Some friends told us about this park, plus we had heard that it was a good place to view manatees during the winter when it is cold outside. Manatees are warm blooded and they cannot survive in temperatures below 60 degrees, so they congregate in warm spring-fed waters like those that are found at Homosassa. There were only a few manatees at the park when we visited because warmer temperatures had arrived in Florida, so the manatees had headed back out into the gulf.
The park is also a rehab center for injured and orphaned manatees as well as other native Florida animals, such as black bear, Florida panther, bobcats, alligators, gray fox, and otters. Many varieties of birds also live at the park. Most of the animals and birds living at Homosassa Springs cannot survive in the wild.
Lu, the 58-year-old African hippo, is the one misfit in the park. He lived at the park in its early days when it was an exotic animal attraction. When the state of Florida purchased the park, Lu was allowed to stay.
You get a little bit of everything in the Villages. This week we got Mardi Gras a week early. The festivities were held at the Spanish Springs village square, and it was the most crowded event we’ve ever been to in the Villages.
When we got there we almost gave up because we had a hard time finding a parking spot. But we eventually found one on a side street about half a mile away. Glad we didn’t give up. We had a great time.
We were greeted by the Perseverance Brass Band, who were first rate. Further in toward the square was a Cajun band that was also quite good. Between sets, we were entertained by the Village Twirlers, a larger group of women cheerleaders and majorettes who were closer to age 80 than 18.
You gotta love it.
We had some extra time in Bradenton after Jennifer went home, so we decided to explore the area a bit. Glad we did. We stumbled upon a wonderful farmers market on Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach. This is by far the most scenic farmers market we’ve ever been to.
The booths are lined up on both sides of an asphalt boardwalk that runs between the parking lot and the beach. The walkway is lined with trees providing shade to the vendors and shoppers. The market was larger than we expected, no doubt because of its spectacular beach front location.
We enjoyed the market so much that we returned the next day and spent the afternoon lazing about on the beach. Coquina Beach is truly a hidden gem, and stands in dramatic contrast to our last beach experience at Fort Lauderdale. To be fair, the weather was much nicer this time. But it’s not just the weather. The Fort Lauderdale Beach was loud and busy, but Coquina Beach is laid back and relaxing, in other words exactly what a beach should be.
This winter is the first time that we are staying for an extended period in one park, i.e. three months at Three Flags RV Park in Wildwood FL. As much as we like it here, we also wanted to see some other areas in the state. We had an old timeshare week and decided to use it at the Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort.
Our hotel was across the street from the Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, which was the site of the South Florida Folk Festival the weekend we were in town. The Festival has been around since 1990, and bills itself as a combination music fest, family reunion, community gathering, and weekend musical retreat. It was a relatively small festival, and it was clear that most of the attendees knew each other. The quality of the music was mediocre, but the venue was unique. There were two stages, with one under a huge banyan tree. The weather was perfect, so we had a nice time all things considered.
Unfortunately, the rest of the week the weather was not on our side. Way too cool and windy to spend on the beach. We did have a couple of hours at the pool, which was sheltered from the wind, but it was still cool. Becky went to the 53rd Annual Broward Shell Show.
We cut our week short by two days, but not before a visit to Los Olas Blvd, which is an upscale shopping area and near the Riverwalk. Had a nice lunch there at the Cheesecake Factory on our way out of town.