendants of Hemingway’s Maine Coon cats, unusual for their six-toed paws, were everywhere, very independent and keeping a cool distance unless they changed their minds. The home was elegantly furnished, right down to the Murano glass chandelier:

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I loved the other rooms, as well:

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In the spirit of freedom and independence, chickens and roosters roamed free in the town.

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The homes are incredible and much time was spent exploring and admiring the architecture from grand mansions to funky cottages to a community of houseboats:

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Charter boat trips to out islands are scenic and varied from sailing ships to catamarans to ferry rides. Make sure to book at least one excursion:

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The Island people take their independence very seriously, many still claiming allegiance to the Conch Republic, created in 1982 in protest to police blockades that threatened Civil Rights, along with tourism and trade. For a few hours, Key West did indeed secede from our nation, and their blue flag can be seen everywhere on the island.

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People here are social activists within the community, no matter which side of the coin they’re on:

Key West Trip #1

Key West’s “Official Philosophy” is on a bumper sticker that someone handed to me: “All People Are Created Equal Members Of ONE HUMAN FAMILY”. You can get one, too. Just send a self-addressed, stamped #10 (legal size) envelope to: One Human Family, P.O. Box 972, Key West, FL 33041 USA or go to their website: www.onehumanfamily.info

Key West 2007-Panorama

If planning a Florida vacation to Key West, my best advice is to pack sunscreen along with your clothes and don’t forget a loving heart and an open mind and, no matter what your personal preference, know that there is something for everyone here, from roadside art, all manner of water sports, and an immersion in maritime history, to enhance your island vacation in the Sunshine State!

What Comes to Mind When You Think of Visiting Florida?

What comes to mind when you think of visiting Florida? Do you envision the international shopping at the malls in Orlando or making the scene in Miami? Perhaps your preference is for the relaxed “Old Florida” friendliness found in the panhandle or the gracious hospitality of Mount Dora. For those who feel kinship to sea life or sunbathing, our beaches stretch for miles and our coral reefs reveal stunning mysteries in gemlike colors. All things cultural tempt some to Florida’s west coast, also known as the suncoast, where a focus on the arts offers a wide variety of entertainment choices. From there, you might venture north, up the Nature coast and around the bend, feasting on scallops and oysters, or south to Seminole reservations and airboat rides in the watery Everglades.

Sport fishermen and golfers love the wide open expanses our tropical peninsula supports and water sports, from sculling and offshore racing to surfing and swimming with dolphins (or manatees, if you prefer), attract thousands here each year.

Most people, especially families, tend to visit Orlando’s tourist attractions first, and there’s good reason for it. Besides a little mouse-bonding (I highly recommend the theme-related breakfast buffets where your kids can meet Disney characters without the jostling crowd making it difficult), there’s much to be learned about our environment at Sea World (okay, and a lot of fun, too!). Islands of Adventure, Discovery Cove and Wet n Wild Orlando will help burn off any residual energy.

My Favorite Florida Spots for Relaxation

But I suggest that you also consider discovering Florida’s lesser known treasures, oftentimes a cheaper alternative with an added bonus of fewer crowds. Of all my favorite “mini-vacation” breaks, finding out-of-the-way, oftentimes unusual, restful spots in the state allows me an escape from the day to day stress of running my own business and was especially key to retaining my sanity as I helped my mother as she developed the symptoms of dementia. Now I am an empty-nester and our getaways are less rushed, giving me time to absorb the ambience of a particular setting. Rather than cramming in a lot of useless information, I hope to convey each spot’s unique “vibe”, from the wild and open gay pride parade in Key West to the nighttime sounds of the Ocala forest.

This website is not just a travel brochure or a Florida tourist attraction map, however. Along the way, peppered in amongst the descriptions and recommendations, I’ll be sharing some thoughts on nature and of life, as well as family history, from settlement in Florida before Statehood to date. Photos will range from vintage to modern, but each will tell its own story.

I’ve been asked if I worry that revealing these gems will cause a great migration that ruins ambience, but I’m not really worried, since most people will satisfy themselves with armchair daydreams. And for those brave enough to get off the beaten path and flexible enough to accept beauty in its natural state, I say, “Welcome, fellow adventurer! Glad you made it! Now, pull up a seat. The sun’s about to set and I have a story to share with you.”