Monday, December 26, 2011

Beach hopping - Siesta Key to Punta Gorda

Three days since a post! Three days! 

Well - we have been at the beach - a little bit of village stuff but mostly just hanging around in the sand and water. This is a tough post - lots of pictures to sift through and lots to talk about. 

I will just stick to the basics I guess.

We spent Saturday - Christmas Eve day along Siesta Key - just south of Sarasota down to Venice. We passed by the Siesta Key Beach parking lot because it was a bit small and opted instead for Turtle Beach. We were there early and so had a good spot to park. 

Before that, we spent the first part of the morning in Siesta Key Village in desperate need of some beach gear. We found it at one of those big beach shops with tons of stuff - you know the kind!

We did well though with our mats and umbrella - we of course needed some more sun tan lotion - Derek HAD to have a new cap - but why get one when you can get 2 for $10! Postcards were a must as was Cassia's Florida snow globe! WoW! 

Note to selves - stay out of the tourist shops! 

After a quick stop for coffee at Lelu and we were on our way.

A very beautiful Hibiscus outside the coffee shop.

Later in the afternoon we headed south again deciding to check out Caspersen beach where we were thinking of spending Christmas Day. We got there just before sunset and so took a stroll knowing that Walmart wasn't far.

We decided to stay for the sunset. It was well worth it! Right?

Cassia enjoying the sunset also.

A mermaid crafted by two young girls.

We spent Sunday - Christmas Day at Caspersen Beach just a short drive from our overnight stay at the Walmart in Venice. We were there bright and early to claim our spot in the relatively small parking lot. Nice because we could do the beach but come back for meals and sleep time - we stayed until after sunset.

Caspersen is known for shark teeth. I was talking to a couple from Georgia who were quite successful at finding them but it looked like it was a full time job for them. Later in the day a lady gave one to Cassia - so we have our very own Caspersen shark tooth - which are black by the way - as is much of the sand when you look real close.

A RARE straight on photo - albeit a bit fuzzy.

Cassia likes to play and stand in abandoned holes.

Monday morning we bid our Venice Walmart good bye on our way south. We were able to steath camp here for two nights - it was nice and quiet closed for Christmas. To our surprise this morning as we were leaving we saw the 'NO OVERNIGHT RV PARKING' - we couldn't believe it! We hadn't seen the sign the previous two nights - phewwww. So probably don't add this Walmart to your list of places to overnight - we were obviously really lucky! 

We headed south on the 776 deciding on the way to go right to Boca Grande since it was still early. Boca Grande is also listed in my little touring book.

"Located on Gasparilla Island, Boca Grande is known for its charming authentic downtown, sugar white beaches, blue water and world class fishing. There are no gas stations in the village, so many local residents use golf carts as their main mode of transportation."

Well - Boca Grande was OK but to us they are a bit generous with their praise. First, it cost us $14 just to get on the island. Once on you drive the entire island - about 3 miles to get to the downtown. Authentic wouldn't be my choice of words - we drove around - but it didn't entice us enough to actually park and get out of the truck. We carried on towards the beach. By the end of the island we realized that we had no choice but to pay to park at a public beach - yes it is only $3 but the day was starting to add up.

The water is blue but we have seen far whiter beaches. 

To us Boca Grande wasn't worth the price - be forewarned! 

A hundred or more Pelicans out there.

Lots of boats going back and forth.

The Boca Grande Lighthouse.

By three or so we were done and headed to Punta Gorda our next destination. We had read about the Fisherman's Village and were hoping to purchase some seafood. Upon arriving we realized that it isn't the quaint little quay we have been looking for - instead a high priced marina. Instead we drove over to the Laishley Park Municipal Marina. After a stroll we decided to treat ourselves to a crab dinner at the Laishley Crab House - seemingly the most popular place around.

View of the marina and sunset from the restaurant on the second floor.

Local Blue Grab - they were yummy but a lot of work.....

for the crabber girl who shucked them all for us. Darn we missed her name. Thank goodness for her or we would have been there all night.

After dinner a second walk around the park.

So - that's it for me! Tonight we are attempting to stealth camp at the Punta Gorda Chamber of Commerce. We were going to head to the truck stop on the interstate but thought we would try this parking lot first. At least we will have a place to go if we get bounced from here.

Tomorrow we take on Ft. Myers, Ft. Myers Beach and Naples. We are planning on staying at the Collier Seminole State Park tomorrow night and then it is on to the Everglades!

Thanks for visiting!


Today's Interesting Link: Here is the link to the Thomas Edison and Henry Ford's Winter Estates in Fort Myers. I remember going to Edison's place back when we came to Ft. Myers Beach when I was Cassia's age. I doubt we'll stop in this time but take a look yourself.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Beach Bums

Well - we have found something all three of us are really good at - being beach bums! 

We spent today at the beach!

Our morning started early since we knew we wanted to get a lot done today AND we were headed to the beach - finally! We were on the road by 8:30 which is really early for us!

Unfortunately we had to go onto the Interstate and it was crazy! But we survived and were happy to see exit 250 - our off ramp which would take us to the 41.

The 41 was a nice easy ride to Bradenton where we turned right on the 64 taking us to Anna Maria Island. 

When we got there we weren't sure where to go. We passed a beach but kept going and stopped at the Visitor Info - which was CLOSED. I checked the large map on display and we decided to go back to the beach. So - we really didn't see the Island.

We spent about 1 1/2 hours at the Manatee Public Beach and really enjoyed ourselves - you should have seen Cassia! 

We weren't there a 1/2 hour and were treated with a dolphin sighting! WOW!

The picture of the dolphin - nope didn't get it!

Cassia has found her place - she didn't need any encouragement from us to play, swim and run.

Since it was lunch time and we knew that there were more beaches we packed up and moved on down the 789. We didn't get far since we found a new beach which looked much less crowded and had a sign for RV parking.

Now this was the spot - Coquina Beach. A pullout with picnic tables, grass and lots of shade for the animals. PLUS - we could walk to the beach which was even nicer with less people! We realized that the other beach was THE BEACH.

Derek having fun in the water.

Cassia and Derek having fun in the water.

So - it was a day of doing it all - we walked the beach, we played in the sand, and we played in the water. It was a hot day and all of our skins are feeling it tonight!

I do feel for all of our friends over in the west where it is a bit cooler right now! We know all about that after a cold and windy winter in Arizona and California last year. That is one of the reasons why we came this way this year - chasing the sun.

Back to the beach tomorrow. We were going to head to a State Park for a few nights down the 41 but we love the area so much we are attempting to boondock in the Sarasota Home Depot tonight - wish us luck. We are so desperate we are willing to hear 'that knock'. 

I do believe that sand is going to be a constant for the next little while - doesn't it just get everywhere!

Thanks for visiting!


Today's Interesting Link: We are here in Sarasota Florida! We drove around a bit looking first for the Sam's Club and now the Home Depot. Sam's Club had no overnight signs so we had to move on. It is a nice looking town - very clean. It even seems to have an Amish District as we passed and Amish market and restaurant and saw several on the sidewalks bicycling. We may go back to try the restaurant - IF we can find it back.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Backroad Florida

In keeping with our plan to stay OFF Interstate 75 - hopefully for the entire time we are in Florida - I poured over our maps last night to navigate our path south.

It took us a good hour or so down the road to get over leaving Micanopy - this little town has set a very high bar upon which all other places in Florida will be held against! 

We were actually able to get all the way to where we are now - probably more then 100 miles or so down the road without going on the Interstate once. Instead we used the 441 to the 27/301 to the 301 which took us all the way to Zephyrhills. A quick trip on the 54 and we are BESIDE the Interstate at a Sam's Club for the night.

For such a long travel day we have very few pictures. Leaving this morning our destination was Dade City. It is another stop listed in my handy book describing a quaint downtown with shops and cafes. 

Sadly, when we drove into downtown Dade City we were disappointed. If we hadn't been to all the lovely downtowns that we have posted it may have stood a chance to get us to stop - but not today. 

We continued on our way.

The only stop today was at the Sparkman's Fruit Stand just north of Dade City. All day we had been passing fruit trucks and fruit stands but most were small, came up quickly, and without a large parking area. Sparkman's just seemed to lure us in and so we stopped to shop and have some lunch.

I had a major nostalgic moment at Sparkman's!

When I was Cassia's age we lived in Toronto and we came down to Florida in the winters. Now, since I was so young I only have a few memories. 

When I walked into Sparkman's they flashed before me - I think it was the shell display that did it and all the orange and coconut stuff. 

As the Owner said - Sparkman's is 'old Florida' - I knew what she meant - she is so right!

We happily sampled the oranges and took some with us - in addition to fresh squeezed orange juice, Plant City grown strawberries and two boxes of coconut patties - orange and key lime flavoured! 

Cassia sampling the oranges - to busy to look at the camera.

Mom's persistence was rewarded!

Shells on display - can't wait to search for our own.

As were leaving the little coloured shells caught Cassia's eye. Derek went back with her to buy a handful and the Owner was nice enough to give them to Cassia for Christmas. So nice! 

I had decided that tomorrow's destination would be Ybor City - Tampa's Cuban District - it sounds great. However, I can't really expect our driver to take on Tampa - it together with the Interstate would be stomach turning for sure.

Instead, we will bypass Tampa down to Bradenton and go in search of Anna Maria Island! It will be our first time to the beach! 

Thanks for visiting!


Today's Interesting Link: Anna Maria Island - this is where we plan on spending tomorrow. LOOK at that beach! wow and with temps in the low 80's it should be a great day! I see a free trolley on the site!

Micanopy, Florida

Micanopy, Micanopy, Micanopy - how we love thee! 

We are totally smitten with a little gem of a town called Micanopy here in northern Florida. So much so that we could almost just stay here and say forget about the rest of Florida - nothing could be better then here! Only 1 mile from the Interstate.

Our NEW most favourite place! I know, I know you have heard that before - a few times right? - but this time it is the complete truth.

Leaving Ocean Pond Campground we hit some backroads in order to get ourselves back on the interstate without returning to Lake City. A beautifully quiet drive through well mainly trees. It only took the 20 miles or so of the six lane interstate 75 for us to realize that that crazy road is NOT for us!

Thankfully I had read in one of the only really useful books I picked up at the Welcome Center about Micanopy

The little book read "Micanopy - A Jewel of a Town. Experience the oldest inland Florida settlement and delight in Micanopy's tradition of charm and Southern hospitality. The town is brimming with friendly people, cafes and unique shops filled with antiques, collectibles, folk art and decorative fare."

It sounded like our kind of place.

And although all that is true - no words can describe this little gem of a place and do it justice. 


We started with lunch at the Old Florida Cafe - how could we not have our first 'Cuban' sandwich especially since the price was right at $5.95 each and they were a really good size. We enjoyed them out on the patio and had a nice conversation with a couple, the fellow used to live in Micanopy.

Cassia working on a really large piece of the Cuban.

Once lunch was over we headed out to take a stroll. Now, downtown Micanopy isn't big - just one street lined both sides with nicely restored buildings. And - it is mostly antiques. No matter - we were just soaking up the ambiance. You see the pace is slow here - like a place that time has forgotten. People are mulling about - there are seemingly few cars around - it is a cool, hip, and funky.

We eventually came upon The Shop. Now the outside of The Shop reveals nothing about the true magnificence that is held between it's walls. I do realize that I have gone on about other shops in previous posts - and I did mean all the things I said.

BUT - The Shop - is the most beautiful shop I have EVER been in! At the moment - the most beautiful Christmas shop I have ever been in. I could have taken fifty or more pictures of all the vignettes that have been created in this store that goes from one amazing room to the other!

It must truly be a labour of love for Owner Marlene and her employee!

The beautifully decorated upside down tree greets you as you first walk in.

Pink! Perfect for my sister and her husband! 

We seem to find all the rocking chairs on this trip - Cassia won't go by one now with out a trial ride.

One of the places our handy little book mentioned about Micanopy was the Mosswood Farm Store. As we strolled along the main street we easily found it up ahead. It was about the same time that we noticed the playground! Yikes!

The three of us headed into the Store but soon Derek was on his own as Cassia and I headed over to the playground. There were a few older kids around but Cassia was on a mission and headed straight up to give the slide a run. This is the kind of slide that almost shoots the kids down and out. I have been working on teaching Cassia to slow herself down but she was having way to much fun landing full out on the nice white sand.

Cassia only went on this super fast slide a few times - the rest of the time she was trying to become one with the sand - I think she likes it! Boy - she doesn't know what is ahead with all the beaches.

The Micanopy Museum - we didn't venture in but it sure is a great old building to look at.

As we headed back to the truck we knew that our time here was short since we had to get to Ocala to spend the night at Walmart (we were going to give a Florida Walmart a try). 

Maybe we could park here for the night Derek says.....

We asked the lady in the store that we were parked in front of. She directed us over to the store across the street. I wandered in to talk with Cheryl of the Micanopy Canopy Connection to see what she thought. Cheryl figured it would be fine since it is such a sleepy little place - which is what we were thinking. Well that was enough incentive for us and so we stayed.

Billy and Duncan - two new friends. Billy lives in Florida, Duncan in Boston. Duncan was nice enough to take some pictures of us with his impressive camera and is going to email them to us.

While I was working on dinner, Cassia and Derek wondered over to the musicians they saw in the gazebo. There they found Billy and Duncan with Billy playing his recently purchased ukulele. It only took mentioning to Derek that is was a good instrument to learn strings on that Derek was pining for his own ukulele. 

After a peaceful sleep in downtown Micanopy we headed first thing to Leonardo's the ukulele seller. And thus Derek (and Cassia's) musical career begins!

Ahhhhh - Micanopy - how we love thee!

We were sad to leave this town and our new friends - we have promised them and ourselves to return. We are so serious we are going to consider renting a place there next winter so that we can become Micanopians! 

Thanks for visiting!


Today's Interesting Link: Well, since we are here in Florida I should link the Florida website in case you want to plan your own trip to this beautiful and really warm (right now) State. We have yet to see a beach but are really enjoying the central section filled with trees, rolling hills, agriculture and cattle/horse ranches.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...