Them Airboats

** Because we are traveling less frequently these days, I thought I could share some interesting stuff about Florida. What better way to promote my home base right? I don’t need to travel out of state or out of the country to be able to come up with inspiration for my blog because I already got tons of fun-tastic Florida faves lined up for you!

You can check out my first post about Florida here.

In the meantime, another fun-tastic activity to do while in Florida not Disney related is going on an airboat ride.

What exactly is an airboat?

Wikipedia defines it as: “An airboat, also known as a fanboat, is a flat-bottomed vessel propelled in a forward direction by an aircraft-type propeller and powered by either an aircraft or automotive engine. Airboats are a very popular means of transportation in the Florida Everglades, parts of the Indian River Lagoon, the Kissimmee and St. Johns Rivers, as well as Louisiana Bayous, where they are used for fishing, bowfishing, hunting, and ecotourism, and in other marshy and/or shallow areas where a standard inboard or outboard engine with a submerged propeller would be impractical.”airboatinflorida

Another interesting fact is that the airboat was first built not in Florida or the rest of the southern marshy states but in Nova Scotia, Canada by Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone. Hello?

So whenever you see a flat bottom boat with a huge fan in its behind, you now know it is an airboat.

I first rode one in the Everglades National Park in South Florida. There are many airboat operators offering different tours which may or may not include other wildlife shows and exhibits. It is also important to know that majority of the park is considered a wilderness area and is off limits to private and commercial airboats so only a small section of the park and some adjacent non-park lands are used for the tours.

The next few times of my Florida airboating experience were done at Camp Holly, a mere stone’s throw away from where we live. Every time we have guests, we try to make sure to bring them here for an authentic old school style Florida activity.

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I personally think Camp Holly’s airboats were much more fun and exciting and faster than the one we had at the Everglades. Maybe there are speed restrictions since it is a National Park, I don’t know. All I remember on the Camp Holly rides is the thrill I get every time the boat twists and turns as it navigates its way on the water. It is much cheaper and closer to home too so that by itself is a no brainer.

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The boats go along the St. John’s River, the longest river in Florida and one of the few in the United States that flows up North. Various wildlife and plant life thrives here abundantly so naturally, sight seeing is the main attraction apart from the experience of riding the airboat itself.

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Of course, the alligator is the “king of the river” and all the other animals are but secondary to this fierce beast. I once saw a smaller alligator being eaten by another alligator. It happened so fast that at first I saw this swimming alligator and the next thing I heard was a loud snap and water splashing and then a piece of carcass was seen floating where the alligator was. Cannibalism live in action. Ugh.

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Can you find the gator?

Certain times of the year around spring is the best time to see these animals for mating season. We went in March and I swear we saw more than ten gators, I lost count! We even saw a gator’s nest.

Before going on a ride though, be aware that it can get really loud from the noise of the machine. Most operators provide you with ear muffs, ear plugs or noise reducing headsets. The driver stops at intervals though to be able to talk to you or answer any questions you might have. Also, being in Florida, the weather can change any time so be prepared for rain. If the weather gets really bad like a thunderstorm, they will turn back. Another important thing to remember also is that you will be riding along a marshland with weeds, grass and sometimes trees so bring a mosquito repellent. And sunscreen for that hot Florida sun. Duh.

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Lastly, bring a sense of fun and style to your airboat experience. Like my gorgeous friend from New York.

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Have you ever been on one? Wasn’t it an adrenaline pumping experience too?

The Oldest City in America

America’s oldest city is right under my nose, in my own backyard and I can’t even write about it. What is wrong with me?

Forgive me St. Augustine.

You have been and still are one of my favorite places to visit again and again. Your quaint and charming ways have found a special spot in our hearts. Not only because you are a three hour drive away from us, over the years, my husband and I both love to run away to you for a quick romantic getaway or to bring out of town guests to show them that Florida is more than just the theme parks.

Bright orange signs along the highway
Bright orange signs along the highway

St. Augustine was officially founded in 1565 when Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon discovered Florida in the early 1500s while on his search for the legendary Fountain of Youth (for real?). Today, St. Augustine boasts of its rich and exotic past mixed with beautiful beaches and lots of tourist attractions sprinkled with liberal amounts of Florida sunshine.

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St. Augustine is located in the Northeast corner of Florida and less than two hours away from Orlando. So if you get tired of Mickey Mouse and Harry Potter, a quick step back in time will rejuvenate that history geek in you!

Teeming with history

If Orlando is all about the fast paced colorful theme parks, St. Augustine is all about the history. Strolling through downtown St. Augustine’s cobblestone streets evokes that “old-worldly” sense coupled with cute romantic undertones. All modern structures were built to look like it was a hundred years old so it blends seamlessly with the true historic nature of the place. Horse drawn carriage rides along the harbor with the view of the bay and the Fort and the Bridge of Lions from a distance provide a picturesque backdrop to anybody visiting the area.

Even my photos are in sepia or black and white to match the nostalgic scenes.

Old and creepy

So cute and romantic can also be replaced with old and creepy, specially at night. If you like ghost stories, you are in the right place! There are so many ghost tours available from walking in cemeteries to riding a train or a hearse to check out the many “most haunted” sites. Some stories may have some truth to it, some are obviously made up. It is up to you to if you believe in the them or not. But there are definitely lots of spooky places, this being the oldest city. It makes for one very interesting evening.

I had goosebumps taking those cemetery shots at night. I didn’t look at the images on my camera’s viewfinder and didn’t really get to view them until I downloaded them into my computer a few days later. It’s just me, I scare easily.

During one of our many visits, we celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary and stayed at a Bed and Breakfast. It was cute and charming at first, with all those grandma doilies and white lace and antique chairs until it turned dark in the evening then it stopped being cute with the creaky wooden floors and all!

The lighthouse

Built in the 1800s, the St. Augustine lighthouse is still very much in active use today. For a small fee, you can enter the museums, walk around the grounds and even climb up 219 steps to the top of the lighthouse. The views are spectacular!

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Matanzas Bay and the Atlantic Ocean from a distance
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The lens room
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A light house selfie

The fort

Castillo de San Marcos is the oldest masonry fort in North America built by the Spanish originally to thwart English attacks. This was back when Florida was still under Spanish rule.

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The fort walls
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The red rooftops of Flagler college

Of coquinas and cannons

Coquina (Spanish for small shells) is the material from which the Castillo de San Marcos is mostly built. It is similar to limestone and is made from little shells that have bonded together over time. Many have thought that this was a poor choice for building material for a fortress as it was light and porous but it was the only one available to use nearby however, when cannonballs were fired and flying, instead of shattering the walls, it got stuck or absorbed into the rock. A lucky find indeed. Makes for great legendary tales. The coquina saved the day!

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The fort’s inside walls
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One of the walls inside the city (downtown St. Augustine)
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The old city gates

These are just some of the main finds in this historic city. St. Augustine is a treasure full of activities and attractions, one that suits the young and old alike.

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Because we are traveling less frequently these days, I thought I could write some stuff about Florida. What better way to promote my home base right? I don’t need to travel out of state or out of the country to be able to come up with something for my blog because I already got tons of “fun-tastic” Florida faves lined up for you!