Sarasota, FL area Restaurants

If you are lucky enough to find yourself in the Sarasota area here are some of the restaurants we would recommend.

Sarasota Area Restaurants

If you are lucky enough to find yourself in the Sarasota area here are some of the restaurants we would recommend.

Hungry

Blue Que Grill, Siesta Key

We went here with our kids and we sat outside and listened to great live music.  For appetizers we enjoyed a dozen oysters and the fried calamari.  We enjoyed them both.

I had the baby back ribs and the red cabbage and they were wonderful.  My son had a bison burger which he really stated was even better than a regular beef burger.  My daughter had a crab sandwich and she thought it was really good and she is a picky eater so for her to say the only thing she didn’t like about it was that it leaks is a really great compliment.  My husband got the fish tacos which he would highly recommend.

Yoder’s Amish Restaurant, Sarasota

Yoder’s had become a must stop for breakfast whenever we go to Sarasota.  It serves up fresh unique and traditional breakfasts with very generous portions.  On our latest trip I had the country fried steak. We also had some of their fried corn meal with a little of maple syrup, which is really is a treat.  Our daughter had the apple fritter French toast (which is delicious, but the portion is huge) so one piece really is enough!!

 

Saltwater Café, Nokomis, FL

We stopped in here after a trip down to Boca Grande for a small bite to eat between meals.  We got there during the early bird special and happy hour and the place was hopping.  We had a few drinks and appetizers.  We had a dozen steamed oysters, some escargot and mild chicken wings.  All three were delicious.

We went here with our kids and we sat outside and listened to great live music.  For appetizers we enjoyed a dozen oysters and the fried calamari.  We enjoyed them both.

I had the baby back ribs and the red cabbage and they were wonderful.  My son had a bison burger which he really stated was even better than a regular beef burger.  My daughter had a crab sandwich and she thought it was really good and she is a picky eater so for her to say the only thing she didn’t like about it was that it leaks is a really great compliment.  My husband got the fish tacos which he would highly recommend.

Yoder’s Amish Restaurant, Sarasota

Yoder’s had become a must stop for breakfast whenever we go to Sarasota.  It serves up fresh unique and traditional breakfasts with very generous portions.  On our latest trip I had the country fried steak. We also had some of their fried corn meal with a little of maple syrup, which is really is a treat.  Our daughter had the apple fritter French toast (which is delicious, but the portion is huge) so one piece really is enough!!

Fleming Steakhouse, Sarasota

For our anniversary we decided to go out for dinner and we headed out to Flemings steakhouse.  They have vast selections of wine and offer excellent choices of seafood, poultry and steak dishes. We started with a delicious order of roasted mushroom of ravioli, which was delicious along with the warm fresh bread they provide for you. I had the small plate of lamb chops and a delicious wedge salad.  My husband had the small plate of filet mignon both of which were fresh and delicious but remember to leave room for the molten chocolate cake.

Blue Dolphin Café, St Armand’s, FL

We stumbled across the Blue Dolphin on our way out of town.  I wanted to just go into St. Armand’s for a few minutes as I had missed the wine and food festival from the day before.  When we went into the circle we secured a parking spot, which is no small feat in this very popular key destination.  I noticed most of the people heading towards a small café.  Since it was breakfast we decided to give it a go and went in for breakfast.  I had the special a raspberry, pecan French toast.  And my daughter had a breakfast wrap which was huge, so much so that she had to share it.

Amelia Island Restaurant Reviews

Salt Chef’s Table

Salt at the Ritz-Carlton

Salt, so named because of its extensive menu of natural and infused salts, offers romantic dining experience with elegant, oceanfront ambiance. Be prepared to be pampered from the moment you enter the dining room by the attentive yet unobtrusive wait staff in the island’s only AAA five-diamond restaurant. Request the Seat in the Kitchen, where you can enjoy a private dinner and watch the head chef prepare your meal. Complement the meal with one of the 500 wines available. The menu features appetizers, salads, soup and sides as well as wood-grilled entrees and a selection of seafood. Popular dishes include tPainted Hills Beef Tenderloin, Braised Colorado Lamb and Wild Salmon.  Keep enough room for the vast selection of decadent desserts from Dark Chocolate Souffle, to Orange Grand Marnier Souffle. Reservations are strongly recommended. Salt at the Ritz-Carlton 4750 Amelia Island Parkway Amelia Island, FL 32034 904-277-1100 ritzcarlton.com

Ocean Grill Specials
Ocean Grill Specials

Ocean Grill

Located in the Amelia Island Plantation, the Ocean Grill blends the old with the new in both its decor and its menu. The main dining room is warm and exudes the ambiance of a true southern plantation done in an updated decor. With the ocean at its doorstep, an indulgent meal can be followed by a romantic walk on the beach. The menu features a selection of appetizers, (I would recommend the fried green tomatoes),  salads, hushpuppies and soups.  You can get sandwiches at lunch such as panini’s and  open faced Reuben.  For dinner the popular dishes include Togarashi Crusted Salmon, Pan Seared Diver Sea Scallops and the Grilled Colorado Lamb. Reservations are strongly recommended. Ocean Grill 6800 First Coast Highway Fernandina Beach, FL 32034 904-261-6161

Hoyte House Amelia Island
Hoyte House Amelia Island

Hoyt House

Hoyt House English Tea Experience the Hoyt House Bed & Breakfast offers an English Tea Experience from 12:30pm to 3pm Wednesday through Sunday. Enjoy an classic British High tea menu with scones and freshly made crumpets, jams & clotted cream.  A player piano completes the ambiance in this historic old mansion. A variety of tea sandwiches, Salmon Mousse pinwheels, truffled mushroom in filo and fresh made fruit tartlets with lemon curd are just  a few selections, as well as a cheese and cracker tray with pate and tea sandwiches. Guests can select from a choice of eight loose teas from around the world served in their very own tea pot. If your not a teetotaler you can enjoy a authentic Bellini Cocktail, Bloody Mary, Mimosa or Classic Champagne & Strawberries before your tea and crumpets are served on a beautiful silver three tier tray.

 

hoyt house tea


Reservations are required. Monday & Tuesday is available for private tea parties for 8 or more. Prices vary from 10.95pp to 22.95pp with a special Tea for two at 39.95. For reservations call 904-277-4300.

Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom 2012 – Reviews of our Favorites and Updates on the new Fantasy Land Expansion

 

Let the Memories Begin
Let the Memories Begin

 

My wife and I spent a wonderful day at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in May of 2012. It was a beautiful sunny day, but not too hot to enjoy it. It was just the two of us and we had been to the Magic Kingdom many times before, so were able to take our time looking around and really enjoy a relaxing day.  We showed up right when they opened and hopped on the train over to our favorite ride in the Magic Kingdom, Splash Mountain. The wait was already pretty long, so we chose to get a fast pass, so we could come back later and have a shorter wait.

Magic Kingdom Entrance and Train
Magic Kingdom Entrance and Train
Disney Train Station
Disney Train Station

We hopped on the train again and went back to the Main Street USA station. The train is a wonderful way to get around to the different sections. You get a nice view of Main Street from the station. We took some pictures from the balcony, and then we proceeded down to the shops on Main Street. We went into the Candy Store and got a delicious English Toffee and ate while watching the Barbershop Quartet. We notice that people were lined up on the street for the parade, so we wandered over just in time to see a colorful and entertaining parade along Main Street.

WDW Magic Kingdom Main Street USA
WDW Magic Kingdom Main Street USA

 

WDW shopping
WDW shopping
Goofy in the Disney Magic Kingdom Parade
Goofy in the Disney Magic Kingdom Parade

When the parade was over, we decided to walk over to use our fast passes for Splash Mountain. On the way there we took some pictures of Cinderella’s Castle, which was having a Musical show with all the characters. We also took some pictures of a Mommy Duck and her cute little chicks wandering around.

Cinderella Castle Show
Cinderella Castle Show
Ducks at Disney
Ducks at Disney

We got on within ten minutes, so the FAST Pass was well worth it. Splash Mountain is such a fun ride. It is one of the longest rides in Disney and it combines entertaining animatronics and music with the thrill of getting wet on the final big drop down Splash Mountain. We sat in the front and we both got very wet. It’s always fun to look at your picture they take of you during the big drop as you exit the ride.  After Splash Mountain we had a delicious funnel cake and then headed over to check out how the Fantasyland Renovation is coming along.

Splash Mountain
Splash MountainFunnel Cake at Magic Kingdom

 

Funnel Cake at Magic Kingdom
Funnel Cake at Magic Kingdom

Fantasy Land Renovation and Expansion

Fantasyland is in the middle of the largest expansion Walt Disney World has ever seen, which is a perk for Disney World, as they still have a vast property available for expansion (unlike Disneyland in California).  Disney World is also adding a new resort that will be completed at the end of this year called The Art of Animation Resort.  Here the information that we were able to find out about it.

Fantasy Land Renovations that have been completed

The new Dumbo Ride is in place and you can see the old original Dumbo ride behind it.  This is where the Storybook Circus will be located with a large big top between the two rides.  Under the big top they will have interactive games for children of all ages.

Magic Kingdom New Dumbo Ride in Fantasy Land
Magic Kingdom New Dumbo Ride in Fantasy Land

We also went on the only other updated ride, The Barnstormer, which is essentially the same ride as before, but has a new The Great Goof Goofini.  The little ones really do love this ride, which is what it is all about!!

Fantasy Land Renovation Updated Barnstormer
Fantasy Land Renovation Updated Barnstormer

Casey Jr., the famous locomotive from the Disney film Dumbo, has rolled into town and is making a splash!  Located next to the Fantasyland Train Station and area restrooms in Storybook Circus at New Fantasyland, you’ll discover the Casey Jr. Splash ‘N’ Soak Station, a circus-themed water play area.

Construction Fantasy Land Renovation Under the Sea
Construction Fantasy Land Renovation Under the Sea

Fantasy Land under construction

The other parts of Fantasyland that are still being worked on is the “Under the Sea, Journey of the Little Mermaid” ride, a version of which was opened at the Disneyland, California Adventure theme park.  Guest will be able to walk up to Prince Eric’s castle through “tide pools”.  Guests will be able walk into the “castle caverns” as well.  At the new attraction, guests will travel with Ariel and her friends through their exciting adventures above and below the waves – all against a musical backdrop of songs from the classic film. Nearby will be Scuttle’s Scavenger Hunt.

Fantasy Land Renovation Under the Sea
Fantasy Land Renovation Under the Sea

On the way to Ariel’s Grotto you can enjoy the fun interactive games at Scuttle’s Savenger Hunt. You can search the seaside entrance to find Seagull’s treasures from the Human World, like the snarfblatt and dinglehopper, and of course Scuttle will be nearby to help you and the little ones with the hunt.

Beast’s Castle: The castle of the Beast, standing majestically upon a hill just across an old stone bridge from Ariel’s new home. The Be Our Guest Restaurant will feature a lavish dining experience in the elegant ballroom, gallery, and mysterious “West Wing” of the castle. This magnificent facility will offer “great food fast” service by day and full table service dining in the evening. Nearby in Belle’s Village, guests will find the rousing Gaston’s Tavern and Bonjour, the village gift shop!

It will be a combination of a dark roller coaster, thrilling enough to offer excitement, but not scary enough to keep even the non thrill seekers away. The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train will take guests on a rollicking, musical ride into the mine “where a million diamonds shine.” The coaster will feature a first-of-its kind ride system with a train of ride vehicles that swing back and forth, responding to every twist and turn of the track. The journey will be accompanied by music from the classic Disney film and animated figures of Snow White and the Dwarfs.

Fantasy Land Renovation Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Fantasy Land Renovation Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

New Princess Fairytale Hall Going into the space, this royal court will be where Aurora, Cinderella and other Disney princesses will greet their guests.  The new meet and greet area will be located in the center of Fantasyland.  Stone walls, stained glass windows and high ceilings will complete the Castle Courtyard look.  Guests will enter the queue in a large space filled with the Princesses’ portraits before splitting off to individual meeting rooms with the Princesses

The new Resort Disney’s Art of Animation, has opened one of its first wings which is called Finding Nemo.  The remaining wings, “Cars” will open in June, the “The Lion King” will open in August and finally the “the Little Mermaid” will open in September.    The resort offers the largest swimming pool on Disney Property, and it includes piped in underwater music.  The hotel will offer 2,000 rooms in total, with 1,120 family suites and the rest will be standard rooms.

Turkey Leg WDW Magic Kingdom
Turkey Leg WDW Magic Kingdom

On our way out of the park, we stopped and had one of the famous Turkey Legs. I took a nice picture of an egret up on top of the building. We took the Ferry on the way out of the park. The ferry is a nice relaxing ride and is a good alternative to taking the monorail, if you’re not in any rush to leave. We had a nice relaxing day at the Magic Kingdom. I can’t wait to go back and see Fantasy Land once the expansion is complete. Be sure it visit my website, www.FloridaVacationPlans.com for great Florida travel ideas.

Disney Ferry
Disney Ferry
Egret on Turkey Leg Stand
Egret on Turkey Leg Stand

 

Siesta Key and Lido Key are Vacationing Paradises located near Sarasota Florida

 

siesta-key-beach
Siesta Key Beach

Siesta Key

Siesta Key is a barrier Island off the coast of Florida. It is known for its beautiful public beaches and is known as Sarasota’s beach.  It has been rated as America’s #1 beach and for good reason.  In May of 2012, my family and I spent four wonderful days there. We drove there from Orlando, taking a nice scenic drive through Saint Petersburg on Route 275, which has some tall bridges along the coastline with spectacular views.

The Old Salty Dog Restaurant

Once on the island, we stopped at the Old Salty Dog Restaurant which has been featured on the TV show Man vs. Food.  The waitress recommended we try the famous Old Salty Dog that was featured on the show.  It’s a foot long hotdog that is fried in a beer batter. We got ours fully loaded with sauerkraut, bacon, mushrooms and 4 cheeses.  It was so stuffed with goodies that you have to eat it with a fork, it was very delicious. Others in our party enjoyed their fish and chips and firecracker wrap, which has blackened grouper in it.

old-salty-dog-restaurant-sarasota
Old Salty Dog Restaurant in Sarasota
Fried Hotdog at The Old Salty Dog Restaurant in Sarasota
Fried Hotdog at The Old Salty Dog Restaurant in Sarasota
Fried Hotdog at The Old Salty Dog Restaurant in Sarasota
The Old Salty Dog Restaurant in Sarasota

The Turtle Beach Resort

We then checked into our hotel, the Turtle Beach Resort, which a wonderful old Floridian charmer with individual cottages. Our cottage included a full kitchen, a private hammock and hot tub. They also have a pool and grills for cooking out. It is situated on Little Sarasota Bay with docks overlooking the beautiful mangroves.  Turtle Beach Resort also provides free fishing gear, chairs, umbrellas and canoes.

turtle-beach-resort1
Turtle Beach Resort
Turtle Beach Resort
Turtle Beach Resort

Turtle Beach

From the resort you can canoe up to a private part of Turtle Beach and enjoy the solitude of a long walk and pick up shells, coral and sharks teeth along the beach.  The public area of Turtle Beach has pavilions and grills for family picnics.  The ocean there has rough waves and the beach has a very steep incline, and there are no life guards. The sand here is a bit coarser, but that means the shelling is better.

turtle-beach
Turtle Beach
footprints-in-the-turtle-beach-sand
Footprints in the Turtle Beach Sand

We made sure walked there each evening to view the amazing sunsets.

sunset-turtle-beach
Sunset at Turtle Beach
catch-the-sunset-turtle-beach
Catching the Sunset at Turtle Beach

One unique thing about the area is that they have many wild parakeets, we saw a bunch of them on our walks to the beach.

wild-parakeets-siesta-key
Wild Parakeets on Siesta Key

Siesta Key Beach

A few miles up the road you will find a Siesta Key Beach.  It has been hailed as the most beautiful beach in America by several major travel magazines, and of course by the city of Sarasota itself. It is the public beach of Siesta Key, and it’s known for its powdery white sand which is a sight to behold. The white sand actually remains cool under your feet even at the hottest time of day. The ocean there is calm and during low tide you can walk very far out without even a ripple from a wave.  It’s a very wide beach with the sand bars that you can walk out to.

siesta-key-beach is white and wide
Siesta Key Beach is white and wide

Yoder’s Amish Tradition Restaurant

For breakfast we went to Yoder’s Amish Tradition restaurant in Sarasota.  What a treat it was eating there.  It normally has long lines around the building. They are famous for their homemade fresh food and scrumptious pies.  We got up early and arrived there around 6:30am for breakfast when there were no lines.  The food was delicious; the apple fritter French toast was heavenly even if it was kind of like a dessert.  My wife had the Veggie Benedict with fresh avocados, tomatoes, and spinach.  We also tried free sample of the cornmeal mush, which is grilled cornmeal that that is cut and fried.  We had ours with maple syrup. We bought one of their freshly made peanut butter cream pies.  (The bakers come in at 3 am to make them).  Yoder’s also has a meat and cheese shop, a produce market and an Amish gift shop. The outside seating is great with colorful Amish murals. Our server Lori was wonderful and even said hi to us the next day when we went back (because it so good that we had to go back.)

market-at-yoders-restaurant-sarasota
Market at Yoders Restaurant in Sarasota
yoders-restaurant-sarasota-breakfast2
Apple Fritter French Toast at Yoders
yoders-restaurant-sarasota-peanut-butter-cream-pie
Yoders Restaurant Sarasota- Peanut-Butter Cream Pie
yoders-restaurant-sarasota-breakfast1
Yoders Restaurant Breakfast
outdoor-dining-yoders-restaurant-sarasota
Outdoor Dining at Yoders
inside-yoders-restaurant-sarasota
Inside Yoders Restaurant

St. Armands and Harding Circle

St. Armands Key, is a small oval island off the gulf coast of Sarasota.  John Ringling purchased the whole island and built the planned community. Harding circle (named after Ringling’s friend President Harding) offers a unique shopping experience. It has beautiful tropical scenery and exquisite shops, restaurants, and boutiques, all within a short walking distance to Lido Key.

harding-circle-st-armands-lido-key2
Harding Circle at St. Armands
harding-circle-st-armands-lido-key1
Harding Circle
harding-circle-st-armands-lido-key
Shops at St. Armands

Lido Key Beach

Lido Key Beach is at the tip of St. Armands Circle and is another vast beautiful beach.  It’s also a very wide beach with beautiful white sand.  The upper part of the beach has more shells than Siesta Key Beach.  Lido beach is a short walking distance from the shops and restaurants on St. Armands.

lido-key-beach
Lido Key Beach

Coquina Beach

On our way home we went to Coquina beach located on Anna Maria’s southern tip. Coquina is a popular public beach lined with towering Australian pines. A full-service concession stand, ample parking, barbecue pits, picnic facilities, boat ramp, playground, restrooms, showers and lifeguards make this beach a popular, bustling beach.

coquina-beach
Coquina Beach
coquina-beach-picnic-under-australian-pines
Coquina Beach- picnicking Under the Australian Pines

There were so many things to do with the kids on this trip, including kayaking, fishing, paddle boarding and jet skiing.  You can also rent bikes and Segways. Some other great things to do in the area include seeing wild dolphins at Mote Marine laboratory, taking a tram tour through Mixon Fruit Farm,  visiting the Crowley Museum & Nature Center,  the John and Mable Ringling museum of Art and the Sailor Circus. We had a great time and I can’t wait to go back.

Be sure it visit my website, www.FloridaVacationPlans.com to find more great Florida vacation ideas and information.

A nice day trip in Central Florida – Driving along the coastal Route A1A from Saint Augustine to Daytona Beach

Coquina rock formations at Washington Oaks Garden State Park
Coquina rock formations at Washington Oaks Garden State Park

If you are looking for a nice day trip that includes history, beautiful beaches, great restaurants and shops, you should take a drive from historic St. Augustine to Daytona Beach, Florida on Route A1A.  In early March 2012, during Daytona’s Bike Week, we took our drive along this very popular route. The drive is about 50 miles and you drive right along the coast through some quant little beach towns. There are a number of state parks along the way where you can stop and view some awesome coastal scenery. Bikers especially like to take a cruise along this route, and we sure saw a lot of them on our trip, due to the Bike Week festivities taking place. It’s a fun family trip as well; the kids will really enjoy the beaches and the attractions.

Trolley Tour Saint Augustine near Fountain of Youth Park
Trolley Tour Saint Augustine near Fountain of Youth Park

We started our trip down A1A in St. Augustine, Florida. Here you will find many historic sites and museums, such as The Saint Augustine Treasure museum and the quirky Ripley’s Believe it or Not.  The best way to see the historic downtown of St. Augustine is by trolley.  The trolley will bring you to all the historic sites and the conductors will tell you all sorts of historic information and stories. They will bring you past the star-shaped Castillo de San Marcos, which is the oldest masonry fort from the Spanish colonial times. There’s also the Fountain of Youth National Archaeological Park and the beautiful Flagler College. The city has many Spanish style buildings with great architecture.  Kids will love visiting the Alligator Farm and seeing some alligators up close.  Be sure you take time to stroll down the cobblestone streets and browse the many shops in Old Town.  For those who love the spookier side of things, America’s oldest city offers ghost tours and beautiful haunted bed and breakfasts in their historic old homes.  Make sure you go over the lion bridge to the Saint Augustine lighthouse and climb the 219 steps to get spectacular views of the city and the coastline.  The museum is in the lighthouse keeper’s home with the gift shop.  

Saint Augustine Lighthouse
Saint Augustine Lighthouse

Once you have soaked up all of the historic aspects of St. Augustine, it is wonderful to take a long walk down Saint Augustine Beach.  When you drive down A1A from Saint Augustine you can also stop at Butler beach and Crescent Beach to see some very scenic views from their beach boardwalks. If you get a chance, be sure to stop at Anastasia State Park.

Saint Augustine Beach
Saint Augustine Beach
St Augustine-Anastasia State Park Beach
St Augustine-Anastasia State Park Beach

A little further down the coast is Fort Matanzas (another Spanish built fort), which is located on the Matanzas River. This national park has beautiful trails with dunes along the beach.

Fort Matanzas
Fort Matanzas

On the day we went, we noticed a group of people looking up into the trees with telescopes that were set up by the park rangers.  We investigated what they were looking at and got to see a beautiful large great horned owl and her two chicks.  The scope was aimed right at the owl and one of the chicks, which allowed you to see them up close.  It was a fantastic sight to see as they are only there in the spring. They usually leave in April or May, but the mother has been returning to the same location for several years.  To get to the Fort, which is located on an island in the middle of the river, you take a free ferry ride over for the tour. 

Dunes on Beach Fort Matanzas
Dunes on Beach Fort Matanzas

 

The tour leaves every half hour during operating hours. You’ll learn about the history of the massacre at Matanzas.

 

Massacre at Matanzas
Massacre at Matanzas
 

Also on A1A, you will find Washington Oaks Garden State Park known for its spectacular gardens.  One of its most unique aspects is the coquina rock formations along the beach. The rock formations are amazing; with the ocean carving soothe round pools in the rocks that collect sea creatures and various shells. It also most looks like a mini Grand Canyon up close. The colors are beautiful, with the green moss covering the shades of grays and brown of the rocks. The park includes a seawall for fishing and many picnic areas along the Matanza River.  The park also has a long boardwalk that extends along a large portion of the beach. This was favorite part of the trip, as I did not know that there was rocky beaches like this in Florida. You can’t swim there, but it great for sightseeing and taking pictures.

 

Washington Oaks Garden State Park Rock Formations
Washington Oaks Garden State Park Rock Formations

 

 

Coquina rock formations at Washington Oaks Garden State Park
Coquina rock formations at Washington Oaks Garden State Park

 

 

Shells in rock formations at Washington Oaks Garden State park near Saint Augustine
Shells in rock formations at Washington Oaks Garden State Park

There are a number of seaside restaurants along the way. Mango Mango’s Beachside Caribbean Grille and Bar in St. Augustine area is a good choice.  Their address and phone number is:

700 A1A Beach Boulevard St. Augustine, FL 32080
(904) 461-1077

Mango Mangos Restaurant St Augustine Florida
Mango Mangos Restaurant St Augustine Florida

They serve Island style food including seafood dishes, burgers, sandwiches, salads, desserts and great tropical drinks. The Conch Fritters are a great appetizer, and their tropical jerk Mahi Mahi is a delicious main course (you’ve got to try their Key Lime Pie for dessert).

After eating we continued our drive down the coastline through Flagler County where you can stop and go to Flagler Beach or walk along its iconic pier or stop by the nearby State wildlife refuge.

Flagler beach
Flagler beach

In my opinion, this is one of the most beautiful drives in the entire state of Florida. Other than a small stretch, where you are diverted a little inland, your route will be mostly along undeveloped coastline where you can see the Atlantic Ocean, the sand dunes, and the sea oats growing there.  The drive is a perfect day trip for anyone that just wants to get away and enjoy the beautiful Florida coast. Please visit http://www.FloridaVacationPlans.com, to read more articles about Florida travel destinations.

 

 

Tour of Four Florida Lighthouses – Key West, Ponce Deleon, St. Augustine and Sanibel Island

I really enjoy visiting lighthouses and learning about their history. I especially like climbing their spiral stairways and viewing the surrounding area from the top of a lighthouse. I took a tour along the coastline of Florida in early 2012 and visited four lighthouses; Key West, Ponce Deleon, St. Augustine and Sanibel Island. I was able to get some nice photos of their majestic beauty and the amazing coastal scenery that surrounds them.

 

Ponce DE Leon Lighthouse from the front
Ponce DE Leon Lighthouse from the front

The Key West Lighthouse

 

We visited the Key West lighthouse in January 2012 on a nice sunny day, so were able to take some nice pictures from the observation deck at the top. The Key West lighthouse is not an active lighthouse any more, but it is open to the public. You can take a tour of the lighthouse and other buildings on its site. The other buildings on the site include a keeper’s dwelling, a privy, an oil storage house and a chicken coop.

 

 

Key West Lighthouse From Below
Key West Lighthouse From Below

The Key West lighthouse is very well-kept and picturesque, with a white-washed conical brick exterior tower and a black lantern on top. The light at the top is a fixed white light with a third-order fixed Fresnel lens that was installed in 1859. It has a metal spiral staircase black that is 98 steps up to the top that brings you up to the observation deck which is 91 feet off the ground. This is the shortest lighthouse of the four that I visited.

 

 

View From atop the Key West Lighthouse
View from top the Key West Lighthouse

You can read about the history of the lighthouse in the museums on site. The Key West lighthouse was constructed back in 1847 and was first lit on January 15, 1848. It was deactivated in December 1, 1969 and restored between the years of 1989 and 1991.

 

The Key West lighthouse is operated by the Key West Art & Historical Society and includes a nice gift shop. The admission costs $8.00 per person and this includes touring the restored keeper’s dwelling with museum, displays of several Fresnel lenses, and a first-order fixed lens from the Sombrero Reef Lighthouse. It’s well worth a visit on your next trip to Key West.

 

 

Ponce DE Leon Lighthouse Behind the Entrance Sign
Ponce DE Leon Lighthouse Behind the Entrance Sign

The Ponce Deleon Lighthouse

 

On a nice sunny day in February 2012, I took a trip to the Ponce Deleon lighthouse near Daytona Beach. It was recently restored, and in my opinion, the Ponce Deleon Lighthouse is a picture perfect lighthouse. It has a red-washed brick conical tower with a black lantern on top. The grounds and buildings are impeccably maintained with plush green lawns. The other buildings on site include three keeper’s dwellings, a woodshed/privy, an oil storage house, a pump house, a boat yard and a Lens Exhibit building. These are all included with admission, which is $5.00 for adults and $1.50 for children 11 and under. You enter and buy your admission through gift shop which features unique nautical and lighthouse merchandise.

 

 

Ponce DE Leon Lighthouse from Below
Ponce DE Leon Lighthouse from Below

Ponce Deleon is the tallest lighthouse on the East Coast of Florida. It is 175 feet tall and has a 213 step spiral staircase that you take to the top. Please make sure you’re in good shape because it a pretty good workout, especially on a hot Florida day.

 

 

Ponce DE Leon Lighthouse Staircase
Ponce DE Leon Lighthouse Staircase

 

The spectacular Lens Exhibit Building features a first-order lens that was from the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse, the original Ponce Inlet first order lens, a fourth order clam shell lens, a 6th order rotating lens, and a Chance Brothers circa 1850 third order middle lens complete with pedestal, tanks and lamp.

 

 

Lenses at Ponce DE Leon Lighthouse Museum
Lenses at Ponce DE Leon Lighthouse Museum

 

The Ponce Deleon Lighthouse is an active lighthouse. It was built in 1887. It is the only Florida Lighthouse listed as a National Historic Landmark and it is the second tallest brick tower in the U.S.

 

 

 

 

View from the top of the Ponce DE Leon Lighthouse
View from the top of the Ponce DE Leon Lighthouse

The museums were quite interesting with a lot of lighthouse facts and history. They even have a nice exhibit on the race car history of Daytona Beach (with nice videos of the old races that took place on the beach). Next time you’re in the Daytona Beach area, be sure to check out this lighthouse.

 

 

Sanibel Lighthouse through Driftwood
Sanibel Lighthouse through Driftwood

Sanibel Island Lighthouse

In early March 2012 I spent a weekend away in the Fort Myers area. I made it priority on the trip to go to Sanibel Island to see its lighthouse. The lighthouse is a very interesting design. It is a brown square pyramidal skeletal tower that encloses a stair cylinder. The lighthouse is 112 feet tall and has a 101 step staircase to the 300mm lantern on top. It is not open to the public to climb; you can only view the lighthouse and buildings from the grounds. The lighthouse itself is not as beautiful as the other three that I visited, but I’d have to say that hands down it has the most beautiful scenery of the four that I viewed on this tour. It is located right next to the beach and from every angle it has a perfect tropical backdrop for picture-taking.

 

 

Sanibel Lighthouse
Sanibel Lighthouse

The Sanibel lighthouse is an active lighthouse.. There is no cost to walk around it and view it. The other buildings on site include two elevated, wood-frame keeper’s dwellings and a brick oil storage house.The Sanibel lighthouse was constructed in 1884. It was first Lighted August 20, 1884.There is a museum and gift shop that you can visit as well. It was fun spending the day on the beach and viewing this lighthouse. It was well worth the visit!

 

 

Sanibel Lighthouse from the beach
Sanibel Lighthouse from the beach

 

St. Augustine Lighthouse

I went to St. Augustine Florida in early March 2012. As you approach the St. Augustine lighthouse, you see the towering lighthouse behind a classic southern style brick building. I couldn’t help but take some photos of it through some very large and beautiful oak trees. You enter this building, and it is a museum and gift shop.

 

 

Saint Augustine Lighthouse Entrance thru the Oak Trees
Saint Augustine Lighthouse Entrance thru the Oak Trees

After paying for my admission in the gift shop, I proceeded outside where you can stare straight up at the lighthouse. I always take a shot of the lighthouse from directly below. It helps you to appreciate its height before you go in and climb it. The St. Augustine lighthouse’s height is 167 feet, and it markings are quite unique with black & white spiral stripes and a red lantern on top. It is a conical tower with a brick exterior.

 

 

Saint Augustine Lighthouse
Saint Augustine Lighthouse

You enter the lighthouse through a cute little white building that was originally used for oil storage. It has a little museum inside of it now. You then come to the stairway. I always attempt to take pictures up and down the spiral stairways. I really like the black metal stairway in the St. Augustine lighthouse. It’s 219 steps to the top, but it’s well worth trip up. The views in all directions are just incredible.

 

 

View from on top of the Saint Augustine Lighthouse
View from on top of the Saint Augustine Lighthouse

The lighthouse is active. It was built 1871 and restored in 1994-95 and again in 2000. It has is original first-order Fresnel lens that was installed in 1874 (although some one shot a bullet at a few years back and it had to be repaired.)

 

 

Spiral Stairway inside of the Saint Augustine Lighthouse
Spiral Stairway inside of the Saint Augustine Lighthouse

I noticed that they offer ghost tours on certain nights (they are by appointment only). I think that would be a lot of fun. I may just go back and try that sometime. All four of these lighthouses were a real treat to visit. I’m going to make some plans to see some more of Florida’s great lighthouses real soon. If you are planning a trip to Florida you should visit http://www.FloridaVacationPlans.com, it has some great Florida vacation information.

Enjoy a bit of History at the Edison and Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers

Enjoy a bit of History at the Edison and Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers.

Edison and Ford Winter Estate from the outside
Edison and Ford Winter Estate from the outside

When I go to a vacation destination I enjoy learning about the history of the area. On my recent trip to Sanibel Island and Fort Myers, I decided to take a tour of the Edison and Ford Winter Estates. It was a great experience to learn about two of the most influential inventors and businessmen in American history.

This is a worthwhile Florida attraction to visit if you are in the area. Tourists can see their homes, botanical gardens, museums and laboratories. We spent about 4 hours there, but how much time you spend there will depend on how much you want to take in.

Edison Estate Botanical Gardens
Edison Estate Botanical Gardens

The History

I really did not know that much about the relationship of these two men. I learned that Henry Ford had worked for Thomas Edison when he was a young man and Edison befriended him and became his mentor. Thomas Edison encouraged him to pursue his aspirations of developing and mass producing his ideas for automobiles. The stayed friends throughout the years and Thomas Edison persuaded him to eventually buy the home next to his Edison’s winter estate, which he built in Fort Myers it in 1886. He began using it that year with his new bride Mina.

Thomas Edison Statue - Banyan Trees
Thomas Edison Statue - Banyan Trees

The Banyan Trees

When you first arrive in the parking lot, you will see some huge banyan trees. They are an amazing sight to see, with the branches of the tree grow horizontally and re-rooting they get very large. They have four banyan trees that were given to them by Harvey Firestone, the largest tree is one acre in diameter! There is a statue of Thomas Edison in front of it. Firestone liked these trees because their sap was used to make the tires that he produced.

 

Henry Ford Estate Outside
Henry Ford Estate Outside

The Winter Homes

Both the Edison and Ford winter homes were modest and quaint houses. The Edison’s lived there until 1947, when Mina deeded the property to the city of Fort Myers. The Edison home still has the original furnishings. Henry Ford purchased the home next to him in 1906. Ford last visited his estate in 1934. The homes are right on the riverfront of the Caloosahatchee, they had a nice view of the river and Edison’s pier from their back porches. The estates have a number of buildings that you can see, including caretaker’s cottages. The front and rear of the homes are lined with majestic royal palm trees.

Edison Winter Estate inside
Edison Winter Estate inside

 

View from Porch - Henry Ford Winter Estate
View from Porch - Henry Ford Winter Estate

The Botanical Gardens

We went in early March 2012 and we had perfect weather.  The estates have a botanical garden and the flowers were in full bloom. You’ll see some large bamboo’s growing, a fountain, a swimming pool and a Lily pond. Edison used the filaments from the bamboo on some of his first light bulbs. There is a statue of his wife Mina in the gardens behind the gift shop and museum entry. There is also a water garden with colorful flowering plants behind it. There is a double row of mango trees along the road. The Estate’s Garden Shoppe offers a wide variety of unusual plants including heritage plants, orchids, bamboo, bromeliads, fruits, vegetables, roses, edibles and gift items for sale. We bought an avocado tree to grow at our home in Florida.

Edison-Ford Winter Estate Botanical Garden
Edison-Ford Winter Estate Botanical Garden
Mina Edison Statue - Tom Edison's wife
Mina Edison Statue - Tom Edison's wife

The Museums – Edison Inventions

It is mind numbing when you see and read about all the inventions and patents that Thomas Edison created. There are seven gallery rooms filled with his inventions and many videos and educational exhibits. You can also tour the Botanic research lab which Edison, Ford and Firestone worked on developing quick growing plants and natural rubber.

Tom Edison Museum
Tom Edison Museum - Inventions

Ford Auto exhibit

You get to see some historic Ford vehicles like Model T’s and Model A’s. They even have a canteen vehicle that they used on hunting trips. It’s really amazing to see these old vehicles and how different they are compared to the cars we drive today.

Henry Ford Garage - Model A and T
Henry Ford Garage - Model A and Model T
Henry Ford Statue
Henry Ford Statue

They offer both self-guided audio tours and tours with historians who will tell you about the history as you walk the grounds. We chose the self-guided tour, where the give you a hand set that you press the button at certain locations. You also have the choice of just seeing the museum or doing the full tour.

Walkway between Edison and Ford Winter Estate
Walkway between Edison and Ford Winter Estate

All in all, it was a nice day.  I learned a lot of history and saw some very beautiful gardens and homes. I’d definitely recommend that you visit the Edison and Ford estates if you are in the Fort Myers area.
If you are planning a trip to Florida you should visit http://www.FloridaVacationPlans.com . The website is full of vacation planning ideas for Florida travel.

FloridaVacationPlans.com – A resource for planning a vacation to Florida

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