After leaving Koreshan State Park, we were hightailing it up and out of Florida. We needed a quick stopover before heading into the panhandle in order to not have a VERY long drive-day. So, we stopped the weekend of February 3rd at Rainbow Springs State Park in Dunnellon, FL. This is one of the few state parks we’ve ever seen with full hook-ups, a nice touch! The sites are well spaced and many are fairly private.
Since we only had ONE full day here, a paddle up the river in tandem kayaks was the way to go. But first, we hit the headsprings area for a tour of what used to be (from the 1920s to the 1970s) an early amusement park. There were (are) intricately planned gardens, waterfalls, streams and ponds. There are the remains of what was a zoo and there was a rodeo and even a monorail. I could just envision families and friends meeting there with picnic lunches, dressed to the nines, maybe donning their bathing costumes for a dip in the warm springs. Careful ladies, don’t show those shoulders! Since spring in this area of Florida starts just as the north is getting feet of snow, the hills were alive with the
sound of music blooms of azaleas. Gorgeous.
After a quick lunch back at the camper, we walked to the river and hauled our ridiculously heavy, likely made of concrete, double kayaks into the water with only minimal grunting. The winds and the current were pushing against us, making the paddle upriver…excellent cardio. Once we were on the water, we realized how shockingly clear and turquoise it was. Like, jaw-dropping(ly), eye-popping(ly) clear. No tropical island’s water, no east coast beach water, no mountain stream that I’ve ever seen has had water so clear, so turquoise. It was all I could do not to dunk my face over the side of the kayak and start gulping it down. Ahhhh. Refreshing! I assume. I didn’t do it. Anyway, there were dozens of turtles (some massive!), interesting birds, plenty of fish and this deep emerald-green river grass that swayed in the current like a mermaid’s hair. Lovely. We finally made it to the headspring (at the park we’d toured earlier) and spent some time just gazing into the water before heading back to haul our kayaks (this time with a little more grunting) back to the racks. It was a VERY full day and we slept well before waking and heading off to Panama City the following day!
If you have a chance to spend time here, I HIGHLY recommend. If you own kayaks, I double recommend.
In an effort to really experience it all, we decided to stay at a religious cult campground. Well, sort of. Koreshan State Park is north of Naples, south of Fort Myers, in Estero, Florida. Cyrus (in Hebrew: Koresh) Teed brought his followers from New York to Florida in 1894 to start this self-sustaining “New Jerusalem” community and expand his religion…which believed that the earth was hollow and contained the entire universe with the sun at the center (as well as other interesting beliefs). After Teed’s death in 1908, membership steadily declined until the last 4 Koreshans deeded the village and acreage to the state of Florida and the State Park was born. The property still has many of the original buildings to tour including an impressive machine shop, the bakery, the stunning art hall and more.
The campground has two sandy loops loops with water and electric. It was closed for many months while they upgraded both and had only just recently reopened (we were so persistent—called once a week during the closure—that we snagged 2 weeks here in high season!). The sites still needed some regrading as the fill used to cover the upgrades sunk a bit in the middle. But they were working on it. The bathhouses were old and not pretty, but very clean (and even conducive to a hair dying session). There’s some Estero River frontage with kayak and canoe rentals, a playground in the woods, a wooded walking path and of course the very interesting Koreshan Village that hosts reenactments, guided tours, a farmers market and many other activities. This is a VERY active Florida State Park!
While we were at Koreshan we spent lots of time with Grammy and Pop since they winter at the gorgeous resort: Cypress Trails in Fort Meyers right up the road. We spent a glorious afternoon on Sanibel Island and even got a close up with a dolphin who swam into shallow waters to check us out. Shannon and I got not one, but TWO date nights when the boys had sleepovers at Gram and Pop’s RV! It was so nice for the boys (and for us) to have that time with them before we head West for more adventures. There was blogging, screen time and a trip to Bass Pro where my little “campers” were fascinated by…tents. We also were lucky enough to cross paths with more full timing, Airstream Instafriends (I swear, Instagram has made us SO social!). Very thankful we had two weeks at Koreshan. I definitely recommend. It’s so important to teach your children about bizarre religious cults. (-_-) Or, you know, to spend quality time with family close by.
When we were planning this leg of the route (from Charleston to near-Tampa) we were looking for a good, several-day stopover so we didn’t have a brutal drive day. St. Augustine seemed like a good one…lots of history there, right? Some good homeschool social studies stuff. And…you know, gorgeous beach.
Somehow we lucked into 4 nights’ reservations at Anastasia State Park right on the coast. Florida State Parks (especially those with direct beach access) book up 11 months in advance, so snagging this one was miraculous…even though we did have to move sites one day in. We pull into our loop to find that our site was right next door to another Airstream. Score! As we were settling in the Airstream neighbors came over for a visit…instant friends. I know I say this a lot (do I?) but one of my MOST favorite parts of this journey has been meeting fabulous people. I digress. Anastasia State Park is GORGEOUS and I wish we would have been there an entire week.
Homeschooling. It’s just awful.
3 boys, hard at work.
Vader hunting a chupacabra or maybe a squirrel.
After we biked to the beautiful beach that went on forever (of which I got exactly zero pictures) and played for a while, we went next door for a lovely Airstream Happy Hour.
The next day we went into town to hit up the Castillo de San Marcos to complete their Junior Ranger program and snag another badge. You might think…”seriously, another fort?” Yes. Another fort. And it rocked just as hard as the first 247 forts we’d seen. [OK, one of us is over forts. I’ll let you guess which one.]
1672!!! That’s a LOT of years ago and this massive structure created from shale (sand and shell mixture) is still standing proud. That’s serious architecture.
After the Castillo we walked around town and very quickly became totally and completely smitten with it. The Spanish influence on the architecture, the walkability of all the cool stuff, the diverse population (that may or may not have just been tourists), the beautiful harbor full of sailboats with musical halyards, the quaint little side streets, the jaw dropping gorgeousness of Flagler College (dammit, why didn’t I go there!?!) and the icing on the cake was that the entire town was lit up with Christmas lights…EVERYWHERE. Smitten. Did NOT expect to love it as much as we did and we saw so little of it…so much more to see. We’ll be back St. Augustine.
I had never even heard of Army Corps of Engineer campgrounds before finding this gem, tucked right into the Allegheny Mountains in PA.
|Checking out the view.
|Mama and her boys.
|Dad getting the boys ready for a ride.