Who’s truly experienced Florida? I thought I had.
I’ve been to Florida and the U.S. In general more times than I can remember. Now I’m extremely lucky to have been able to travel there many times, but going to the same place repeatedly really numbs you to that environment. I mean the world is huge! There are so many places to see so why go back to the same places over and over … Well, that’s just it, the world is huge because there is so much in it and I forgot how much is actually in Florida. Which is why I was shocked by my most recent trip there.
After an unusually long 9 hour flight, Into Orlando, we were lucky enough to get an evenings rest at the Omni Orlando Resort before our jam-packed week began.
Wild Florida…Who Knew?
Sloths! Sorry, I couldn’t even wait to intro them…but we’ll get back to that later. Who’s heard of an Airboat tour before? I know for me prior to actually going on one my only reference to them was from this old Simpsons episode. They’re actually fantastically fun! We got taken around through the swamps, marshes and rivers in the Central Florida Everglades getting up close with Alligators, Herron and even the odd Cow.
WildFloridaAirboats are also a fully functioning Wildlife Park, which is why I was lucky enough to get up close to baby sloths! Which are pretty much one of the most adorable animals I’ve seen up close.
I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to move somewhere more quickly in my life. The town that Disney built, as it’s famously known. This town guys, is like nostalgia meets fairytale meets … The Truman show? I mean picturesque neighbourhoods and amazing architecture full of colour, which mostly just made me hungry because they reminded me of cakes.
Biking around the town gave us such a great peak into the in’s and out’s of these beautiful neighbourhoods, surrounded by greenery and animals.
Now I’m probably the first person who can point out a lot of animal injustice in the world and have to admit I did have a lot of presumptions about SeaWorld …mostly negative prior to my most recent experience there.
What I can tell you is despite their dark past SeaWorld has been doing a lot in terms of animal rescue, rehabilitation and public education that really made me open my eyes.
Generally, the direction I see them going towards is educating the young in a way they see animal safety and preservation as a top priority whilst balancing that out with a fun family day out at a theme park.
I feel as though I could write a whole essay just on this town! It was just a part of Florida that kept on giving and was a defining moment in my trip.
So after an exhausting day having the most exhilarating time at Universal Orlando! (I mean you might as well spend a day being a big kid again). We sat down to dinner after a long car journey, at the Katch Twenty-Two restaurant. Usually, I try not to judge a book by its cover, Katch Twenty-Two made that a bit harder with its ‘local dining’ facade. I don’t think I’ve been so pleasantly surprised in my life! Hidden in this small town in Florida is one of the best restaurants I’ve ever eaten at with the most lovely customer service. I would fly back tomorrow just to eat there again.
We stayed at The Plantation on Crystal River a 200+ acre eco resort which was beyond the perfect setting for our time in Crystal River.
Our first day had us up in the early hours of the morning swimming with Manatees! This was such a rewarding experience, to get up close to these gentle giants and learn so much about them.
Although here’s a top tip: Pee beforehand and do not drink too much water. Otherwise, you’ll be close to the edge guys, Trust me.
That particular day just kept on giving. The afternoon saw us Kayaking through the Chassahowitzka River where we not only saw more Manatees but felt as though we had left Florida and were dropped smack bang in the middle of the Amazon.
A vast valley of clear water surrounded by untamed greenery leading off to hidden paths in all directions, can anyone else see heaven?! I was definitely deep in my comfort zone it was such a perfect way to end our time in Crystal River.
I’ve probably been dreaming of Daytona since I’ve left! So saying that it definitely did not disappoint…Miami what?
So have you ever gone 170mph+ in a 600HP NASCAR? Because it’s freaking awesome! Kicking off our Daytona experience was a (Richard Petty) Driving experience on the Daytona International Speedway. Having never really understood the ‘hype’ around NASCAR my short experience here really changed my mind.
I don’t think I’ve ever had a better-timed hotel arrival than the one at Hampton Inn Daytona Beach Oceanfront. Walking into my room I was hit with the sun just as it touches the water creating the most beautiful sunset streaming into my room, it was that view we all dream about when booking a holiday. We didn’t even have to rush down to catch it on the beach as the hotel was smack bang on the ocean front, probably less than a minute from my room to having my feet in the ocean.
I wasn’t the biggest fan of paddle boarding after my experience in Indonesia, where I spent most of the time in the water trying to get back on the board. My experience at Three Brothers Boards definitely changed my opinion.
Besides the great experience around the Daytona bay marina, the guidance provided by the instructor was so supportive. By letting me go at my own pace, it really improved my confidence and put me at ease, more so than I would have ever been doing it alone. By the end of the experience, I was more comfortable than ever and really enjoyed my time out on the water.
Time to extend anyone? Re-schedule a flight to spend one more day in Florida… why not!? I mean I can’t be missing out on an Eco-Boat Tour! What a fantastic way to conclude my new adventures In Florida, then one last time getting up close to birds, alligators and even a few more manatees mixed in with a lovely cultural throwback for the area, courtesy to our amazing captain Doug Little on the St. Johns River Eco-Tour.
Now I know this is definitely going to be one of my longest posts so I commend you if you’ve read this far in. It’s always the worst feeling when a fantastic trip ends! Mostly because all those amazing moments are now memories. The great thing about blogging is I get to share these great moments with you but now you can take all this and go make your own!
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[Please Note this trip was sponsored by Vist Florida – all opinions in this post are my own]