Tag Archives: tourism

John Levique Pirate Days

Fun Times at John Levique Pirate Days

History of John Levique

John Levique Pirate Days 9The history of John Levique and the history of John’s Pass are linked by the legend naming John Levique as the first man to sail through the pass. According to the legend, a large storm rearranged the sands of the barrier islands, opening a new inlet to Boca Ciega Bay. The new inlet was subsequently named John’s Pass. The boardwalks, restaurants, and gift shops did not appear for another 150 years. The name John Levique is remembered, thanks to his discovery of the pass. Today, his name is used for one of the best celebrations you will find on the Florida Gulf Coast. John Levique Pirate days skeleton manequinJohn Levique was a turtle farmer, so you might wonder why the celebration is called ‘pirate days.’ Here on the Florida Gulf Coast, and especially in Tampa Bay, a true pirate history exists. The pirate theme, often invoked in this region, has been used to enhance the John Levique celebration. Once you’ve experienced the fun at the John Levique Pirate Days event, you will see that John Levique would probably not mind at all.

 

John’s Pass

John Levique Pirate DaysJohn’s Pass Village and Boardwalk is one of the best tourist stops on the Florida Gulf Coast. The small but popular shopping and restaurant district is lined with loads of souvenir shops and lots of great dining. John’s Pass is a fun diversion where you can spend hours walking from one interesting knickknack shop to the next. When you need to resupply your energy, you can choose from a number of unique restaurants, many of them on the waterfront. Seafood is popular at John’s Pass, thanks to the numerous fishing boats that use John’s Pass to reach the Gulf of Mexico. The boardwalks and sidewalks are fun to stroll, and when you are done with your dining, stop into a candy shop to finish off your day. You can find all of these things on an ordinary day at John’s Pass. During the John Levique Pirate Days celebration, that entertaining setting becomes a backdrop for much more.

 

John Levique Pirate Days Celebration

John Levique Pirate Days foodThe John Levique Pirate Days event was on our roster of things to see this spring. This year it was held May 9th through 11th. The event took us by surprise. We expected a few pirates standing in the doorways and perhaps few kiosks- not by a long-shot. The entirety of John’s Pass Village and Boardwalk had been transformed in to one giant event. The street was filled with tents and kiosks selling everything imaginable, much of it pirate themed. Instead of a parking lot we found a large tent where the musicians and dancers performed, along with lots of tables for dining. John Levique Pirate Days 8The other side of the parking lot was the food court, with banquet style vending stalls selling mouthwatering food. Amid the lively setup strolled a large number of attendees, enjoying shops, vending tents, the shows, and the food. However, all of those things together were still not the best surprise. We found no mere dozen pirates at the John Levique Pirate Days event, but rather the streets were filled with them. The pirates had erected tents to mock up how original pirates had camped on the shores of the Gulf Coast. Tons of professional pirate actors roamed the streets along with a number of enthusiasts. Aside from the pirate encampment, we found a pirate wrestling ring, a mechanical bull, a tropical bar, a hula hoop contest and an inflatable slide for the kids, and roaming musicians. John Levique Pirate Days 4Lastly came the large pirate show down at the waterfront of John’s Pass. On the sandy shore, amid the older pylons, some 50 to 60 pirates put on a mock battle. The battle included walking the plank, musket fire, sword fights, and, our personal favorite, ‘death by mermaid,’ which consisted of throwing convicted pirates to the trio of mermaids waiting just off shore. John Levique Pirate Days 6The mayhem lasted for a good five minutes, all under the thunderous explosions from cannons set on the shore. Watching from the drawbridge between Madeira Beach and Treasure Island, the handrails under our palms trembled from the shock wave of the cannon fire. Spectators lined the John’s Pass boardwalk to watch the show, many of them dressed in pirate costumes themselves.

 

John Levique Pirate Days Recommended

John Levique Pirate Days 7

For Love or Money Band

After our visit to the John Levique Pirate Days celebration, we definitely recommend it to visitors to the Florida Gulf Coast. The event was a lot of fun and definitely lived up to its name. There were pirates galore, lots of in-theme trinkets and souvenirs to purchase, good music shows, and fantastic food. The pirate battle topped off the event with a performance that brought the theme to life. The event has earned a place on our list of celebrations to visit year after year.

 

Other posts you might enjoy:

Treasure Island Kite Festival 2014

Best View of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge

Clearwater Beach Stone Crab Festival 2013

 

Florida Gulf Coast osprey

Exploring the Honeymoon Island Nature Trail

Location of Honeymoon Island State Park

Honeymoon Island State Park

Click map to enlarge

You will find Honeymoon Island State Park on the Central Gulf Coast of Florida. It is just north of Clearwater Beach and Caladesi Island, both of which are popular tourist destinations. Honeymoon Island is reachable by car thanks to the Dunedin Causeway, which is a popular weekend destination for boaters, fishermen, and those who enjoy a more casual beach experience. The park has a manned entrance gate with a required entry fee of 4-8 dollars depending on the number of people in your car.

 

Honeymoon Island Nature Center

Honeymoon Island Nature CenterAny trip to the Honeymoon Island State Park nature trail should begin at the nature center. While the nature center is not at the trailhead, it will give you an idea of what you might find on the island. The rangers are always willing to help, and will answer any questions you have. Mangrove shores Honeymoon IslandYou will find books on the area, dioramas of island wildlife, kid-friendly displays they are allowed to touch, interactive videos, and a display on the island’s history. Outside is an observation deck that overlooks the shallows of St Joseph Sound where you can often observe Honeymoon Island ospreys diving for fish.

 

Honeymoon Island Loop Trail

Honeymoon Island nature trailThe Honeymoon Island nature trail is a 2.5 mile loop, which runs the length of the island’s pine forest. Honeymoon Island has two peninsulas that reach northward. The western arm is mostly beach, while the eastern stretch is forested, with shores covered by mangrove trees. The stretch of water between the two peninsulas is called Pelican Cove. The looping nature trail, which is on the eastern arm of the island, has a number of connectors, allowing hikers to shorten their hike by making smaller loops. Although you will walk through a forested area, the trail will also have lots of sun, so be sure to bring your hat and perhaps some sunscreen. The surface of the trail is sand, sometimes covered with grass or pine needles, but sometimes not. Be sure to use footwear that goes well with soft, sandy terrain. Keep an eye out for the small signs along the nature trail that give you information on island features.

 

Honeymoon Island Nature Trail Foliage

Honeymoon Island slash pineThe most prominent plants you will find on the Honeymoon Island nature trail are the tall slash pines. You will also see them as the barren dead trees where the ospreys like to build their nests. The other common trees are palms and mangroves, a staple plants for the Florida Gulf Coast. In the past, the island appeared somewhat dry, with stretches of low foliage where you could see hikers on the other side of the loop trail. Cactus flower FloridaAfter the island received a prescribed burn a few years ago, the plants filled in the spaces that were previously empty. Now a host of the new slash pines are growing, which is one of the main purposes behind prescribed burns. In addition to the trees you will see a seemingly endless variety of other plants, many of them with flowers. During the spring you will also see the prickly pear cacti in bloom.

 

Honeymoon Island Nature Trail Wildlife

Florida osprey nestThe most popular feature on the Honeymoon Island Nature Trail are the ospreys. These fishing hawks are expert at catching their meals out on the Gulf of Mexico, in St Joseph Sound, and in Honeymoon Island’s Pelican Cove. You will often see them flying back to their enormous nests with fish in their claws. The grand nests are easy to see because the ospreys most often build them in dead trees. Joining the ospreys on Honeymoon Island are breeding pairs of bald eagles and great horned owls. These latter two, however, are not as easy to spot as the abundant ospreys. Gopher tortoise on Honeymoon IslandIn addition to many types of birds on the island, you will also come across the gopher tortoise, an island inhabitant that is also popular with visitors. Some of the tortoises will make hasty retreats into the island brush while others will calmly watch you walk by. The tortoises and the birds mentioned above are not the only natural inhabitants, so keep your eyes peeled and you will surely discover more wildlife along the Honeymoon Island nature trail.

 

Honeymoon Island Nature Trail Amenities

Picnic area Honeymoon Island State ParkAt the head of the Honeymoon Island nature trail you will find a number of helpful amenities. A small park sits next to a parking lot that never seems to fill up, which is very handy. The small park contains picnic pavilions and a fairly large playground for the kids. You will find a restroom across from the parking lot which also happens to be next to the western trail head of the looping nature trail. If you turn right on path behind the restroom, you will be heading onto the nature trail. If you take the path to the left, it will take you to the famous Honeymoon Island beach. As for that beach, we will let you know more about the other fantastic features of Honeymoon Island State Park in upcoming blogs.

 

Other posts you might enjoy:

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Suncoast Primate Sanctuary

Gulf Coast Bald Eagles

Florida Gulf Coast beach

Ever Changing Sands of the Florida Gulf Coast

Beaches on the move

Clearwater Beach dunes and beachThe beaches along the Florida Gulf Coast are among the best loved beaches in America. The soft white sand is soothing to the feet and glows brightly in the sunshine. The pleasant nature of the sand makes the beaches famous, and the area has become a favorite vacation destination. What visitors to the area might not realize, however, is how much Mother Nature can move around that soft white sands.

 

Effects of Wind and Sea on the Beach

Kiteboarding Clearwater BeachA visit to the beaches of the Central Gulf Coast of Florida will introduce you to the powdery white sands of which we speak. While pushing  your toes through the sands, your feet will tell you how soft the tiny grains are. Some call it “sugar sand” while others compare it to powder. On a day with higher winds, you might feel the sand gently blowing across your ankles. Over time, this can create a considerable effect. In addition to the wind, the weather patterns create different currents offshore. Over time, the effects of wind and water can significantly change the beach landscape.

 

Mangroves and Sand Dunes on the Florida Gulf Coast

Mangrove shores of the Florida Nature CoastWhile you visit the beaches of the Florida Gulf Coast, you will notice two things; mangrove trees and sand dunes. Mangrove trees are easy to identify from their sturdy root systems that lift the trees up over the sand or water. These trees help to clean the water while protecting the shoreline from erosion. While a shore of mangrove trees may not be as appealing to some as a wide-open, sandy beach, the trees are an essential part of the Florida coastline. Mangroves can even withstand the powerful forces of hurricanes, protecting inland areas from many of the storms’ effects. Clearwater Beach sand dunesSand dunes may sometimes block the view of the open sand and sea, but they form an irreplaceable function for the beaches. They store sand for times of greater erosion and help to block the flood waters during storm surges. A beach without dunes is far more vulnerable to erosion than one with a healthy dune system. On your Florida vacation, be sure to treat the mangrove forests and the grasses on the sand dunes with the respect they deserve.

 

History of Shifting Sands on the Florida Gulf Coast

Johns Pass

Johns PassThe most famous story of our changing shoreline comes from a location known as John’s Pass, currently a fun tourist day trip destination. However, the popular boating route and tourist stop of John’s Pass did not always exist. The barrier islands along the coast of what is now Pinellas County continued uninterrupted past the present day channel. According to local history, a storm in 1848 washed away the sands and left an opening in the barrier islands, connecting the Gulf of Mexico and the intra-coastal waterway. The passage is now an essential route for boaters that includes a large drawbridge. Waterfront dining and shops have capitalized on the location, which is a plus for tourists to the Central Gulf Coast.

Dunedin Pass

Clearwater Beach to Caladesi IslandThe second, well-known change in the shoreline was started in 1921 by a hurricane. The water channel known as Dunedin Pass was altered by the storm, and in combination with other forces, caused the sand bar at the north end of Clearwater Beach to migrate northward until the pass closed. It is now possible to walk from Clearwater Beach to Caladesi Island, although locals have not allowed Caladesi’s status as an independent island to fade.

Three Rooker Bar

sand barAnother unique feature of the local coastal landscape shaped by tidal forces is Three Rooker Bar. This land feature began as a sand bar but now is a tiny island supporting both plant and animal life. Thanks to the quickly changing landscape of Three Rooker Bar, you will find it listed online as both an island and a sand bar, depending on where you look. If the forces that made the sand bar continue, not only will the title of island remain, but the island will continue to grow in size.

 

Florida Gulf Coast has a Tradition of Change

Hurricane Pass Dunedin FloridaThe beaches of the Florida Gulf Coast have a tradition of change. While mankind can and does have an effect on preserving beaches, the landscape will continue to shift. You can experience this process for yourself by visiting the channel that runs between Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island. This passage owes its existence to the hurricane of 1921, thus giving it the name Hurricane Pass. You will find long spits of soft, white sand reaching out toward the passage from both islands. You will also see large, areas of sand just beneath the surface, many of which you can walk on during low tides. If you are lucky enough to return to the beaches year after year, you will notice a marked change at Hurricane Pass. The sands on either side of the boating channel are in constant flux. The shape of the beaches changes visibly, while the sand bars move from one location to another.

 

Gulf Coast Beaches

Palm shadows on the beachYour beach holiday on the shores of Florida’s West Coast will surely be amazing. The beaches are renowned for their soft white sands and wonderful weather. You can choose between a manicured public beach or the wild shores of the less-visited barrier islands. In fact, you can visit both during the same day! Keep in mind that the beaches you walk upon might appear the way they do just for you, right at that moment. The next time you visit, you can then see if you recognize the subtle changes in our beaches. Finding the differences can be entertaining so be sure to bring your camera. It might be fun to add the changing sands of the Central Gulf Coast to the list of beautiful sights you will see on your Florida vacation.

 

 

Clearwater Beach dolphin sculpture

Explore the Gulf Coast Dolphin Trail

Dolphin Sculptures at Pier 60 Clearwater Beach

Dolphins sculpture Clearwater BeachOn your Clearwater Beach vacation you will surely notice a host of painted dolphin sculptures prominently displayed along roadways, on sidewalks, and in storefronts. The dolphins are a project created by Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce, the City of Clearwater, and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The display was kicked off in the fall of 2012 with a display of 50 dolphins lining the sidewalk in front of Pier 60. According to VisitClearwaterFlorida.com, the region now boasts over a hundred of the sculptures.

 

Decorated Dolphins at the Beach

Clearwater Beach Marina dolphins sculptureEach dolphin sculpture is painted and decorated in its own unique way. Before displaying the dolphns, the participating businesses most often paint their dolphins to match the business, or to say something about what they do. You will find the dolphins placed at local shop fronts, usually right outside the entrance. If you peek at the bottoms you might see wheels used to roll the dolphins inside at night. The designs are endless and are almost always bright and colorful.

 

Gulf Coast Dolphin Sculpture Tour

Pier 60 Clearwater Beach sculptureYou can join in the fun of the dolphin sculptures right here on our part of the Florida Gulf Coast by following what is known as the Dolphin Trail. While there doesn’t seem to be any official pathway to follow, the starting point is at Pier 60 where you will find a metal wire sculpture of three dolphins, right in front of Pier 60. From there it is up to you whether you head north, east or south. Whichever direction you chose, you will quickly find dolphin sculptures along the way. According to the dolphin sculpture maps, the island of Clearwater Beach has 22 of the dolphin sculptures. To the north, the shops along Mandalay Avenue have quite a few, while to the south you can find many more of the dolphins on a leisurely stroll along Beach Walk. You can also cross the bridge that takes you off of Clearwater Beach to find a good number of sculptures along Cleveland Avenue in the City of Clearwater. Dolphin sculpture Clearwater FloridaFor the adventurous, there are many more dolphin sculptures across the entire peninsula of Pinellas County. It’s up to you how far you want to go.  Whether you follow the dolphin trail or you simply discover the dolphins on your adventures at the beach, take a moment or two to admire the designs on these unique, regional works of art. Clearwater, Clearwater Beach, and the surrounding Florida Gulf Coast communities are quite proud of their dolphins.

Dolphin sculptures unveiled YouTube video

Dolphin sculpture artists YouTube video

 

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Pinellas Trail Bicycle and Walking Path

Dinosaur World

Secret Caladesi Island Shell Tree

 

 

Perfect vacation rental

9 Need to Know Differences between Hotels and Vacation Rentals

Towels and Linens at a Vacation Rental VS a Hotel

Vacation rental king size bedHotels and vacation rentals handle linens and towels very differently. In a hotel, you can get new towels and linens either every day or on the schedule you request. At a vacation rental, your towels and linens are there for the duration of your stay. The perk you will usually get at a vacation rental is an in-unit washer and dryer for your laundry. That is great for week long stays where you are visiting the beach often. It also means, however, that you will be washing the sheets and towels on your own. While an on-call towel service is nice, so is having your own washer and dryer for your one week to one month vacation accommodations.

 

Daily Cleaning at a Hotel Vs a Vacation Rental

Clearwater Beach hotelsHotels will clean your room each day if you let them, while vacation rentals leave that task up to you. The pros and cons are pretty easy to imagine. With a hotel, you get the cleaning done for you. In a vacation rental, you do the cleanup, but, in exchange, the space is yours without interruptions. That means leaving your personal belongings lying around in a vacation rental might feel more comfortable.

 

Staffing at a Hotel VS a Vacation Rental

vacation hotelYour vacation rental staff is always willing to help you out but they are not onsite like a hotel. Help in a hotel is usually right downstairs in the lobby. For a vacation rental, the staff is in an office somewhere in town. While vacation rental offices (like ours) will respond to your call 24hrs a day, it might require a longer period of time to arrive than a hotel, based simply on distance. You might want to choose your vacation rental office based on office location, by the way. A remote office will be less capable of helping you than one closer by.

 

Hotel Check in VS Vacation Rental Deposit

Check in for vacation rentalVacation rentals and hotels operate differently regarding check in. Hotels will take your credit card number to secure your reservation and you pay for your room when you arrive. Vacation rentals most often take a deposit at the time of booking and the remainder upon arrival. This is where researching your vacation rental company becomes a good idea. Are they members of BBB? Are there reviews of at least some of their properties? See our blog on vacation rental scams for more information on how you might protect yourself.

 

Hotel Common Spaces VS Vacation Rental Properties

vacation rental with poolHotel and vacation rental grounds differ considerably. A hotel will always have common areas such as the lobby, rec rooms, restaurants, pools, and so on. A vacation home or vacation cottage, on the other hand, will often have yards that are yours to use. Rather than a balcony, many vacation homes will have patios. If you enjoy luxury accommodations and settings, a hotel is probably your style. If you are looking for spaces to call your own, a vacation home or vacation cottage might be the way to go.

 

Noise and Privacy in a Hotel VS a Vacation Rental

vacation rental spacesIt is easy to guess who comes out on top when comparing noise and privacy between hotels and vacation rentals. Despite the numerous pleasures of a hotel, they are meeting places for larger numbers of people than you will encounter at private residences. This is true even with beach vacation condos. The choice here is between a more dynamic hotel atmosphere and the quieter spaces of a vacation rental.

 

Hotel and Vacation Rental Age Requirements

Clearwater BeachThe difference in age requirements between vacation rentals and hotels is slight, but very important. While most hotels will allow 21 and up to book, the age is higher in most vacation rentals. Our requirement is 25 and up. Anyone who has gone to Florida during Spring Break will understand why that rule is in place. We do apologize to our college friends.

 

Hotel Dining VS Vacation Rental Dining

vacation diningMealtime at a vacation rental is a very different affair than at a hotel. Hotels rooms without kitchenettes offer very few options outside of ordering a pizza or going out on the town. At a vacation rental, how you eat your meals is completely up to you. Vacation rental properties will always have some sort of kitchen, even if it is a kitchenette. Vacation homes and vacation condos will usually have full kitchens, just like at home. Leave the pots and pans at home as these kitchens are stocked with at least the standard complement of kitchenware. If you want a kitchen, look for hotels with condo-style suites, or book your vacation in a vacation home, cottage, or condo.

 

Length of Stay at a Hotel VS a Vacation Rental

Clearwater Beach sunsetHotels will accept accommodations for one night while vacation rentals are intended for longer stays. Ordinarily, a vacation rental will limit the minimum stay to seven days, while some condominium associations will hold vacation rentals to one month minimums only. The plus side to this, of course, is that longer-term vacation rentals will often prove to be the better value for per night costs.

 

Other blog posts you might enjoy:

What Is a Beach Villa?

Regatta

How to Prepare for Florida Gulf Coast Beaches

 

 

Florida waterways

Never Confuse a Bayou with a Backwater Again

Need to Know Info for your Florida Vacation

Florida wildflowerPlanning a Florida vacation? You might want to be able to talk to the natives on their own terms. What terms are we talking about? Florida is known for its greenery and flowers. In fact, the word Florida comes from the Spanish word for flowers or flowery. The way Florida gets its lush plants and flowers is from water. Florida has an abundant level of rainfall as well as a good number of rivers, lakes, and inlets from the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. If you want to chat with the local Floridians about the terrain and waterways, here are few words you might want to know.

 

Bayou

Sutherland Bayou, Palm Harbor, FLA slow moving offshoot of a river, lake or other body of water. Often home to volumes of plant life and animals, and having indistinct banks. Often will flow both directions due to ocean tides. You will want to know this word so you don’t accidentally confuse it with the very similar waterway known as a backwater. Nothing puts egg on your face faster than calling some backwater a bayou. And you don’t want to call someone’s bayou a backwater either. Seriously. A bayou will not have much water flow but should take you easily back out to the river or bay to which it is connected. Plenty of them are undeveloped while others have very upscale communities surrounding them.

 

Backwater

Florida backwaterAn out of the way side channel with little flow of water, or an obstructed flow of water. While you might think you’ve found a bayou, you’ll have to look for obstructions, or a lack of water flow that’s cautiously different from the meandering bayou. A general disregard for the waterway in question will also be apparent in the attitude of the locals. Once you realize you are dealing with a backwater, you no longer need to treat the waterway with respect in conversation. Naturally, you might not want to apply that method to anyone you find living on that particular backwater.

 

Watershed

Florida watershedA place for the natural flow of water to go, especially during heavy rains or during the rainy season. They constitute the natural water system leading to lakes, rivers, the ocean, or to below-ground aquifers. Watersheds are maintained by the state to keep water quality high, and to keep the water flowing where it is wanted, rather than collecting in neighborhoods or other developed areas. You can find watersheds marked on local maps in Florida. Many of them overlap with county parks. You might be able to take long walks in the Florida wilds along park trails while within designated watershed areas. If you do so in the rainy season, you will likely find the low-lying areas have filled with water. This might leave favorite walkways in a muddy condition or actually under water.

 

Swamp

Florida swampsA swamp is low, wet, marshy, woodland area. These can be quite interesting places to visit in Florida. Many Florida parks have raised pathways and boardwalks to keep you dry. A walk in a swamp in Florida will surely take you past the beautiful cypress trees, famous for their wide bases, and the knobs they send up from the ground surrounding the trunk. Florida parksWhile you might think you would never want to visit a swamp, the pathways leading through the cypress groves can be quite beautiful. You might even find yourself strolling along a flowery bayou –or maybe even some backwater somewhere.

 

More blogs you might enjoy:

What Is a Causeway?

What Is a Beach Villa?

Florida Springs

 

Movie star hippopotamus

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

What is Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park?

Florida manateeHomosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is home to a variety of animals native to the state of Florida. The park is home to a many rescued animals, along with its other exhibits. The animals are displayed in open areas which make viewing easy. The park walkways wind among tall trees, providing plenty of shade for Gulf Coast’s warmer days. A bayou extends into the park which is frequented by manatees, one of the park’s main attractions. Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park emphasizes natural Florida Manatee at Homosassa Springsand the preservation of native species. It is a worthy stopover on a Gulf Coast vacation, especially for those who want to see manatees, alligators, or other native Florida species. The Homosassa Springs is a great place to spend the afternoon and makes great entertainment for kids.

Where is Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park?

Homosassa Springs boat rideHomosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is located seventy miles north of Clearwater Beach. It is south of Crystal River Preserve State Park and north of Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge. Crystal River, Homosassa Springs, and Chassahowitzka are all located on the coastline known as the Nature Coast of Florida. The park is situated on a bayou branching off from the Halls River. You will find the park in the community of Homosassa Springs off of Hwy 19 (Suncoast Blvd), or by taking the alternate route on Fishbowl Drive, which is a very scenic back road. An old sugar mill is nearby on the Fishbowl Drive route, for those interested in history. Homosassa Springs FloridaBoth parking areas leads to the same entrance but the large parking area off of Hwy 19 includes an informative and beautiful boat ride over to the parking area on Fishbowl Dr. We recommend the boat ride, because it starts at an interesting info center and gift shop. Plus, on your ferry to the park entrance, you can see the natural Florida environment and a good number of native animals living in the wild. The address of Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is 4150 South Suncoast Blvd., Homosassa, FL 34446.

What to See at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Homosassa Springs hippoOur first recommendation for things to do at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is the boat ride to the park entrance. If you miss this ride, you’ve cut out a vital part of the complete experience. You will hear plenty of interesting tidbits from the boat captain as you wind down the slow moving water channel. You might also learn some history, such as the names of famous movies filmed in the area, and about the only non-native animal in the park, Lu the hippopotamus, granted official state citizenship so that he could stay in the park after the end of his Hollywood movie career. You will find gift shops at either end of the boat tour.

Homosassa Springs manateeOnce you enter the park, where you go is up to you. The walkways wind in different directions throughout the park, displaying both native plants and animals. Any walk along the waterway should be done with your eyes alert. You will undoubtedly see manatees swimming in the bayou. Even better is the underwater viewing room where you can see schools of fish and any nearby manatees. Your chances of seeing the large marine mammals is very good, because park rangers feed them at regular intervals from above. You might also find a number of manatees inside of pens on the others side of the waterway, recovering from illness or injury suffered in the wild.

Florida pantherThe park is essentially a zoo, displaying Florida’s native species. You will see just about any bird you can imagine, plus some others. A few of the larger species are egrets, bald eagles, owls, and even turkeys. You can also view of deer, black bears, wolves, cougars, bobcats, alligators, and otters.

While the park has a concession stand, it is also a great place for a picnic. You also won’t want to miss the ice cream stand just past Lu the hippo’s pool. Alligator at Homosassa SpringsThe park makes for a great afternoon on a Florida Gulf Coast vacation and is just over an hour from Clearwater Beach, making it a great outing for the day. If you are going to strike out from the beautiful beaches of the Central Gulf Coast, Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is one of the best attractions out there.

Other blog posts you might like:

Suncoast Primate Sanctuary

Places to See Alligators on the Florida Gulf Coast

Top Theme Parks near Clearwater Beach

Johns Pass

Johns Pass

What is Johns Pass?

John's Pass drawbridgeJohn’s Pass is a fun tourist stop along the waterway known as John’s Pass. According to local history, it was created by a hurricane in the mid 1800’s, when the storm rearranged the shoreline, forming a new opening into the bay. Today the bay is known as Boca Ciega Bay, with John’s Pass serving as a major entrance. On your visit to John’s Pass, you will undoubtedly notice the active drawbridge, allowing taller sailboats into John’s Pass. Fishermen still embark from the shores of the pass and seafood restaurants dot the shoreline. Dolphins swimming in John's PassClose to major barrier island beaches, the undeveloped shores of the pass are lined with mangroves, a plant that is very good at fighting erosion. While you walk along the boardwalks, you will see plenty of seafood shops, mangroves, and passing boats. You might even get to see some of the dolphins that also frequently use John’s Pass to enter and exit Boca Ciega Bay.

 

Where is Johns Pass?

John's Pass mapJohn’s Pass divides the barrier islands that host the cities of Madeira Beach and Treasure Island, Florida, USA. Barrier islands line the coast of Pinellas County, home to Clearwater Beach, St Petersburg, and St Pete Beach, as well as the popular beaches of Honeymoon Island, Caladesi Island, Sand Key, Indian Rocks Beach, Indian Shores, Redington Shores, Redington Beach, and Fort Desoto Park. John’s Pass sits among these famous beaches as a unique feature, being a well-visited attraction despite having no white-sand shoreline. You will find John’s Pass 16 miles south of Clearwater Beach and just 5 miles north of St Pete Beach. It is a fun place to visit and definitely worth the short trip from any of the local beaches. John’s Pass is an entertaining addition to a Gulf Coast beach vacation.

 

What to Do at Johns Pass

John's Pass restaurantJohn’s Pass is a quintessential tourist stop. You will find every type of nautical gift shop you can imagine, loaded with shells, starfish, toys, souvenirs, specialty soaps, t-shirts, dresses, hats, and even pirate costumes.  After you’ve cruised the gift shops, you will definitely want to dine at John’s Pass. The restaurants are one of the main reasons for visiting! Cruise the streets and the boardwalks to find your perfect dining experience. You can dine inside or out, on a pier over the water or down below the boardwalk in a fun and rustic setting. Some of the restaurants are tall enough to provide sweeping views of the area. Keep your eye out for the restaurants south of the drawbridge too! Jet Ski and parasail rentalAfter you have dined, it’s time for some taffy, coffee, or ice cream in one of the many sweets shops. You’re on vacation after all, right? Lastly, you will want to take advantage of the rentals and cruises at the docks. You can take a dolphin sighting tour or a cruise on a fun pirate ship. If that’s too slow for you, then rent one of the powerboats or jet skis. Fishing charters also cast off from the docks, so you might want to try them too. Whatever you like on a fun filled vacation, you will find some fun memories at the docks of John’s Pass.

Souvenir shop John's Pass

John’s Pass souvenir shops

Shops at John's Pass

John’s Pass restaurants

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other blogs you might like:

Treasure Island Kite Festival 2014

Hurricane Pass Tidal Currents

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

 

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

 

 

Clearwater Marina

Fishing Charter Hotspots on the Florida Gulf Coast

Fishing the Gulf of Mexico

Gulf shores fishing

Dunedin Causeway, Florida

Fishing the Gulf of Mexico is lots of fun. While this blog is about charters, be aware that you can also fish from beaches, piers, causeways, and other great locations. Wading into the coastal waterways is popular, especially in Clearwater Harbor or St. Joseph Sound. Our coasts are very shallow, so you can wade out a surprising distance. If you take a drive down the coastal roads of Clearwater and Dunedin, you will spot fishermen wading far out into the harbor. However, the shallow waters are home to certain types of fish, while the deeper waters off the coast are home to completely different varieties. That is why fishing charters on the Central Gulf Coast are so popular.

 

Find Fishing Charters on the Central Gulf Coast of Florida

Fishing Gulf of MexicoFinding a fishing charter near Clearwater Beach is not difficult. In fact, you will find fishing charters on the Central Gulf Coast are plentiful. A walk down the docks of Clearwater Marina will light up the eyes of anyone who likes deep sea fishing. You have the choice of small private charters or very large fishing vessels.

Map of Florida Gulf CoastYou will also find a lineup of fishing charters at the Dunedin docks, just north of Clearwater on the coastal road. If you are closer to the southern beaches of St Pete Beach, Treasure Island, Madeira Beach, or the Redington Shores area, you will find fishing charters along the intra-coastal waterway, or at the popular tourist docks of John’s Pass.

Prices will vary, usually related to the size of the boat or the quality of the charter. Some are simple fishing trips. Others include perks like a cooler of beer and snacks. The charters usually run from 4  to 8 hours. The minimum of 4 hours is necessary because of how far out your captain will have to go in order to reach deep waters.

 

Best Fish of the Central Gulf Coast of Florida

Clearwater Marina fishing charter

Clearwater Beach Marina

The Gulf of Mexico has some delicious fish, and the Central Gulf Coast of Florida is no exception. Topping the list of yummy Gulf Coast fish are flounder, grunts, Spanish mackerel, dog fish, and grouper. (If you catch a black grouper, make sure that’s the one you cook up!) The recipe you use is up to you, but if you don’t feel like cooking fish on vacation, that’s ok. Many of the local restaurants will cook your fish for you! That’s right, the local cooks will take your fish and serve it up restaurant style. It’s a great way to go, and it makes for some fond Florida Gulf Coast vacation memories too.

Fishing the Gulf of Mexico

Gulf Coast Sand Bar Hangouts

Understanding Florida Gulf Coast Weather