• Sarah S.

Florida Road Trip (Part 2)



A taste of Naples.

Naples, FL

Our second month of Florida led us to Naples. Our home for the next month was a beautiful resort-style condo with everything one needs including a big pool, bikes for the family, toys, and beach equipment. The resort boasts its own “town center” with a movie theater, bistro, coffee shop, library, and ice cream parlor. The property is fully equipped with tennis, basketball, volleyball, pickleball courts, billiards, and bocce ball. Things are really heating up in July and the “sauna” is set for high steam output, but we are ready! Grab your sweatbands and fans, ‘cause here we go.


At the beautiful Olè resort Vallen befriended an Eastern Lubber & Eastern Softshell turtle.

Life In Naples

One of our favorite things to do at the resort is biking. We really missed having our bicycles so we routinely got exercise riding throughout the community.

The pool was body temperature when we first arrived, but the water slowly got cooler as the “thermometer” got higher. The community offers a poolside bar and food service, with the option to bring food when their service is closed. We loved making dinner and eating by the pool.


One night was especially entertaining when what we thought was a leaf in the pool turned out to be a baby Florida Softshell Turtle. Apparently, it had been looking for water and was enjoying the pool like everyone else. We moved him to a better location and within 5 minutes there was another one trying to hop in the pool. It was such a cool experience, and the kids enjoyed holding and seeing these feisty turtles up close.


Just a taste of the beautiful foliage in Florida.

Alive with Nature

The most intriguing feature of Florida is the tropical foliage. I just love it so much. In the 2 months spent here, I have learned about many plants, trees, flowers, animals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds. There is such an abundance of fascinating creatures and life. Sealife is abundant in the oceans and we have encountered many different species in the water.


Trying our luck at fishing. The only thing we nabbed was a gorgeous sunset-will take it!

Fishing

Anthony has wanted to catch fish for a long time. He is a fishing aficionado who hasn’t had the right opportunity to catch anything more than a Bluegill. We spent an evening at Sugden Regional Park fishing off the pier. Vallen almost caught what we believe to be an Alligator Gar, but we didn’t quite hook it. Vincent had his bate repeatedly yanked by Bluegills. So the new mission is set, to boldly go where we haven’t gone before. Our sights are set on bass. More on this later…hopefully.


Basking in the sun at Naples Beach & Pier and everywhere.

Naples Beach

The next stop we had to make was the beach. I took the boys to Naples Beach & Pier. The beach is lovely, but the free rides are over. Parking here runs $2.50 an hour at the time of this post and is strictly enforced. The beach is loaded with sand dollars. It was cool to have walked in the warm, calm water and just find sand dollars under your feet. Did you know they are related to sea urchins and starfish?

Marco Island

At the time we went to Marco Island, just after the 4th of July, the beaches were only available to residents (Coronavirus safety issue). There were a lot of high rises in the area and it felt very touristy. That being said, we decided to let sleeping dogs lie and move on to a less crowded area.


A little taste of 4th of July 2020 complete with sparklers & horseshoe crabs.

4th of July, Under A Bridge, Lost Tooth

As with most of the US, the 4th of July fireworks were canceled due to COVID-19. It was still a fun night of celebration with homemade appetizers, a movie, sparklers, and laughs.


Not long after the 4th, Vallen lost his first upper tooth. It was so exciting since he hasn’t lost one since his two bottom teeth fell out about 1 year ago.

On the day we left Marco Island and were crossing the Causeway, we pulled off to check out the fishing prospects. We walked around and came across Horseshoe crabs. These are just a few good times that popped up while in Naples.


Jerry’s on Sanibel Island-home to some beautiful birds & Lighthouse Beach & Pier

Sanibel & Captiva Island

Sanibel

This is a great place to go if you want to go to a clean, beautiful, and natural environment. All buildings within view are low-rise only and don’t impose on your views.


A brief stop had to be made before we hit the beach. Vallen left the house with no shoes. We were not sure how that happened, but you cannot walk the streets of Florida in July with no shoes. The sand can be just as hot as the asphalt!

From the street, we saw a van painted with “Jerry’s Foods, best key lime pie on the island.” We have been enamored with key lime pie since we got to Florida and couldn’t resist the temptation. It was so great we stopped because Jerry’s is located in a really cool outdoor mall called Jerry’s Shopping Center, with Macaws, Parrots, and birds throughout. The grounds are beautifully landscaped with gorgeous botanicals.


Jerry’s is a great market and the key lime pie was scrumptious. While there we were able to get Vallen a pair of flip-flops for a reasonable price at the Sanibel Surf Shop. Vincent even got a pair of water shoes and a Sanibel Island sticker for his collection.


The beaches with their trees and scrubs are beautiful. Some may go bar hopping, but we went beach hopping. The first stop was the Lighthouse Beach & Pier. The lighthouse is such a pretty sight. It is not open to walk-through, but nonetheless, it stands as a beacon to be admired while enjoying the warm waters and sea life.

We got there early at low tide and could go far from the shore to view jellyfish, starfish, hermit crabs, fish, and a juvenile osprey was even onsite.


The next stop was Bowman’s Beach. There were lots of shells and many people were busy “shelling."


At the end of the day, we ended up going back to Lighthouse Beach because we loved it there so much!

Captiva

Lastly, we continued on to the very lovely, neighboring Captiva. This is a very quaint and laid-back beach town. There are gorgeous tropical plants and trees everywhere. It was such a fun and enjoyable ride along the water. There are little shops and restaurants around town.


**Insider tip, be prepared to pay top dollar for parking, at $5 an hour on both islands for beach parking, plus $6 bridge toll to get onto the island at the time this article was posted. We brought lunch, drinks, and snacks with us.


A good hike, swamp apples, and tropical Liguus tree snails…oh my!

Collier-Seminole State Park

Since we were still trying to reel in the big one, it was our intention to cast off at a new location, the Collier-Seminole State Park (reasonable $5 per car up to 8 people). It turned out to be so hot and humid, we didn’t attempt to get out the fishing gear. A father and daughter were already out there fishing and didn’t seem to have any luck.


There was a large alligator that surfaced a few times in the Blackwater River. Everyone got a kick out of seeing him peek out of the water to look at his audience.


We opted to take a hike on the Royal Palm Hammock Nature Trail. It was really a beautiful hike that felt more like a stroll. It was drizzling on and off so it was nice to walk on the boardwalk bordering the marsh. There were breathtaking foliage (some of which are labeled), flowers, and fruiting plants, additionally, butterflies, tropical Liguus tree snails, Eastern Lubber Grasshoppers, lizards, and of course mosquitos, which get honorable mention since one managed to find its way into my shorts and bite my rear end.


After we were completely drenched from sweating and rain, it was time to find some cool relief at the ice cream shop.


These boys couldn’t get enough of the Atlantic’s turbulent waves! The gulf‘s water is way too relaxing for a couple of boys.

Pompano Beach

Of course, we wanted to check out the Atlantic side of Florida before leaving Naples. After about a 1 ½ hour drive East of Naples we made it to Pompano Beach, about 7 minutes north of Fort Lauderdale. There are a lot more people at this spot, high rises all around the water, and big waves (which the kids loved). Overall, I think I got spoiled with my calm gulf side beaches which have warmer water, natural brush, and a lot fewer people.


Checking out some local airboats at a rest stop on our way to Pompano Beach.

Barefoot Beach County Preserves

Butterfly garden at Parking lot 1, with visits from the locals.

It was undecided what we were going to do with our last couple of days in Naples. After doing some research, I came across the Barefoot Beach County Preserves and I am so glad I did. Here is a site map that is handy and gives you the address.

It was about a 45-minute drive from our place. We packed a cooler with lunch and grabbed our swim gear. This place is a hidden gem. It is nestled in a million-dollar community, meaning you literally follow the red brick red after going through the guarded gate.


Once you reach the sand road (also, gate-guarded for parking payment-it is a county preserve after all), you have arrived. The $8 parking fee for the day is worth it. The beach was very quiet, with lots of natural flowers and plants, and was loaded with wildlife.


This cutie was a natural in front of the camera.

The first parking lot is the butterfly garden and outdoor education center. We were even greeted by what appeared to be the resident raccoon scrounging for food. He kept his distance and scurried away at the sight of people.


The garden is quaint and beautiful, filled with flowers, a pond with lily pads, and of course loads of butterflies. There are picnic tables and bathrooms.


The boys on Sailor walking trail. Lots of Gopher Tortoises along the way.

Gopher tortoises will pop up all over the place, especially around the second parking lot, which is known as the “Gopher Tortoise Hotel.” These guys are not afraid to get up close and personal for photos.


The third parking lot is the start of Saylor Trail. It is about a 1- 1 ¼ mile easy hike on flat-level sand. You will encounter Gopher Tortoises here, too. There is beach access available at all 3 lots, but this area had the least people and the hiking trail.

We decided to hike before heading to the water. There are markers naming plant life and flowers. We saw the Southern Black Racer snake (they are a smaller, non-venomous constrictor) heading into the woods, many Gopher Tortoises, and lizards. Dragonflies were in great abundance and looked like tornadoes above us, but they were no bother.


An Ibis takes off, shell bank, and Sweet Melissa’s.

Once we finished hiking it was time to hit the beach. There are lots of shells and mollusks to see. The water was refreshing and we had a great time with the kids who really enjoyed the day. After we exhausted ourselves swimming, we hiked back along the shoreline to the parking lot.


There were many Gopher Tortoises saying their goodbyes along the road on our way out of the preserve.


About 1 mile from exiting the red brick road, we saw a sign for Sweet Melissa’s Ice Cream Shoppe. The sign, also, says Key Lime Pies, and you know how we feel about those.


It was almost dinnertime and we had ribs in the crockpot at home. We did the only thing one could do in this situation, stop and share a slice of some delicious Florida Key Lime Pie between the 4 of us. Man, was it good!

The ice cream at Sweet Melissa’s looked delicious, too. You may, also, be tempted by the slice of key lime pie on a stick dipped in chocolate. Highly recommend a stop here if you are in the area.

Ciao Naples, FL

Our time in Naples is wrapping up and we are mapping out our next destination. If you didn’t catch my last Florida article, don’t fret, just click here.


At the time of writing this, the Northern states have become a bit expensive, as they are more desirable in summer. Also, people seem to be dipping their toes into domestic travel again. We’ll see where the road takes us to our next destination. Hope you can come along.



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