Phil Foster Park under the Blue Heron Bridge in West Palm Beach is one of the coolest places I’ve visited on this entire journey. Situated on a small island literally under the bridge in the middle of the intercoastal waterway, this park is surrounded by warm, calm, turquoise water perfect for swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving. Considered by some to be one of the top shore dives in the world, I had to go see for myself. Geared up with equipment rented from nearby Force-E Dive Center, I walked off the beach and descended into the blue. It really was a spectacular dive site full of big and little creatures alike. Plenty of fish were around, as were crabs, shrimp, lobsters, starfish and even one small nurse shark. I found two elusive scorpion fish - see if you can spot them in the two photos below the starfish in this post (and remember you can always click my photos to see a bigger view). You can only dive this site one hour before and one hour after high tide, so you do have to time it properly, but Force-E is there to help with tide charts and sound advice. After my spectacular 100 minute dive (it’s only about 20 feet deep), I had just as much fun above water as below. The park has a nice little beach to relax on, a good sized picnic area, bathrooms and showers, a fishing pier and great views from every angle. It was a perfect place to hang out and relax and watch the sun set behind West Palm Beach. If you ever find yourself in central east Florida, stop by Phil Foster Park for a dive, a snorkel, a swim or just a picnic and some great rays. You may end up there way longer than you planned to be. I hope you enjoy these photos from my time under the Blue Heron Bridge in Phil Foster Park.
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Whitehall was the winter residence of Henry Flagler, the father of Florida tourism. Having made his fortune in Standard Oil, Flagler set out to build a railroad from Jacksonville to Key West and a hotel and tourism empire along the way. Bringing tourists too Florida was one thing, but he also brought fruit and vegetables from Florida as well, making tourism and agriculture the two foundations blocks of the Florida economy. One of his signature hotels, The Breakers, is located in Palm Beach very close to Whitehall.
Built in 1902, this Gilded Age, Beaux Arts mansion boasts 75 rooms including a grand ballroom, a spectacular music room, a wonderful library and a beautiful dining room. When it was built, Whitehall included all of the modern amenities of the time including electricity, indoor plumbing and even a telephone. They also had central heat which was surprisingly used mostly in summer to dry the building out from the damaging Florida humidity. It is a beautiful home, inside and out with some phenomenal detail work (albeit most of it was created with plaster casts). I really enjoyed my visit, and I hope you enjoy these photos from Henry Flagler’s Whitehall.
Hello and Happy New Year! It is great to be moving into 2019 with a full year on the road stretching out ahead of me. 2018 was an amazing year full of new places and new people and 2019 is poised to be even better. I’m starting this year in the great state of Florida, The Orange State, and a good start it has been.
I rang in the new year with my old friend Peter and his family in Largo, Florida, between Tampa and Clearwater. Peter’s uncle had a party for the occasion full of food, friends and music. There was a campfire by the canal and fireworks throughout the night. It was a great way to say goodbye to 2018 and hello to 2019.
On New Years Day, I had the wonderful opportunity to cheer on my Penn State Nittany Lions against the Kentucky Wildcats in the Citrus Bowl right there in Orlando. It was my first bowl game, and I really enjoyed it. The weather was beautiful, the stadium was pleasant enough, and it was great to be watching football in the Florida sun..
Blue Springs State Park near Orange City is one of several winter homes for the wonderful West Indian Manatee. Also sometimes called the “sea cow”, manatees can reach up to 13 feet in length and can weigh as much as 1300 lbs. Despite their size, manatees are quite graceful in the water, propelling themselves with their large tails, and can reach speeds up to 15 miles per hour. Manatees are mammals, so they need to breath air, but can hold their breath for up to 15 minutes at a time. They are vegetarians, and have no natural enemies, but are often wounded by the propellers of passing boats. In the 1970’s, manatees were placed on the Endangered Species List, but their population has rebounded and in 2017 they were downgraded to threatened status. They are sheer pleasure to watch, and the water of Blue Springs State Park is so clear it makes the experience even better. I enjoyed hiking to the source of the springs, which is also a scuba dive site when the manatees aren’t in for the winter. The park also offers boat tours and kayak and canoe rentals to explore the St. Johns River, but the manatee habitat is closed for the private use of the animals. Located only an hour or so from Orlando, this makes a great getaway from the crowds and noise of the amusement parks. I loved my visit to this park and happily just stood and watched the manatees for hours. I highly recommend Blue Springs State Park for anyone visiting Florida in the winter when the manatees are in their winter home.
St. Augustine was founded way back in 1565 as part of the Spanish colony of Florida, making it the oldest continuously inhabited colonial city in what is now the United States. It is a beautiful city to wander around and I enjoyed taking these photos in the historic area. I wasn’t there long, as my goal is to spend most of my time in Florida out of the cities instead of in them, but I enjoyed the time I was there. Many of the buildings in St. Augustine are more modern than they look with the most iconic being built by Henry Flagler to attract tourism to the state at the end of the 19th century. Tourism was an excellent industry to choose, and has become a major industry for the state over the last century. This has left St. Augustine crowded, and a little over-touristy, but still a charming place to visit and spend a few days. Its proximity to lovely St. Augustine Beach is a bonus. I hope you enjoy these photos from St. Augustine: The Ancient City…
I first went to Cumberland Island National Seashore now almost 30 years ago. We went on our 8th Grade class trip on a tour that included Charleston and Savannah, and perhaps our favorite at the time, Kings Dominion amusement park near Richmond. I’ve often thought about Cumberland Island and how much I wanted to go back. Since I was there, I’ve visited 320 or so units of the National Park Service, but Cumberland Island has eluded me. Because you have to get there and back by ferry, it takes more than a few hours of commitment and at least enough planning ahead time to make a ferry reservation. But finally I made it back to the wild island off the coast of Georgia, and it was spectacular. One of my friends asked if it was as beautiful as she remembered and I told her one of the most beautiful things about a National Park site is that it doesn’t change much - that is, in fact, the whole idea! So while I am older and bigger and perhaps a touch wiser, Cumberland Island is much the same…
Covering 400,000 acres in southeast Georgia, the Okefenokee Swamp is the largest blackwater swamp in the country. The vegetation leaches out into the water making it the color of strong tea or weak coffee and it’s really beautiful. The Okefenokee Swamp is a National Natural Landmark and much of it is a designated wilderness area. It’s home to 600 species of plants, 400 vertebrates, 60 reptiles and 200 birds. There are 120 miles of water trails in the park, and getting out on the water is essential. I chose a kayak for my adventure because it was a beautiful day and allowed me to really get out into the swamp and experience it. It was so quiet out there, and by quiet I mean the absence of human noise. The sounds of the birds and the wind through the grass and the frogs and insects was amazing. I’m sure the bugs and heat are terrible in the summer, but when I was there, it couldn’t have been better. This was one of the best days I’ve had in Georgia. I hope you enjoy my photos from the Okefenokee Swamp!
Tybee Island is a cute little beach community just 18 miles from Savannah. It is the easternmost point of Georgia and has wonderful a wonderful beach, a nice fishing pier and a cute downtown area. The highlight for me though, as I’m sure you will guess, is the Tybee Island Light Station. A lighthouse was first built on the site in 1736, and the bottom half of the current structure dates from 1773. The top half was replaced in 1867. It is the oldest and tallest lighthouse in Georgia.
Established in 1846 on an old plantation, Bonaventure Cemetery is the largest municipal cemetery in the city of Savannah. It gained notoriety from John Berendt’s novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and it’s film adaptation, and is one of the more visited sites in Savannah with several companies offering tours. It was also featured in John Muir’s Thousand Mile Walk, as he camped out in the cemetery for 6 days on his journey. I visited Bonaventure by myself and enjoyed wandering through this peaceful park. The Spanish moss gives it so much Southern atmosphere. Bonaventure is the final resting place of Savannah’s own Johnny Mercer and many other notable people from the city. It also has some magnificent statues. I hope you enjoy these photos from beautiful Bonaventure Cemetery…
Columbus, Georgia was a city that surprised me. Much like Greenville, South Carolina and Cincinnati, Ohio, I came in with limited expectations and found myself falling more in love with it around every turn. The city has obvious industrial roots, but they have re-purposed many of the old industrial buildings and turned the once gritty downtown into a modern, walkable, very enjoyable town. Columbus is the third largest city in the state with a population of just under 200,000, and their economy relies heavily on nearby Fort Benning. It is also the home of Aflac Insurance and Columbus State University. Beyond these major employers though, Columbus is making major strides in attracting tourism, and from my perspective they are well on their way.
And so it was that I found myself in their wonderful Visitor’s Center trying to find a way to spend my day. It was a beautiful Georgia fall day with clear skies and a very agreeable temperature, and I wanted to spend the day outside taking photos of the city. My question for the people working at the Visitor’s Center was simple: what are the most iconic locations in Columbus? What are the places that someone born and raised there would recognize instantly, no matter how long they had been gone for? This is a seemingly simple question, but probably not one they receive every day. The three of us discussed it for some time, and put together a fairly extensive list. They had incredible resources ton hand to work with from a driving tour of the lovely Midtown neighborhood to an African American History Walking Tour pamphlet of downtown. After about a half-hour of discussing the most recognizable places in town, I set off to take the photos you’ll find below…
The Doll’s Head Trail in Atlanta is definitely different. While this post would probably have been better around Halloween, I visited the day after Thanksgiving when many things around the city were closed. The trail got its start when a local resident was out picking up trash in Constitution Lakes Park, where the trail is located, and ended up finding a lot of broken toys. He started creating this macabre outdoor art exhibit some time later, and its popularity has grown since then. It was definitely something different to see in Atlanta, and worth a look if you are looking for something free, close and outdoors. I wouldn’t visit on a full moon if I were you though.
When I asked my very well-traveled group of friends for recommendations on where to go in Georgia, probably 90% of them came back pointing me to the far north of the state. I admit I really had no idea how spectacular North Georgia is. Nestled in the southernmost region of the Appalachian Mountains, North Georgia is full of beautiful scenery, quaint towns and villages and warm, welcoming people. If North Georgia isn’t yet on your must-see list, it sure should be. I hope you enjoy these wonderful photos from my journey through the mountain towns of North Georgia.