USA – Florida

Even though we’ve been living in Florida for a few months already, we hadn’t had much of a chance to explore the state by campervan until Becky managed to snag us a couple of campsites in the Florida Keys. These highly coveted state run campsites sell out within seconds of their release date 11 months in advance, as budget accommodation in the Keys is unheard of. At only $36 a night with full facilities (plus a 50% discount for seniors over 65), this is one of the best bargains in the region and competition for the few available campsites is fierce with lots of strategy used to secure a reservation. Even during coronavirus lockdowns, the sites remained fully booked and we were happy to get reservations for both John Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo and Curry Hammock State Park in Marathon. But before reaching the keys, we planned out a circular whirlwind tour to take in a bit of Tampa, Bradenton, Sarasota, Punta Gorda, Fort Myers, Sanibel Island, and Everglades National Park. Key West surprised us by living up to its considerable hype as we fell in love with the charm and attractiveness of this touristy destination. On our way back home, we stopped at Jonathan Dickinson State Park to camp for a few nights while we checked out Jupiter drift diving and Blue Heron Bridge which is considered one of the best shore dive destinations in the US. Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge was our last stop of the trip and we got to see baby green herons, Florida softshell turtles, alligators and herons. Not bad considering the best time to visit is between September to January and we were visiting during the off season! Camping in late April and early May was shockingly hot and humid and we wouldn’t attempt a repeat road trip without having full camping facilities as AC was definitely necessary at night. We are both keen to hit the road in Florida again during the fall/winter season as there should be more boondocking opportunities and there is still much of this lovely state that we want to explore.

Historic courthouse in DeLand Wooden "casitas" that Spanish entrepreneur Vicente Ybor had built to lure workers with interest free home ownership; Ybor Entertainment complex in the heart of historic Ybor Your voice, your choice sign in Ybor Cigar bar in Ybor, Tampa's historic latin quarter Street mural; Ybor The 1923 Ferlita Bakery houses the Ybor City state museum Heritage streetcar linking downtown Tampa to historic Ybor View of Tampa from the convention center Gold star memorial; Tampa Riverwalk The Tampa Bay Hotel was a 511 room resort that opened in 1891. Today it houses a museum and the University of Tampa John F Kennedy statue on the campus of the University of Tampa Mural painted at a bus station in Palmetto Cute painted cottage at the Village of the Arts; Bradenton Restored 1920s cottage; Village of the Arts Mural spotted in Bradenton’s Village of the Arts Painted cow; Bradenton Colorful historic cottage; Bradenton Painted fence; Village of the Arts Painted mural on the side of a house; Village of the Arts 2 of over a hundred houses at the Village of the Arts; Bradenton Lion mural at a cafe; Village of the Arts Mural of two teenagers anxious to explore the world; downtown Bradenton Statue at the Ringling Bayfront Garden Robby hanging on a banyan tree; Ringling Garden Pretty flower at the Mable Ringling Garden The Ca' d'Zan was modeled on the Venetian palazzos of Venice; Sarasota Ca' d'Zan was the winter home of circus owner John Ringling Courtyard of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art Fish art; Sarasota Becky next to giant flamingos at the Marietta Museum of Art & Whimsy; Sarasota A mural by the artist MTO on the Sarasota Architectural Salvage building Larger than life mural of Timucua Indians, Florida's earliest inhabitants Street art; Sarasota "Nobody’s Listening", a sculpture by Jack Cartlidge; Sarasota City Hall A mural dedicated to Sarasota's healthcare workers; Sarasota Love mural; Sarasota Sarasota street art Robby in a giant clamshell; Sarasota Bike decorated with a Cuban theme; Sarasota Statues of St Armands Circle; Sarasota "Be Kind" painted rock; Sarasota 26 foot tall "Unconditional Surrender" statue commemorating the end of WWII; Bayfront Park; Sarasota Robby at the Olympic Wannabes Statue; Sarasota Having dinner at Snook Haven, a riverside joint in Venice Dirt road leading to Snook Haven; Venice This massive 6,000 lb wooden sculpture named "Calostimucu" was carved from a monkey pod tree by artist Peter Wolf Toth; Punta Gorda Lighthouse gas station; Punta Gorda Zebra longwing - Florida's official state butterfly Brown anole with a red throat fan Fish mural in the funky, quaint little fishing village of Matlacha Doggie mailbox; Matlacha Talavera owl pots for sale; Matlacha Colorful souvenir shack; Matlacha Sample of art seen at Leoma Lovegrove's gallery and garden; Matlacha Cute section of Lovegrove's garden; Matlacha Colorful trailer; Matlacha Robby in an oversized chair in Times Square; Fort Myers Beach Colorful Fort Myers mural Tikis at Shipwreck Motel; Fort Myers Grinning tiki head holding two beer bottles at Yucatan Restaurant; Fort Myers Fort Myers beach Fort Myers beach pier - a popular place to watch sun set Robby milking a cow; Sanibel Island Sanibel Island's most popular beach for seashells - Bowman's Beach Gopher tortoise; Bowman's Beach Yield to Gopher Tortoises sign; J.N. "Ding" Darling Wildlife Refuge Robby at the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge; Sanibel Island Dolphin mailbox; Sanibel Island A female red eclectus parrot; Periwinkle Park Green iguana; Sanibel Island Black-crowned night-heron Great egret and an alligator; Big Cyprus Park Dragonfly on our van's antenna Red-winged blackbird; Everglades National Park Juvenile piping plover; Everglades Florida softshell turtle;  in the Florida Everglades Shark Valley observation tower; Everglades Great blue heron; Everglades Wood stork; Everglades The first of 3 state parks as you enter the keys. It only costs $36 a night to camp here and reservations must be made 11 months in advance John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park; Key Largo Hogfish snapper; Grecian Rocks Rainbow parrotfish; Grecian Rocks Spiny tail iguana; Key Largo Black racer; Key Largo Crocodile warning sign; John Pennekamp State Park 30 foot tall Betsy the lobster at Rain Barrel US dollars line the bar at Robbie's Marina; Islamorada Pelicans trying to steal the fish meant for tarpons; Robbie's Marina Bahia Honda State Park The view as we drove down the keys Mural at Leo's Campground; Key West Becky biking to Key West from our campsite Orchids; West Martello Tower Manatee mailbox; Key West Typical conch house in Key West (attributed to immigrants from the Bahamas) The Southernmost House Hotel; Key West Striking a pose at the Southernmost Point Buoy Wyland's Whaling Wall; Key West Pelican totem poles outside The Marker; Key West Bight Marina Old truck covered in stickers at B.O.'s Fish Wagon; Key West Robby at a Key West mural at Cuban Coffee Queen Curly-tailed lizard; Key West Tarpon; Key West Bight Marina Key West Shipwreck Museum Hammerhead shark on display outside the Key West Aquarium; Mallory Square Robby at mile marker 0 of US Highway 1; Key West Key West Lighthouse A watering hole since 1890, the Green Parrot Bar is a popular stop in Key West The Strand Theater on Duval Street; Key West Enjoying beer and live music at Hog's Breath Saloon; Key West Hog's breath saloon - no social distancing here! This seafood restaurant is in an 1884 house with wraparound balconies; Key West Key West license plate souvenir The key deer is an endangered deer that lives only in the Florida Keys Key deer sticking its tongue out at us; Big Pine Key Dead tree at Spanish Harbor Key Old Bahia Honda Bridge View of US Highway 1 from the sea Robby with a painted eel; Tilden's Scuba Center in Marathon Becky poses next to a massive fish and coral; Marathon Wyland's whaling wall in Marathon Beach at Curry Hammock State Park Robby strikes a pose on our hike around Curry Hammock State Park Gopher tortoise; Curry Hammock State Park Storm clouds move in; Curry Hammock State Park Meeting the Jupiter Scuba Diving boat at Square Grouper Tiki Bar Mermaid figurehead at Square Grouper Tiki Bar; Jupiter Lobster; The Bluffs dive site Nurse shark at the Bluffs Lionfish School of pompano Smooth trunkfish Spanish grunt Squirrelfish Green moray eel Starfish; Blue Heron Bridge Spotted moray; Blue Heron Bridge Helping a baby freshwater turtle cross the road; Jonathan Dickinson State Park Florida softshell turtle; Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge Snowy egret; Merritt Island Alligator; Merritt Island Anhinga sunning its wings; Merritt Island Baby green heron Boat-tailed grackle Little blue heron A pair of common gallinule marsh birds; Merritt Island video lightboxby v6.1

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