Category Archives: Gulf Coast Insider

Ingraving of native Floridians

Native American Indian Mounds of the Florida Gulf Coast

Florida Gulf Coast Native American Indian Mounds

American Indian MoundThe American Indian Mounds along the Florida Gulf Coast were once very numerous. Today, in Pinellas County, which is home to popular Clearwater Beach and St Pete Beach, only a few mounds remain for public viewing. Some mounds on the mangrove-covered Nature Coast are overgrown and unrecognizable while those along the beach shorelines are now replaced by houses and businesses. Many of the mounds were originally garbage piles. They survived the centuries because shells comprised a large part of the refuse. These shell mounds, unfortunately, made a good resource for building shell roads, the Florida version of gravel roads. Not all of the mounds were mere shell piles, however. Some served as burial mounds, containing valuables such as jade and copper. Other objects such as arrowheads, tools, and knives have also been found. To preserve the remaining sites it is now illegal to dig at mounds and the parks that surround them.

 

Native American Mound Builders of Florida

Tocobaga TerritoryThe story of the original Native Americans in Florida is an unfortunate one. The mound builders of Pinellas County were called the Tocobaga. They lived in what we now call the Tampa Bay area, home to such cities as Tampa, St Petersburg, and Clearwater. The landscape was sandy, covered with tall scrub pines, waist high palmetto palms, and mangroves trees. It was populated by deer, dolphins, manatees, alligators, cougars, black bears and an abundant bird population. Fishing and shelling provided much of their diet but they also ate other native wildlife, including alligators.

Native American Indian moundWhen settlers came to the Americas, the Native Americans did not fare well. While some newcomers treated the natives with respect, conflicts broke out and treaties were broken. The French, Spanish, and English warred against one another in Florida, often involving the native tribes. More devastating than the political issues was the spread of European diseases for which the Native Floridians had no immunity. Near the end, to survive, the remaining Native Americans of Florida moved to the fort at St Augustine, Florida. After a battle there, the remaining native people of Florida escaped to Cuba. Marking the end of the state’s original Native American tribes. The Native Americans who live in Florida today, called the Seminole, arrived later from other states. While some of the peoples of Florida may have survived as slaves to the north or by joining other tribes, no original Florida mound building tribes remain today.

 

Where to Find Mound Sites

While a number of mounds hide in unmarked areas along the Florida coast and inland, some key parks have preserved the mounds.

Safety Harbor MoundJungle Prada Park

Philippe Park

Pinellas Point Temple Mound

Anclote River Park

You can find additional information about the Native Americans of Florida by visiting the Safety Harbor Museum in Safety Harbor or the Weedon Island Preserve and Natural History Center in St Petersburg. All of these locations can be reached within an hour or less from Clearwater Beach.

 

Other posts you might enjoy

Curious History of Philippe Park

Fun Times at John Levique Pirate Days

Ever Changing Sands of the Florida Gulf Coast

 

References:

http://www.southernhistory.us/Counties/c5pine.htm, http://www.visitstpeteclearwater.com/articles/indian-mounds-give-clues-early-cultures, http://www.exploresouthernhistory.com/pinellaspoint.htmlhttp://www.stpeteparksrec.org/jungle-prada.htmlhttp://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/spanishmassacre.htmhttp://www.pbchistoryonline.org/page/native-americanshttp://www.aaanativearts.com/native-american-tribes-by-state/837-florida-indians.html#axzz37f5QfBROhttp://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/41/267.htmlhttp://www.native-languages.org/timucua_culture.htmhttp://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/tocobaga-indians.htmhttp://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/florida-indian-tribes.htmhttp://www.flheritage.com/facts/history/seminole/http://www.southernhistory.us/Counties/c5hill.htmhttp://fcit.usf.edu/Florida/maps/nat_am/nat_am.htmhttp://www.keyshistory.org/histindians.html 

Strange Florida news

Weird Florida News Right Here in Clearwater

Weird Florida News

Florida map of Pinellas CountySometimes a news story comes out of the state of Florida that sounds a little odd. Strange news from Florida includes the legends of the chupacabra and the skunk ape monsters, the house made of bowling balls, the drive-in church, and more. Then of course comes the crazier variety like the woman arrested after throwing her husband’s chicken into the pool, or the man who attempted robbery with a tomahawk.  Yes, we citizens of Florida smirk at these too. However, a while back we noticed our own local slice of bizarre Florida, not all that far from Clearwater Beach. While we won’t be disclosing the exact location, we took pictures of the strange occurrence we found.

 

Local Piece of Weird Florida

Guinea Pig and Marsh RabbitA common variety of rabbit living in Florida is the marsh rabbit. These rabbits are most often seen at dusk, and almost always next to areas of tall grass, where they like to make their homes. They frequent marshes where the abundant undergrowth makes perfect homes for them. Within the stiff grasses that grow along the water, the small-eared rabbits create pathways that look a lot like tunnels. While there is nothing surprising about finding marsh rabbits in Florida, this time we found something else. Living in perfect harmony with the wild rabbits was a Guinea pig! He huddled next to the rabbits and foraged alongside of them. The rabbits had clearly accepted the Guinea pig as part of their community.

The animal was well-known to local residents who said the Guinea pig had lived among the rabbits for quite some time. Apparently, each evening at sunset, when the rabbits come out to forage, the small Clearwater, Florida resident draws a small crowd of onlookers.

Other posts you might enjoy:

Where the Heck is Pinellas County and Why Should I Care?

Wildest Islands on the Central Gulf Coast of Florida

Gulf Coast Local Big Bird Secret

 

Florida road trip

Top Clearwater Beach Day Trip Destinations

Clearwater Beach Day Trip Adventures #2

Map Tapron Safety Dunedin Tampa StPetersburgFun Florida Gulf Coast Cities

Looking for a great place to go on a day trip from Clearwater Beach? The region has some great tourist spots that you might want to know about. Try sampling some of the tourist hotspots in the neighboring towns of the area. Here is a brief summary of what you can find in the towns and cities of Tarpon Springs, Safety Harbor, Dunedin, Tampa, and St Petersburg.

 

Tarpon Springs

Tarpon Springs, FloridaTarpon Springs is known best for its history and Greek culture. The sponge industry began in the early 1900’s with many Greek divers recruited for the industry. The Greek community still thrives in Tarpon Springs and so does the sponge diving industry. You will see this for yourself when you walk past the sponge-laden boats moored alonge the riverside docks. You will also have multiple opportunities to eat Greek food at the area restaurants. Gift shops abound in Tarpon Springs. The souvenirs have a nautical theme, with an interesting addition of specialty soap and culinary shops. The Tarpon Springs Aquarium is entertaining for adults and a lot of fun for kids. If you like history, you will love Tarpons Springs. The historic district makes a nice scenic drive. History buffs should not miss the antique shops on East Tarpon Avenue, the Tarpons Springs Cultural Center, or the restored Safford House.

 

Safety Harbor

Safety Harbor, FloridaSafety Harbor is a quiet town on the east side of the county that is known for its art. Main Street in Safety Harbor is a pleasant walk with a mixture of diners, restaurants, art shops, and pubs. The walk to the Safety Harbor City Marina and pier is a pleasant diversion, while the dock area are often used for community events. The small but interesting Safety Harbor Museum and Cultural Center is very nearby. The local library is bracketed by the Art Park to the north and Baranoff Park to the south. The well-known Safety Harbor Resort and Spa sits over natural springs, which have been in use as a spa since the early 1900’s. The scenic drive along the coast of Safety Harbor is one of the best in the area, with beautiful Phillipe Park near the north end of the scenic drive. The other thing to note about Safety Harbor is that they seem to have an endless line up of festivals and street fairs.

 

Dunedin

Dunedin, FloridaThe Main Street strip of Dunedin is well-known for its large events and smaller street fairs. It hosts a Mardi Gras parade and a large St Patrick’s day evening event, as well as other seasonal events. Keeping an eye on Dunedin events is a good idea for anyone looking for diversions in the Clearwater Beach area. Main Street has a good number of pubs, restaurants, and gift shops. Main Street ends at a pier, marina, and city park, all within easy walking distance. Fresh seafood is available for sale at the docks. The popular Pinellas Trail bicycle and walking path runs directly through the center of town, and is built along the old railroad tracks. The old train station is a central historic building to the downtown area. The Toronto Blue Jays baseball winter training games are also held in Dunedin and are very close to Main Street.

 

Tampa

Tampa, FloridaTampa sits on the other side of Tampa Bay from the City of Clearwater, and is very likely where you will land when you fly into the area. While downtown Tampa is oriented more toward business than tourism, there are still plenty of great sites to see, especially along the many miles of waterfront. The popular Channel District is a great place to try out the dining or the bar scene. In the same general area you will find the Tampa Museum of Art and the Florida Aquarium. Another great museum you should visit is the Henry B Plant Museum, located at the grand hotel the railroad tycoon built to attract visitors to the area once the railroad was built. Old Water Street and Channelside Walk Way are great places to dine or spend the evening out. Close to the waterside attractions is the Tampa Bay Times Forum sports stadium. Tampa is also the home of the yearly Gasparilla Pirate Invasion, one of the largest events in the entire Tampa Bay area, in which a pirate invasion of Tampa is reenacted. The city of Tampa is large, so be prepared to drive between the many attractions.

 

St Petersburg

St Petersburg, FloridaWhile St Petersburg is also a large city, the downtown attractions are all surprisingly close together. In a relatively small area along the waterfront you will find the famous Dali Museum, the St Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts, and the St Petersburg Museum of History. The Bay Shore Drive area is a hotspot for nightlife and is a good choice for an interesting dining experience. The University of Southern Florida is found amid the downtown attractions, with its own Barnes and Noble bookstore. The developed shorefront parks go on for a surprising distance, including Vinoy park, North Straub Park, and South Straub Park, among others. The sports stadium is located on the western side of downtown. Two main attractions of downtown St Petersburg are the very large pier on 2nd Ave, and the popular Saturday Morning Market, an outdoor flea and farmers’ market.

 

Road Trip!

While on your Clearwater Beach vacation, don’t miss the opportunity to head out for a day of fun. Find out for yourself what makes the Central Gulf Coast of Florida one of the best places on Earth!

 

Other blog posts you might like;

Florida Springs

Safety Harbor Museum

Dunedin Celtic Music and Craft Beer Festival

 

 

vacation rental scams

How to Avoid Vacation Rental Scams

Vacation Rental Scams Are Out There

Vacation rental scams are terrible to hear about. People look at beautiful pictures online of a perfect vacation rental; it’s on the beach, it has enough rooms for the family, it has a pool, and all the amenities they wanted. When they email the owner, the price is perfect, comparable but just a little lower than the others. They hand over their credit card information and the charge for the deposit goes through. Or perhaps it is worse. Maybe the person puts down the whole amount in advance. Vacation rentals can cost thousands of dollars. When you try to contact the person again just before it’s time to go on vacation, they are not there to answer. Another, more gruesome situation, is when the prospective tenants arrive for their vacation to find the unit does not exist or is occupied by permanent residents who know nothing about the rental. Both legitimate vacation rental companies and scammers take money upfront at the time of booking, either a deposit or the full amount. The length of time between booking and the actual vacation can span from a few weeks to over a year ahead of time. It is horrifying to discover that the money you paid so long ago has been stolen. The trail is cold and the vacation rental scammer is long gone.

 

Avoiding Vacation Rental Scams

Vacation rental scammers take advantage of your trust. To fight back against them, unfortunately, you need to be a little suspicious. Or, taking a higher road, let’s say you need to be vigilant. Every time you book a vacation rental, you should check into the person or company before you pay. Consider it a matter of routine. With the Internet, this is easier than ever. Do you know the name of the company? The name of the person? Enter the name in a search and see what you get. Known scammers will light up the screen with alerts and warnings. Once you have gotten over that hurdle, it’s time to see who they really are. Do they have a website? Are they listed on Yelp, Urban Spoon, Yahoo, Yellow Pages, or other similar web directories? Are they members of the Better Business Bureau? It is difficult for scammers to be listed for any length of time on websites like those. Betrayed consumers will readily report abusive businesses to those websites –and so should you! The reports of fraud will cause their ratings to drop or, more likely, get them banned, or create a scam alert, depending on the site.

 

Vacation Rental Scam Checklist

  • Do they have a website?
  • Do they have a blog, Facebook page, or other social media outreach?
  • Do their online vacation rental listings appear realistic?
  • Does the rental address check out as a real address on Google Maps or Map Quest?
  • Are they listed with online business directories?
  • Are they members of the BBB?
  • Do they have a phone number where they can be reached?
  • Do they answer their phone or return your calls?
  • Do their email responses include company info such as name and address?
  • Do they have online reviews from previous vacation rental customers?
  • Do they send receipts?
  • Do the receipts include company name and address?

 

Leave Vacation Rental Scams Behind

Remember that most of the vacation rental companies out there are not scammers. While some companies are better versed in good service than others, for the most part, they are all operating legitimate businesses. Don’t let the scammers spoil all the fun. It is wise to do your research first, then call the company afterward. Why would you want to do it the other way around anyway! Doing research first lends to two good results. One, you will not waste time talking to a company you have not checked out yet. Two, you will have a greater chance of securing the exact rental you want. When you call up already knowing you can trust the vacation rental office, your only concern is which rental you will choose. You can make your decision faster than someone who has doubts. You might also avoid losing that perfect vacation rental to the person on the other line who made their decision first.

Other posts you might enjoy:

The Best Beaches in America

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Dinner and Coffee at Clearwater Beach

 

Tarpon Springs sunken s hip

Gulf Coast Sunken Ship

Gulf Coast Local Secret #17

Does the Gulf Coast Have Sunken Ships?

Of course the Gulf Coast has sunken ships! You will find that any harbor locations around the world have long histories of sunken ships. Before European ships arrived, Native Americans plied the waters in smaller craft. The coasts of the Central Gulf Coast of Florida have been in use by large ships since the Americas were first settled. Settlers, war ships and even pirates used the shores of Florida, especially Tampa Bay, where Fort De Soto State Park still displays cannons used to defend the mouth of the bay. The maritime history of the Florida Gulf Coast is fascinating, and worth looking into.

 

Sunken Ships on the Florida Gulf Coast

ShipwreckA number of websites help divers and others locate known shipwrecks along Florida’s coast. If you are a diver, these are great resources. However, if you are the average tourist, it is not likely you will be diving on shipwrecks. So how can you see your own sunken ship?

 

Tarpon Springs Sunken Ship

Tarpon Springs (7)This local secret turns out to be in Tarpon Springs. Tarpons Springs is a fun, Greek-style tourist destination with enough shops, boat tours, and dining to keep any visitor happy. Located on the Anclote River, Tarpon Springs is known for its Sponge Docks, where the catch of the day is sponges. Little known to most of those walking the docks is that Tarpon Springs has its own sunken ship that you can see. Protruding from the waters of the Anclote River, you can catch a glimpse of part of this ship, identified by the pitch of its mast and derricks. Look for it midway down the docks. If you are lucky enough to take a boat tour past this ship wreck, the guide will surely tell you all about it, and you will get a close up view of this modern sunken ship.

Related Posts:

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Florida deer at sunset

Sunset Deer Sightings

Gulf Coast Local Secret #15

Large Deer Population in Florida

Florida deerFlorida rarely drops below 50 degrees in the winter, making it a great place for wildlife. While this attracts species that don’t tolerate cold easily, it also makes a perfect environment for just about everything else. Florida has a thriving deer population. While it might seem difficult to see deer in an area as populated as Tampa Bay, you might be surprised.

 

Where to See Deer Every Night

Florida deerDeer sightings on a nightly basis can be almost guaranteed for our local secret #15. Well-known by locals, Chesnut Park is a great place to visit any time of the day. The park has endless picnic spots, more hiking trails than most other parks, and has lakefront access and a boat ramp onto Lake Tarpon. In addition to the possibility of alligator sightings, you can also see the local deer population. The park is home to dozens (if not more) of deer which come out of their hiding places in the forest when the sun goes down. The park closes officially after sunset but you still have time to watch the deer come out. Keep your eyes sharp toward the edge of the forest. The baseball field is one of favorite sunset hangouts. Try this park out -it’s a great place to visit –and then wait for the sun to set. You should get to see quite a few deer.

Where to See Great Horned Owls on the Florida Gulf Coast

Clearwater Beach Seagulls

Dolphin Jam

Juniper Springs

Florida Springs

Gulf Coast Local Secret #16

Juniper SpringsFamous Florida Springs

Visitors to Florida may or may not know that Florida is known for its springs. Even the most casual visitor has heard of Ponce De Leon and the Fountain of Youth, which, legend has it, is here in Florida. Whether famous as the Fountain of Youth or hidden in the forests of Florida, our springs are worth a closer look.

 

The Secret of Florida Springs

Juniper Springs (1)Florida springs make our local secrets list for a variety of reasons. One, is that they are not usually the primary reason vacationers visit Florida. While this is the case, the secret is that they are worth visiting. Two, is that, while visitors have heard of them, they don’t always know where they are. Three, Florida has more than one kind of spring. Some are hidden, some are popular destinations, some are underground, and some are inland salt springs that actually contain ocean going fish.

 

Hidden Florida Springs

Juniper SpringsA secret unknown even by many locals is that hundreds of Florida springs are hidden in plain sight. Lake Tarpon is a large lake situated on Central Gulf Coast. Beneath its calm surface are numerous fresh water springs that most people know nothing about. Off the coastline of Florida are countless freshwater springs, which rise into the salt waters. Stories tell that sailors of the past were always thrilled to find them. Locals hint that such a spring exists near the causeway to Howard Park beach. These underwater springs are the greatest secret of all because they are very difficult to locate. Perhaps gazing across the waters will have to suffice, knowing that you look upon greater mysteries than your eyes can see.

Moccasin Lake Nature Park

Places to See Alligators on the Florida Gulf Coast

Secret Caladesi Island Shell Tree

 

Florida Bald Eagle

Gulf Coast Bald Eagles

Gulf Coast Local Secret #14

Bald Eagles Live on the Florida Gulf Coast

Bald EagleBald Eagles are primarily a northern bird but did you know they also live in Florida? They summer in the far north and then some migrate south or gather along the coasts of Alaska and Canada in the winter. However, the ones that live in Florida enjoy the same weather as the rest of us in the Sunshine State, which means you can find them here year round. Like so many other birds, Bald Eagles nest along the Gulf Coast. Finding one of their nests is a rare treat for locals and visitors alike.

Local Pride toward Bald Eagles

Bald Eagle

Homosassa Springs

Bald Eagles are no longer on the endangered species list but they are still under protection by law. A casual search on the Bald Eagle locator found over 44 nests within 15 miles of Clearwater Beach (2012.) However, you might find the local populace is quite protective of their Bald Eagles. Be sure to obey any signs posted regarding approaching the nests to closely.

Were to see a Bald Eagle

Florida Bald EagleWhile you can go to the locations listed on the Bald Eagle locator application, it might be easier to see them in a park, where you can approach on a hiking trail rather than someone’s front yard. Honeymoon Island is a paradise for birds, containing nests for Ospreys, Great Horned Owls and Bald Eagles. When the Bald Eagles return to nest, the rangers are usually the first ones to notice. They will let you know where the birds are and you might also see signs along the nature trail. Be sure to obey signs in the state recreation area. The eagles in this park enjoy a fair amount of protection from park caretakers. You will not get a close up view so be sure to bring your binoculars or a camera with a good zoom lens. Despite the distance, this location makes the local secrets list because it is easier to find, the nest site is fairly predictable, and it is not on private land.

Related Posts:

Where to See Great Horned Owls on the Florida Gulf Coast

Places to See Alligators on the Florida Gulf Coast

Clearwater Beach Seagulls

Belleview Biltmore Hotel

Belleview Biltmore Hotel Secret

Gulf Coast Local Secret #13

 

The Secret of the Belleview Biltmore Hotel

Belleview Biltmore hotel

The Belleview Biltmore Hotel was built in 1897 by railroad tycoon Henry B. Plant to give people a reason to use his railroad through Florida. His idea apparently worked as the resort took off and became famous among celebrities around the world, including some Hollywood V.I.P.s.

 

Why Is the Belleview Biltmore Hotel Local Secret Number 13?

We have chosen Belleview Biltmore Hotel as spot number 13 for a reason. According to local legend, the hotel is haunted! Some visitors say that the wife of Henry B. Plant haunts the halls, while other ghost seekers have claimed to have seen spirits of others sorts. It is confirmed that more than one person died at the hotel. Are their souls still haunting the grounds?

 

Ghosts of the Gulf Coast

Is the Belleview Biltmore Hotel really haunted? We can’t answer that question definitively. The hotel is getting up there in years and is currently closed. You can catch views of it by driving past or from boats on Clearwater Harbor. Ghost tours have become popular through the U.S. Some have offered paranormal investigations at the Belleview Biltmore Hotel, so check around to see if tours are currently available.

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Florida Osprey

Osprey Nesting Season on the Florida Gulf Coast

Gulf Coast Local Secret #12

What is an Osprey?

Honeymoon Island (7)aAn Osprey is a predatory bird that hunts only fish. It has black and white feathers, the male and female differing only slightly. They are large hawks, most being larger than an average chicken. They range across the U.S. and beyond, wherever good fishing opportunities can be found. Osprey fish by diving down and grabbing fish that swim near the surface by using their very fish-hook like talons. They are a lot of fun to watch and are a favorite for expert and beginning bird watchers, as well as photographers.

 

Where Can I See Ospreys on the Florida Gulf Coast?

Osprey nestA better question might be, where can’t you? Osprey are not rare and visitors to Florida’s Gulf Coast can see them easily, flying through the sky or perched high in the tree tops. Any open bay or lake might attract one of these raptors so keep an eye out for them. Also known as a Fish Hawk, they often nest in the tops of dead trees, but visitors might notice large dishes or pans set on top of telephone poles. Those are for Osprey nests, which are quite large. The utility company offers these birds nesting places in lieu of the Ospreys choosing their own in less desirable locations. Along the Florida Gulf Coast, most very large nests in trees, on utility poles, or on billboards belong to Ospreys.

 

See Nesting Ospreys

Osprey nest, Palm Harbor2While you can see nesting Osprey almost anywhere, the locals know the best place to get excellent views of Ospreys building nests and rearing their chicks. This local secret is the very well-known Honeymoon Island. Aside from the great beach, Honeymoon Island has a fairly long hiking trail that loops. On the Eastern trail you will see large numbers of Osprey nests in the tall, dead, bark-free trees. A pair of Ospreys should be working each nest.

 

When to See Nesting Ospreys

Florida OspreyThe Osprey arrive to nest on Honeymoon Island some time in or near February. If you are visiting in late January through March, go to the Honeymoon Island nature trail to view these fantastic birds. If you like taking photos, they will give you great shots as they fly in with nesting materials early in the season, or fish for their chicks later on.

 

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