Jim Abbott on Travel
Postcards from Florida
May 11, 2013
There is a finite number of destinations in the Sunshine State, a fact that is becoming apparent to me after more than three years of writing a column about Florida travel.
Fortunately, many of the state's most popular spots boast an enduring appeal.
Sunsets on Anna Maria Island along Florida's Gulf Coast never cease to amaze. Tubing on the lazy Ichetucknee River, northwest of Gainesville near tiny Fort White, is always blissfully relaxing.
I found that same reliable experience a week ago, on a spur-of-the-moment jaunt with my youngest son to the Florida Keys.
Here are places I fell in love with again:
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo: Coral reefs cover less than 1 percent of the Earth's surface and the reef tract along the Florida Keys is the third largest in the world, behind the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Meso-American Reef in Honduras.
Pennekamp (pennekamppark.com) is obviously a big destination for divers and snorkelers, who take advantage of daily reef excursions. Fortunately, there's another way to experience the colorful underwater life for visitors who never mastered the skill of breathing through a rubber tube and can't keep water from rushing past the rubber seals of a dive mask.
Glass-bottom boat tours depart three times daily for a 2 1/2-hour tour of Molasses Reef, five miles out in the Atlantic. The 65-foot "Spirit of Pennekamp" features two rectangular observation windows in the deck of its air-conditioned cabin. There wasn't much activity, aside from a sea turtle sighting, at least compared to the sting rays, nurse sharks and other critters I had seen on previous visits.
I was bummed, until a pair of dolphins arrived to play in the boat's wake on our return to the dock. The pilot circled them several times, allowing all the passengers to enjoy an unexpected treat.
Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, Key West: Although Duval Street has turned into an alcohol-friendly theme-park since its glory days, there's still authentic history at author Ernest Hemingway's home at 907 Whitehead St. (hemingwayhome.com).
Tours are conducted by guides who could compete in any respectable Hemingway look-alike contest. Our guy, Stan, told tales of the house as if he'd just heard them, one of the reasons that I enjoy returning.
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