Florida, the State with an average of 237 days of sunshine per year attracts tourists from all over the world, primarily those from Northern Europe and Snow Birds from the inclement winter weather of the Northern US States, those lucky enough to be out of Florida for the summer months, returning for the winter months, when the weather is blissful, comfortable temperatures and usually wall to wall sunshine. Florida summers are not pleasant with high temperatures, high humidity and rain every day. Usually the rain is fairly short lived but definitely frequently a challenge to drive in. Don’t forget the summer season from Jun until November is the highest risk for hurricanes and tropical storms. Every year they seem to start earlier in the calendar as a result of the sea warming due to climate change providing a greater source of energy for the storm or hurricane. Rapid strengthening seems now to be common in the last couple of years. Don’t ignore the threat of tropical storms, not quite as intense as hurricanes but they also bring damaging squally winds, driving rain and dangerous lightning.
I’ve lived between the United Kingdom and the US mainly in Florida for many years sometimes on the Gulf Coast and sometimes on the Atlantic coast. Personally I prefer the Atlantic coast as I prefer the Atlantic coast north or south of Daytona. You can still find quiet beaches away from the main tourist areas.
One of my favourite destinations when in Florida is Merritt Island Nature Reserve, a 140,000 acre wildlife refuge on the Atlantic coast and borders the NASA Kennedy Space Centre. There are hiking trails. Occasionally part of the reserve can be closed depending on operational needs such as launches taking place. The Space Centre Visitor Complex is worth a visit. If there is a launch during your visit, there are viewing opportunities near Titusville. I have seen several Shuttle launches including the flight that included John Glenn at age 77. Viewing from several miles away, the ground vibrated from the power unleashed during the launch. I’ve also watched night launches from a beach nearly 100 miles north of the launch site and it was spectacular as it soared from the site out over the Atlantic until it was a speck in the night sky.
The Merritt Island Wildlife Reserve is home to a multitude of wildlife including an almost assured viewing of alligators. Do not feed the alligators and treat them with respect, they can move rapidly.
The reserve is home to some 358 different species of birds plus bobcats, otters, manatees, deer and over 140 different species of fish in the freshwater and salt water habitats that are included in the reserve area.If hiking in the wilderness always watch for alligators or the various species of snakes, some of which are venomous. Remember, it’s their habitat not yours!
Remember there are no cages, they are in their natural habitat and it is you that is the intruder!
My favourite wildlife drive at Merrit Island, abundant bird life and alligators are assured
There is even an elevated viewing platform on the drive
The road to Key West
113 miles on the scenic highway
Sunset at Key West
St.Augustine is a city on the northeast coast of Florida, just south of Jacksonville. It claims to be the oldest city in the United States and its architecture is mostly Spanish colonial. The fort is 17th century Castillo de San Marcos has views over the St. Augustine Inlet.
The city was founded in 1565 and is certainly worth a visit although it can be quite busy during holidays and weekends. There are pristine beaches close by and the drive up the coast from Daytona is very pleasant running along the coast usually with pristine beaches and azure blue sea with gentle Atlantic waves breaking on the golden sand beaches. Flagler Beach which is changing with some development is still mostly like old Florida and has a couple of very nice restaurants overlooking the coastline.
To be continued