Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Stroll Through Old Florida

No Disney, no Fort Lauderdale or T Rex Cafe packed with tourists, okay we did hop over to Daytona Beach so the boys could get a chance to "do" Florida right, but this trip home was like time travel through old Florida, the Florida I knew growing up there raised by my Florida native dad who remembers when Disney property was swamp land and Orlando consisted of only a small portion of what the downtown area has become.  Though I'm a couple of decades younger than he is, I also remember when my home state was more rural than city.  I miss it.  Now that my grandma's gone I don't see the need to ever travel to East Orlando where I grew up.  It has changed so much since I left home that I can't stand to look at it anymore. 

It was my first trip back to Florida since my Grandma passed away so, we stayed with my aunt and her husband at their house which is located on a natural piece of land in the hilly horse country of Central Florida.  They help run the summer camp that their home is part of and have been trying to get us down there for a visit for a year and a half.  It was beautiful!  I hadn't been to the camp since I was a teenager when they first moved there.  It was so nice to see that not everything in Florida has grown up so much that the old towns and parks are unrecognizable.

It's been years since I have taken a stroll in the wilds of Florida.  When I was a kid we would backpack in the Ocala Forest and our property was approximately 2/3 swamp, located on the Big Econ River.  Even my grandmother's property, which was a rural lot surrounded by the city that had built up around it, was wooded and natural most of my life.  At the camp, there were nature trails and woods, a lake, wildlife, and my aunt's horses.  So nice to leave my little farm and stay in the country for a week.  We ended the trip with our usual tour of the country's oldest city, St. Augustine. 


A bird egg that fell out of a nest.


Live Oaks with Spanish Moss

A real ant pile.  Ours in NC don't bite badly.  I remember Fire Ants...painful!

Cactus.  The boys were awestruck to see it in the woods.

Beautiful.  I have no idea what it is.

Lantana, poisonous weeds in FL, $12/gall. at the home improvement center in NC.

An old garage in Eustis.

Old building in Eustis


Thrill Hill was a big deal when I was a kid.  Not so much when you live in the mountains.

Thrill Hill

Mount Dora.  When I was a kid it was deserted and painted pink.  Every building had been painted for the filming of a movie.

Mount Dora

Mount Dora
Cypress knees

Cat tails

Love Bugs

Sunset over Lake Dora

Sunset Lake Dora

An old rusty cannon near Lake Dora

Sunset Lake Dora

We had to get hay for the horses

Deer Moss

Rock Springs, my favorite swimming hole.

Kelly Park, Rock Springs

Kelly Park, Rock Springs

Kelly Park, Rock Springs

Sunrise over cattle ranch

Part of the St. Johns River

Ponce DeLeon Springs

Ponce DeLeon Springs

Remnants of the hotel at Ponce DeLeon Springs

An illustration of the old hotel at Ponce DeLeon Springs.

Ruins of the old Spanish sugar mill at Ponce DeLeon Springs

"Fountain of Youth" that visitors could drink from in the old days of the park.

Another fountain that visitors used to be able to drink from.

A building at Daytona.  So cool!

Daytona Beach

Bird tracks in the sand

My recycled chicken feed bag makes a good, sturdy snorkeling gear carrier, but I didn't realize how dorky it looked until I was laying on the beach blanket looking up at it.  You can take the girl from the farm, but not the farm from the girl, I guess.  Giggle.

The Old Senator, St. Augustine

The Old Jail, St. Augustine

Cemetery, St. Augustine

St. George St., St. Augustine

I remember going to this bakery as a child and my parents buying a loaf of bread.  I have looked and looked for it over the years.  It was in plain sight and I must have walked past it many times.  It smelled just like I remember, like freshly baked bread.

Coquina wall

Flagler's Alcazar Hotel, now the Lightner Museum

Flagler's Ponce DeLeon Hotel, now Flagler College

The Plaza, St. Augustine

Castillo de San Marcos, St. Augustine

A childhood memory, standing there trying to figure out how it works.  My boys begged me to tell them, so I finally did on this trip.

A rooster standing on the sidewalk outside Ripley's, believe it or not.  Honestly, I just couldn't believe it.

Ripley's museum is housed in an old hotel that was once owned by Marjorie Keenan Rawlings.  The architecture is more fascinating to me than the exhibits.

A recycled aluminum soda can manatee.

Amish hex symbol to ward off evil spirits.

Stained glass inside Ripley's

A true log home.  The inside is hollowed out and is livable.  Looks like a train or boat cabin inside.

Jacksonville.  One of the few cities I find beautiful, especially at night along the river.


  1. Thanks for sharing we are going to Florida in October. Thinking of the disney thing but still not 100% sold on it.

  2. Don't get me wrong, Disney's great! Until this trip, I always said that Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom was my home town and that I'm "from" Disney because it's the only place that never changes. lol I love it!! It opened only a few months before I was born so I don't know Florida life w/o it, just grateful that my dad made sure we grew up knowing the "real" Florida, too. If you want quiet, beautiful out-of-the way places to visit, try any of the springs (Blue Springs, Ponce DeLeon Springs, Rock Springs, Wekiwa Springs, Rainbow River, Alexander and Juniper Springs, Salt Springs, the Ichetucknee River and Crystal River) or Cedar Key, a small island on the Gulf Coast, all near Central Florida, but attractions that are "old Florida". They will be quiet on weekdays in Oct. St. Augustine is only a 2 1/2 hour drive from Central Florida.