Monday, January 4, 2016

Pensacola Beach- Fort Pickens

The holidays took us back home to the Panhandle. Although I hate that it was 75 degrees in December there, it sure beats the 85 we had here. We weren't in town long (and visiting family for holidays) so we only went out into town once.

We stopped at a lake on the way.

Coming from Pensacola, there's a park next to Three-Mile Bridge. I've seen the park a ton, but never stopped there. A few people were fishing and jogging on the trail. There were fishing stations set up so I'm assuming it's a regular spot. As luck would have it, the whole trip was rainy/foggy. It was neat to see the bridge disappear into the fog though.

Pensacola Bay Bridge

Blurry pic from a moving vehicle :)

We crossed over the bridge, through Gulf Breeze, and to the beach. It's $1 per vehicle to get onto the beach area (parking, restaurants, bars, houses, hotels, etc).

Fun Fact- It used to be $0.50/axle (as in $1 per average vehicle), but people didn't know how many axles a car has and it caused confusion; especially with the gate having a basket for coins instead of a person taking tolls. Now the sign states $1 for cars and there's a person to take your money (which also stopped the clogging up of the basket with random plastic and whatnot).  
Pensacola Beach is laid-back, not overly crowded with businesses, and has white, powdery sand. With the rainy weather causing choppy water and undertow, the red flag was flying and the only people in the water were a few surfers. 

The fort is down the road from the main beach area. There's a spot to pull off the road for a few minutes before you get the entrance gate. 

Fort Pickens has a $15 entrance fee per vehicle. This gets you a pass for 7 days. If we lived in the area, I would have just gone for the $30 annual pass. 
There are trails, camping, and historic sites within the park. For park information, including tours and history, look into the National Park Service page. I was told that the road leading in was recently flooded so no traffic was permitted until it cleared.
The fort itself is at the end of the road. Along the way, we stopped at Battery Langdon and Battery Worth.

View from the top of Battery Langdon

We did the self-guided tour through Fort Pickens. There were numbers corresponding to the brochure that told you how that section was used during the time. 

 It would be fun to ride bikes on the trail and stop at the batteries/sites or to camp on the beach. 

Our video shows a little more detail on what we saw there. It was a good visit despite the weather.

Friday, December 18, 2015

St. Pete, Santa Fun Run, Light Up Clermont, Waterfront Park

We have a new camera! 
But (of course!)... I had issues transferring and changing the file type of the pictures. But now I have a new computer and appropriate software to do this! (Thanks, babe! And Merry Christmas!)

That means that this post will be the last month little while all in one :) 

St. Petersburg
Vinoy Park

On the coastal side of Tampa is the calmer scene of St. Petersburg. It has an eclectic mix of people and homes. Professional, yet laid-back, with plenty of outdoor events and spots to entertain. 

We went to Vinoy Park in downtown St. Pete. They hold events here occasionally, but this day was quiet (and sunny!). We took a video that -almost- shows how pretty it is there.


Light Up Clermont 2015

We braved the traffic (small towns have traffic too!) on a Friday night to attend the local Light Up event downtown. The trees that along the streets were decorated with lights and a large tree sat in the center of it all. There were a lot of vendors, booths of local businesses, food trucks, and music.

Santa Fun Run 2015
The South Lake Rotary Club hosted the Santa Fun Run in Clermont this year. It was a 10k/5k/1k open to anyone interested. It benefited the Greater Clermont Cancer Foundation and  Rotary scholarships. It was great seeing the kids so excited.

Waterfront Park
That night, we headed back to the park for the sunset. It was a calm Saturday evening. The colors in the sky were a beautiful mix of blue, pink, white, yellow, and orange. 

This is the video we did of Waterfront Park on the Friday after Thanksgiving (I'd much rather hang out here than shopping on Black Friday). 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Villages

On Saturday, we made the hour drive north to The Villages to visit the beautiful home of friends moving down from the Panhandle. 
When driving into the community, there is an obvious old-school charm. Roundabouts lead through the landscaped drive with side roads (for golf carts) flanking the way. 

It was raining when we arrived so we stayed inside and caught up. Shortly after, they showed us the pool area and lake within their neighborhood. 

Then we headed over to the Eisenhower Recreation Center, which has a museum quality with military memorabilia from the era.  The center also houses rooms for residents' clubs, including various art mediums and special interests.

The restaurant we were going to for dinner (City Fire) is located in the Brownwood Square, which has an old-time, country feel. All of the squares in The Villages have different themes and provide live music/entertainment seven days a week.  We had a delicious dinner, saw part of the show, and continued on to Lake Sumter Square. This one had different shopping and restaurant options, as well as entertainment. The theme is seaside, complete with a long boardwalk. By this time, it was dark, but still a lovely walk along the water. We completed our evening with coffee. 
Good company and good times.

All in all, The Villages was definitely designed well with a lot of thought for its residents. I can see the appeal in retiring here (or visiting in the meantime). 

Friday, November 6, 2015

Sunday on the Farm

There's plenty of countryside between the coasts of Florida.  
On Sunday, we were invited to spend some time at a friend's farm. 

This guy! 
Apparently, miniature donkeys love scratches by the ears. And he was kind enough to take us on a short cart stroll. 

It was great to see the personalities of so many different animals. From a feisty cat that loves to play, a dog that loves lights/shadows, to a pig that loves grapes (who doesn't, right?). 
While waiting for the horses to get ready, we got to hang out with the locals.

After the horses were groomed and warmed up, we watched her practice jumps (insert proper, technical name here). Afterward, they got all the animals tucked in and ready for the night and we headed to their house for dinner. 

 A quiet evening, sun going down, and friendly (furry) faces. Not a bad Sunday!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Salt Water Fishing- Gulf of Mexico

Lately, the morning temps have been awesome. Actually, we've pretty much stayed in the high 80's all day (yay, winter!).

So, the guys made a Saturday morning trip out on the Gulf to see what they could catch.

A baby one, but still counts. 

And, of course, a variety of fish.

From jellyfish to a few small sharks, it was a good day to be on Florida waters. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sebastian Inlet State Park

There are so many parks in Florida and they're well-worth the few dollars (some even free!). We trekked the two hours over to Sebastian Inlet on Saturday morning and it was a great day. This one was $8 (2-8 person vehicle) for us, but it's nice to have access to an undisturbed beach.  And this park is actually open 24 hours/365 days a year! You can star gaze, swim, camp, fish, boat, kayak, bike, hike, and grill, among other things.

Tidal Cove
When we arrived, a little after 8 AM, it wasn't too busy. There were quite a few fishermen, but the beach/cove side was nearly empty, possibly because our mornings (and the water) have been chilly. There were a lot of picnic tables right on the sand and plenty of trash cans accessible. It was fun just watching the birds dive into the water. It's also supposed to be a hot-spot for manatees (and sometimes sharks!), but we didn't see any this time. 

We started out at the North Jetty, which is by the pier, Tidal Cove, Atlantic beach, and a restaurant. The sand looks like thousands of crushed shells, more grainy than the powdery sand on the Gulf. It had a pretty shimmer to it in the sun.

We drove over the bridge to the South Jetty (free re-entry with receipt). This side houses the campground, restrooms, pavilions, boat ramp, and playground. There's also a fishing museum and some water access to the Indian River.

When leaving, we headed north on A1A, along Melbourne Beach. We stopped at Publix for subs (yum!) and to nearby Juan Ponce de León Landing.  We sat in the shade of the boardwalk and had a picnic on the sand.

We made it home that afternoon. I really enjoyed Sebastian Inlet and the area around it. If we lived closer, I could see us going to some events there or star gazing on the beach.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Madeira Beach

Our last-minute Saturday afternoon plans took us to Madeira Beach.
It's a small beach town on the Gulf near St. Petersburg. It somewhat reminded me of Ormond Beach, being laid-back, without huge buildings packed together.  Mostly hotels lined the street, but we found a public parking spot nestled in between ($2/hour). I'm not sure if it's because it was late afternoon, the time of year, or the area, but it wasn't crowded. We stayed for a couple hours to catch the sunset.

October 10, 2015
Madeira Beach, Florida

If you didn't watch the video, you missed the dolphins! From the beach, we could see a couple jumping near the boat. After reviewing the video, we learned it was actually about seven or so. I was told that this isn't uncommon. 

The sun was starting to go down and we set the camera to time-lapse it.  It's amazing to watch the sunset from a beach shore. The weather was perfect and it turned out to be a great spot. 

After sunset, we went to The Mad Beach Fish House right across the street. We sat outside (upstairs deck) and listened to the live musician. The food tasted fresh/homemade and the price was an excellent value in regard to portion size and it being seafood fare. 

As we were leaving, most of the town seemed to have closed up shop for the night. If you're wanting a relaxing beach day followed by some nightlife, you may have to make the drive to St. Pete or Tampa. Check out The Riverwalk while you're there!