Posts Tagged ‘Florida’

Fun in the Autumn Sun on the Florida West Coast

Posted on: November 22nd, 2016 by admin No Comments

Autumn Events 2016

Super Boat Races Sep 30-Oct 2

The Super Boat races were as much fun as they always are. Tons of people show up along the beach and crowd onto the pier to watch the most powerful racing boats in the world roar by. You can hear the sound all along the beach and when you get close enough, you can feel the vibrations in your chest. This is an event that is worth fight the crowd for. If you want to draw the event out, attend all three days, enjoy the boats on display in Coachman Park, and dine on the carnival style food available along the marina.

Super Boat at Clearwater Beach Super boat Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Jazz Holiday Oct 13-16

The Clearwater Jazz Holiday is a perfect excuse to lay out on  your beach blanket in the park and listen to some music. The greats of jazz appear to fill Coachman Park in downtown Clearwater with excellent jazz music. The event is a laidback yet exciting event, with daytime and nighttime music to enjoy. Clearwater Harbor provides the backdrop and a nice place to stroll either on the way or out.

Clearwater Jazz Holiday

Chalk Walk chalk art festival Oct 20-23

The Chalk Walk Festival is only a few years old but it’s already a favorite at Clearwater Beach. This event draws ample spectators to stroll down the Beach Walk sidewalks watching the chalk artists create intriguing images. It makes the beachfront stroll just that much more exciting to visit. While you’re there, the beach restaurants are right beside you and the white sands that made Clearwater Beach famous are just across the street.

Mermaids sidewalk chalk art Chalk Walk art Clearwater

Stone Crab Festivals Oct 21-23

The Stone Crab Festival is another Clearawater Beach and regional favorite. While stone crab season is much longer than the two-day festival, this event brings the season to light and a whole lot of people together. Live bands, dining tents, and trinkets make this festival a hit. Several Clearwater Beach restaurants offer their own venues for the event.

Stone Crab Fest

Volleyball America Nationals Oct 22

While a volleyball tournament at Clearwater Beach is nothing new, this one occurred during the Chalk Walk Festival and the Stone Crab Festival, rounding out the festival atmosphere at the beach. Set next to Pier 60, which runs a sunset festival of its own each night, the volleyball tournament drew in yet another dynamic for this top-weekend-of-the-year for Clearwater Beach.

Beach volley ball pier 60 Clearwater Beach volleyball October

John’s Pass Seafood Festival Oct 27-30

The Madeira Beach favorite tourist destination of John’s Pass Village and Boardwalk set up its own seafood festival again this year, including a Halloween costume contest in its midst. The food on display ogled passersby and satisfied anyone ready to chow down. A large dining tent included a live stage for a well-rounded experience. In addition to this fantastic foodie event were plenty of vending stalls plus the great shops and waterfront boardwalk that have made John’s Pass a coastal favorite for the region.

Johns Pass Seafood Festival Johns Pass Seafood Festival

Tarpon Springs Seafood Festival Nov 11-13

The Tarpon Springs Seafood Festival added the Greek flair for which Tarpon Springs is so famous. The fishing-town-gone-tourist-stop has plenty of gift shops to entertain you for hours, which made a fantastic venue for a seafood festival. This event allowed attendees to walk the street and choose from a wide array of seafood plus Greek food.

Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks

Taste of Indian Rocks Beach Nov 12

Taste of Indian Rocks Beach is a one day event that puts out a pretty big spread. Folks attending this event gathered in the park for this Saturday event in the beach town that still retains the feel of Old Florida while having no problem keeping up with today.

Indian Rocks Beach

Discover Egmont Key Nov 12-13

This unique event took you on a ferry ride to an island that has oddly escaped fame. The sand and palm trees cover this island that sits right at the mouth of Tampa Bay, which is why it has the history it does. Military bunkers from the past as well as crumbled barracks make this island a fascinating place to visit. Once off the ferry you could inspect the old lighthouse, walk along sandy palm shaded trails, stroll the old brick streets where the barracks used to stand, and then explore the old military compound inside and out. The Discover Egmont Key event was just a really good excuse to visit a place you should have checked out before anyway.

Egmont Key lighthouse Egmont Key ruins

St Pete/Pass a Grille Chowder Challenge Nov 13

The Chowder Challenge might be the best culinary event of the year, at least if you like chowder. Top restaurants of the region chip in to present their best chowders. Guests received samples of various types and then sat down to taste and fill out a survey sheet. At the end, you got to vote for your favorite chowders. If you love food, outdoor events, and especially chowder, this event was not to be missed.

Chowder Challenge St Pete Pass a Grille

Sanding Ovation Nov 16-20

Sanding Ovation earns a place in the strata of events not to be missed on the Central Gulf Coast of Florida. The key draw are the sand sculptures made right on the beach at Treasure Island. On the last day of the event, the votes from visitors and sculptors determined the top sculptures for the year.

Sanding Ovation sculpture Sanding Ovation vendors

Dunedin Celtic Music and Craft Beer Festival Nov 19

This was one of the most entertaining events of the year for not only music but for beer tasting and souvenir shopping. Tents with Celtic themed items lined the field to explore between music sets. The Celtic bands were top notch and a whole lot of fun to watch. The later the night got, the wilder the music became. Add beer tasting to the mix, and, well, it was a lot of people having a lot of fun.

Celtic Music Fest

 

 

Look for these local events coming to the Central Gulf Coast of Florida this holiday season.

Clearwater Turkey Trot, Nov 24

Florida Botanical Gardens Holiday Lights in the Garden, Nov 25 – Dec 31

Snow Place Like Tarpon Festival and Tarpon Springs Boat Parade, Dec 2

Clearwater Color Run, Dec 3

Clearwater Holiday Lighted Boat Parade, Dec. 10

Madeira Beach Holiday Boat Parade & ROC Park Concert, Dec 10

Treasure Island lighted boat parade, Dec 11

Indian Rocks Beach boat parade, Dec 11

Clearwater Beach Outback Bowl beach event, Dec 30

Clearwater Midnight New Years Fireworks, Dec 31

 

Other posts you might enjoy:

Escape Room Joins the Fun in Clearwater Florida

Clearwater Color Run Strikes Again

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

 

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The Big Florida Hunt of 1869

Posted on: September 25th, 2016 by MB No Comments

The year of the big hunt was 1869. Florida had been part of the United States for only 48 years and Pinellas County was just getting its start. In fact, it was not yet called by that name. It was a wild, and as yet untamed area in that year. Wild animals roamed freely; too freely for those trying to settle in the area, and into the development of the area emerged the idea for a major hunt. To picture the area properly, however, you must first undo the infrastructure that spreads across what is now the state’s most populated area.

pinellascounty_2-700px-framed

Pinellas County’s namesake was the pine tree, its name originating from the abundant scrub pines that grew across the area. It was a very different place back then, the only roads carved through the palmetto palms, oaks, and pines. After clearing, carts and early automobiles still had only the soft sands of Florida to drive across. The hot and humid weather offered no reprieve, other than measures pioneers built into the homesteads, such as breezeways, doors facing the prevailing winds, and kitchens built separately from the houses. Mosquitoes did as they pleased and the original population of alligators ruled the inland waterways.

heritage-village-cabin-aged

Ranchers discovered Florida and liked it. Grass grew in a frenzy, invigorated by frequent rains, providing ample food for cattle and horses. In fact, the first cowboys in the Unites States worked their trade in Florida. With livestock came the struggle against predators. Panthers and black bears roamed the region, unchecked by the fledgling settlements that sprung up.

Florida_black_bear

While Fort Harrison occupied a central location, the region had yet to gain its first incorporated city. The road from Tampa, then known as Fort Brooke, was long and arduous. Despite the hardships, people continued to arrive to settle. Just two decades earlier, the U.S. had opened the way for land grants in the regions not yet settled with the Armed Occupation Act. The American Civil War had just ended four years earlier and the people were eager to create new opportunities.

heritage-village-house-aged

So it was that the people of future Pinellas County decided to make the land more inhabitable for people and livestock. Hunting parties were organized with the goal of eliminating the threat of bears and cougars. One can imagine that ranchers joined the ranks eagerly. The sound of gunfire would have echoed across the palmetto palm flats and through the forests of tall scrub pines. In the end, the two species were driven back, leaving the peninsula that forms the shape of Tampa Bay open for development.

Florida_panther

In the present, the region has grown into the most populous area of the state of Florida. The well-known cities of Tampa, St Petersburg, and Clearwater occupy the terrain now, drawing new visitors regularly to their beaches and other attractions. The sandy roads of old are covered by pavement but still sometimes travel past broad swaths of pine and palm forests. Kitchens are now inside the house, chilled by the wonder of air-conditioning. Horse and cattle ranching still thrive in Florida but have moved to other parts of the state where the lands are broad and open. But what of the Florida panther and black bear? They survived the attempted extermination, though in greatly reduced numbers. The black bear inhabits scattered forests throughout the state while the panther has been relegated to the most southern regions where the fairly untamed wilds of the Everglades and its adjoining wilderness areas create a safe habitat. Through management, their numbers continue to return from the brink, leaving those of us in the present with the satisfaction that a piece of our world’s natural past yet survives.

Other posts you might enjoy:

Curious History of Philippe Park

Florida Springs

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

 

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Life among Florida Mangroves

Posted on: September 20th, 2016 by MB No Comments

Mangroves trees are a common sight along the coast of Florida, some growing only to the size of bushes while others reach heights of fifty feet or more. But who really cares about mangrove trees? If you knew more about them, you might be more interested. Not only do they create a habitat for a host of animal species but they also protect the shores of Florida from erosion. In fact, they are durable enough to withstand hurricanes, and that makes them important. So keep reading to learn more. The next time you’re in Florida, you’ll know that a gathering of bushes along the coast is actually quite a bit more.

Caladesi Island mangroves

They are easy to recognize thanks to their root systems, which are designed for living in saltwater shallows. The longer you stay in Florida, the more likely you might be to notice that not all mangroves are alike. You will also surely notice that mangroves are perfect places for animals to take refuge. And, while a coastline of mangroves might not be as nice as a beach, the trees play a vital role in protecting the land.

eagle-point-park roseate spoon bill Florida

Florida has a number of varieties of mangrove trees but some only exist in the southern half of the state that does not experience freezes. The two varieties that have spread throughout the state are the red mangrove and the black mangrove. While that might not seem important, if you enjoy testing your knowledge in the real world, you can easily identify the two of them on your own.

magroves and foot bridge

Red mangroves are only red on the inside. You can see the color when you remove the bark. So how will you know one when you see it? That’s easy. They are the ones up on stilt-like roots. Array of a roots in a red mangrove forest is amazing to see. Those roots are also very attractive to animals. Fish and shellfish live underneath of them, birds will hide among them, and crabs love to climb them. There is even a type of snake that can live its life perched on the stalks. If that sounds creepy-crawly, well, okay. That’s hard to argue against. When you consider, however, that you are never going to successfully walk through a red mangrove forest, it puts it back into perspective. The reason they are such good hiding places is because it’s nearly impassable terrain. Larger predators, including alligators, are not going to negotiate the thousands and thousands of closely placed roots. Residents and visitors to Florida can enjoy the red mangrove forests from the outside. Thanks to their design, it is easy to see into the forest. That is best done from a small boat, where the gentle sea breezes can keep you separated from one of the less pleasant denizens of the mangroves, which is the no-see-ems.

Red mangrove

Black mangroves live up on the shores, rather than in the water like the red mangrove. You can identify them by their breather roots. If you ever find yourself by the shore and see a tree or bush surrounded hundreds of straw-sized stalks protruding from the mud, sand, or water, then you are looking at a black mangrove tree. Those actually are breather roots, drawing nitrogen for the unseen root system below. The trees will often sit right at the shore where they experience the ebb and flow of tides.

black mangrove roots

Here in Tampa Bay area, we have warm enough winters to also have the white mangrove growing on our coastlines. It is not as easy to identify as the other two because its roots are all below the ground. On the other hand, it is usually found hanging out with its cousins, the red and black mangroves. They tend to grow taller and, more importantly, they grow on higher ground, preferring to avoid the tidal waters. Florida parks often have boardwalks that pass through mangrove forests. If you see a mound with a tree growing from it, it is probably a white mangrove. Vice versa, if you identify a white mangrove, look down and you will see it is on higher ground.

white mangroves

Once you are very familiar with mangrove trees, you will know that their leaves grow differently and have different shades of green. Once you know that, you can actually spot the rise and fall of coastal lands from aerial photographs, which is handy for boating and fishing (and Google Maps enthusiasts).

black mangroves on Florida island

Mangroves are so important for the preservation of coastline that cities have legal codes regulating their pruning. Chopping down all the mangroves on your property so that you have a water view might seem like a nice idea but your waterfront will then be open to erosion and very vulnerable during major storms – and your neighbors as well.

weedon-island-kayaking

So, the next time you are in Florida and you see a shoreline of bushes and think, “I wish that was a sandy beach,” don’t be so sure. Mangroves play an important role in keeping Florida safe.

Other posts you might enjoy:

Sharing Natural Paradise of Three Rooker Bar

Discovering the Artificial Reefs of the Florida Gulf Coast

Native American Indian Mounds of the Florida Gulf Coast

 

 

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Fishing Charters on the Florida West Coast

Posted on: September 14th, 2016 by admin No Comments

A fishing charter into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico is a dream come true to many. The beautiful blue waters, the warm climate, and the fantastic fishing combine to create one of the best fishing charter locations in the country. But what does a fishing charter on Florida’s West Coast entail? That’s a we’re going to answer.

Fishing the Gulf of Mexico

While you can also find the larger tour boats that take large groups, most fishing charter boats are relatively small, taking four to eight people. That means you need to be prepared to spend time in close quarters with companions and the boat crew. Here at Clearwater Beach Marina, crews are almost always a team of two.

Clearwater Beach Marina

It is a good idea to choose a comfortable boat. The reason is the length of the trip. The Gulf of Mexico is shallow along Florida’s West Coast while the best fishing is in deeper waters. That means charter boats most often will take you straight out into the Gulf, heading for the shelf where you will experience the best fishing. Powerful engines are standard equipment and the boat ride is usually a lot of fun. The entire trip is most often set as half day and full day, which means either four or eight hours. If you want the best fishing, however, ask for the full day. That will get you well over the shelf and into the waters that will fill you cooler with fish and usually a bit more.

Gulf of Mexico fishing

Florida is famous for sunshine. Your chances of sun on a morning trip into the Gulf of Mexico are very high. Our skies usually start clear with clouds slowly gathering as the day goes on. Larger boats provide interior areas but the more common charters do not. That means you will be in the sun most of the day. Even if you are acclimated to being in the sun, be sure to use sunscreen to avoid getting burned. On the upside, you will be out on a very blue body of water in the bright Florida sunshine, which is actually quite nice.

Boating Florida West Coast

If your fishing experience is anything like mine, you might ask whether you are actually going to catch any fish. The answer is yes. The Gulf of Mexico is known for its excellent fishing. Whether you are looking for a good fight or a good meal, you have a chance of encountering either. Tell your boat crew what you prefer and, chances are, they will be able to accommodate.

Two Tails fishing charter

When it comes to extras, each boat is different. Some will tell you to bring a cooler of your own beverages. Others will provide drinks for you. Usually, it’s a little of both, with waters provided and other types of drinks on a bring-your-own basis. Let your boat crew know what you have in mind and they will tell you what you need to buy. If you think the ride is too long to go without eating, be sure to find out what is provided and what is not.

Florida West Coast Grouper

Keep in mind that when you bring the fish back, your charter crew will offer to clean the fish for you. That means you walk away with fish that is ready to cook. But, here on the West Coast of Florida, a good catch is not a surprise. Because of that, restaurants that sit near marinas will often take your fish and cook it for you! Yes, you will have to pay for the meal, but the cost of the fish subtracted. It’s a great way to enjoy your catch without the need to learn any recipes.

Florida sport fishing

When you put all the factors together, and you love fishing, the overall image is a good one. Fresh air, good food, sunshine, sparkling waters, and some hefty bites on your line are all in store for a fishing charter on the Florida West Coast.

Other posts you might enjoy:

Discovering Anclote Key All Over Again

Finding the Lost Dunedin Pass

Fort Desoto Beaches, Boating, and History

 

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My Four Hour Vacation at Clearwater Beach: Belle Harbor Vacation Condo Feature

Posted on: July 18th, 2016 by MB No Comments

After three years working at Florida Beach Rentals, I decided it was time to check out one of the Clearwater Beach units for myself. That doesn’t mean I haven’t seen our vacation rental units. I have been to almost every one of them and photographed them for over a year before our current, very talented photographer took over. Currently I provide the social media content for our vacation rental company here in Clearwater Beach, Florida. You might have seen our videos and photographs on our Facebook page (FLBRentals). When I say that I wanted to check out a rental I mean that I wanted to get a taste of the vacation rental experience. While touring the units and photographing them is actually a lot of fun, I always wondered what it would be like to stay in them and get a feel for the units we as a company provide.

Clearwater Beach Florida

Our reservations team leader, Jackie, suggested a perfect unit. It was upscale, clean, had a water view, was close to the beach, and was open for me to use. I set out with my social media hardware to capture the experience. While I was looking for the perfect vacation experience, this one didn’t take me too far away. It was right across the street from our office, which I thought was a bit funny. It reminded me of putting a tent in my parent’s back yard and calling it a camping trip. Despite lacking a romantically remote location, I couldn’t argue. It was a very nice condo.

Belle Harbor rainbow

Rainbow captured over Belle Harbor condos

The featured condo for my day of social media broadcasting was in the Belle Harbor condominiums, unit 408. I shot about six videos for the unit, some inside and others showing off the features of the condo and what was nearby. That was not hard to do at Clearwater Beach, Florida. The poolside area at Belle Harbor is waterfront, as is the Jacuzzi and even the fitness center. A walk to the beach was definitely on the list. I was curious how long it would take me to get from the room to the beach. The video pegged at five minutes. That’s not bad. Next I went to get a Starbucks coffee. I’m not going to give away here the secret of how to find Starbucks at Clearwater Beach. There are no signs and you have to know where it is. To discover it for yourself, watch the video below.

Belle Harbor pool

While I didn’t sleep at the unit, I was very enjoyable to be there. I caught up on the weather with the big screen TV and took a stroll on the waterfront sidewalk which I didn’t know Belle Harbor had! The unit was a three bedroom that looks perfect for a family and the master bedroom is large.

Master bedroom Belle Harbor condo

In truth, I should not really be writing this in the past tense, because, right at this moment, I am typing this blog post in the master bedroom. When I walked in and saw the desk, I knew I had to find a reason to sit there and make use of it. Right now I am looking out the large picture windows at palm fronds waving in the breeze.

Balcony view vacation condo

If you’re wondering why I haven’t said, “It would sure be nice to stay here,” that just seems too obvious. It’s a very nice unit. While I won’t get to reap the benefits of a full month’s stay here, taking an afternoon outing to enjoy the unit has been a really great time. In fact, my seat here, with the relaxing view, is genuinely soothing to the soul. So, I will write my last lines here and then fold down the screen of my laptop. My mini vacation will be over and it will beill beh was mantic mping trip c them and  time to head back across the street to the office, which I can see peeking out from between the palm trees.

More info on this unit

Please enjoy my Belle Harbor virtual vacation videos below.




Other posts you might enjoy:
Fairy Tales in the Sand at Clearwater Beach
Fantastic Fall Festivals St Pete to Clearwater Beach
Clearwater Beach Marina

 

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Clearwater Beach Summers

Posted on: June 19th, 2016 by MB No Comments

Summer time at the beach is hard to beat. When that beach is especially beautiful, it’s even better. Clearwater Beach is great to visit any time of the year. Each season has its own perks. If you arrive in one season, you are likely to be envious of those who visit in the others. Perhaps that’s human nature. But let me describe why the summertime in Clearwater Beach will make you happy.

Clearwater Beach with tons of shells

Hot Summer Days

If summer at Clearwater Beach has a downside, it’s the heat. It gets hot here and you might sweat. And there you have it. That’s the downside. But then, that’s why the beach is so great! Three things make this beach enjoyable on a hot day.

  1. You can beat the heat by swimming! The water feels great and a dip into it will refresh you. By observation, the people who go into the water don’t come back out again for quite a while. A walk down the shore on an average summer beach day will find lots of heads and shoulders bobbing above the waves. If you don’t want to go in all the way, the Gulf of Mexico also feels great on your feet.
  2. The breeze coming off the Gulf of Mexico usually cools down the beach by about seven to ten degrees -at least that’s how it feels. There are days where walking on the sidewalk will warm you right up but a walk along the shore just moments later feels just fine. The sea breeze is a blessing and smells good too. And really, wouldn’t you prefer walking on the beach?
  3. The sand at Clearwater Beach is white. While the sun does warm it up, it never becomes too hot to walk on. Even on the hottest day you will never have to hop and skip across heated sands. That also means the heat reflecting off the sand is far less.

As far as problems go, beating the heat at the beach is pretty fun to solve.

Clearwater Beach outing

The Joys of Summer at the Beach

Now let’s look at the upsides of going to the beach in the summer.

  1. In the summer you will find more people enjoying the traditional beach outing. That means taking the family to the shore with a cooler and spending the day having fun. Catching sun is no problem and you will never have to worry about bringing a jacket along. The days are longer too. By our count, that makes for more beach time. I think anything you enjoy doing in the summer might just be better at the beach.
  2. The Pier 60 Nightly Sunset Festival operates all year round, yet, somehow, it seems to have a bit of extra magic in the summer. With the long days and blazing sunsets, the fun-seeking crowds show up to see the street performers and to pick up a unique souvenir from the Pier 60 vendors. For whatever reason, the crowds just seem to cheer the performances a little bit louder in the summertime.
  3. The dolphins of our coast also like the warm summer days. Whether the dolphins would agree with me or not, I don’t know, but it seems easier to get them to play in the wakes of the boats in the summer. I’ll let the dolphins have the last word on that because you can successfully spot them on dolphin tours all year long. On a recent dolphin tour in June, we saw quite a few.
  4. The best thing about summer at Clearwater Beach, however, has got to be the colors of the water. In the summer, the sun shines directly down, piercing the water and lighting up the white sands underneath. That creates a dazzling turquoise color that people love to see. But it’s not just the turquoise that makes the Gulf of Mexico special in the summer. When the waves roll into the sand around your feet, it is remarkably clear. Whether it is the angle of the sun, the amount of light, or some other factor, the summertime waters at Clearwater Beach are remarkable.

So, there you have it. The beach is an awesome place to go in the summer. Now that I’ve said it, it seems kind of obvious.

Perfect waters at Clearwater Beach

A Slow Ride up the Withlacoochee River

Posted on: May 26th, 2016 by MB No Comments

 

 

Cypress trees on the Withlacoochee River

Getting Away from it all in Florida

Clearwater Beach to St Pete Beach on the Central Gulf Coast of Florida is a great place to spend time and is our home base.  This blog post, however, is about a nice little day trip away from our area which is very easy to take. We set our sights on a river cruise and hit the road on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Calm waters of the Withlacoochee River

The Withlacoochee River

The Withlacoochee River is a slice of Florida that takes you back to simpler times. The name Withlacoochee means little-big river. Because the river changes size drastically during rainy years, that is an apt name. The Withlacoochee starts in the Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve which is Northeast of Tampa. The river flows Northwest to the Gulf of Mexico on a 141-mile course. The land is flat so the river flows rather slowly, a deceptive appearance considering how much water it can move. The river flows through areas that are lightly inhabited and often used for raising horses and cattle. If that sounds like a laid back place, it is.

Banks of Withlacoochee River

Covered Pontoon Boat Ride on the Withlacoochee River

Our Withlacoochee River ride started near Dunnellon, Florida at the dock next to a restaurant called Stumpknockers. We caught our ride with Capt Mike’s Lazy River Cruises, which, by the way, requires a reservation so that Capt Mike knows your coming. Our group and the others along only totaled eight people so it was a nice light load on the pontoon boat. It’s covered with a nice roof so it’s a good ride even on sunny days. Capt Mike knew the river very well and told us all kinds of interesting facts about the area.

Cypress reaching roots into Withlacoohee River

A Lazy River through Florida Swamps

After the tour, I looked down on the area on a map to see that our ride flowed through an area that had zero habitation to the north and very little to the south. The river takes care of that little detail by rising and falling dramatically, especially during very heavy rainfall years. Apparently 2004 caused the river to rise ten feet and grow to over a mile wide. On either side of the river grew a forest of cypress, mixed with a few other volunteers like palm trees, oaks, and pine. The cypress trees ruled the area, however, because of their ability to live in wet, swamp-like conditions. The river banks rose just few feet before a broad and seemingly endless flatland began. We could see between the cypress trunks for a very long way until finally, the volume of tree trunks cut off the view. I imagined trekking through that wilderness with its herds of deer, wide variety of birds, and other wildlife. Unfortunately, that list also included mosquitoes and biting flies, which made the safe position aboard the boat a welcome place from which to view the swamp. The sights were amazing and something few people get to see thanks to the challenging conditions present when on foot in such areas.

Flood marks on cypress trunks

Floodwater marks on cypress trunks

Wildlife and Wild Views

On our trip we received a lucky break when we pulled in close to something called a hummingbird moth. I didn’t know that kind of moth existed and might have seen it before without realizing since it looked and flew exactly like a real hummingbird. We spotted deer among the cypress trees, fish in the water, dragonflies, red shouldered hawks, swallowtail kites, wading herons, and baby alligators. The boat moved slowly, the river flowed in a clam, steady flow, and the forest blocked off the sounds of the world. It made for a very pleasant trip.

Deck on the Withlacoochee

Easy Day Trip Perfect for a Vacation

This boat tour sets out from a spot where Route 200 crosses over the Withlacoochee River. It is approximately two hours north of either Clearwater Beach or Disneyworld in Kissimmee, Florida. That’s a big day trip but if you are looking for something to soothe your soul during an otherwise hectic vacation, this is definitely the ticket.

Road sign in the Withlacoochee River

Other posts you might enjoy:

Sharing Natural Paradise of Three Rooker Bar

Discovering Egmont Key

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Sun reflected off the Withlacoochee River in Florida

Video of our ride down the Withlacoochie River.

 

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Shell Collecting in the Clearwater St Pete Area

Posted on: April 14th, 2016 by MB 1 Comment

Seashell collection

The Beauty of the Florida Gulf Coast

The Central Gulf Coast is the area of Florida from Tampa Bay regional beaches down to greater Naples region. The area is defined by the remarkable white sands that cover the beaches in volume. This article will cover our stomping grounds of Tampa Bay, where we have personally gone to collect our shells. These beaches have grown in popularity, now that the secret it out. The weather is usually agreeable in this region and basking on the beaches is a slice of heaven. During the hot months of summer, the water turns to a striking turquoise hue, lit from above by the more direct rays of the sun that are not present in the winter.

seashell collecting

The Best Seashells

The beaches are better traveled now, more visitors understanding the joy of walking the shores. That of course, leads to shell collecting. So are there enough shells? You would think not, but experience has shown that a walk down the beach will find beautiful shells to collect. Still, the question has arisen, “Where can I find the best shells?”

Going the Extra Mile for Seashells

The answer is that to get the best shells, you have to do a little extra work. You probably saw that coming but to soothe your disappointment, we will point you in the right direction.

The Right Timing for Seashell Collecting

The best time to collect seashells is before someone else gets there! Too easy, we know, so let’s break it down. Morning is best, sunrise even better. If you can arise early and hit the beach, you will find the shells that will otherwise get picked up by the larger daytime crowds. The other timing you might want to watch for is low tide. Check local charts for your area to see when the water will be lowest. More goodies which you can reach will line the shore. Be careful to leave living creatures alone, which includes starfish. Starfish go so slowly that their movements are often missed. Shells with inhabitants should be left alone.

Beachcoming Clearwater Beach

The Right Place for Seashell Collecting

The best places for seashell collecting are those that are infrequently visited. Plenty of beaches along the Central Florida Gulf Coast fall under that designation, so let’s get started.

Caladesi Island State Park is hard to get to. You have the choice of walking for a very long way north from Clearwater Beach or taking a boat. A ferry runs from Honeymoon Island to the Caladesi Island which makes it not so difficult as some other islands, but you have to pay the ferryman. Once there, you will not have to wonder why this beach is on the list of good shelling locations. While you will still have to hunt for the big, dazzling shells, you will find no lack of scallops, clams, oysters, and cockles. Depending on how the waves have impacted the shore, you might find them in heaps.

Honeymoon Island State Park is another place that has hard to reach parts. The northern end takes a long time to reach on foot, leaving boating as the easiest method to reach it. Once you leave the frequently visited parking lot area of the island, headed north, you will head farther and farther into the zones that people don’t often go. Thanks to that, and the great length of the beach, you are virtually guaranteed to find great shells. If you do make it to the northern tip of the island, congratulations. Not only will you find fantastic shells, you will also be standing at one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

spiral seashell

Anclote Key Preserve State Park includes the island of Three Rooker Bar, Anclote Key, and North Sand Bar. These three islands are uninhabited and have no roads to reach them. Boating is the only option. Non-motorized craft should be operated by those with some experience because of distance, waves, wind, and motorized boat traffic. Once there your eyes will pop at the shells you find. We have no need to run through the list of Florida shells for these islands. You have a chance to find them all. Anclote Key Preserve State Park sees so little traffic, especially Anclote Key, that you might encounter the shelling treasures of a lifetime.

Fort Desoto County Park and Shell Key are side by side barrier islands that have fantastic shelling opportunities. Fort Desoto is accessible by car and Shell Key by boat. Kayaks can be rented at the park to help you reach Shell Key. While Fort Desoto receives a large amount of traffic during peak seasons, it still has areas that are hard to reach, or which visitor simply don’t explore. That leaves those zones to you, the shell collector. Walk away from the main parking lot area in any direction and you will encounter a wide variety of shells. And if you rent a kayak, here is the key; cruise the shallow inlets where the water is only a foot deep or so. Shells no one else will find will appear just beneath your boat.

Egmont Key is the last location on our list. It is far from the other islands and motorized boats are recommended as reaching it crosses major boating channels. Fortunately, a regular ferry departs Fort Desoto for the island. Here you will find miles of beaches that see very few visitors. Aside from the archeological goodies on Egmont Key, walking the beach will fill your shelling bag, and quite quickly. It is a shell collector’s dream.

Seashell on Clearwater Beach

Finding Shells the Easy Way

Clearwater Beach, Sand Key, Indian Rocks, Redington, Madeira, Treasure Island and St Pete Beach all receive tourism traffic but enjoy ample sea life as well. Lucky finds can still be encountered on our standard beaches, and often are by the fortunate passersby. Keep your eyes sharp in all these locations for things other than shells. You never know what you might find amid the sands of the Florida Gulf Coast.

 

Other posts you might enjoy:

Discovering the Artificial Reefs of the Florida Gulf Coast

A Beach Less Traveled

Beach Walk of a Lifetime at Honeymoon Island State Park

 



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