Last Updated 04-APR-2007

The drive down and 3 days exploring Florida

We left Wed am after I had to run the snow blower on the driveway to remove 3 or so inches of snow. 
The temperature was around 11 and by the time we got south of Richmond, Virginia (less than 200 miles)
it was sunny and 80.  The first day we made it to Savannah, Georgia where we stayed at a MicroTel Inn.

The drive from Savannah to Fort Myers was a easy 7.5 hours.  Also, being sunny and warm it made it very easy.

Welcome to Florida
Waldo, Speed trap capitol of the world
The salt covered truck at the Marriott Fairfield Inn in Ft. Myers
Over the bridge to Ft. Myers beach.  Traffic was terrible.  over an hour to go 12 miles.  Much of it was caused by spring breakers
On Fort Myers Beach.
Sunset over the gulf.

We spent the day on Sanibel and Captiva Islands.  Free parking on Captiva....  Which was good as it would have been 
$12-15 for the day (meters were broken)!  Sanibel is clean and high-end--Captiva even more so!
Strange photo shoot on the beach
What a beach !!   They are selling hot dogs and soda.  
Great blue Heron waiting for someone to catch a fish
A short walk up the beach allowed you to get away from most everyone but the birds. We walked to South Seas Plantation.
Birding on the beach! Shelling was pretty good--though not is good as you read.  We did get 2 small conchs after we 
walked up to the end of Captiva Island.  There are plenty of colorful scallop shells.
Royal terns
Black skimmers with the lower mandible longer than the upper mandible, which aids them in skimming over the water and 
catching fish and aquatic invertebrates. Black skimmers are the darker birds on the extreme right.
Black skimmers congregated in the background with Royal terns in the foreground along with gulls.
Brown pelican
White ibis
We went to Ding Darling NWR and it was Friday so the Wildlife Drive was closed.  But we went for a hike and heard lots 
of birds and saw wood storks and white ibis roosting. Definitely worth doing the drive on another visit. Poison ivy/Oak 
everywhere !!
We went for a sunset hike along the Indigo Trail in the Ding Darling NWR
Ant Lions

We ate dinner at the Hungry Heron Eatery on Sanibel.  It was not that good.  Mary's crab cakes sucked and the ribs I got were
below average.  It was a typical resort area restaurant.  They hope you forget before you come back again... We will not forget !!

I was happy to leave the Ft. Myers area as it was too congested and way too much construction.  Yes, I realize that I was
visiting at probably the worst time of the year, Spring Break, but the traffic was worse than I see most days 
in the Baltimore / Washington area.


Today we had to drive from Ft. Myers to our hotel near the Miami Airport.  We had a busy day planned in the  
Everglades.  An airboat ride, exploring many back roads.

Our first stop was Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk located in the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve

It is owned by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The Strandís 74,000 acres are part of the main
drainage slough of the Big Cypress Swamp.  A 2,000-foot-long boardwalk at Big Cypress Bend, accessible via the 
US 41 (Tamiami Trail), winds through old growth cypress swampland. Trails on old logging tramroads, remaining from
past lumbering operations in the early 1900ís, also provide access to the preserve.

Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve contains the largest stand of native royal palms, and is home to many rare species
of bromeliads and orchids. Many endangered or threatened animal species such as the Florida panther, Florida black bear,
and wood stork are found here as well.

Free Oranges !

Along the boardwalk

At the end of the boardwalk was a large pond with a number of alligators and other critters.

Wood stork

We were starting to see how dry it was.  This area should have had fish !

We made a quick stop at the ranger station at Everglades City.  Views from the docks looking out on the 10,000 islands. 

We made a quick stop at Chokoloskee.  Drove by the Historic Smallwood Store.  Sorry, but no way I will pay !!  Also, had to take
a photo of the store as they had a sign that said no photos !  Damn Indians !!

The island looked like an interesting place.  Would like to come back and spend some time here in the future.

Well, on to the Big Cypress National Preserve
We explored Wagonwheel Road
It was interesting to see that back in the less traveled areas the gators would react to us walking along the canal.
Mary was getting worried as they were very big and very active
We stopped at this very wet area on CR-94 (Loop Road)  Critters everywhere !!
Mary's buddy !
Great Blue heron
Immature Double-crested cormorant
Wood stork on the edge of the sawgrass
Paradise Key Hammock
Mature male anhinga
We saw no Florida panthers!
Rookery where we saw roseatte spoonbills (pink in the photo), wood storks, and white ibis! 
(taken with a crude system of holding the camera up to the spotting scope)

  • On to Miami and the first few days on the ship

  • Back to the Cruise 2007 page