December 22, 2014

Welcome to Florida's Winter Wonderland

It's not news that people love to visit Florida. They come here for the warm weather, the beaches and the theme parks, but did you know that winter is the perfect time to visit Florida's natural areas? Besides getting a break form the heat, it's a reprieve from the bloodsuckers. No, not your boss, the IRS or your lender, although you may consider that to be true as well, I'm talking about mosquitos and no-see-ums. Every Floridian can relate to this metaphor, "If you don't think a small thing can make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito." The good news is at 50 degrees, the tiny evil creatures shut down for the winter.
Fireside chats can go on to nearly dawn

Given the absence of the usual discomforts, suddenly hiking, biking, kayaking, canoeing and camping are a lot more enticing. Gathering around a campfire and counting stars, once again, become romantic notions, rather than insane ones. It is absolutely the best time for visiting Florida's wonderful natural areas. Although, you will want to bring a long sleeve shirt and a hat, because the sun burns as bright as ever. Ask yourself, When was the last time you made S'mores, went hiking, sat around a bonfire, or gazed at a million stars in a clear night sky?
Here are some great places for getting back out. The Florida Everglades and the Florida Keys parks, such as, John Pennekamp State Park, are obvious choices, but there are plenty of wonderful, less than obvious places for your consideration. Here are a few of my recommendations. Cayo Costa State Park, just north of Sanibel and Captiva islands, is accessible by boat or small plane. It is a beautiful, serene island park with camping, cabins and plenty of water activities. Alafia River State Parknear Tampais known for mountain biking trails. Sebastian Inlet State Park, south of Melbourne, although a little chilly in winter, is popular for surfing, beach cast fishing and treasure hunting (a 1715 Spanish fleet wrecked just offshore). Myakka River State Park, near Sarasota has 12 miles of river flowing through it and 15 miles of horse trails. Dry Tortugas camping is a bit more challenging due to its location, but more than worth the trip. Almost 70 miles (113 km) west of Key West, it is accessible via Key West Ferry or your own boat. A 10-site, primitive campground is located on Garden Key, the same island as Fort Jefferson, and is a short walk from the public dock. Nothing beats the view from here and you can explore the 19th Century Fort and snorkel crystal clear waters. An unforgettable experience. All of these parks have camping areas. My last recommendation is not a park but a journey; a Peace River canoe camping trip. It's an experience your family will always remember. There are exceptional guides and group outings available, so all you need worry about is having fun.
January - North Captiva Island / Cayo Costa State Park

No comments: