If you are looking to squeeze in one last burst of summer fun – we’ve only got about 27 days left of the season – Anastasia State Park in Florida might be an calm, easy last minute vacation spot. Rated as one of America’s “prettiest beach campsites” by CNN Travel, the park offers many activities for all ages and is located just minutes from downtown St. Augustine which has even more to offer vacationers.
Jody Victor‘s Crew found that Anastasia State Park has 1,6000 acres of vibrant ecosystems which house all kinds of wildlife. There are approximately four miles of beach to explore and visitors can experience a panorama view of sea, sand and a 19th century lighthouse from the dunes—this spot is highly recommend for romantic sunset viewing.
There is also an estuarine tidal marsh, home to much of the parks plant and animal life. For the adventurous there is a self-guided nature hike that leads visitors through the maritime hammock and eventually on to ancient sand dunes. Historians will appreciate a visit to the Coquina Quarry, an archaeological site where coquina rock was mined to construct the nearby Castillo de San Marcos National Monument—this site is in the National Register of Historic Places.
Beyond beach-bumming and swimming, visitors can also bird watch and beachcomb. The park also has bicycles, paddle-boards, kayaks, canoes and sail boats for rent. The campground offers modern amenities and start at 28 dollars a night.
The United States National Park system contains some of the most beautiful landscapes and natural wonders in the world. Though traffic jams, crowds of noisy people and armies of bleeping cell phones and take away from from our outdoor experiences. While the best known parks are well worth visiting, perhaps you will find more serenity at one of these “hidden gem” state parks.
Henderson Beach State Park, Florida
Located in Destin, FL, Henderson Beach offers a variety of landscapes and activities. Camping, hiking, fishing and swimming are common activities. The Gulf Coast shoreline scenery includes pine forest, wildflowers and rolling coastal dunes.
Ha Ha Tonka State Park, Missouri
Ha Ha Tonka State Park offers a little over seventeen thousand acres to explore-formally traveled by Daniel Boone and son Nathan. The park runs along the arm of the Lake of the Ozarks and offers about fifteen miles of trails on which you’ll find caves, tunnels, natural bridges and sinkholes. A somewhat bizarre feature of the park are the stone ruins of a castle built in the early 20th century by a Kansas City businessman.
Tumalo State Park, Oregon
Tumalo State Park is located very near Bend, Oregon. But once inside the beautiful 330 acre park one would never know civilization is just around the bend! Wildlife viewing, fishing, camping and hiking are some of the parks most popular activities. The hiking trails that run out from the river lead to some beautiful canyons on the park property. One particularly popular activity is tubing in the parks river. The park offers winter activities as well-park visitors can ski and snowboarder on Mt. Bachelor.
Lucky Peak State Park, Idaho
Located just southeast of Boise, Lucky Peak is relaxing state park whose primary features are water activities. Lucky Peak Dam’s beaches are popular with the swimmers. Discovery Park features fishing in the Boise River. The park also includes the full-service Spring Shores Marina.
Goose Island State Park, Texas
Goose Island is a very unique natural destination. While it offers a variety of outdoor activities swimming is not among them; oyster shells, mud flats and marsh grass compose the shoreline making swimming conditions less than ideal. Families can still enjoy birding, nature hikes, boating, fishing and camping while visiting Goose Island. Rangers provide guided nature walks and in the summer kids can borrow Junior Ranger Explorer Packs that include binoculars, a magnifying glass and crayons (among other items) to record what they see.
There is much to see in the oldest city in North America! The mainland of the North American Continent was first sighted by the Spanish explorer and treasure hunter, Don Juan Ponce de Leon on Easter, March 27, 1513. He claimed the land for Spain and named it La Florida, meaning “Land of Flowers.”
Sometime later, Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles was named governor of Florida. When Menendez arrived off the coast of Florida, it was August 28, 1565, the Feast Day of St. Augustine – that is how St. Augustine got it’s name.
So, St. Augustine was founded forty-two years before the English colony at Jamestown, Virginia, and 55 years before the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock in Massachusettes – making it the oldest permanent European settlement on the North American Continent.
The oldest fort in the US is in St. Augustine – you can visit it – a great place full of history. If you visit on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday you can watch as soldiers in period costume, load one of the many cannons at the fort and set it off! Loud but interesting. Also the oldest school house is located in the old part of St. Augustine. As you walk up and down the old narrow streets it is easy to picture Spanish soldiers and their familes living and working in the area. There are quite a few Bed and Breakfast inns and smaller hotels in the Old section if you want to get the real feeling of Old St. Augustine. There are many tours availabel throughout the city. You can ride horse-drawn carriages, visit the old lighthouse, the Fountain of Youth, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, museums, and of course, there’s a multitude of quaint shops, taverns and restaurants sprinkled in among it all!
The beaches around St. Augustine are some of the best in Florida.All in all it’s a great place to visit whether you are a couple, a family or traveling in a group.
If you are ever on the coast of Florida in winter,and have the chance, go to a State Park or wildlife preserve that has mantees. These huge water mammals are interesting, gentle, and protected. Here’s some more info on them.
West Indian manatees are large, gray aquatic mammals with bodies that taper to a flat, paddle-shaped tail. The have two forelimbs, called flippers, with three to four nails on each flipper. Their head and face are wrinkled with whiskers on the snout. The manatee’s closest relatives are the elephant and the hyrax (a small, gopher-sized mammal). Manatees are believed to have evolved fro a wading, plant-eating animal. The west Indian manatee is related to the West African manatee, the Amazonian manatee, the dugong, and Steller’s sea cow, which was hunted to extinction in 1768. The average adult manatee is about 10 feet long and weighs between 800 and 1,200 pounds.
Manatees can be found in shallow, slow-moving rivers, estuaries, saltwater bays, canals, and coastal areas – particularly where seagrass beds or freshwater vegetation flourish. Manatees are a migratory species. Within ghe United States, they are concentrated in Florida in the winter. In summer months, they can be found as far west as Texas and as far north as Massachusetts, but summer sightings in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina are more common.
Manatees are gentle and slow-moving animals. They can swim upt to 20 miles per hour in short bursts but they usually only swim about three to five miles per hour. Most of their time is spent eating, resting, and traveling. Manatees are completely herbivorous. They eat a large variety of submerged, emergent, and floating plants and can consume 10-15% of their body weight in vegetation daily. Because they are mammals, they must surface to breate air about every three to five minutes. When resting, they can stay under water as long as 20 minutes.
West Indian manatees have no natural enemies, and it is believed they can live 60 years or more. Some die of natural causes but a high number of additional fatalities are from human-related causes. These occur mainly from watercraft collisions, ingestion of fishing equipment, and loss of habitat.
Manatees are an endangered species and are protected by federal and state laws. If you ever get to see them, you will understand why they are so interesting and worth saving for future generations.
The next time you are headed to Florida, think about stopping at Homosassa Springs. Visitors to the Wildlife State Park can see West Indian manatees every day of the year from the park’s underwater observatory in the main spring. The park also showcases native Florida wildlife, including manatees, black bears, bobcats, white-tailed deer, American aligators, American crocodiles, and river otters.
Even in winter, with its cooler days, there are many reasons to visit the park. You can start your visit with a leisurly pontoon boat ride down Pepper Creek to the wildlife park. Along the way you may see ospreys nesting, limpkins, herons or egrets wading in the creek, wood ducks swimming along, not to mention turtles sunning on logs, fish and, maybe even an otter.
Once you get off the pontoon boat you can walk leisurely along the elevated boardwalk system for a great view of the wildlife, including a Florida panther, cougar, bears, bobcats, deer, alligators and a wide variety of wading birds, birds of prey, and songbirds.
During the winter months with the gate open in the Long River bridge, the wild manatee have access to the warmer waters of the first-magnitude spring. On colder days, you may see dozens of wild manatees in the spring and spring run and thousands of fresh and salt-water fish that are free to come and go. The Fish Bowl, a floating underwater observatory, offers an unequalled, below-the-surface view of manatees and fish in the clear spring environment. Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park’s Fish Bowl is probably the only place in the world where you can enjoy an underwater, close-up view of manatees without getting wet.
There is also a Reptile House, Children’s Education Center, a picnic pavilion to enjoy your own picnic lunch, a cafe with beverages and snacks, and two gift shops.