May 13, 2019
Summer is nearly here, and millions of Americans will hit the road on an adventure to explore a new place. Being in a new environment is a thrill for the senses; a wake-up call from the ordinary.
Here in Florida, we are blessed with water all around us, offering us relief from the heat, and “winter” is when we really bask in our glorious weather. Here are a couple of adventure ideas that don’t require you to cross state lines. If you’ve lived here all your life, you may have done some, or even most, of these. Find one you haven’t and go for it.
For thousands of years, man has been navigating waterways as a mode of travel and for commerce. Florida’s springs give rise to rivers that can be explored in a day or multiple days. Get a canoe, kayak or even a paddleboard, and embark on a paddling journey. Try the Blackwater River in the Panhandle or the Indian River Lagoon system on the east coast from the Canaveral National Seashore south to Jupiter. For the truly adventurous, try paddling in the Ten Thousand Islands Wildlife Refuge near the Everglades and camp overnight on a chickee. Bring your sunscreen and bug repellent.
Scuba diving allows you to explore below the surface our of vast water system. Freshwater rivers such as Rainbow River offer excellent visibility. In the Florida Keys, John Pennekamp State Park is a scuba paradise. Offshore, find one of the many shipwrecks that become a living reef: such as Vandenberg or Oriskany.
Of course Florida is world-renown for its fishing. Redfish and flounder can be caught inshore, while grouper, snapper, king mackerel and other delicacies are found in deeper water. The Florida Keys are the hot spot for diving for lobsters, and our state’s Big Bend region is famous for snorkeling for scallops. Around Tampa Bay, try diving for stone crabs, dipping nets for shrimp, or better yet, spearfishing.
Florida’s freshwater lakes are frequent favorites of the major bass fishing tours. Lake Okeechobeeand Lake Tohopekaliga yield bass up to 10 pounds. For a real saltwater challenge, head out for a “slam” of snook, seatrout and redfish in one day. If you want an hours-long battle, try fly-fishing for the cagey tarpon, or troll for marlin and sailfish offshore.
Believe it or not, Florida has a challenging long-distance hiking trail within its border. The Florida Trail runs roughly 1,000 miles from Big Cypress Preserve in the south to the Gulf Islands National Seashore in the Panhandle. Ocala National Forest offers a terrific opportunity to see black bears and the Myakka River State Park offers a look at prairie land, wetlands and pine forest in one trip.
Ok, how about metal detecting, riding ATV trails, wakeboarding, surfing, kiteboarding, skim boarding, shark-tooth hunting, and windsurfing?
Bill Jackson’s Shop for Adventure can outfit you for many of these adventures, and offer advice and travel gear to get you out there.