Honeymoon Island State Park

This morning, we had to take Red Rover in for a check up.  Okay, it was an oil change and a tire rotation, but we’re happy to report, he’s back on the road and feeling frisky.  We opted to head over to Honeymoon Island State Park, just across the bridge.  You can take a ferry from Honeymoon over to Caladesi Island, voted one of the best beaches in America, but we opted to stay on Honeymoon today.

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Honeymoon Island is a state park and the fees are reasonable.  A single driver in a car is only $4, but you can have up to 8 people in the vehicle and it would only cost $8.  There are interior paths on the island that can be walked or biked.

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You can encounter plenty of Florida wildlife, though you should stick to the paths because Florida does have rattlesnakes.  I’ve never encountered one, but the park has signs warning about what to look for or do should you encounter one.  If you’re going for a nature walk, don’t wear flip flops.

For the most part, you’ll find plenty of palms and pine trees as well as scrub brush along the trails, but you might encounter trees like these.  The one on the right was actually struck by lightning, but only one half of the tree was burned.  It was an interesting sight.  Also in the trees you might spot osprey, owls or even bald eagles, who are known to make their homes on the island.

Once you’re done with the interior, there’s some good beaches around too.  IMG_0091

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As is always the case in Florida in the summer, rain happens.  Normally, if you wait 15 minutes, it will blow by and you can go back out and enjoy the beach.  From one of the beaches of Honeymoon Island, you can see down to Clearwater.

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A great place for an easy afternoon, a nice nature walk, or some off-road biking.  I would recommend a visit here next time you’re in Dunedin.

Homosassa Springs State Park-Home of Manatees

Over on the west coast of Central Florida lies the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park.  Part of the 174 Florida State Parks, this attraction was once one of the many roadside attractions that were on US Hwy 19 down the coast, along with nearby Crystal River and Weeki Wachee Springs.  Homosassa River is a constant home to 3 manatees and visited during winter months or heavy storms in the Gulf of Mexico by other wild manatees.

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We parked at the main entrance and took the tram to get back to the main park area.  You purchase your tickets there ($13.00 for adults and $5 for anyone 6 years old through 12).  After departing from the ticket area/concession stand/gift shop building, you are met with a delightful fountain and an option to head towards the manatees or the zoo section.  We opted for manatees.

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We lucked into a feeding show for the manatees, who slowly travel down the river when they hear the splash of the romaine lettuce hit the crystal clear waters.

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While they are huge, manatees are gentle giants and don’t even get fussy when little fish friends decided to snack on their lunch.

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The manatees who live year round in the Homosassa Springs park are too injured to fend for themselves in the wild.  While they have been taken off the endangered species list, manatees are still in danger from the many watersports enthusiasts and their propellered watercraft.

Of course, the Momma-tee has no fear of such problems.

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On the other side of the ‘Fishbowl’ is the underwater platform.  There was some cloudiness to the glass (likely due to humidity from above mixing with the cool temperatures below), but this guy was nice enough to peek in the windows at the strange animals lurking in his world.

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From above, its easy to see just how clear these waters are.

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We walked around for a bit more, checking out the other animals native to Florida and Lu, the hippo, who didn’t opt to come out of the water on this typical Florida summer day.  There were plenty of manatee statues to be found around the park, but this guy looked like he was having the most fun.

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To go back to where we parked Red Rover, we decided to take the boat back.  IMG_3713

We had our choice of seats, as you can see.  The boats can hold up to 45 adults at a time.  Then, we were off down Pepper Creek, a 1.2 mile trek back to the main gate.

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We came upon another boat headed our way and it made us happy we were headed downstream.

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We encountered some of Florida’s wildlife, seeing an alligator hanging out in the shade up on the creek bank and then this big guy, who perhaps was dreaming he was flying?

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Before the park was purchased by the state of Florida, it was privately owned and used to be attached by a bridge to the hotel next door.

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Less than an hour outside of Dunnellon and close to many other attractions, Homosassa Springs State Park is worth a visit.  A great place for young and old.

Thoroughbred Park

Kentucky is known for its bourbon and a certain fried chicken chain, but its also known for its horse racing.  While the Kentucky Derby is held in Louisville, Lexington has its own thoroughbreds and they don’t speed by.

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We once again hopped in Red Rover, whom we gassed up with the best priced gas we had seen since Canada ($1.95 a gallon-woot woot!), and drove down the road to Lexington.  It took us into downtown, which we were happy to find was a very nice downtown.  We’ve been through some that left us leery, but Lexington’s is very nice.

There were multiple placards of individuals involved in raising horses and racing them throughout the small public park.

But what’s a park called Thoroughbred Park without some statues of horses?

Here’s Mom with a horse just her speed.  This is Lexington and his story.  Farther down, we found ourselves with a different view.

Then I worked my way out of the main pack, headed for a photo finish.

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But wait!  Where’s Mom?

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Mom put on a burst of speed and managed to pass all the horses to win the Roses!  (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!)

Eventually, we finished winding our way through the park, pausing to watch a horse family gambol through a field while a little one rested nearby.

Several people were sitting on benches throughout the park, enjoying their lunches.  All in all, Thoroughbred park is a delightful oasis in the middle of the hustle and bustle of an urban area.