Visiting the islands on the coast of Georgia is great fun. Each island has its own uniqueness. We visited St. Simon’s Island on a beautiful sunny day. It is a 17.7 square mile island and is a busy seaside resort as well as residential community. The owner of the house we are staying at lives on St. Simon’s. He says it is way too crowded for his liking. We spent a few hours on the island visiting the St. Simon’s Lighthouse and the beach on one end of the island and Fort Frederica on the other end. We found the architecture quite beautiful.
We watched dolphins playing in the water off the pier while birds flew over our heads.
Fort Frederica is a military town on the Colonial Georgia frontier. This fort has ruins from the 1700s. There were many foundations depicting where the families lived including the pub owner, cook, candlemaker, the barracks, church and more. Interestingly, there were 84 lots and the house lots were about 60×90 feet. I think I would need a little bigger house than that.
We have been having nice weather and as long as you can stand the biting flies things are great. I think these are even worse than black flies because they are smaller and there are 10 times more of them. But around here you just put on bug spray and continue on with your activities.
Sapelo Island is a state-protected barrier island that you can only access by ferry. We took a 4-hour tour over to the island on a beautiful Saturday morning. The ferry is only about 30 minutes. The population of this island is less than 70, many of whom are descendants of slaves who worked on Sapelo plantations. You aren’t able to bring cars or bikes over but you can rent golf carts and bikes once you get there. We took the bus tour which was perfect. The hurricane in October did quite a job with taking down trees. It left devastation thoughout the island that they are still trying to recover from. Our neighbor felt that because Sapelo Island took the brunt of the hurricane, it prevented the island we are staying on (Seabreeze Island) from getting hit.
I was able to add another lighthouse to my list of lighthouse viewings. The Sapelo Island Light Station was built in 1820. We were able to climb up the 77 stairs to the top of the lighthouse for a nice view.
We went by the Reynolds Mansion previously own by tobacco heir Richard Reynolds. We weren’t able to get out and tour the mansion as the tours are only on Wednesdays. Last stop was the beach. It was a nice clean beach with lots of shells on it–which, of course, we needed to take a few samples home.
This was a short tour but just enough time to see the island and enjoy its rich history.
Each night looking from our deck we get different colored sunsets. We never know what they will look like but each one is special and we enjoy them all.
After two and a half days driving, we arrived in Darien, Georgia on Monday, February 27th. I have decided we have a love-hate relationship with our GPS. GPS’s can be great but they can also cause you to go in directions you didn’t want to go. We mistakenly listened to the GPS and took the George Washington Bridge in New York. That was a big mistake. Took us over an hour plus in very heavy traffic. At least 3-4 other times, the GPS told us to get off the highway at a certain exit. Now luckily I also have a map in front of me and know it is not the direction we should be going. So ignoring these directions, we notice that while the GPS wanted us to get off the highway it also chose to bring us right back on the highway 100 feet down the road. What’s up with that?
The weather for our first week has been quite hot (85) and humid (93% humidity). But by today (Friday) it has cooled down to 60s with low humidity and is quite pleasant. (Especially when we watch the weather in Maine.)
The house we have rented for the month of March is just beautiful. There are three outdoor decks so for happy hour we go from deck to deck depending on the wind and the sun. It doesn’t get any better than that. We’re certainly getting our exercise as there are stairs going into the house, off the deck and up to the bedroom. Here’s some pictures of the house.
There is a widow’s walk at the very top that you can also go up to sit. (See first picture of view from Widow’s Walk.) The biting flies (midges or no-see-ums) are quite prevalent especially up there, so we don’t stay very long.
We have done a little sightseeing and stopped in to see The Smallest Church in America in Darien. It was built in 1949 but burned in 2015 and was rebuilt. It holds about 12 people inside and is 190 SF.
Today we went for a hike at Crooked River State Park. It was a very clean park and the trails were very nice although as we found in Florida, there is not much elevation gain on hikes in Georgia. We wonder what people that hike in Florida and Georgia think when they try hiking in Maine.
It is the time of year when we get to start camping again. Cold weather merges to cool and then to warm weather, bugs come out in force (not so good) and hiking is at its best. Our first camping trip of the year was a two-night stay at Recompence Campground in Freeport, Maine. The weather was a little rainy but with the company of the Barkers and Daileys we had a good first trip out.
The second camping trip of the season took us to Lamoine State Park. This is a great 55-acre park away from the crowds of Mount Desert Island yet close enough to do day hikes while returning to the campground at night.
We found a nice hike called Beech Mountain Trail and Firetower. At 839 feet this has many great views on the way up overlooking Echo Lake and the southwestern part of Mount Desert Island. The firetower is now closed but you can walk up a few stairs to see some views. Of course even if you don’t walk up the stairs, the view is incredible.
This trail is only 1.2 miles roundtrip but certainly has a lot of “bang for the buck”.
Back at our campsite, we celebrated John’s birthday with friends Marian and Genie. A nice appetizer to start things off and then a steak on the grill and some Grand Marnier to finish off the evening.
This was the first time we had a view of the water while camping at Lamoine. These sites are usually all filled up. We enjoyed our time and the weather was absolutely perfect.
Well our time here is coming to a close. This will be my last post on our trip to Florida. We have enjoyed the two months we spent living at The Villages and visiting surrounding areas. As with all places you visit, you always learn something. Listed below is what we learned:
Overheard in The Villages:
He said: “I am under the Frog Plan here in The Villages.”
She said: “What is the Frog Plan?”
He said: “I’m here until I croak.”
Pelicans, cranes, cardinals, ospreys, bald eagles, alligators and “people over 60” are very commonplace.
Shelby takes a while but can adapt to new locations and especially learn to play with other dogs in the dog park.
Ticks are just as plentiful in Florida as in Maine. (I got about 6 tick bites and John got none. The ticks are so tiny and look just like my freckles so it is difficult to always find them.)
The Villages is like living “Under the Dome.” Everything is perfect in this planned community. Everyday is like Groundhog Day. Or as they say in Seinfeld, we are in Del Boca Vista Phase II. (John)
If you are bored here it is your own fault. There are so many activities to choose from. But you have to want to join.
We got to photograph Thelma and Louise. Okay it was really Sharon Slavin and Sharon Krawczyk but don’t tell them they’re not Thelma and Louise.
There are 630 holes of golf here so if you are a golfer this is the place for you. The 9-hole courses are all free and you pay a small fee for the 18-hole courses. (We are not golfers.)
If you find a hill or steep area, you are not in Florida. We will have a hard time trying to hike in Maine after the flatness of this area.
Half Moon Wlldlife Recreation Area
According to the billboards, “It is always a beautiful day in The Villages.”
Having 70-80 degree temperatures sure beats getting snow in March and April.
We did not find anyone we talked to here that did not like living in The Villages.
So you are probably wondering if we are ready to move here?
John:No! I’m too young to be here and it’s too busy.
Cheryl: I’d love it. Having so many choices of activities is right up my alley.
Hope you have enjoyed our posts over the last two months.
The past few days we had the opportunity to visit friends who have recently moved to Florida.
It hasn’t rained much during our stay in Florida. When it has rained, it has been a few drops here or there. So in making plans for dinner we opted for a restaurant in The Villages called Lighthouse Point. It is right on the water and you can sit outside and have a nice dinner. Naturally the night we picked to have dinner with Steven and Patti McNally it poured more than we have seen in two months. So we ended up eating inside but it was a nice dinner and we enjoyed spending time with friends. A few days later we also went to see their new home and had a tour of the SummerGlen Retirement Community. After seeing their beautiful home, we’re ready to move right in!
Our next visit was with Gail and Frank Catani. They also have a very elegant home with a beautiful lanai and pool. We had a nice lunch while enjoying the view and the company. Shelby enjoyed chasing a thermometer that had an alligator at the top. Luckily he didn’t jump in as he doesn’t like to swim. Again after this visit, we were ready to move right in. I’m guessing they weren’t looking for boarders in their home, however.
The GPS is a great tool and helps to get you where you are going–most of the time. When we bought our new Subaru, we wanted a built-in GPS. It works but has some issues. For example, sometimes when I try to enter in an address it can’t find it. So luckily we brought the old faithful GPS from Maine. On our day trip to St. Augustine, we had to use the old GPS with the new GPS as a backup. Of course they both failed us. Our plan was to visit four different places in St. Augustine. 1) Anastasia State Park, 2) St. Augustine Lighthouse, 3) Fountain of Youth and 4) El Galeon Tall Ship. It was best in that order because we had Shelby and as we know it is “all about him.” If we got him to the park and tired out, it was better for us when we visited the next three locations.
When the GPS said, “You have arrived at your destination” we looked around and knew we weren’t in the right place. So we went back over the Bridge of Lions and saw the El Galeon Tall Ship in the water. It was crowded and we were not able to stop and view this beautiful ship. Our #4 choice was then done. We set the second GPS to try to find the park and it brought us down what is St. Augustine’s narrowest street in the United States. Sure glad we didn’t have the truck camper! After almost an hour we finally found Anastasia State Park no thanks to the GPS’s.
We took a walk through the nature trail and then went to the beach. Since dogs aren’t allowed on the beach, John and I took turns walking down to the beach to take a look. It was a beautiful beach with white, sandy dunes.
We had a picnic lunch before heading off to #2 destination – St. Augustine Lighthouse. As we were leaving, I took a picture of a turtle. I had to take it quick as he was charging right at me. Guess he was looking for his own lunch.
The St. Augustine Light Station is an active lighthouse in St. Augustine, Florida. The current lighthouse stands at the north end of Anastasia Island and was built in 1874. There is a tour you can take to climb up the lighthouse. It has 218 stairs and has an expansive view from the top. Unfortunately, we didn’t want to leave Shelby in the car since it was so hot so we opted out of this tour. But I can cross another lighthouse visited and photographed off my list. (To see other lighthouses I have photographed visit this page on my website.)
Stop #3 was the Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, the original site of the Nation’s oldest city. Located in the area first explored by Juan Ponce de Leon in 1513 and settled by Pedro Menendez de Aviles in 1565, historic St. Augustine is the oldest successful European settlement in the United States. The good news for us was this site was pet friendly and you can take your dog everywhere. The good news for Shelby was as soon as he walked in he got his first look at peacocks and his favorite–squirrels.
We had never seen peacocks and they didn’t disappoint us. We got the full show from them. They have quite a cry you can hear from all areas of the Park, and their colorful displays are unforgettable. The cries sound like little kids screaming, “Help”.
We went to the Fountain of Youth fully expecting we would leave there looking younger once we sipped the water from the spring. The spring comes directly from the Floridan aquifer, which lies below ground under much of North Florida. After one sip, we tossed the rest of the water. The taste was just terrible. So I guess we won’t be looking younger any time soon.
This concluded our tour for the day. We did use the GPS for the ride home and we arrived safe and sound.
We found another wildlife location called Sunnyhill Restoration Area. We have visited it twice. The first time we walked along a stretch of the Ocklawaha River and even saw a few motorboats going through. It wasn’t very wide so we were surprised to see the boats coming through. It was open so was quite warm walking.
The second time we visited this area, we took another trail and saw alligators, birds, turtles and deer. The alligators blend in so well it was difficult to spot them at first. Compare the next two pictures and you can see what I mean. Looking at the second picture you can see some of the tree stumps to the right of the alligator and then view the first picture to see where it is.
This gator was a lot bigger than some of the others and was a little scary as he kept staring at us as we walked by.
We came across these cranes on the side of the road. The camera was in the back of the car so I had to jump out, grab the camera and get these pictures. The cranes were quite willing to let me take their picture.
There is a small pond down the street from our house and a pod of pelicans has been hanging around. (Had to do a Google search to find out what a group of pelicans is called.)
This little guy landed on the wall in our backyard. Thought he was really cute.
We took a trip to the east coast and visited the Cape Canaveral Seashore. We walked along a beautiful beach picking up some shells and watching the birds run in and out of the water. This was a nice stroll until we started walking by “big fat ugly naked guy.” After seeing two or three of these, we decided it was time to turn around. You can only handle so much scenery walking on the beach. And for those of you wondering, no I didn’t take any pictures of them!
We took a trail called Turtle Mound trail. Part of the trail included a wooden boardwalk to an oyster midden. There was some nice wildlife as well as some pretty flowers along the this trail and others in the area.
After a nice day at the seashore, we stopped for lunch at Norwood’s Eatery & Bar Treehouse. We climbed the stairs into the treehouse which was quite interesting. Reminded us of the TV show “Treehouse Masters”.
John and I celebrated our 40th Anniversary on April 10th. We had a wonderful day starting with a hike at Fort Cooper State Park. Not much to take pictures of but here is the best of the lot. Most of the trail consisted of trees. No wildlife but a good day to get out for a hike.
Sharon brought us some beautiful tulips for our anniversary and John made a spectacular dinner of shrimp for appetizers and scallops for dinner. (You notice I did nothing but enjoy the day.) We also celebrated with our traditional bottle of champagne. I have saved the champagne cork every year from each bottle. We’re getting quite a collection.