Category Archives: Gulf Coast for Children

Discover the Island of Egmont Key

Discovering Egmont Key

Discover the Island at Egmont Key

Lighthouse on Egmont KeyThe Discover the Island event hit Egmont Key last month, giving area residents and visitors a great reason to learn more about the unique island. The island is located at the mouth of Tampa Bay, north of the main shipping channel. Egmont Key Alliance put on the event, adding plenty of fun additions to an already fascinating destination. The event was held November 8th and 9th (2014) with plenty of promotion to let us all know to show up. Attending the event was a rewarding experience, even for those who had visited previously. Visitors were allowed to explore the island at will, with lots of goodies thrown in, such as historical re-enactors, a kids area with games and crafts, a silent auction to help support island preservation efforts, and, of course, a food tent. With the fascinating terrain, wildlife, ruins, and rich history, the Discover the Island event at Egmont Key was a crowd pleaser.

 

Exploring Egmont Key

Ruins on Egmont Key

Island railroad ruinsVisitors were free to discover the ruins of Egmont Key’s military bunkers, which date back well over a hundred years. Only the concrete and some metal remains, leaving the buildings without doors, and open to tour. The decaying buildings are the ruins of Fort Dade, part of a defense structure for Tampa Bay that includes nearby Fort DeSoto. The building began in the 1800’s for the Spanish-American War. The island saw military use up through the Second World War, when it served as an observation and targeting station against enemy ships who might try to enter Tampa Bay. Today on the island, tourists can view the ruins up close. Fort ruins on Egmont KeyMany of Egmont Keys buildings have sunk into the Gulf of Mexico, due to erosion of the island’s west coast. Other ruins are open to enter, including bunkers, housing, and a guard house. Targeting towers stand amid the brush of the island while a network of brick roads lead through a military compound partly reclaimed by forest. Although the event provided an excellent excuse to tour the ruins, Egmont Key is open year round.

Egmont Key Lighthouse

Egmont Key lighthouseA lighthouse still stands on Egmont Key, providing a light, into the present day, to direct ships and other vessels that navigate near the island. The lighthouse, erected in 1858, is the second to exist on the island, the first lasting only a short period before being too damaged by weather for safety. The existing lighthouse has unusually thick walls, the inside being no more than a spiraling metal stairway. For the sake of preservation, visitors are not allowed to climb the tower. For the lighthouse reenactorDiscover the Island event, a historical re-enactor waited at the tower bottom to share his knowledge of the lighthouse, as well as the island itself. No question could stump him, his information on the site satisfying every query. The lighthouse is the best known building on the island, serving as a symbol for Egmont Key.

Guided Tours of Egmont Key

Guided tours at Egmont KeyFor the Discover the Island Event, guided tours were available to walk guests by the most important sites. The guides, versed in the islands military and natural history, walked large groups around the island, describing the role of each building visited. They shared such details as storage containers for mine field parts, underground houses, the methods for targeting enemy ships, Fort Dade operations, an island railway, and more. They also stopped the tour groups at a presentation regarding the wildlife inhabitants of the island. Guides told of the gopher tortoise, an endangered species which lives on the island, digging boroughs into the soft sand. History display at Egmont KeySea turtles nest on the island, and the entire southern end is occupied by the Egmont Key Wildlife Refuge, which is a nesting site for numerous species of birds. Another station provided an up close look at military memorabilia. The tours provided great information, the history portions delivered in the environment where the history occurred.

Discover the Island Goodies

Boyd Hill Nature Preserve raptorA number of other great goodies were in store for visitors who attended the Discover the Island event. Civil war re-enactors set up camp on the island, performing military drills for the crowds that gathered. The drills were well done, with historical commentary from the commanding officer. The order to fire was silent, however, out of respect for a wildlife attraction at Egmont Key for the day. Boyd Hill Nature Preserve  brought a collection of live raptors. Owls, hawks, and falcons were out in the open for visitors to view while they walked down the preserved walkways of the island. Reenactment camp at Egmont KeyAt another site, closer to the beach, pirates (in paper hats) had taken over the lawn, with a pirate chest and kids games. Near the foot of the lighthouse, memorabilia for the island was on sale, as well as a crowd pleasing grilling tent serving hot dogs, chips, and drinks. When put together, the extras thrown into the preservation-themed event made the Discover the Island event a perfect reason to visit Egmont Key.

 

Egmont Key

Egmont Key beachIf Egmont Key sounds like a destination you would like to visit, you are right! The island enjoys the white sand beaches cherished on the Florida Gulf Coast, including the sparkling Gulf of Mexico waters. A ferry departs from Fort Desoto Park on a regular basis. Be sure to check the schedule ahead of time. Egmont Key Park is open year round for visitors. For the price of a ferry ride, you can tour its spectacular light house, fascinating ruins, and remarkable beaches. The brick roads of Fort Dade are yours to explore. For those who keep their eyes peeled, the local wildlife might make an appearance as well.

If you are planning a visit to the Central Gulf Coast of Florida, be sure to put Egmont Key on your list of unique sites to see.

Egmont Key video

Egmont Key video

Egmont Key video

Guns on Egmont Key video

 

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Discovering the Artificial Reefs of the Florida Gulf Coast

Native American Indian Mounds of the Florida Gulf Coast

Florida Barrier Island Breakdown

 

 

Holiday Lights in the Gardens

Holiday Lights in the Garden

 Holiday Lights at Florida Botanical Gardens

Holiday Lights in the GardensEvery year the Florida Botanical Gardens presents the Holiday Lights in the Gardens event. It is well worth the visit. Holiday lights are strung to trees and bushes throughout the gardens, illuminating the wide variety of unique plants, and remarkable garden settings. The event is held at the three formal gardens, starting the day after Thanksgiving and running through New Year’s Eve. This year the dates are November 28 to December 31, and is open between 5:30 PM and 9:30 PM. The volunteers at the entrance ask that you give a $4 donation upon entering, which is well worth it. The pathways, which are spectacular in the daylight, have decorations designed for viewing at night. Every color imaginable lines the walkways, many in shapes of animals or toys. The walkways are designed to wind through the gardens in a peaceful way, a feat still achievable, even with the crowds drawn by the light show.

 

Heart of the Holiday Lights in the Gardens

TLive music at Holiday Lights in the Gardenshe heart of the Holiday Lights in the Gardens is the Wedding Garden. At its center is a large Christmas tree surrounded by toy trains. The lighted trains circle the tree, amid more displays of illuminated gardens. The Wedding Garden gazebo, the site of many weddings, is brightly lit, and is the foreground for live entertainment. On opening night, a pair of gentlemen played guitars to the crowd.

The other central feature at the event was the jolly man himself. Santa and his wife made an appearance at the garden, a line of children waiting throughout the evening to have their moment with the famous man and his missus. Parents waited with cameras to record the event. Santa and his wife were perfect images of their legend.

 

Florida Botanical Gardens

Holiday Lights in the GardensFlorida Botanical Gardens opened in 2000, giving Pinellas County Florida another spectacular tourist attraction. The 160 acres is maintained by the Parks and Recreation Department but also by Pinellas County Master Gardeners, who volunteer thousands of hours each year. The expansive gardens include areas for both beauty and education. Walkways wind throughout the gardens, leading you through various types of foliage and displays. The gardens are organized by type. You will find the Herb Gardens, Tropical Fruit Garden, Succulent Garden, Butterfly Garden, and many more from a long list of interesting choices. The three formal gardens are guest favorites, which include the Wedding Garden, the Tropical Walk, and the Tropical Courtyard. Beyond these are trails that lead you through wilderness areas maintained by Florida Botanical Gardens.

 

Holiday Lights in the Gardens

Holiday Lights in the GardensThe Florida Botancial Gardens are in Largo, Florida. Largo is in Pinellas County, which is the peninsula that creates Tampa Bay. The county is home to Clearwater Beach, St Pete Beach, Fort DeSoto Park, Honeymoon Island State Park, Caladesi Island State Park, and many other famous attractions. The Florida Botanical Gardens is a perfect diversion from the beach, especially during the holiday evenings. The event proves even palm trees can put you in the holiday spirit. If you are on the Florida Gulf Coast for the holiday season, be sure to put the Holiday Lights in the Gardens on  you list of sights to see.

 

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Salvador Dali Museum

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Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

 

Kite festival Treasure Island Florida

Veterans Day Fall Kite Festival at Treasure Island

Veterans Day Fall Fly at TI

Veterans Day giant kiteWe visited the Veterans Day Fall Fly at TI on Sunday, hoping the clouds would part for some great kite photos. With overcast skies most of the day, we were happy to see clouds part in the late afternoon, right as we arrived. Big kites were in the sky, visible from miles away. Parking for the event was easy, making our arrival worry free. The beach at Treasure Island is enormous, providing kite flyers a huge expanse of sand. A giant heart shaped kite colored with stars and stripes was the biggest kite in the sky. Around it flew a good number of others, giving us plenty to see.

 

Unique Veterans Day Kite Festival

manta kiteWe were expecting the event to be the same as the festival in January but the Veterans Day Fall Fly at TI was different. While not as many kites were in the air, the Veterans Day kite festival had some unexpected surprises. Because of the smaller number of kites, we were able to make our way across the sand with ease, viewing the kites close up – or at least as close as we could get from the ground. The Windworks kite tent was fun to visit, with lots of sport kites for sale. They looked fun but how would we know if we liked them if we could not try them? Fortunately the Veterans Day Fall Fly at TI solved that problem for us. Because of the lighter crowd, we had the opportunity to get some free kite flying lessons. The sport kites employ four strings held by two handles. The number of things that a pro can get the kites to do is amazing. As it turned out, we were best at landing them, mostly by accident. The kites were well made, however, and held up to the abuse. We did manage to pull off a few successful tricks by the time we were done with our five minute lesson.

Kite shopThe personal attention and accessibility of the Veterans Day Fall Fly at TI helped it to earn high marks from us. We enjoyed the opportunities to talk to the kite flyers, the guys at the kite shop, and to the kite flying instructor. With some extra kiting experience under our belts, we made plans to possibly buy our own kites. We also set our schedules for Treasure Island Beach in January for the big kiting competition.

 

Anticipating Treasure Island Kite Competition

Giant kiteIf you love the beach and kite flying, the kite festivals at Treasure Island are must-see events. Veterans Day Fall Fly at Treasure Island was presented by Windworks Kite Store and the Eastern League Sport Kite Association. Be sure to make plans to visit Treasure Island January 16th through 18th for the Treasure Island Kite Festival and Sport Kite Competition.

 

 

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Superboat Races Clearwater Beach

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Fun Super Boat Race Weekend at Clearwater Beach

Superboat racing Clearwater BeachSuper Boat Races at Clearwater Beach created a fun weekend for large numbers of spectators on September 28, 2014. Crowds lined the beach from Clearwater Pass northward, the sands of Clearwater Beach serving as the natural arena for the spectators. For those who wanted a closer look, Pier 60 offered access for either $5 or $20 depending on how far down the pier onlookers wanted to go. Speakers on the beach and on the pier informed attendees what was happening out on the water. One of the tidbits the announcers mentioned is that he Super Boat National Championship at Clearwater was chosen for this part of September because it was one of the slowest weekends of the year. Thanks to the boat races that is no longer true. According to some of the hotel staff we talked to the boat races bring in plenty of extra guests. Reports from last year estimated attendance at close to 180,000 with this year rumored to have attracted close to that number again.

Fun Times at Clearwater Beach

Superboat spectators Clearwater BeachClearwater Beach took on a very festive air, with many of the spectators watching the race from inflatables or while wading.  The most enviable race-side seats were on the flotilla of boats out on the water surrounding the racetrack. With the sun shining, the race went off well, with both visitors and locals touting the Clearwater Beach Super Boat National Championship as one of the more lively weekends of the year.

 

 

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Super Boat National Championship Clearwater Beach

Super Boat Races 2014 at Clearwater Beach

Super Boat National Championship Coming to Clearwater Beach

Clearawter Beach Super Boat National ChampionshipThe time has come again to get excited about Super Boat racing at Clearwater Beach. This year, the Bright House 2014 Clearwater Super Boat National Championship will run from Friday, September 26th through Saturday the 28th. Last year’s event was exciting, drawing a great beach crowd as well as a flotilla of boaters to watch the event. Eight classes of boats will blast past America’s favorite beach in a series of exciting racing events. The races is timed to coincide with fantastic weather on the Florida Gulf Coast, experiencing daytime temperatures that typically rang from the mid 70s to mid 80s. Sunshine and moderate temperatures equals a great day at the beach to for a spectator event. Before you reach the sands you might hear the roar of the powerful engines of these apex race machines, getting you in the mood for an exciting coastal event at Clearwater Beach.

 

Super Boat Racing next to Pier 60 Clearwater Beach

Super Boat Races Clearwater BeachThe Super Boat racing event occurs right offshore from famous Pier 60 at the heart of Clearwater Beach. Seating for the event is ample, being the beach itself! Bring your own chair or towel to spend the day on the beach watching the high speed boats roar past. You will experience all the pleasures of a typical day at the beach plus a whole lot more. You can still wade out a short distance to cool off in the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico, even with the powerful boats thundering past just off shore. Be sure to bring a cooler and some sunscreen, as well as any other sun protection, like a wide brimmed hat. You won’t want to leave once you arrive at the Clearwater Beach Super Boat Races.

 

Viewing Super Boat Races from a Boat

Super Boat National Championship Clearwater BeachThe other unique viewing opportunity for the Clearwater Beach Super Boat Races belongs to the boaters. A long line of boats forms, parallel to the beach, demarcating the event boundaries. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t own a boat to join the armada. Many of the local boat touring companies offer rides out to see the races. The event is fun to watch and draws plenty of people to the beach, so be prepared ahead of time. If you plan to book a private charter boat, you might want to call ahead for reservations. Calling the larger tour boat companies in advance is also recommended. Regardless of means you choose for getting out on the water, your views for this event are sure to be spectacular.

 

Booking Ahead for the Super Boat Races at Clearwater Beach

Take it from a Clearwater Beach vacation rental company, you will want to book your accommodations in advance when choosing Clearwater Beach as your destination. The Super Boat Races are right around the corner, so make your plans now to attend this upcoming event. If you want to use Florida Beach Rentals, we do have openings at the time of this writing.Clearwater Beach Super Boat Races

 

Enjoying Clearwater Beach during the Super Boat National Championship

Clearwater Beach Super Boat RacesBe sure to check out all the other great entertainment opportunities at Clearwater Beach. There are plenty of ways to enjoy the beautiful shores of the Florida Gulf Coast. Possibilities include walking the beach at night, touring the souvenir shops, dining, beach combing, touring local parks, boating, parasailing, and, of course, visiting famous dolphins Winter and Hope from the Dolphin Tale movies. The list does not stop there, however. You can look into all the other remarkable things to do at Clearwater Beach during the Super Boat National Championship in our Gulf Coast Activities and Attractions posts.

 

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5 Favorite Party Spots at Clearwater Beach

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Clearwater Beach Marina

Clearwater Beach Marina

Clearwater Beach Marina

Clearwater Beach MarinaClearwater Marina enjoys a central location on Clearwater Beach, adjacent to the roundabout at the entrance and across the street from the beach and Pier 60. It is home to a fair number of private boats and yachts but also an extensive collection of tour boats and fishing charters. On ordinary days, you will see visitors gathered along the sidewalks that run the length of docks. The number of opportunities to get out onto Clearwater Harbor and the Gulf of Mexico is surprising. If you are considering spending a vacation at Clearwater Beach without an excursion out onto the water, you should think again. The Clearwater Beach Marina is a perfect place to create treasured vacation memories.

 

Things to Do at Clearwater Beach Marina

Clearwater Beach Marina jet skisAt first glance, the Clearwater Beach Marina has two things, tour boats and fishing charters, but if you look deeper, you will find more. In the lineup of tour boats you will discover a wide variety of choices. The docks provide pirate cruises, dolphin sighting tours, giant cigar speedboat tours, party cruises, sunset cruises, and dinner cruises. The fishing charter choice offer a wide range of choices too. Charters run either half day or full day, run to our shoreline reefs or out to the deeps of the gulf, use small private boats or large multi-passenger vessels. With smaller charters, you can even request certain types of fish, and, if possible, the captain will take you to where they are found.

In addition to the passenger and charter vessels, you will also find a host of other watercraft available. The Clearwater Marina vendors rent jet skis, speed boats, pontoon boats, kayaks, and stand up paddle boards. Scuba excursions, parasailing boats, and sailboat charters also set off from the docks of the marina. You can even charter a boat to take you sightseeing or shelling on Clearwater Harbor or Clearwater area beaches and barrier islands.

 

 

Clearwater Beach Marina Experience

Clearwater Beach cruiseIncluding the Clearwater Beach Marina experience in your vacation plans is a good idea. Boating adds a dynamic dimension to your stay.

You will find the Clearwater Harbor and Gulf of Mexico tours offer more than you would expect. The smaller tour boats will always have a cooler on board, many with alcohol. You will also find the boat crews are very hospitable, allowing you to bring your own drinks and store them in their coolers. Some boat crews will give informative talks about the Clearwater Beach area. There is usually a photo op available on the docks via the tour company too.

Clearwater Beach fishing charterFor those who love fishing, the waters of the Gulf of Mexico are renowned. Some of the best tasting fish in the world come from our waters, and casting a line to catch them is fun. Whether you like the relaxation of being out on the water or the excitement of reeling in a great catch, the Gulf of Mexico will satisfy.

Some of the tour boats offer a fun atmosphere with music, like the Tropics Boat Tours, the Calypso Queen, or the pirate ship, Captain Memo, which is a favorite for kids. The dolphin sighting tour guides usually right were the dolphins are, helping to make your ride memorable. Dolphin sighting Clearwater BeachBe sure to take your camera because the dolphins love to play in the wakes of boats, giving you ample opportunity to make them part of your vacation photo collection.

All of the tours are enjoyable, some of them exciting. Whatever type of excursion you choose, you will probably come away with more than you expected.

 

 

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Dolphin Sighting Tours at Clearwater Beach

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Winter the dolphin

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

A Day at Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Clearwater Marine AquariumThe Clearwater Marine Aquarium has grown into a beach vacation activity that can last a family the better part of a day. Thanks to the Dolphin Tale movies with stars Winter and Hope, interest in the aquarium has risen dramatically, and the things to do and see at the facility have expanded. Going to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium is no longer confined to just the main building. You can now take a ferry ride across the harbor, a marine excursion onto the bay, and see an expanded exhibit detailing the filming of the Dolphin Tale movie. All of that is in addition to seeing the dolphin movie stars Winter and Hope, along with the other rescued sea life at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

 

Harborview Center

A great way to see all the sights at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium is to start at the Harborview Center. The Harborview Center is located off the beach in downtown Clearwater, at the corner of Cleveland Street and Osceola Street. Inside you will find displays showing you and your kids about the making of the Dolphin Tale movie. While you walk through the center, you will pass various TVs running scenes from the film. Some of the scenes were actually shot at the Harborview Center, allowing you to compare the physical settings in front of you to the movie scenes. Plenty of fun facts about Winter and the movie are posted for visitors to read.  In the Dolphin Tale film, a hurricane impacts the Clearwater area. You can experience a simulated hurricane in an exhibit which puts you at a mock up of a city street with hurricane winds blowing. A hands-on sea life tank allows the kids (and kids at heart) to touch a variety of sea animals. When your viewing is done, you can grab a souvenir at the gift shop to take home some Winter the dolphin memorabilia.

 

Clearwater Marine Aquarium Ferry

Clearwater Beach causewayWhether you start at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium or the Harborview Center, getting from one building to the other is not only easy, it’s fun! You can choose between the Jolly Trolley or the Clearwater Marine Aquarium ferry. The Jolly Trolley is an open air trolley that services Clearwater Beach and the coastline northward to Tarpon Springs. You will be treated to a ride over the scenic causeway bridge, which is included in the price of your admission. Also included in your admission is the alternate water crossing on the ferry. Enjoy a ride under the bridge instead, giving you close up views of Clearwater Harbor.

 

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Clearwater Marine Aquarium Features

Dolphin TaleThe highlight of the tour for fans of Winter the dolphin is a trip to see the celebrity dolphin at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The aquarium is located halfway across the causeway to Clearwater Beach, in the Island Estates community. Once you arrive at the aquarium, you can view the houseboat used in the filming of Dolphin Tale, which is docked near the entrance. On your way in, be sure to get a green screen photo of your family that you can purchase later with fun sea life edited in around you. The well-stocked gift shop greets you as you walk through the doors, with lots of cool stuff for the kids and the adults. Near the entrance is a small movie theater and a sting ray tank where you can touch the rays. Sea TurtleOn the same level you will find a pirate themed hallway, a life sized diorama of area sea life, and a large tank with fish and a shark. You can also find a kids’ room with drawing books, a TV, smaller aquarium tanks, and full skeletons of otters, dolphins, and a species of a rare, small whale. Nearby is a tank housing rescued sea turtles, giving visitors fantastic underwater views. After you explore the ground floor, it is time to head upstairs to see the famous dolphins.

Winter and Hope

Winter the DolphinViewing Winter the dolphin from Dolphin Tale I, and her new co-star, Hope, from Dolphin Tale II, is very easy. Their tanks are in the open, allowing for plenty of opportunities to view them. During our visit to the aquarium, Winter and Hope where in separate tanks. The two solved the problem by whistling to one another over the wall between them. A larger tank joins to the private ones, allowing Winter and Hope to interact. While we were there, some of the kids lined up for a chance to stand on a platform in front of Hope’s tank to personally meet her.

Rescued Sea Life

Dolphin Tale pelicanNearby you can find a pair of white pelicans which were used in the filming of Dolphin Tale I and II. Other tanks on the same level contain rescued sea turtles and sea otters. Be sure to grab a schedule at the door or check online to find out when the aquarium staff and volunteers will be giving educational talks. You can learn about the lives of these animals in the wild and about the risks they fell victim to that led them to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Another fun attraction is on the top deck of the aquarium. There you will find Nicholas, a dolphin rescued from a stranding along with his mother. Although his mother did not survive, Nicholas has done very well. He is now well known for his antics, such as doing spontaneous flips or splashing the audience. He is young and playful, earning him a reputation as the most energetic dolphin at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

 

Sealife Safari Boat Tour

Sealife SafariOne of the best parts of the adventure at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium is the Sealife Safari boat tour. Aquarium staff take you on a ride across Clearwater Harbor with some special extras in store. The boat trails a net across the seafloor, pulling up local sea life that are then displayed in tanks throughout the rest of that day before being released. Kids and adults can view native sea life up close, such as sea horses, sea urchins, pin fish, flounder, and more. It is fun to note that when catfish are caught, they are thrown back, because the dolphins of the harbor like to eat them. You stand an excellent chance of seeing local dolphins while out on the bay waters. The boat stops at a popular boating destination called Shell Island. The island is aptly named. It is a shell pile create when the boating channel was dredged in earlier decades. Nowadays boaters can stop off at the island, collecting shells to their hearts’ desire. The Sealife Safari boat allows you to disembark on the tiny island for a short stay before heading back across the water of the harbor. The boat ride offers fantastic views of the turquoise waters of the bay, the shoreline of the City of Clearwater, the beach causeway and bridge, and the barrier island of Sand Key. Sealife Safari is a hit with kids and it is a great way for adults to experience Clearwater Harbor.

 

Perfect Family Outing at Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Sea TurtleThe Clearwater Marine Aquarium is a perfect family outing while staying at Clearwater Beach. Aside from the attractions already at the famous Gulf Coast beach, you can spend the better part of the day touring this now-famous facility. It is a favorite for kids who loved the Dolphin Tale movies and has actually spawned an increase in tourism to the area, being named Florida’s number one attraction by a 2013 USA Today readers’ poll. If your vacation destination this year is Clearwater Beach, be sure to put the Clearwater Marine Aquarium on your list.

Dolphin Tale I Trailer

Dolphin Tale II Trailer


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Philippe Park

Curious History of Philippe Park

Phillippe Park

Philippe ParkPhilippe Park is located on the shores of Upper Tampa Bay, just north of the city of Safety Harbor, Florida, USA. The park is named after a French settler named Odet Philippe, who arrived at the location in 1842. The park faces east, toward the waters of the bay, with a drive that extends its length. It is easy to see across the bay at this point, since Upper Tampa Bay is a much smaller body of water than Tampa Bay to the south. Large shallows lie off the shores of the park with vast tidal flats sometimes rising above water during low tide. The park is filled with palm trees and oaks that shade the roads and lawns, keeping visitors cool on warm summer days. Because of the large mound built by Native Americans, and the history of Odet Philippe, the park was registered a National Historic Landmark in 1966. Philippe Park offers a relaxing venue for picnics, fun outings with the kids, or quiet walks on the waterfront.

 

 

Native American Mound Site at Philippe Park

Safety Harbor SiteThe Tocabaga tribe is estimated to have lived on the site of Philippe Park beginning around 900 A.D. They built a large ceremonial mound which still stands at the park, making it the largest surviving mound in the region. A village of 400 to 2500 Native Americans lived on the site, using bows and spears as well as tools fashioned from bones. Spanish explorers who arrived in the 1800s described them as a tall, strong people. Today the mound has a concrete path leading to its top with winding stairways descending the sides facing the bay. You will find signs posted at the park that describe the history of the native village more completely. For more information, travel just a few miles north to Safety Harbor where you will find the Safety Harbor Museum. The museum has history dioramas for kids and a set of books that describe the history of Philippe Park, the surrounding area, and the state of Florida.

 

Odet Philippe

Odet PhilippeFrench settler Odet Philippe came to the area in 1842 after serving in Napoleon Bonaparte’s army as a surgeon. The first European settler in the area, he created a grapefruit plantation, being the first to grow the fruit on the Florida peninsula. Grapefruit grows well in Florida, some of the trees bearing fruit nearly year round, surely making the choice a good one for Philippe. He also promoted cigar-making, a fact that becomes more interesting when you discover that twenty years after Odet Philippe’s death, the famous city of Ybor was founded by cigar manufacturer Vicente Martinez-Ybor, whose cigar manufacturing became an overnight financial success. While the grapefruit orchards created by Philippe can no longer be found at the park, the temple mound is a part of the Odet Philippe’s life history. Safety Harbor SiteDuring a hurricane, he saved his family from the rising waters by fleeing to the top of the mound. The hurricane reportedly washed away part of the structure but the Philippe family survived. Philippe had a large family and many of his descendants still live in the region. You will find a grave marker for Odet Philippe by driving just beyond the mound site at Philippe Park.

 

 

Philippe Park in Present Time

Giant oakThe land acquisition for Philippe Park occurred in 1948, although the lands owned by Odet Philippe apparently included the City of Safety Harbor as well. The park is mostly an open area space with an abundance of trees. A single road leads from one end of the park to the other while a second road branches off to the base of the temple mound site. Previous to the upgrades in the 1980’s, the park served as an open space playground for the kids and a picnic area for families. Shoreline erosion created fun play areas for kids under the cover of exposed tree roots while rolling down the temple mound was a highlight for the little ones. Because of the erosion, and because Native American artifacts were being lost to erosion and looting, a sea wall was built in the 1980’s as well as the stair system that leads up the sides of the mound.

Today at Philippe Park you will find large picnic pavilions, walkways along the waterfront, trails, restrooms, two playgrounds, a baseball diamond, a volleyball court, a boat ramp, secluded parking spaces for fishermen, and a scenic drive to the north end of the park. Philippe ParkThe scenic drive through the park is made a one-of-a-kind experience by the remarkable oak tree hammock that spreads over the road midway through the park. For families, we recommend the playgrounds and the picnic areas, as well as the historic mound. Adults will enjoy the scenic drives, fishing, waterfront walks, or bicycling the length of the park. Philippe Park is a good choice for anyone who enjoys shady waterfront parks or firsthand ventures into the history of Florida.

 

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