Anastasia State Park

It’s next to impossible to get a campsite in Anastasia State Park to the east of St. Augustine. Only Jane B knows how to get it done! Although we love North Beach Campground, we drove over to Anastasia to check it out. The campground is excellent, and there are two main attractions – the beach and a big lake. It is also nice being close to St. Augustine. We went for a long walk on the huge, flat, peaceful beautiful beach, where there are no houses or hotels for four miles. The alternate mode of travel was the bicycle, or even better, an electric bike with fat tires. This is one of the prettiest beaches I have ever seen. I can’t imagine what it is like in warmer months.

On the way back to town, I stopped at a car wash and washed my filthy truck. We stopped at Ace Hardware for a new thermometer for the outside of the trailer. Then we met Sandra and Ruff at O’Steen’s Restaurant for lunch. We have eaten there before, and it is truly unique. They are always busy, with lines outside. We checked in and sat on the bench outside. I asked a fellow, who looked the part, which bike was his. He said the red one. It’s bike week, and they had enjoyed the ride up from Daytona for lunch at O’Steen’s. I sat next to a young man who rode a different kind of bike – a bicycle – with his grandfather. Four ladies were dressed nicely and had obviously been here many times before, as the the lady keeping track of the line knew their names. We were still sitting when they came out from having their lunch, toting little leftover boxes. I offered to buy one, but got no takers.

From last year

After serious study and debate, we all ordered the lightly battered and butterflied shrimp. They also have great vegetables and hush puppies. It’s where we learned about Datil sauce, made from local Datil peppers.They are great shrimp! Great service, great food at a good price. It’s on my favorites list.

9) Where someone is always being blessed”

St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park

Mark Zablotsky told me to go to the Alligator Farm. Then my acupuncturist, Deborah Farley, said she couldn’t wait to go to the Alligator Farm. So off we went, not really knowing what to expect. How are there migrating birds at an Alligator Farm in St. Augustine? We walked around for the first 15 minutes, looking at alligators, lemurs, parrots, ducks and other things. Then we came upon a boardwalk winding through a lake. Trees were loaded with birds making their nests. Birds were flying everywhere. They weren’t caged, free to come and go, but they chose this place to roost. They are so used to people walking around, they were totally at ease. There is another advantage. No predators are going to swim past the gators to get to their nest. I could have spent the day there, but I was still able to get a lot of good shots. What a cool place!

Green Tree Python

Flagler College

We have toured beautiful St. Augustine before, but have wanted to see the Tiffany stained glass windows in Flagler College, so we signed up for a tour. It was pouring down rain as we found a parking place for my big truck with two kayaks on top, then walked a few blocks to the college. All the tours are given by students, and we were lucky to have a good one. The college was once the Ponce de Leon Hotel, extravagantly built by Flagler for the ultra wealthy, who paid a flat fee of $4,000 for the season of February through March. His railroad extended from Newport, RI to St. Augustine and Flagler Beach. Built in 1887, the city was ready to tear it down in 1968 when Lawrence Lewis gave the money to restore it and start Flagler College.

Our tour really only covered the lobby, an event room, the courtyard and dining room. With heavy rains, we couldn’t go out in the courtyard, but it is truly magnificent. His father being a priest, the courtyard is laid out in a cross. Electricity for the hotel was installed by Thomas Edison and his Edison Electric Company. Murals were done by George Maynard (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ponce_de_Leon_Hotel).

North Beach, St. Augustine, Florida

Moving up to North Beach didn’t take long, and it was a pretty drive up the coast with the Inland Waterway to our west. We were in North Beach Camp Resort last year and we loved it. It’s a beautiful beach, a very nice campground with good facilities and a good staff and there are restaurants on either end. We met up with Ruff and Sandra, got settled and went to Aunt Kate’s on the Tolomato River for cocktails and dinner. We still rate Kate’s Key Lime pie as the best……well north of the Keys anyway.

Tolomato River

The next morning we walked on the beach for an hour, then went to the grocery store.

Big campsites surrounded by lots of vegetation

Tomoka State Park, Florida

We drove east across Florida from Manatee Springs State Park to Tomoka State Park, passing near beautiful Ocala. It’s like Lexington, Kentucky, with gorgeous horse farms. This is the height of show season, and big horse trailers were traveling to events. Tomoka sits between Orlando and Jacksonville, just north of Daytona Beach and south of Flagler Beach. It is a very nice state park with well-protected campsites and sand roads. The Tomoka River runs through the middle of it, providing a great place to kayak.

We have never been to this park, so we drove around exploring “The Scenic Trail Loop”. It is certainly scenic. It was Bike Week, so lots or Harleys were also driving the loop, mixed in with local travelers. I came to a frantic stop at Boardman Pond, a beautiful spot on the Halifax River. I grabbed my camera, tripod and walked back up the busy road, and for 40 frightening minutes took a hundred pictures of ducks, little blue herons, big blue herons and great egrets as cars whizzed by a few feet behind us. It’s a dangerous place to shoot, but would prove to be the best of the trip. I would later learn there is a viewing platform on the other side, but we would not see so much at that location.

Little blue heron

We drove over to Ormond Beach and went into Hull’s Seafood Market, maybe the best we have ever been into and bought a big Tripple Tail filet to grill over the fire. After lunch, we put the kayaks in and paddled Tomoka River for an hour or so. In the middle of the float, I was surprised by my phone ringing. It was Nick from The Apple Core. I find it difficult to understand people on a cell phone in perfect conditions, but with the wind blowing in my ears, I could barely make out what he was saying. He said he need to replace some chips and a board, that cost $450. The labor would bring it up to $920, and did I want to go ahead? “Yes, go ahead Nick.” That was an expensive bottle of wine!

Manatee Springs State Park

This is the second time we have been to Manatee Springs, and we will be back! The campground is excellent and the springs and boardwalk are very cool. It is a short stream from the springs to the lovely Suwannee River, but don’t underestimate it. Depending on the time you come, there will be opportunities to see a large variety of wildlife. This site lists 179 species of birds sighted: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L127260. Of course, there are manatees which we were fortunate to see. This is a place for kayaking, swimming, picnicking, hiking and diving, so it is a popular spot.

We hiked a beautiful trail through the park, then went to dinner at Suwannee Belle Landing, a very good restaurant on the river. Using a shuttle service to take us up stream, we kayaked the Suwannee for two hours down to the springs. I wasn’t too excited about floating what seemed to be a docile river with little wildlife, so I didn’t take a camera. As luck would have it, I was once again proven wrong. The Suwanee is a beautiful river teeming with wildlife. We watched 50 Ibis fly into the trees, herons along the edges of the river, fish jumping, black vultures migrating and a tree full of wood storks. Sometimes it’s nice just to float along and enjoy the ride! Next time we will take a longer float and take the camera.

Suwanee River at dusk
Belle Landing
Alligator tacos
Key lime pie

Six Mile Cypress Slough

The Audubon Corkscrew Swamp is one of my favorite places anywhere. Similarly, Six Mile Cypress Slough is a winding boardwalk through a swamp with a great opportunity to see wildlife along with cypress trees, epiphytes and flowers. I spent the morning looking, but it was one of those days when the wildlife was hiding out somewhere else. It was still pretty, and was lucky to have a young girl spot a cottonmouth that I never would have seen.

Bonita Springs, Florida

While the Airstream was getting solar panels, we were fortunate to stay with a friend from Charlottesville, Sheri. She has a gorgeous home on a wonderful lot overlooking a lake. Sheri took great care of us for three days.

One day, while a potential buyer came to see the house, we went to explore old town Bonita Springs. It is a pretty little town with the lovely Imperial River running through it. Several artisan huts were in a plaza so we went to explore. There was a great basket shop, Coiling Pine By Design. We talked with one of the owners, Jennifer Sanders. Her work reminded me so much of Tara’s mom and her friend, Tina’s work. Martha bought a basket for the Airstream table. Jennifer used to work for the Tourist Information Center, so she knows the area well. She have us some great ideas for restaurants, ice cream and sight-seeing, and is a delightful lady.

Walking down the street, we went to the Everglades Wonder Gardens, the highlight being a parrot that would ring a bell when asked. Martha couldn’t stop asking.


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