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A trip to the Everglades
In March 2008 my wife and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary. Having had a pretty spectacular 25th anniversary with a 10 day tour of California taking in San Francisco, Yosemite, Las Vegas, the Hoover Dam and Death Valley, we knew we had a hard act to follow. This time we decided to have a more relaxing break but to take in the Everglades and Florida Keys.
On the morning of our anniversary we got up early and left our Hampton Lakes villa heading towards Tampa and then dropping south on the 75. Breakfast was at Post Charlotte where we eventually found the sea but ended up having pancakes in a Cracker Barrel just south of the town. We then proceeded south heading for Everglade City which we reached around 11. 00am. Having never been to the everglades before, we were a bit unsure of what to expect. We had decided on an airboat trip but had no idea how to book and what was a sensible cost. The tourist information centre was very helpful and although not able to recommend a particular operator did manage to give an indication that Speedy Johnson was both good and inexpensive. We drove down to find Speedy Johnson and booked our trip for 1. 00pm. With about an hour to kill we explored Everglade City by car. Ten minutes later we had seen the entire place. “City” is a bit of an exaggeration – as it is in fact smaller that the village in which we live, in Somerset. We found a small shop and bought some lunch and ate it in the car during a torrential thunderstorm that came out of nowhere!
The air boat ride was brilliant and evoked all senses, including smell as the Everglades does have a rather pungent small of rotting vegetation. At this time of year there are few alligators in the swamps as they prefer the less salty water up stream. Our 90 minute trip was over in a flash and we disembarked very happy and absolutely soaked as the second deluge of the day occurred while we were on the water. Waterproof capes were provided but the rain was so heavy that it managed to find a way in!
After the air boat we then went in search of alligators which we found about 5 miles away up a road running alongside a river. We spent well over an hour watching and photographing these amazing creatures.
The original plan had been to find somewhere to stay in the Everglades but we decided to carry on down to the Keys instead. A short two hour drive found us at Key Largo where we had a drink at a waterside bar and asked about hotels. We were recommended one in the town which we then found and quickly dismissed as too expensive when we tried to book a room. The Ramada hotel next door was a bit more up market and half the cost and good enough for us.
After a quick swim and relax in the jacuzzi in the hotel gardens overlooking the estuary, we changed for dinner and ate at the Coconut Restaurant where the fish was exquisite and so was the beer! Quick research before bed helped put a plan together for the following day when we went on a glass bottom boat out to the reef. We floated over the reef for around 45 minutes after a half hour sail. We dangled our legs over the observation glass and saw some amazing sights. There were all manner of fish of all sizes, shapes and colours including barracudas. We arrived back in Key Largo around lunch time and started our trip home. We drove up past Miami and headed to Palm Beach where we had a walk and paddle in the Atlantic Ocean. Not overly impressed with Palm Beach – too many high rise buildings, but none the less an interesting place to visit.
We then continued home with a slight detour as the roads into Orlando make the trek across to Davenport a bit tortuous. A quick visit to Publix to buy some New York strip and corn for the barbecue and a bottle of Pinot Griggio and back home to a well earned barbecue and a long sleep!
This was a really memorable trip and we can definitely recommend it. To enhance it I would probably plan an additional day with an overnight stop in Miami.
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