It’s been a sunny and wonderful week here on the road in Florida. While the locals are wearing their winter coats, I’m enjoying the sunny, breezy 70 degree days and cool, perfect nights. I stalled for a bit in West Palm Beach, finding some great little spots to hide out and taking a bit of a break from moving around. Many of the things I want to see in the far south of the state are in National Parks, and with the government closed I want to try and wait the shutdown out. As you know if you are a constant reader, I try and stay away from politics whenever possible, but closing our National Parks over a partisan dispute is a disgrace. People travel from all over the world to see our amazing parks, and there is simply no excuse to close them down. There are many other sides to that story, but I will leave it at that. Despite thinking about politics too much this week, I had a wonderful stay in West Palm Beach and everywhere I else I visited this week. It’s been a quiet but fantastic week in east-central Florida.
I spent Thursday slowly making my way down the coast from Vero Beach. I stopped in Fort Pierce at the Bluewater Beach Grill for a delicious ahi tuna poke bowl, which I ate looking out at the inlet from the wonderful waterfront park there. I continued down the A1A to Stuart which had one of the most treacherous intersections I’ve ever seen, and I’ve driven in a lot of places in the world. It was like a roundabout, but there were weird (and dangerous) inlets and outlets at strange angles. I have no doubt they see their fair share of accidents there. Thankfully I made it through in one piece. I thought about turning around and trying it again because it was so crazy, and then thought I wouldn’t push my luck so I continued down to Jupiter, just north of West Palm Beach.
I spent Friday in Jupiter, and really enjoyed it. In the morning, I visited the beautiful lighthouse to take some photos and enjoy views over Jupiter Inlet. Then I spent the afternoon out at Blowing Rocks Preserve, a reclaimed stretch of beach and barrier island under the care of the Nature Conservancy. The community donated this stretch of beach to the Conservancy, and they have done a great job of trying to restore it to its natural state. The dunes are covered in mangroves, sea grapes and sea oats, securing them in place. The beach itself has a limestone outcrop which sends the waves crashing high into the air at high tide, giving the preserve its name. I had a great time learning about the ecosystem in the nature center and along the short trails in the preserve, and had a nice long walk on the beach as well.
That evening I went over to Square Grouper Tiki Bar which is on the inlet opposite the lighthouse. This is a wonderful little waterfront bar with lots of space, great views and live music. It was the perfect place to watch the sunset over the water and the lighthouse. After sunset, I headed up to Tequesta Brewing Company for a quick beer. Their beer was really good, and I really liked the people working there too.
Saturday I started my day with a wonderful Caribbean breakfast of ackee, saltfish, callaloo and breadfruit from a little grocery store called Foodtown. This place was amazing, with so many wonderful international foods on the shelves and a great hot bar full of some of my favorite foods. I’ve lived in the Caribbean several times on several islands, and this is one of my favorite meals from the region. I was in heaven as I tucked into it. After breakfast, I went down to Palm Beach for a bit (home of Mar-a-Lago - if the president were there I would have stopped in to tell him my thoughts on leaving the parks closed haha). The island was very fancy with some beautiful homes along the beach. While it was a beautiful, sunny day out, the water was a little rough with big waves crashing into the beach, making it a good day to look at the water, but not a great day to be in it. I spent the rest of the day driving around town, checking out some of the beautiful community parks right on the water. I even saw a double rainbow as a few clouds passed through. That evening I stepped out for a drink at a little spot in Lake Park called the Brewhouse Gallery. I loved this place. It was full of art by local artists, had some incredible beers on tap and amazing live music by folk band The Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers. The music was great and fit in well in this intimate but reasonably sized venue.
Sunday was a pretty relaxed day. I spent most of the day at Phil Foster Park, a wonderful little park under the Blue Heron Bridge. This strange little wonderland under the bridge had a nice beach, beautiful clear water, a fishing pier, picnic tables and a very chill vibe. I went out for a snorkel along the snorkel trail, and saw all kinds of fish and even a beautiful ray. The water was warm and calm, as it is kind of a protected lagoon nestled behind Singer Island. I spent most of the day out there, relaxing and enjoying the sun. After the sun set, I went to Two Drunken Goats on Singer Island for a delicious blackened grouper sandwich and a nice cold beer. It was the perfect way to end my weekend.
Monday I did some little things around my van in the morning and then went and grabbed a full scuba tank and some other equipment from Force E Dive Shop and headed back to the park under the bridge. This dive, under the Blue Heron Bridge, is considered one of the top shore dive sites in the world. After spending an hour and a half exploring it, I can see why. You can only do this dive in the hour before and the hour after the high tide, so you have to time it right, but it is definitely worth the effort. It doesn’t get much deeper than about 20 feet, but there is so much sea life to be seen. From tiny banded shrimp to a 4 foot nurse shark, I marveled at all there was to see on this site. It was so great to be underwater again too, truly one of my happiest places to be. I’ve been diving for almost 20 years now, including several stints as a professional, and it is always such a great experience for me. It’s quiet and peaceful and so beautiful underwater. If you wanted to learn to dive, this would probably be a great place to start, and if you are an experienced diver like I am, this is a great place to enjoy. Put it on your list! Many thanks to my friend Jake for the recommendation. If you want to see all my photos from above and below the water in this lovely park, see my full post HERE.
Tuesday morning I headed to the Henry Flagler Museum in Palm Beach. This museum, located in Whitehall, Flagler’s winter home, tells the story of the one-time Standard Oil leader who went on to build a railway from Jacksonville to Key West and establish tourism and agriculture as Florida’s leading industries. It is a beautiful Gilded Age home right on the water, and the guided tour was well worth doing. I stuck around an extra day to see this museum, and I’m sure glad I did. To see all my photos from Whitehall, see my full post HERE.
When I was done photographing this magnificent mansion, I bid farewell to West Palm Beach and made my way out to Lake Okeechobee, the largest freshwater lake in Florida. I have to admit, I was pretty disappointed by what I found there, or rather what I didn’t find. I did find a place to see the lake from the small marina in Pahokee, but a lot of the other access points were closed. There didn’t seem to be any tourism initiatives there at all. The towns I drove through were pretty run down and depressing as well, so I finally gave up and headed south to Homestead where I am writing to you from today.
When I’m done here, I’m going to go see the Coral Castle and report back to you on it next week. Then I’m hoping to catch up with an old tour-guiding friend of mine this evening and see what he recommends in the area. Soon I’ll be heading out to the Keys for a few days of island hopping, scuba diving, sunshine and rum drinks. I should be back on the mainland by this time next week, but you never know. When I do get back, I’m going to pop into Miami for a night and then head off towards the Everglade and the Gulf Coast. The days are getting longer and I’m feeling pretty good out here. I know I’ve got a podcast to finish, but it’s so hard with all the sunshine and beaches. But I will get it done soon as I don’t want to fall too far behind on it. Until next week then, I hope you are all enjoying the winter, wherever you are and as best you can. If you’re somewhere cold, know I’m soaking in some rays for you as well Take care out there and thank you, as always, for following along.