Florida Road Trip (Part 1)
Updated: Jan 20
Coconut Palm just outside our door. We are nuts for nuts!
…After an 11-hour overnight car ride from Nashville, TN, we arrived in Florida on May 30, 2020, ready for our tropical adventures.
When we pulled into the carport of our new home for the upcoming month, we looked up to see we had a coconut palm right next to us loaded with those well-polished green ovals.
It wasn’t long before Vincent and I were up to our antics figuring out how we could extract said coconuts without breaking our own. After simultaneously jumping and swinging a broom didn’t do the trick, we found the tool closet with a ladder and managed to finagle one that way. By the time that obstacle was completed, we had Anthony climbing the ladder with the shovel knocking them down. After all, he does have the height advantage in this family! I will let you in on a little secret, we ended up eating 3 more of those delectable fruit/nut/seed treats.
Around our temp home and Manasota Key Beach
Manasota Key Beach
Once we got settled into our rental, we flocked to Manasota Key Beach, which is a 5-minute drive. Nothing felt more like paradise like the beautiful turquoise, warm waters.
There was free parking, a 2-minute walk to get to the shore from the parking lot, and 86 degree water. I’ve never wanted to actually swim in the ocean until discovering these beaches. We’re from California where the beach generally runs from 52-68 degrees max. Even our community pool was heated to body temperature and felt too good to resist. Are you seeing the theme here? Yes, I do need my water to be warm and delightful!
*Note, over the course of our stay, Manasota Key Beach truly ended up being my favorite beach in this area. It is so laid back, low-key, clean, and there are loads of shark teeth.
Visit With Pop
My father-in-law came down from Tampa to visit us at our beach house. No barbeque is complete without Pop starting his signature fire and this was no exception. We had a good laugh watching the flames erupt under his steaks and the grill smoking like a volcano about to erupt. After all, he did almost set Mom’s kitchen on fire with his beer can burgers a couple of years ago. I don’t think I’m supposed to talk about that though.
A typical passing summer shower.
After about a week, we discovered “hurricane season.” This begins on June 1 and runs for the next 5 months through November. This translates to lots of rain every day. The weather, though humid, was very comfortable at about 73 degrees, but buckets of rain would be dropped at any given time. That is tropical living for you.
*Note, after this hurricane that passed over the ocean at the beginning of our stay, we had very little rain. It has been humid as expected and you hear thunder every now and again, but not as rainy as I thought. Everything stays lush, green, and full of life.
Views From downtown Venice & Venice Beach
We spent a good amount of time in Venice, as it is located just above Englewood. The beaches there are loaded with shells and there is a cool fishing pier if you’d like to take a stroll at the entrance of Sharky’s On The Pier. Be prepared to see loads of pelicans, pigeons, egrets, and herons. Then take a walk in historic downtown Venice.
Don’t forget to stop for a cool refreshing treat at Ciao Gelato. There are lots of cute shops, souvenirs, ice cream parlors, and restaurants. We really enjoyed the trees, beautiful potted plants, and maintained parks in the meridian. The town offers self-guided scavenger hunts to help you familiarize yourself with the town and surroundings. We ended up doing some of our grocery shopping and getting odds and ends in Venice. You will usually find what you are looking for there.
On the beach and strutting around St. Armands Circle, Pop was surprised they used his body in this storefront window.
#1 Beach In America: Siesta Key Beach
Pop met us in the Siesta Keys. The ocean was rough due to a hurricane out at sea. We loved jumping the waves. You could walk out far from the shoreline and the water was still shallow enough to jump and play in it. We loved the balmy 81-degree water. It was a humid 90-degree day, but it felt nice. There was a steady breeze that made you feel like you were on a tropical island. The white sand was soft and squishy and had the consistency of mashed potatoes. Little pools of water formed on the tops of the sand before you reached the shoreline. Hiking to the shoreline from the entrance of the beach was easy from all the moisture on the sand’s surface.
A lot of people were using skimboards on this beach. There was even the appearance of a deceased pufferfish that had washed ashore from being castaway by the sea. We wanted to see it up close but didn’t have the nerve to touch it. So it washed back out from where it came. After hanging on the beach, Pop wanted to take us to St. Armands Circle. It is a really cute area with lots of shopping, restaurants, and ice cream shops.
Running amok in Boca Grande!
Boca Grande, Gasparilla Island
This is a high-end area. The favored mode of transportation is golf cars. There is even a center lane that is divided off just for the golf cars. It is a quiet, high-end town with lots of families who appeared to be vacationing there. There are million-dollar homes and the town is very clean. Lots of wildlife on the island, especially the Gopher Tortoise. Lucky for us we had the opportunity to see one up close, in addition to a quail, and a Fiddler crab. Of course, we had to let the kids dive into the delicious water. I didn’t bring my bathing suit for this one. But it was just as nice dipping the toes.
Classifying shark teeth, sunsets, jungle flame flowers & lizards, oh my!
Shark Tooth Capital Of The World
One of our new passions is fossilized shark-tooth hunting. It was only after 2-weeks of being in Englewood that Vincent read Venice is dubbed the “shark-tooth capital of the world.” This includes our beach in the Manasota Keys and the Casey Keys. We noticed people scouring the sifting through the sand, but didn’t think much about it.
Finally, we decided to borrow the equipment provided by the house we were renting. Shark tooth hunting involves a floating ocean sifter and a long basket on a handle or even a bucket will do just fine. Anthony scooped and poured it in the sifter, Vincent sifted through the sand and shells and fished out the teeth, and Vallen and I would run the teeth to our bag. Before you knew it, we collected 56 shark teeth. Vallen and I returned another day and managed to gather about another 30 teeth. It’s very exciting!
Lots of fish, tidepools, and rocks to conquer.
Father’s Day was nice. We made Anthony breakfast, gave him some treats and a little gift, and headed out to Caspersen Beach. The cool thing about this beach is there are lots of rocks, so there is some good snorkeling to be had. Vincent later recognized a couple of the fish as Sheepshead and Pin Fish. Not to mention, shark tooth collecting, and exploring the tidepools. My kids love rocks, so they really enjoyed climbing and trying to balance on them while taking a walk along the shore.
**My biggest advice if you are ever in Florida: Always keep a bathing suit, sunhat, and a bottle of sunscreen in the trunk of your car. You never know when you are going to need it!
Siesta Key & Englewood-Thanks to Pop-Pop for the Pirate Swag that Vincent’s sporting!
Until We Meet Again
Pop had to go back to New Jersey the next day, so we got together one last time at Siesta Key Beach. The sand was as white and fine as talcum powder and the water was as comfortable as a very warm bath. It was a balmy 93 degrees outside and a warm, tropical breeze. With barely any waves, you could walk quite far from the shoreline and still have the water come up just to mid-thigh if you were standing. After our fun in the sun, we came back to our place for a farewell lasagne dinner and a classic Italian goodbye.
On that note, I will wrap up this article, as our month in Englewood is coming to a close in a couple of days. We are off to our next Florida destination. Keep your eyes peeled for more adventures as we continue our road trip through Florida.
If you’d like to read about more of our travels, try our trip to Canada. More recently, check out our road trip across America part 1 & part 2. Hopefully, it will inspire you to do the things you love. Remember to enjoy the journey.