Florida– like many before us, when the weather got cold, we headed down to Florida to see what the attraction was. Starting in late November to early January, we canvassed much of the Florida coastline. From the “Space Coast” to the “Red Neck Riviera” and the numerous coastal communities in between, we fully embraced and enjoyed our winter in Florida! Throughout our season, here are a few things that stood out about Florida along the way:
If you are a fan of our feathered friends, or just appreciate their diversity and pageantry, Florida is the place for you, ESPECIALLY in the winter. Shortly after arriving in Florida, we settled into Cape Canaveral and I was dumbstruck by the local peacocks roaming about, and all the different breeds of seagulls and sea birds that we saw cohabiting along the coast. From there, our bird sightings just kept accumulating. From new breeds of ducks we had never seen before to pelicans, flamingos and every other assortment of winged-wonders that either call Florida “home” or merely retreat there for the winter, as we did.
Granted, we admittedly limited our journey throughout Florida to the coastal regions, but that is easy to do when there is so much coastline in one state. Hanging off the U.S. as a peninsula encircled by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Gulf Coast to the West, it feels like you can find water in every direction. Pretty neat to be able to see sunrise over the ocean to the East and sunset over water to the West, all in the same state.
2 time zones
One unexpected scenario we found ourselves in was jumping time zones in the same state. While most of Florida subscribes to Eastern Standard Time, portions of the panhandle run on Central Standard Time. A detail that caused us a little bit of confusion until our phones finally recalibrated.
There are two spots in the U.S. that I know of where you are permitted to swim with manatees in the wild, and both are in Citrus County, Florida. Natural springs that shoot off from the ocean and run through the towns of Homosassa and Crystal Springs, FL, bring with them migrating manatees looking for warm waters to wait out the winter months (this is when you have the best chance of seeing them). We opted to go with a guide in Homosassa, because it is less touristy than Crystal Springs, and has less traffic. Swimming with these curious, majestic, and gentle giants has been one of the biggest highlights to date in our roadlife!
Thai & Japanese cuisine
Two cuisines that we enjoy very much are Thai and Japanese, and they are two extremely different and unique types of foods, from two distinctly different cultures. However, that seems to have been lost in translation somewhere along the Floridian coast. The first time I saw a Thai- Japanese restaurant in Florida, it earned a chuckle. The second time, a raised eyebrow. And, by my third, fourth and fifth sightings, it was apparent this was a trend. These aren’t places trying to create a new fusion of food, but simply the type of establishment that is lumping together two different culinary styles under one roof; this particular pairing trend was unique to Florida.
Everywhere! I have heard stories and jokes and cautionary tales about the frequency of alligator sightings in Florida, but I never paid them much attention. When people say that any and every body of water is a likely home to an alligator, they are not exaggerating. Alligators aren’t just in the Everglades or other predictable areas. I spotted them in shopping complex lagoons (how they crossed traffic to get there is a wonder), in retention ditches lining housing complexes in the middle of suburbia, and countless other ponds and lakes throughout our travels. It was so jarring, that I almost refused to get into the spring when it came time to swim with manatees, and needed several assurances that they almost “never” find alligators in those areas. With alligator sightings being so abundant, don’t bother paying for tours just to see them. A trip to the Everglades is a wonderful experience and a sure bet in seeing many alligators, but if you can’t make it there, you don’t need to trek to far off waters or need a fancy boat guide or any other tourist activity to get to them, they are everywhere, so be vigilant!