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Florida Guide > Travelling

DRIVING ALONG THE LOOP, ORMOND. PART 1

The Ormond Scenic Loop and Trail includes some of the most beautiful scenery to be found in north east Florida. Bordering the Atlantic Ocean, it offers diverse landscapes, and a quiet, peaceful drive with plenty to see and do.

As you drive along the coastal part of the Loop you will see heaped sand dunes, covered with sea oats, prickly pear cacti and dune sunflowers. The Coastal Strand Trail winds its way through cedar, holly and scrub oaks. You can stop and walk along the water, but beware of alligators – they really do live here. You might even see some manatees in the winter months, as they swim in the warmer waters.

You will drive past salt-water marshes where you may see snowy egrets, or wood storks, or perhaps the great blue herons as they wade along, searching the shallows for their next meal. You might even be lucky enough to see Marge Drew, a local artist who can be found painting at the side of the road. She says that her paintings reflect ‘a feeling of soft tranquillity’ and she loves to paint in the open air. Her watercolours and oils are beautiful, and her paintings of birds and flowers are superb. I would love to own one of her paintings.

A little further on you will come to Bulow Creek State Park, yet another little gem where you can drive down a bumpy road to the water’s edge, and paddle or fish if you have the time. It is simply beautiful, and a world away from the hustle and bustle of Orlando. At the entrance to Bulow Creek State Park you will see a massive tree, more than 400 years old (some say it is 800 years old! ), called the Fairchild Oak, which is one of the largest live oak tress in the south. There are two trails, one which leads to a coquina rock bluff, and the Bulow Woods Trail which leads to the Bulow Plantation ruins. There are white-tailed deer, raccoons, with their stripy tails, and Barred Owls, and you can rest awhile and picnic under a shady pavilion, or maybe at a table within sight of the Fairchild Oak.

Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park, on Old Beach Road, is another place you should not miss. The entrance fee is just $3 for a vehicle and up to 8 people. The painter and naturalist, John James Audubon, who painted, catalogued and described the birds of North America, spent time exploring the river and marshes. You can stroll along the nature trail, passing through sabal palms, the State Palm of Florida, as well as oaks, and on the way you will see scattered stones from slave cabins. The largest sugar mill on the East Coast once stood here, where the sugar cane was crushed to extract the syrupy liquid, which was heated to produce sugar or molasses. Although the mill was destroyed by fire during the second Seminole War in 1836, in its heyday its produce was exported by ship to Savannah, Georgia, and St Augustine and Jacksonville. This once prosperous sugar plantation was owned by the Bulow family, who also grew rice, cotton and indigo. Sadly, only the crumbling foundations of the plantation house now remain.

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Page added on: 2 January 2009
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