Posted by: sunnyharvy | December 11, 2016

“The Real Florida”

During our last full day in Cocoa Beach we took a 2-hour boat tour through the natural mangrove islands and hidden hammocks of the Indian River Lagoon. The spectacular mangrove lined canals through the Thousand Islands provide shelter to herds of manatee, playful lagoon dolphins and a variety of coastal birds.


Osprey with a big catch.


Dozens of brown pelicans roosted in the mangroves.



Waterside living.



Dolphins are very difficult to photograph, they are just too fast. This was the best I could do. We did also see a mother and baby manatee, but they didn’t surface long enough to catch an image.


Gotta love free driveway camping! We were the first guests of French Canadian Boondocker Welcome hosts a bit further down the coast in Fort Pierce.


We took a quick break to stretch our legs at Lake Istokpoga during our westward drive across the middle of the state.


Also caught a bit of action track-side at Sebring International Raceway.


Before stopping to camp at Highlands Hammock State Park, “The Real Florida.”


We’ve seen several gators in other locales, but none in this park, despite the warning. Spotted several armadillos though. Also had a hawk sit in a branch just 6-feet directly above haRVy’s skylight during the early morning hours.


Nice campsite under majestic live oak trees. The sign at the entrance to each Florida State Park states, “The best in the nation,” and so far we would tend to agree.


Riding the Hammock Loop.


With several stops for short nature hikes.




The holiday spirit is alive and well in the campgrounds.


These campers even brought their lighted Christmas tree.


Vintage home built RV. Not sure how he drove it. This and the photo below appear in the park’s museum dedicated to the Civilian Conservation Corps.



Lunch stop at Pioneer Park in Zolfo Springs. Love the long strands of sphagnum moss on the trees.

Camped at Lake Manatee State Park in Bradenton, but light rains prevented me from getting any good photos.


We spent an evening in Tarpon Springs, which is much like visiting a village in Greece. The sponge industry helped build a Greek Community that is now famous not only for the worlds finest sponges, but for some of the best Greek restaurants, markets, and bakeries in the state.


Our friends Sharman and Gordon took us out for a delicious dinner at Hella’s. Thank you, it was a real treat!


We were told that a local boat dweller decorates these bikes around town in to honor his deceased wife.


We are now in Clearwater where I am getting ready to fly to Southern California for my annual holiday reunion with my high school friend Janet. Besides our usual week on Balboa Island in Newport Beach, this year we will be spending two nights in a cottage at Crystal Cove State Park and three days at Disneyland! Since this blog is all about “travels with harvy” and he won’t be coming along, I will be taking a break from posting for a couple of weeks.

Happy holidays and thanks for traveling with me!


  1. May get to Clearwater this winter. Thinking of a trip. I feel it could be the last “we” would want to drive. Have been there on a day trip.

  2. Makes me want to visit Florida! Lucky you to get a cottage at Crystal Cove – I’ve heard it’s wonderful.

  3. We just found Highlands Hammock SP on the FL state park website yesterday and will be making reservations there. If you don’t already know about them, check out Manatee Springs, Paynes Prairie Preserve and Collier-Seminole State Parks as well. Keith is well into reserving campsites for our FL trip and we’re using a lot of state parks. It’s possible we may have our entire Itinerary planned and reserved before we leave home, something we’ve never done before. He just thinks FL is so popular in winter that it won’t work to try to just make it up as we go along, especially given the size of our rig. As for the “real” Florida thing, we’ve been there twice and have what might most accurately be called a love-hate relationship with the place. The natural areas (places the developers haven’t yet gobbled up) are incredible. The development, however, is obscene. Local planning commissions definitely have an “anything goes” mindset- if you can scheme it and dream it, we’ll approve it. Anyway, we’re loving your posts. Will send you our itinerary soon so we can try to get together down there.



  4. Love your photos – so grateful for your sharing! The osprey with catch is a great one. Love the decorated bikes & campsite Christmas decor – people are so creative. Merry Christmas – and have a great time on Balboa Island, at Disneyland etc! Ho-ho-ho!

  5. Love the bikes! Happy journey to sunny CA

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