Places We’ve Seen
It’s important to us to get out of our motorhome and out of the campgrounds and see some of the sights in the area. One of the questions we always ask ourselves is, “Why is this place here?” And we don’t leave until we get a satisfactory answer. If it’s a populated area, it’s usually because of transportation or natural resources. If it’s a natural wonder, it’s usually because of geological forces from long ago.
Below are the places we’ve seen most recently. Click here to see all the places we’ve seen since going full-time.
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.
One of the main reasons we decided to spend the entire winter at Three Flags RV Resort is because of its close proximity to the Villages, which has plenty of shopping and restaurants as well as free live music at the outdoor stages in each of the three village squares. The closest square to our campground is Brownwood Station. Being from the frigid north, there’s something especially magical about listening to music outdoors in our shirtsleeves during the Christmas holidays.
Plus we found a church that we like a lot, Live Oaks Community Church. It’s a fairly new congregation, about five years old, but it’s growing fast. Last year they were meeting at the Wildwood Community Center, but over the summer they moved into their new building a few miles north in Oxford. They have two services on Sunday morning in the auditorium, plus an outdoor drive-in service Sunday afternoon that is especially designed to attract folks in golf carts. It’s been quite successful.
We were camping in Melbourne, which is on the Indian River across from Merritt Island, which in turn is separated from the coast by the Banana River. Lots of water. So we decided to take a two hour boat ride from Palm Shores, which is just north of Melbourne, down the Indian River, around the southern tip of Merritt Island, then up the Banana River.
It was a very nice day, mid-seventies, and the water was fairly calm. A perfect day for a boat ride. The Indian River is wide and shallow, and attracts dolphins and manatees. Our boat pilot was quite skilled at finding them. The dolphins were especially numerous. We saw several pods, including a mother and baby dolphin. Very cool.
The damage from Hurricane Irma was everywhere. The shoreline showed a lot of erosion, and nearly all of the private boat docks were in disrepair. There was even a sunken sailboat in the middle of the Banana River. Irma was the second major hurricane to strike the area in two years. Hurricane Matthew hit in 2016. So repair work is slow going. But the natural beauty of the area means that those who can will still want to live here even with the threat of recurring hurricanes.
Daytona Beach is historically known for its beach where the hard-packed sand allows motorized vehicles to drive on the beach in restricted areas. We drove down to the beach using the University Dr ramp. The cost is $10.00 for a day pass.
This hard-packed sand made Daytona Beach a mecca for motorsports, and the old Daytona Beach Road Course hosted races for over 50 years. This was replaced in 1959 by Daytona International Speedway.
It was sad to see that the town is still rebuilding from the damage it sustained during hurricanes Matthew, in 2016, and Irma, in 2017. Many of the beachfront hotels were pretty beat up. And the amusement park at the pier is completely shut down. Reportedly there was also considerable flooding on the Halifax River side of the town as well.
But the beach is still spectacular. We had a great time.