Florida Family Fun – Days 3 & 4

Day 3 – Monday, July 4th

When you make plans, there is always that chance that they aren’t going to work out. It seems that this is becoming one of those trips where nearly every single plan needs major adjusting. Luckily, I have learned to be pretty fluid and always have at least one backup plan in place (although, sometimes plan B doesn’t work out either and you need a plan C, D, and E).

With it being the 4th of July, we had obviously planned on going to a firework show somewhere on the beach this night. I had looked it up when planning our trip and decided on the show at Siesta Key Beach because it was closest. This was the wrong choice. It was absolutely packed. We drove around for about 30 minutes and never saw a single open parking space anywhere. All of the lots were already full and had been closed off. Traffic was a nightmare and people were walking from way down the road to get to the beach. I’m not sure where they had parked, but I wasn’t about to make that kind of trek in that kind of traffic with 3 kids. Activate plan B.

We headed out of Siesta Key and drove slightly north to Anna Maria Island. This beach was on our list anyway, and they were doing a firework show, AND it wasn’t that far away, so that was that.

Once we got to Anna Maria, we headed for Bean Point (this was an awesome this discovery the husband and I made during Honveyversary 2016). We still had a couple of hours before dark, so we walked the beach to look for sea shells. We found all kinds of cool stuff – sea shells, starfish, sand dollars, conch, and even a sea squirt.

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{One of the starfish we saw on the beach}

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{Starfish and sand dollar}

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{Returning stranded starfish and sand dollars back to the sea}

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{The boy and the Ibis}

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{Little missy looking festive in her star spangled shirt and sunglasses}

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{There were so many conch on the beach!}

We slowly made our way down the beach closer to the where the fireworks will be and then set up our chairs right about the time the sun started to set. (Hindsight, we should have kept going a little further to see them better. Now we’ll know next time.) After watching a beautiful sunset and then the fireworks show, we started back down the beach toward the car to head back to the house in Sarasota. The drive home was awesome because we got to see more fireworks going off in every direction all the way back.

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{Little miss gymnast}
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{Sunset on Anna Maria Island}

Day 4 – Tuesday, July 5th

This was a highly anticipated day. My mother and my kids have never been to the Florida Keys, nor have they ever been to the Everglades, so naturally I decided it was time they see it. I had saved up a little extra money and booked a 42ft sportfishing boat in Islamorada via Airbnb for two nights. Staying on a boat in the Keys? This just promised to be an awesome experience.

When I had originally booked the boat, I had only booked it for one night. (I know, right? I don’t know what I was thinking either.) After more planning had been done, I realized that one night just wasn’t going to cut it, so I hopped back on Airbnb to book another night. Crap. Both the night before and the night after were booked according to the website. So, I emailed the host (a wonderful man named Mike) and asked if there was by chance any possibility that we could book an extra night. He promptly responded with good news. He said that the people the day before us would be checking out earlier in the day and if we were okay to have a late check-in (say, 7-8:00pm or so) that we could definitely book another night. Yes! This would work out perfectly!

We hit the road from Sarasota around 11:00am, but we had a scheduled stop to make before heading to the Keys. When we were on our family vacation here last year, we had heard that Venice Beach was the place to find shark teeth so we had gone there looking. However, we didn’t have any luck. (Later I found out it was because the city had dredged the beach that summer.) This year, on the other hand, I had it on good authority that the place for shark teeth is Caspersen and Englewood Beach (just south of Venice Beach). Since we were going south anyway, we stopped off at Caspersen for a couple of hours to see what we could find.

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{Boardwalk  at Caspersen Beach}
{Caspersen Beach}
{The boy looking for shark teeth like a pro}

Nothing – that’s what we found. Zip, zilch, zero. But that’s okay because it’s only 45 minutes from Sarasota and we plan to go back later this week for some more searching. We will find some shark teeth. Plus, we had a lot of fun looking.

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{No shark teeth, but we did see this tortoise}

After leaving Caspersen Beach, we headed for Highway 41 to cut through Big Cypress National Preserve. This is the way to go when cutting through South Florida. You bypass the tolls that are along I-75, you bypass Miami, AND you get to see the awesomeness that is the Everglades (including gators, panthers, and Indian reservations). The plan was to stop at the Oasis Visitor Center so my mom and the kids could see some alligators, but at that point we were on a bit of a time crunch to make it to Islamorada by our 8:00pm check-in time so we decided to just stop through on the way back.

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{Panther crossing sign in Big Cypress}

We reached the Caloosa Cove Marina just before 8:00pm. The caretaker, Maggie, met us at the boat to let us in and give us the grand tour. The boat (dubbed the Reel Nauti) had two sleeping quarters, a set of bunk beds in one and the master bed in another, plus a pull out sleeper sofa. It was also equipped with a kitchen and bathroom, but since the bathroom was a port-a-potty type deal, we just used the marina’s public restrooms. It was kind of like staying on a camper, but on the water. Not necessarily “luxurious”, but very comfortable and cozy. It was perfect, especially for the price. Luxury is for losers anyway, lol. 😉 In addition to restrooms, the marina also provided shower and laundry facilities, a pool, and had a cajun restaurant, convenience store, bar, and a beach. Plus, all of the other mariners were very friendly. It was all around a great place to stay.

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{Our base camp in Islamorada}
{He wanted to be the captain}
{She also wanted to be the captain}

After checking in and unpacking the car, we headed for the nearest grocery store to pick up some spaghetti to make for dinner. When we were cooking everything, we had one too many cords plugged into one of the outlets an flipped the breaker. Lights out. Crap. At this point it was 11:30pm. What do I do? I hadn’t the slightest idea, and I really didn’t want to break anything by flipping the wrong switch. Maggie. I have to call Maggie. Maybe she’d know what to do. I felt horrible because by then it was almost midnight, but she answered the call and came running to our rescue. In about 10 minutes she had located the problem and fixed it – all the while with a smile on her face. We loved Maggie. And now that the power was back on we could finish up dinner and get to bed, we had a big day planned for Wednesday.

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