Nature Coast Botanical Gardens

Walk through the trestle, pick up a map at the Welcome Center and stroll along the brick path that surrounds the Nature Coast Botanical Gardens at 1489 Parker Avenue in Spring Hill.

A garden pagoda and statues throughout the Asian Garden. Garden statues found in the other gardens as well. Small, tart plums grow on the Chickasaw Plum Trees in the Native Plant Garden. The Spruce Pine native to North Florida grows up to 40 feet. The Needle Palm a slow-growing palm reaches heights of up to 8-feet and can tolerate temperatures below zero. Wild Coffee a shrub that produces berries that attract butterflies. The berries roasted and served as a beverage.

Stand at the bridge looking down at the pond while viewing some of the native plants in the wetlands area. With the sun streaming through the tree, stand at the Tree of Life dedicated to the thousands of people who died on 9-11.

 

 

 

Walk through the leaf-strewn path in the Rain Forest. Sit on a bench look up and see the many trees that offer a canopy. Sit in a gazebo relax and enjoy the surroundings. Twenty gardens make up the botanical gardens. Purchase a brick in memory of a loved one, donations accepted. The on-site nursery sells plants. Check the website for hours of operation.

 

Manatee Observation and Education Center

 

 

 

 

Walk up to the observation tower and stand along the rail to see the Manatees at the Manatee Observation and Education Center at 480 North Indian River Drive in Fort Pierce. Sit on a bench in the evening and feel the cool breeze while watching the boats entering and leaving the docks.

As you follow the trail throughout the butterfly garden read the signs of the many plants that attract butterflies. While sitting on a bench relax and enjoy the calmness of the garden.Three different species of Seahorses inhabit the Indian River Lagoon described at the Seahorse Exhibit. The threats of the Seahorse and their skeletal makeup. A female Seahorse deposits one thousand eggs at a time into the male pouch. The eggs incubated and delivered nine to forty-five days later. They’re hard to take care of in an aquarium setting. They mate for life and eat kelp and vegetation.

 

 

 

 

Many different species of fish live in the aquariums inside the education center that include two from South America. Closely related to the Corals the Sea Anemone offer a habitat for the Clownfish. Six species of predatory fish live in a separate aquarium for fear they might eat the other fish. The Lionfish an invasive fish from the Indo-Pacific an area that includes twenty-three countries.

All about the Manatees in the Manatee Exhibit. Manatees an endangered species brought on by several factors like speeding boats that collide with the Manatees, habitat loss and cold stress.

Hand-made earrings, jewelry, wind chimes, coasters, clothing made from recycled plastic and other items found in gift shops. I recommend the education center afterwards walk upstairs to the observation deck. Hours and admission prices found on the website.

 

Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park

Purchase tickets inside the Visitor Center for a pontoon boat ride at the Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park at 465 Wakulla Park Drive in Wakulla Springs. Our boat captain took us on a scenic ride on the Wakulla River pointing to the Alligator resting on the banks of the river. The different species of birds nesting in the trees. Ducks swimming along the boat and Manatees swimming below the surface.

Swim in the 120 feet deep springs or dive in the cave 185 feet below the surface. “Old Joe” an 11-foot alligator found at the bottom of the river the locals believed was murdered. Encased in glass inside the lodge. Artifacts displayed inside the visitor center going back 12,000 to 15,000 years. A poster board shows the Spanish as the first conquerors from the late 17th century to the mid-18th century.

The Wakulla Springs Trail a 6.3-mile trail that includes a Tree Walk a 0.6-mile walk. Try to name 14 trees by their leaves.

From the 1930s to the 1970s, movie studios filmed Tarzan movies, movies starring Lloyd Bridges and Jack Lemmon. A series of Creature movies and a WWII training film.

The Lodge at Wakulla Springs

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places The Lodge at Wakulla Springs a Mediterranean Revival Moorish, Spanish style architecture. Evening talk with a Ranger held once a month. This month’s talk about Edward Ball and the history of the lodge. He bought land in the early 1930s the construction of the lodge cost $75,000 to build that began in 1935 and completed in 1937.

 

 

 

 

The lodge state of the art originally built for Mr. Ball’s friends had marble and air conditioning. Different river scenes from unknown artists painted throughout the lodge. Stencil and hand-painted art on the ceiling, Mr. Ball wanted the artists to remain unknown. He didn’t want the artists’ works to take away from the beauty of the lodge. The ranger said that people who couldn’t afford wallpaper in their homes used stencil on the walls.

 

 

 

 

Sit in a stool in the longest marble top soda fountain. Real leaf ornaments dipped in copper. Wall hangings and tile trivets, Wakulla Springs Prints, hand-painted coasters and the usual souvenirs found in gift shops. I recommend the springs. Stay in the lodge and experience the atmosphere of a by-gone era. Wakulla Springs admission prices found on the website.

 

 

Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park

Look to the top of the Carillon Tower that plays Stephen Foster’s music throughout the day at the Stephen Foster Culture Center State Park at 11016 Lillian Saunders Drive/US Hwy 41 in White Springs.

 

 

 

 

The museum is a memorial to Stephen Foster. Watch a film about Stephen Foster’s early life; he wrote 250 songs during his lifetime. The Florida state song “Old Folks At Home” became a state song in the mid-1930s. Dioramas and paintings throughout the museum that illustrate some of his songs. A piano that he played on, a piano used at a Jenny Lind the Swedish Nightingale concert all permanent exhibits. A desk on display that he used to compose his songs as well as articles and photographs about him throughout the museum. While strolling on the grounds sit on a bench and listen to the relaxing sounds of the fountain or bring a picnic lunch and sit on a picnic table under a shade tree on the museum grounds.

Thirty-three miles of trails throughout the park. Ride a mountain bike or hike the Mountain Loop Trail an 8-mile scenic trail. Canoes, bicycles, cabins and campsites available for rent.

 

 

 

 

Walk along the brick path to the craft square shops that sell arts and crafts. A blacksmith shop that demonstrates blacksmithing. Books on Stephen Foster’s music, jellies, jams, and other homemade crafts for sale in the gift shop.

The Florida Folk Festival held every Memorial Day weekend offers music, crafts and food. Check the website for other events throughout the year. I recommend the park a lot to see and do.

Port St. Lucie Botanical Gardens

Pick up a map at the welcome center and walk around the outside and admire the fountain then follow the paths throughout the Port St. Lucie Botanical Gardens at 2410 SE Westmoreland Blvd in Port St. Lucie. Situated on 21 acres that includes wetlands and mangroves. A wide variety of unusual plants, and trees all through the gardens.

Inside the Hibiscus Garden a 3 Cubes sculpture an abstract geometric sculpture made of stainless steel by Dale Rogers.

 

 

 

 

Walk along the native plant garden a hidden path that includes the White Indigo Berry an evergreen tree that grows 6 to 10 feet. Coco plum that produces an edible plum and the Gumbo Limbo a tree native to South Florida.

Stand under the gazebo in the Secret Garden, read about the many uses of Bamboo in the Bamboo Garden. The Monarch Butterfly often seen in the Butterfly Display Garden. Native and migratory butterflies inhabit the garden.

Walk under the circular trestle to the Rose Garden the Southern Old Rose and other varieties inside the garden.

Bring a picnic lunch or sit on a bench in the butterfly garden or in the event lawn. I won’t describe all the gardens but each garden is beautiful and worth exploring. Before leaving stop in the gift shop and browse for gifts from local arts. Admission is free, donations accepted. Contact the staff on the website for events.

Harbor Branch Ocean Discovery Visitors Center

Over forty years of ocean discoveries at the Florida Atlantic Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute. Surrounded by a variety of foliage the Harbor Branch Ocean Discovery Visitors Center located at 5600 US 1 North in Ft. Pierce.

Watch a film about the establishment of the institute then take a tour with a docent. Walk with a docent throughout the visitors center as they describe in detail the research that goes on at the institute. From the depths of the oceans, microbiologists and chemists discovered that seventy percent of pharmaceuticals comes from the ocean.

 

 

 

 

While holding the wool sponge she told us that they have no eyes or ears but suck water from holes throughout their body. Dolphins live 50 to 60 years in the wild but in captivity die at an earlier age. The Right Whale an endangered species listed as one of the 12 whales that inhabit the Florida Waters. The Yellow Head Jawfish burrows inside the sand in one of the Coral Reef Aquariums. In the oceans the Coral Reef home to millions of species.

 

 

 

 

Many facets of ocean exploration inside the ocean exploration center. Learn about the seven types of seagrasses in the Indian Lagoon. The impact of the ocean currents on our environment. Too deep for divers, underwater vehicles go where divers can’t and underwater cameras such as Autonomous Underwater Vehicles that takes pictures at the bottom of the ocean and sends them back to researchers.

Fish, plants and other species grow in the aquaculture environment. Restoring our native species like the Florida Apple Snails, Queen Conch and Oyster Reefs important to the survival of our ecosystems.

The gift shop has children’s books on the oceans, salt scrubs, ocean safe sunscreens, backpacks and other items. I recommend the visitor center tour the docent is very knowledgeable. The tour is free donations accepted. Lecture series, Immersion Tours offered on the website.

Lake Louisa State Park

 

 

 

 

Be aware of wildlife crossing the road at Lake Louisa State Park at 7305 US Highway 27 in Clermont. The Green Swamp surrounds the boardwalk towards Lake Louisa. Take a swim, have a picnic on the shores of the lake or watch your children play on the playground.Step inside the Habitat Garden strolling along the path through a trestle. A Southern Red Cedar part of the evergreen family has many uses. Sit on a bench or in one of the two gazebos. Listen to the sounds of birds and try to spot a butterfly.Sightings of birds of prey, grassland and migrating birds along the Florida Birding Trail. Hike and bicycle on one of the many trails. Swim in one of the six lakes. Launch a canoe, kayak or go horseback riding. I recommend the park a lot to see and do. Hours of operation and fees on the website.

 

 

Cedar Key Historical Society and Museum

Cedar Key Historical Society and Museum a historic state landmark at 609 2nd Street in Cedar Key on the Gulf of Mexico. Throughout the museum artifacts dating back eleven thousand years. A replica of a steamboat on display. Many railroad companies came to Cedar Key. People would board the trains from southern and northern states to the town of Fernandina then continue to Cedar Key. They brought most of their belongings in their steamer trunks for travel on the steamships to cities on the Suwannee River and other towns throughout Florida.

John Muir an early conservationist visited Cedar Key from Indiana after walking a thousand miles through wilderness taking plant samples along the way. Photographs of early life throughout the museum. A map of Florida from the 1870s. Cedar Key from the 1800s to 1932. A chronological history of the United States, The Florida Treaty allowed transfer of land from Spain to Florida. From 1800 to the beginning of the 20th century, many industries came to Cedar Key. Tourism and Shellfish farming the main industries of Cedar Key today.

David Levy Yulee owned the Florida Railroad. He was the first Jewish US Senator from Florida. Judge Augustus Steele founded the town of Cedar Key in the late 1850s.

Items for sale in the gift shop include a local photographer’s artwork in note pads, calendars, books on Cedar Key, children’s books and t-shirts.

After visiting the museum, step inside the Andrews House a history of Cedar Key that depicts the contributions of Dr. Andrews a retired dentist from Indiana. I recommend visiting both museums.

Oxbo Eco-Center

Found throughout Florida, the Gulf Fritillary a butterfly that makes its home in the Butterfly and Contemplation Gardens at the Oxbo Eco-Center located at 5400 NE St. James Drive in Port St. Lucie. Named Oxbo because of the U-shaped bend in the St. Lucie River.

Interpretive plaques along the boardwalk describe the many plants and flowers with so many uses. Hike the numerous trails situated on the 225-acre preserve. Climb to the top of the observation towers and observe some of the numerous animals in the preserve. Canoe or kayak and get a close-up look of the many species of animals.

Stroll along the trail in the Butterfly Garden taking pleasure in the natural beauty. Sit on a bench or bring a picnic lunch and listen to the songbirds or sit in The Contemplation Garden and see if you can spot the butterflies.Over 800 species of fish in Blackwater and freshwater that make up the St. Lucie River. An interpretive exhibit describes in detail the flow of the river and the thousands of plants and animals that inhabit the river.

Different species of turtles and snakes reside in aquariums in the Discovery Room. A Rose Hair Tarantula found in Chile on display. Watch a live feeding of the reptiles every Saturday afternoon while visiting the Discovery Room.

Rent the amphitheater for special events. Free admission to the center, donations accepted. I recommend the environmental learning center and preserve a lot to see and do.

 

 

Sebastian Area Historical Museum

Formerly an elementary school the building now home to the Sebastian Area Historical Museum listed on the National Register of Historic Places at 1235 Main Street in Sebastian. Sebastian originally a fishing village. Numerous photographs in each room depicted life in Sebastian, and the settlers who were influential in developing the town.

 

 

 

Our docent a life-long resident took us on a tour of the museum describing in detail each room. Different rooms portray different periods of early life in Sebastian throughout the museum. Maps of Florida, artifacts of the Ais Indians, and valuable objects found in the sea on display. Photographs of steamboats the mode of travel from the late 1820s until 1880 when trains became the means of travel. People arrived by train at the Sebastian Railroad Depot, and stayed at Hotel Sebastian.

Paintings by local artists and an early Larkin a secretary desk. Train memorabilia, and military items that represent Military History from the Civil War to World War II.

Pelican Island a five-acre island that became the first National Wildlife Refuge in 1903 by Executive Order signed by President Theodore Roosevelt. Paul Kroegel became the first warden of Pelican Island.

Purchase books and DVDs on local history, prints and tote bags. I recommend the museum a lot of history in a small town. Free admission, donations accepted. Hours of operation on the website.