Florida Places

Myakka River State Park

The Florida state park system is vast. You can enjoy beautiful scenery and a plethora of wild animals as well as beautiful lakes and Gulf beaches throughout the Florida parks.

The Myakka River State Park does not disappoint. Myakka River, Florida’s first state-designated wild and scenic river, flows through a vast expanse of wetlands, prairies, hammocks, and pinelands that make up Myakka River State Park. Boating, fishing, canoeing and kayaking are popular activities on the water while hikers and bicyclists explore miles of trails and backroads.

Among the already mentioned features, the Myakka River State Park includes a Canopy Walk. You can walk across a bridge suspended in the trees. At the end of the canopy walk is a lookout tower. From the top you can view the horizon above the tree line for miles in any direction. Below is a 360 video where you can experience a fully immersive experience of walking across the Canopy Walk. Hit play and use your mouse or turn your phone to be a part of the canopy walk experience.

The opportunity to see wildlife while at the park is always present. Alligators are plentiful. Although you may have to look harder during the wet season. One of the best places to observe gators is at the Deep Hole. The park limits the number of people who can visit the Deep Hole every day. If this is your objective, you will have to get to the park early. The park opens at 8am. The ranger stated the permits to the Deep Hole are usually gone by 8:10. It is a 2.2 mile hike into the area.

We rented kayaks. We were able to see plenty of alligators from our kayaks. Kayak and canoe rental is $20 for the first hour and $5 per hour after that. The people at the rental place were awesome and very liberal with our time in the kayaks.

Myakka River State Park is also popular with bird watchers. Myakka’s 37,000-plus acres provide wonderful habitat for wading birds, raptors, songbirds, migratory birds, and ducks. Whether you are a professional or amateur, you won’t be disappointed. 

There is plenty of camping at the park.

The park features three campgrounds with 90 campsites. Each site is equipped with 50-amp electrical service, water, a fire ring and picnic table. The sites in Palmetto Ridge also have sewer hook-ups. A dump station is located near Old Prairie Campground. Laundry facilities are available to all campers in Old Prairie and Palmetto Ridge campgrounds. All campsites are located within 40 yards of restroom facilities with hot showers.

There are six primitive campgrounds (Mossy Hammock, Bee Island, Honore, Panther Point, Oak Grove and Prairie) located along the hiking trails for backpackers. These rustic settings provide campers with a fire pit and post to hang items. Each campground has three campsites, and a maximum of four people may be on each site. Only Bee Island, Oak Grove and Prairie have water pumps. Water at these sites is not potable; it requires boiling/chemical treatment. Other sites do not have water; you must bring your own. The terrain is primarily prairie, and dehydration is possible even on the coolest days. 


Paw Park Beach, Venice, Florida

If you want a great day on the beach with your best friend? I highly recommend Paw Park Beach just a few hundred yards South of Sharky’s On the Pier.

You will park at Brohard Paw Park where they have a nice fenced in facility for dogs. One fenced area is for small dogs and the other for large dogs. To get to the dog beach, just walk through the fenced in dog park, down a short path and over the boardwalk.

There is limited parking in front of the Brohard Paw Park, but there is plenty of parking right next to the park. They have a nice little doggie showering area and water available in the fenced in dog park area. When on the beach, you will want to bring your own water.

Mango, our Great Dane enjoyed playing in the water and playing with other dogs. This beach is a beach where dogs are suppose to be on a leash. Many of the dogs were on a leash, and the dogs off leash were very well behaved with very responsible and nice owners. People were friendly as we all shared time with our dogs.

If you like sharks teeth, you can do a little hunting for them while your pup plays. My wife, Carrie, enjoyed a day finding shark’s teeth and shells.

Our day at Paw Park Beach was wonderful. We had surf, sun and sand. We met nice people and nice dogs. We even got to do some shelling and shark teeth hunting.

If you find yourself at Paw Park Beach and see Mango the Great Dane, stop and say hi. #mangothegreatdane

The Dance Of The Sandhill Crane

We live in Hernando County, Florida. Interesting wildlife is always a short drive away. Today we didn’t have to take a short drive. All we had to do was look out our back window where we were lucky enough to have a pair of sandhill cranes walk past our house.

As we watched them, all of a sudden one started to dance. As soon as the dance began, I ran and got my camera. I was lucky enough to get outside to catch some of the dance on film, well digital film, so to speak.

Sandhill cranes mate for life. Their bond lasts until one of the mates passes away at which time the surviving mate seeks a new mate. During the mating season, sandhill cranes perform dancing displays, which is most likely what I was privy to seeing on this occasion. Dancing is common in the breeding season, but sandhill cranes can dance all year long. Their dancing involves bowing, jumping and wing flapping, all of which I caught during this photo session.

Browse through my photo gallery and experience the “Dance of the Sandhill Crane.”

Enter Mango The Florida Great Dane And New Florida Adventurer

When we purchased our Florida home, we were excited to bring our beautiful Great Dane Roxy with us to the sunshine state. Sadly, Roxy passed away a year ago in January of Osteosarcoma. It was a tough loss and we think about her every day.

Memorial to Roxy

We now have been in Florida since late July. We have taken many adventures, but miss having a dog. Carrie started surfing various dane sites. We have considered many options. Last week she came across a few danes up for adoption that live near us. Long story short, we found an eleven week old blue brindle dane that lives a little more than hour from us. We contacted the breeder and then had to wait.

The breeder replied. We filled out the breeder’s application. We were accepted!

Mango found a stick.

We took a ride on Sunday to meet this new dane who has been christened Mango. When we arrived this puppy was let out the door. Her big paws were flopping as she tried to run over the leaves and grass. Her marking is called brindle. She is a blue brindle to be exact. Her eyes are a green and her fur is like a loose coat ready to be grown into.

Mango comes to our home on February 3rd, 2021. We missed our walks with Roxy. Now we can take our walks with Mango. When food drops on the floor, we no longer have to get a broom. Mango will be our vacuum. We will be back to warm snuggles on the couch as we watch tv in the evenings and comforting dog snores as we sleep at night.

Most of all, we look forward to new adventures in Florida with Mango.

Shelling on Anclote Key Preserve State Park

Just off the shores of Tarpon Springs is a barrier island known as Anclote Key. It is an amazing place to find some great shells. The island is also only accessible by boat.

Anclote Key Preserve State Park is Florida State Park and historical site located 3 miles off Tarpon Springs. The park does allow for camping on the north end of the island as well as picnic pavilions and grills. Wildlife includes various birds and sea life. The island is host to a picturesque lighthouse.

As far as shelling goes, Anclote Key is a nice site to find shells and sponges. Sponges are sparse in most places we go shelling, but the Tarpon Springs sponge docks are world famous with the title of the Sponge Capital of the World. As the tides roll in and out, Anclote Key becomes a resting place for many of the sponges the sea chooses to relinquish.

Shelling on the island was good. We went with a charter called Odyssey Cruises. They were one of the most affordable shelling cruises we have been on. They do pack the boat full and if you are reading this while the pandemic is still going on, not everyone will be wearing masks. The trip is a 2 and 1/2 hour trip which is barely enough time. Check the low tide charts and try to book during a low tide cruise for optimal shelling. The run back to back cruises. They are a business and quantity is what they are going for.

Two of our shells from the tour.

When my wife goes on these trips, I do look for shells, but am more interested in photography. The photography opportunities are plentiful. On this trip I found a beautiful sea star, a juvenile Herring Gull and an American Oystercatcher.

We are looking forward to heading back to Anclote Key. Any friends with a boat up for an all day excursion?

Northern Flicker

One of the neat things about being in Florida is the wide variety of birds and animals that are out our backdoor. I mean that in a literal sense. The other day I looked out our back window and saw this bird I have never saw before. I quickly got my camera and got a few rudimentary shots before the bird flew away. With a little research I discovered this is a Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

This photo appears to be a male Yellow Shafted Northern Flicker. The northern flicker is a woodpecker.  Often seen feeding on the ground in lawns, where they eat lots of ants and worms. The flicker is the only woodpecker in North American that commonly finds food on the ground. Apparently this guy was having a feast in my neighbor’s backyard the day he came to visit.

Unlike other woodpeckers, flickers typically migrate south when inclement weather arrives. In the spring the northern flicker establishes its own nesting territory. The do this by drumming on trees and any other object which makes noise as a way of warning others to stay away.

Northern Flicker

Circle B Bar Reserve 12.28.2020

The Circle B Bar Reserve is an amazing place where one can experience a wide variety of wildlife. The grounds host miles of walking trails through woodlands and marsh areas. Here are some photos and a short video of a male Anhinga eating a fish.

Anhingas always stab their fish to catch them. They are very skilled at removing the fish from their bill. They will lower the fish and then whip their head upward to fling and dislodge the fish from their bill. The fish flies directly upward, and then when the fish descends, the anhinga catches it in its mouth. If the toss is not perfect, the anhinga will bat the fish up into the air until the fish is in the right position.

Male Anhinga Swallowing a Fish.

Below is a photo gallery of the birds, reptiles and animals we viewed on our visit to the Circle B today.

Make sure to follow me to see future photos and videos of my Florida activities.

Alligators At Lake Apopka 12.12.2020

Lake Apopka is a wildlife wonder. The drive through experience will offer you a chance to view birds and alligators. The drive will take you a minimum of an hour and a half to complete. The experience can easily take a half of a day to complete. Bring food and water. Please bring out all wrappers and bottles you bring in.

Various other walking trails available to visitors offer the experience of seeing other wild animals. Here are photos of the alligators we saw on our visit this day.

Fort DeSoto 12.24.2020

Fort DeSoto is a great place to see a wide variety of birds. Here is the photo gallery from our visit to Fort DeSoto on Christmas Eve.

Funny story from when we were heading home. We stopped at Publix and bought a roast chicken. We grabbed some napkins and plastic forks and knives. We sat in the car in the Publix parking lot and had a nice little picnic. We had a quarter cup of water left from the day. We washed down our roast chicken sharing the cup of water. It was a great day.

Shelling With Reel Kind Fishing, Shelling and Eco Tours

Horse Conch

My wife loves shelling. That statement does not even come close to actually describing how Carrie feels about shelling. I blame myself. In 2008 we took our first trip to Florida. We visited Cocoa Beach and Clearwater Beach. The surf, sea, white sand, sunsets and seeing her first dolphin stirred a desire in Carrie that would not be tamed.

We did not get back to Florida until 2012. On that trip we visited Sanibel Island. And it began….

Carrie’s obsession with shelling led her to start following various Facebook groups and Instagram accounts. She came across posts from people who have toured with Reel Kind Fishing and Tours. In 2018 we booked our first trip. The trip took us to Kice Island in the 10,000 Islands. The 10,000 Islands are a chain of islands and mangrove islets off the coast of southwest Florida.

This trip took us to another island. Today we visited Shell Island (Second Chance Reef). Shell Island is literally an island made of shells. As you stand in the middle of the island, you find yourself surrounded by piles of sun bleached shells and beautiful blue water. Shell Island is a designated/protected nesting site. Shell Island is closed from March 1st to Labor Day weekend.

Today, Captain Ryan, pictured here, was our tour guide. I always told my basketball players it is the little details that make the big differences. Captain Ryan definitely understands how the little details can make a big difference.

Captain Ryan pointing out some premier shelling areas on Shell Island

Once we got to the island and the boat was secure, Captain Ryan instructed us on where the best shelling would be. Off we went. My wife with her shell bag, I with a shell bag and my camera. We both knew she was serious about the shells and I was serious about getting some interesting photos.

One would would think it would be difficult finding a lot of interesting things to photograph on an island made of shells in the middle of the the Gulf of Mexico. Once you take a closer look you find the place full of beauty and interesting photo opportunities.

Earlier I mentioned the little details make the big difference. After our morning on Shell Island we headed back to port. On our way back Captain Ryan noticed a group of jet skis slowly maneuvering near the shore. He took the time to swing over by the jet skis because his experience told him the people on the jet skis were viewing dolphins. As we pulled close we saw at least four dolphins swimming near the shore and feeding. Captain Ryan worked hard to get me in position for a photo of the dolphins. Trying to get a photo of a dolphin breaching is like playing “whack-a-mole.” By the time I got the camera in position and focused, they were gone. Captain Ryan was more than patient as we tried to get a good photo, which I never was really able to do.

After what I thought was a full morning of shelling and dolphin sightseeing, Captain Ryan had one more surprise for us. He slowly cruised along the shore just up from the dolphin sighting where he noticed some shore birds. We watched the beautiful Roseate Spoonbills feeding in the water. Captain Ryan graciously maneuvered the boat, again working to get some photos of those beautiful birds.

Captain Ryan found this beautiful Lightning Whelk deep in the sand. He gave it to me. As we walked over by my wife, Carrie, he said, “Look what your husband found.”

Of course I did not take credit for the find, but this is another example of just how dedicated Captain Ryan is to making your shelling experience the best it possibly can be.

This selflessness is not just the trait of Captain Ryan. When we went with Captain Jesse on our first tour, he also shared some of his fantastic finds with us and the other people who joined us on the tour.

Twice we have gone with Reel Kind to shell in the 10,000 Islands and twice we have had a fantastic time with some great finds. We still haven’t found the elusive Junonia shell, but it isn’t without trying. Maybe the third time will be the charm.

Various wildlife and nature photos from our Florida adventures can be purchased at Wisconsinfloridaadventurers.com.

A great day was had by all!