Greetings from the southernmost city in the United States, Key West, Florida!
After we departed from Homosassa, we headed south to Fort Myers Beach, Florida. We took Highway 19 for the most part (2 lane road) but made a diversion so that we could visit LazyDays RV in Tampa. We had heard about it from our fellow travelers and we weren’t disappointed; they sell RV’s, service them, have a complimentary RV park while you have your rig serviced, complimentary breakfast and lunch for you if you are waiting for service, a large Camping World, Cracker Barrel and so many other amenities to list, sort of a “Disneyland” for RV’ers. We meandered around Camping World and checked to see if the June edition of MotorHome magazine (the article on our RV is in that issue) was in yet, but no ☹ it wasn’t. We received advance copies thanks to the kind Editor, Eileen Hubbard, and then Kelli forwarded two of them onto us.
We arrived at San Carlos RV Park in Fort Myers Beach and a raccoon greeted us as we were pulling in! Bandit and Tiki wanted to say hello but needless to say we didn’t allow them that opportunity! We had a lovely site overlooking Hurricane Bay; we had a site that was parallel to the water, very nice for viewing the wildlife both on and off the water. We spent the one full day there visiting Sanibel and Captiva Islands and the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Sanibel Island is approximately 12 miles long and 5 miles wide with beautiful white sand beaches. The beaches are littered with shells of all shapes, sizes and colors. The water was so warm and inviting…a definite must to revisit. We had lunch and walked all around Captiva Island. Captiva is much smaller, less than 5 miles long and ½ mile wide. The homes rival any of those in the “high rent” districts of any beach town. Next we meandered around the J.N. “Ding” Darling (gotta love that name!). Ding was an editorial cartoonist in the 1940’s/50’s and an avid outdoorsman. He became concerned about the encroachment of man and nature that he focused many of his cartoons on the effects of man on the environment and specifically, wildlife. The wildlife refuge was self-guided 4 miles with outlooks and overlooks where you saw alligators, herons, egrets, osprey and so much more.
That evening we ate at “The Fishmonger’ Restaurant in Fort Myers Beach. We tend to ask the owners of the RV park or locals when we are only staying a few days in town “If we were to eat at just one establishment, what would you choose?” We haven’t been steered wrong yet….this place is where the locals hung out and they treated you as a local even though we are tourists. All their seafood is caught daily by their own fleet of fishing boats and was served with creativity and flavor.
As we were packing up, we were given a fond farewell from a manatee. He (or she) was swimming and grazing on the sea grass just below our RV pad. It was a wonderful send-off from Fort Myers Beach.
After a leisurely drive down Tamiami Road (a merger of Tampa and Miami) or as Dennis knows it as from his years living in Florida, Alligator Alley, we then spent two nights boon docking at the Miccosukee Indian Casino in Sweetwater. We spent our only full day there with a trip to the Everglades National Park. It is the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States and it encompasses over 1.5 million acres. Although most U.S. national parks preserve unique geographic features, Everglades National Park was the first created to protect a fragile ecosystem. The Park is known as the most significant breeding ground for tropical wading birds in North America, contains the largest mangrove ecosystem in the western hemisphere, is home to 36 threatened or protected species including the Florida panther, the American crocodile, and the West Indian manatee, and supports 350 species of birds, 300 species of fresh and saltwater fish, 40 species of mammals, and 50 species of reptiles. The majority of South Florida's fresh water, which is stored in the Biscayne Aquifer, is recharged in the park. Although we didn’t actually see all of the above, we did catch a glimpse of an abundance of alligators (according to some of our friends from the South, “tree shakers”), ibis, anhinga, herons of many species and turtles. We are on the cusp of the wet season (the Everglades only have two seasons, wet and dry) so we enjoyed some Florida showers throughout our visit. We drove the 48 miles from the main visitor center to the Flamingo Camp where the Everglades meet the Gulf of Mexico. This is the only place that is home to both alligators and crocodiles in the world, and we saw both there. Again, this is someplace we would love to revisit and take the RV and camp.
We will be spending two weeks in the Keys and exploring it in depth this time…