On the gulf coast - Vacation in Florida Part I
The first part of the journal of my travels through the American south can be found here: https://www.jfsweb.org/life-the-universe-and-everything/2018/1/7/christmas-time-in-nashville-and-new-orleans
This part describes our days at the gulf coast in Florida. We had two stops there, first a very small town in the north of Florida called Steinhatchee and then Tampa, one of the bigger cities and much more of a tourist destination.
In Steinhatchee we only stayed for one night as it is was meant only as a stop-over on our way to Tampa from New Orleans. Indeed, the drive from New Orleans to there was one of our longest distances travelled in one day. The town, which we had picked more or less blindly on Google Maps, was a slightly weird mixture of a tourist town with a total backwater. While there were a lot of hotels and many many landing sites for boats, it was very hard to find any restaurants. That we didn't have any cellphone reception at all didn't help of course, and we had arrived so late that there was nobody at the reception to tell us the WiFi password. But in the end, we at least managed to find a pizza place and starvation was averted in the knick of time.
The next day we wanted to be on the road early, but then realized that our hotel in Tampa wouldn't let us check in until 3pm. So we had to somehow pass the day. We had picked Steinhatchee specifically because of the nature preserves around it. In the end we let us be lured in by a sign advertising Florida's broadest waterfall. Pro-Tip: If someone tells you how magnificently broad their waterfall is, ask for the height of that damn thing!
Fooled by marketing again!
Not surprisingly, it was not terribly exciting there and we quickly were on our way. We then decided to make a stop at another small coastal town, Cedar Point. It is located on a couple of islands just off the coast and is a paradise for anyone with a boat or who likes to fish. The harbor is quickly explored, but there were a lot of birds there for me to photograph.
Then we got surprised by one of the absolute highlights of the whole trip, at least for a wildlife enthusiast like me. An osprey, freshly caught fish in his claws, landed right in front of our car, where we were just finishing of yesterday's pizza. Of course I immediately grabbed my camera and began slowly approaching the animal. Luckiyl, he was completely undisturbed and spent quite some time posing for my camera. An unforgettable moment!
In the afternon whe drove the last couple of hundred miles down to Tampa. There we finally got what we had been searching all the time: 70 degrees and sunshine! Tampa itself is not located directly on the coast but a little way inland on a bay. Stretching along the whole downtown of Tampa there is a great walkway along a river, a great way to explore the city or just hang out. Tampa has a pretty cool skyline und made a very friendly, open and relaxed impression to us. We liked it quite a bit.
The next day we finally managed to get to a proper beach. Just off the coast there is Caladesi Island State Park, a small protected island that can only be reached by ferry from another State Park. That limits the number of people that are on that island at any one time. So you don't exactly get it to yourself, but it's still nice and quite. Our time there was split between lazing around on a beautiful beach with amazing white sand and exploring the nature trails in the inner part of the island. The vegetation there is very cool, because fire is a big part of the ecosystem and you see a lot of living palm trees that have clearly been burned at some point.
Another highlihgt of our two days in Tampa was a small vegan bakery/bistro called Farmacy. We went there relatively late and the people had basically already eaten the place empty. The only thing we could get was a curry salat and oat meal. And it was sooo good! The whole rest of the vacation we constantly had to whine about the fact that we couldn't go there again for more!
But we just had very little time in Tampa and the gulf coast, and we went east towards the Atlantic Coast after only two nights, off to new adventures. Which I will save for the next one!