Collier and Lee Counties Edition

Florida’s August Getaways

(L to R): Fort DeSoto, Florida Caverns – Wedding Room, Dry Tortugas National Park

(L to R): Fort DeSoto, Florida Caverns – Wedding Room, Dry Tortugas National Park

The month of August is mostly known for its hot, languid days and nights, rather than for one of the word’s dictionary meanings; “inspiring reverence and admiration”. Although few individuals consciously think of the month in terms of an “august performance”, it definitely inspires at least one very good thing, vacations—particularly family vacations intended for making memories that last beyond the ringing of school bells.

For families that are interested in laid back short or long “fresh air” getaways that allow for outdoor fun and the enjoyment of our state’s natural beauty, there are excellent opportunities that provide for wildlife viewing, appreciating magnificent sunrises or sunsets, picnics and shelling on exquisite beaches, kayaking, canoeing, horseback riding, fishing and scuba diving. Pick from any of these activities that the whole family can enjoy and head for any of these five uniquely different Florida state or county parks, which provide campsites or cabins.

Bahia Honda State Park, with its railroad history and oceanside camping, is located near the original Flagler Railroad to Key West. Located on Big Pine Key on the Overseas Highway route to Key West, the park offers cabins, three camping areas with a total of 80 sites, restrooms/showers and two boat ramps for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy fishing, hiking/nature trails, bicycling and birding.

Florida Caverns State Park is in Marianna, Florida (Panhandle). There are 35 camping sites, restrooms/showers and a boat ramp. In addition to guided tours to the rare Florida caverns that any spelunker will enjoy exploring, activities include bicycling, birding, fishing, horse/equestrian trails and hiking/nature trails.

Fort Desoto Park, near St. Petersburg, is in the Pinellas County Park System. Covering 1,136 acres made up of five interconnected islands, it was named by Trip Advisor as America’s Top Beach in 2009. The park has more than seven miles of waterfront, 238 family camping sites with restrooms/showers and a historic Spanish fort. Activities include the beach, bicycling, birding, fishing, hiking and nature trails. There is also a boat ramp.

Myakka River State Park is in Sarasota, Florida. One of the oldest and largest state parks, there are a total of 96 camping sites with restrooms/showers. Activities include bicycling, birding, camping, fishing and hiking/nature trails.

Dry Tortugas National Park, located approximately 70 miles west of Key West, offers a distinctively different camping experience. In this remote access camping area with an abundance of marine life and birds, as well as the 19th-century Fort Jefferson, sites are primitive and for the experienced camper only. Campers must bring everything they need to camp, including water, and take it all back when they leave.

Fort Jefferson housed Dr. Samuel Mudd, the doctor found guilty for conspiracy and harboring John Wilkes Booth after his assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Mudd was sentenced to life imprisonment at Fort Jefferson, but pardoned in 1869 by President Andrew Johnson, in part for his life-saving work during a yellow fever epidemic at the military prison.

While Florida boasts more natural springs than any other state, all of which are listed at FloridaSprings.org, the closest for Collier and Lee country residents is the only warm mineral water springs in the state. Warm Mineral Springs, in North Port, is the largest of its type in the world, with a nearly constant water temperature of 87 degrees. Its surface is a round pond 1.4-acres in circumference. Owned by the city of North Port, there is no onsite camping.

In the majority of Florida’s natural springs, the water stays at a constant 68 to 70 degrees. At Ginnie Springs, located on the south side of the Santa Fe River in the town of High Springs, the 72-degree water is perfect for river tubing, swimming, snorkeling, scuba and cave diving. Wilderness campsites and some with electricity are available, as well as overnight rental cottages, picnicking, swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, canoeing, kayaking, river tubing and volleyball.

Lynn Sullivan is the founder of TRAVEL with EASe services inc. Call 239-337-3272 or visit TravelWithEaseSvcs.com. For information on all FL state parks, visit FloridaStateParks.org. For information on Florida’s natural springs, visit FloridaSprings.org.

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