sunset in highlands hammock state park

Highlands Hammock State Park

After my time in Crystal River, I backtracked toward Wellington where I planned to show a horse and made a stop in Sebring.  While I meant to check out the cute historic district, the Sebring International Raceway, and Maxwell Groves (an old-fashioned country store), I ended up spending the entire day in Highlands Hammock State Park. 

crystal river preserve

Things to Do in Crystal River

The City of Crystal River is located in Citrus County on the Nature Coast in Florida’s bend on the Gulf of Mexico.  It is best known for the manatees which are attracted to its first magnitude springs in the winter months and markets itself as the manatee capital of the world.  I’d be lying if swimming with the manatees wasn’t the main reason why I visited Crystal River, but the city of 3,000 offers other things to do as well.  A few are listed below:


Crystal River: Swimming with the Manatees

The City of Crystal River is located in Citrus County on the Nature Coast of Florida.  The Nature Coast, unofficially includes eight counties on the bend of Florida that lines the Gulf of Mexico.  The city of just over 3,000 is best known for the manatees which are attracted to its springs during the winter months.  It is the only place in the USA where it is legal to interact with manatees in their natural environment.

dunedin causeway

A Day in Dunedin

After visiting Venice for a couple of days, VANgo, Annie and I inched a little further north to Dunedin.  Dunedin is located on the west coast just north of Tampa.  It is best known for its beaches and pine forest of Honeymoon Island.

murals in venice

Things to Do in Venice

The City of Venice is located on the coast in Southwest Florida about one hour south of Saint Petersburg.  It was formerly known as Horse and Chaise, but settlers renamed it due to the many natural waterways.

Venice grew with the arrival of the railroad in 1925, but subsequently slowed with the 1929 stock market crash.  The city gained a new life with an Army Air Base during WWII and the circus coming to town for its winter home in 1960.

Currently, the city of 25,000 features a lovely, historic downtown and many beautiful beaches.  It is known as the “shark tooth capital of the world” and offers visitors many things to do, some of which I’ve listed below.


Fort Myers, Pine Island, and Cape Coral

After visiting Sanibel Island for the day, I seeked out a Cracker Barrel outside of Fort Myers for the night.  This was my first time to camp at a Cracker Barrel, and the parking area was much nicer than Walmart’s where I tend to stay at when wilderness is not available. Cracker Barrel parking lots in Florida are heavily shaded which is a luxury for these hot days.  I joined several other quiet campers in the back.

It was so nice, I actually returned for another night, but things were different the second time.  The person next to me was running something gas powered, and all the fumes were seeping into my open windows.  After an hour of breathing exhaust, I finally moved only to be awoken at 5:30 am as workers delivered boxes of supplies from the truck to the Cracker Barrel kitchen. 

Oh well, what can I say? You get what you pay for! And in this case, boondocking in a shaded parking lot was probably still better than reserving a $100 shadeless, campground a year in advance!

Annie and me on sanibel island

Things to Do on Sanibel Island

Sanibel Island is located off the west coast of Florida near Fort Myers.    The 15 by 5 mile island is best known for its seashells and the “Sanibel Stoop” (bent at the waist collecting shells).

Sanibel offers all the modern conveniences without all the modern high rises.  Buildings may only be as tall as the highest tree, approximately three stories.

By car, the island is accessed via the Sanibel Causeway for a $6 toll.  The road extends through Sanibel to Captiva Island.

Given the Captiva Island beaches are not dog friendly and Annie, my Doberman, is my sidekick, I didn’t make it to Captiva, though I had plenty to do for a day in Sanibel.


Naples Nature

After ten days in Wellington, I finally headed out and crossed the state of Florida to Naples.  I planned just to stay the night, but didn’t get to see much of my cousin, so I stayed an extra day, especially since the Boeing documentary, Downfall, which he is in was debuting on Netflix the following day.  They were having a watching party, so I stayed for the red-carpet rollout!

On serious note, I’m going to think twice about flying that 737-Max after watching the documentary and more importantly after what Dan told me which isn’t even portrayed in the documentary.  From what I understand, while likely safe, it is the least safe airplane in the sky!  And as a pilot and former president of the AA pilot’s union, Dan won’t fly it.

Anyway, since Annie and their little dog did not become best friends over night, I spent the day wearing Annie out so she would be a better house guest for the party.


Things to Do in Jupiter

Jupiter is the northernmost town in Palm Beach County and has a population of 61,000.  The beach town is rated one of the top and happiest in the USA.  Its barrier island is ranked as having the highest per capita income of any place in the country.  It is home to the likes of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Celine Dion.  While I did drive down the street of mansions blocked by high bushes, naturally I didn’t boondock nearby!