Boating the Florida Backwater, Fishing and Shell Collecting

boating florida
Catching a Catfish

Three of us in one tiny boat isn’t ideal, but it gets us out on the water. We go boating in the Florida backwater where my son Nick tries his best to catch a nice Redfish. My younger son caught some catfish (picture) and I didn’t fish this particular day. I took the photos, because my goal was to find some awesome seashells. Since I’ve moved back to Florida, it’s been mostly work and not much play. Summer in the sunshine state is for tourists, in my opinion. The rest of the year, when the weather is not as stifling, is for locals to enjoy. But that’s not true either. I live in a state where it’s tourist city year round. Another reason I like to escape on the boat during the week. We avoid the coast and waterways on weekends.

Below: Yes, that’s our little Gheenoe, and it does hold three people! It can’t move very fast when it’s loaded down, but it’s fun to go out and explore. We have to keep an eye on those building cumulus clouds. Storms can build and move in fast. It’s not fun to try to outrun a Florida thunderstorm!

low tide on the Indian River
Low Tide Treasure Hunt

The day I took these photos it was terribly hot, over 100 degrees, but there was a breeze. Even the water was hot. I half expected that if we caught a fish it would be partially cooked already! The tide was out which made maneuvering the shallow channels a bit tricky, but my son fishes this area frequently and was pretty good at not hitting the sand bars.
Finally we stopped at Three Sisters, which is a set of three islands, one of which has a long sand bar on the northern side when the tide is low or out.

bivalve cockle shells
Atlantic Giant Cockle Shell

I found this giant Atlantic cockle shell (it’s name is “Giant”, it’s not really all that big) while walking in the hot shallow water on Three Sisters. Both sides of this bivalve were connected and it was upside down and filled with mud.  Since then, I have found a few more of these beauties, in exactly the same state – upside down in shallow water. In my experience, shells that are attached eventually dry out and come apart, but it’s fun to find joined bivalves.
I also found my prized big horse conch on Three Sisters.

Cleaning the Big Horse Conch

While out on the boat the other day, I came across a large, empty horse conch just lying in the sand at low tide. It was a super hot day, and most shells were under water and inhabited by hermit crabs. I was thrilled to discover a big shell that was a keeper!

But it wasn’t pretty. Interesting, for sure, but not pretty. Barnacles encrusted most of the top (spire area) and most of the 10-inch long seashell was covered in black “skin” called periostracum. That info came from my seashell book, “Florida’s Living Beaches”.

florida horse conch
Florida Horse Conch – 10 Inches

I’ve never had such a messed up shell to clean, so I searched for a way to remove the coating and maybe see the shell colors underneath. I began by using my son’s toothbrush and scrubbing at the coating. (He’ll never know – haha, just kidding. Of course I bought him a new one).

At the best shell blog (besides my own, hee-hee) I found that Pam at I Love Shelling had written a nice article (see the link below) about cleaning her horse conchs. She has a lot of shells. She lives on Sanibel Island, where finding awesome shells is a daily thing.  I don’t have that luxury, but we both love collecting seashells and I often refer to her experience to share. We both live in Florida, but she is on the Gulf coast and I am on the Atlantic / east coast where nice big seashells are a rare find.

As of today, the photo below is what my horse conch looks like. The barnacles have been chipped away and some of the periostracum has been removed. After I soaked the shell overnight, the barnacles could be chipped off with a butter knife – it’s all I had. I find that letting the shell dry out makes the brown stuff flaky so I can brush it off. But this process is going to take a while.

cleaning horse conch
Slowly Making Progress

Pam’s Tutorial For How To Clean Horse Conch Shells contains lots of great information. I notice that her black / brown shell was not totally cleaned up. But she had two others that ended up beautiful.

I may have to invest in some dental tools to scrape mine down. It may not end up very colorful, but I’d love to see what’s under there. If I don’t find any good color, I will leave it outside in the hot Florida sun to bleach white. It will still be a unique shell to add to my collection.

horse conch aperture
Aperture, 10-inch Horse Conch

FYI: The animal who lives in, and makes this shell is bright orange! A ten-inch shell seems pretty big to me, but the horse conch can grow to be almost twice as large!

Also, I found a tiny broken horse conch lodged inside one of the crown conchs I collected and you can see pictures of that in my next post.

Eating at the Dolphin View

dolphin view restaurant
The Dolphin View in New Smyrna Beach

The Dolphin View seaside restaurant in New Smyrna used to be the Sea Harvest.  I was out house-hunting and stopped to get some lunch to-go.  I stood in line outside to order, and it was HOT.  With only one group of customers in front of me, I still waited a while to order.  It was Saturday, and well before lunch time, so there were few patrons. As I stood there sweating, at least I could watch the weekend parade of boats head by.  Most were going north (to Disappearing Island?) up towards Ponce Inlet.

seafood restaurant deck
Deck at The Dolphin View Seafood Restaurant

Even with big fans going out on the deck, it was too hot to wait for the food outdoors.  I still had a nice view of the Intracoastal Waterway inside where it was cool. As we watched the boats of all sizes go by, this one (below) caught my eye with the dog standing on the front, happy as can be.

dog on boat
A family and their dog enjoy a day on the water

Taking the food all the way home was probably a mistake, as the oysters were soggy by the time I ate. The meal came with one hushpuppy, fries (many) and coleslaw – those were the two sides I chose. The single little hush puppy was included. Whoopee! I was unimpressed by the $20.00 meal.
When the place was the Sea Harvest they were known for their huge and delicious grouper sandwiches. I don’t think the Dolphin View even offers grouper. I chose the fried oysters because I honestly didn’t seen anything else that interested me. And the oysters were not all that flavorful. I would not get them again. I guess I am more of a clam lover.

Maybe when the weather cools off, and if we live closer, we can go eat on the deck sometime. I love to eat by the water. I hate to be too hard on a place after eating there just once.

Pictures of Ponce Inlet For National Lighthouse Day

As I was finishing up this post, I discovered that today, August 6th, is National Lighthouse Day. And I just happen to have lighthouse photography to share from our recent trip to the beach.

Ponce Inlet lighthouse jetty
Lighthouse at Ponce Inlet

Ponce Inlet is a place that is well known to Florida residents who head over to the Atlantic beaches. The name is short for Ponce De Leon, and the lighthouse is an attraction.  These photos were taken from the south side of the inlet at New Smyrna beach.  To get to the lighthouse you must travel up to Port Orange and come in from the other side.

The lighthouse is one of the tallest in the U.S. and is the tallest in Florida.  Pay the price and you can climb to the top, which I have never done. It’s on my to-do list / bucket list.

Jetty at Ponce Inlet
Jetty at Ponce Inlet

The day I took these pictures we were spending time at New Smyrna Beach and decided to drive up to see the jetty area.   The long rocky trail juts out into the ocean and is a popular place to fish.  Often surfers like to catch waves near the jetty, and it’s known as a shark infested area.  On our visit a complete stranger began telling us that because of the full moon, the tide was extra high and was washing out the area. You can see that in my photo below.

beach erosion florida
Beach Erosion at Ponce Inlet near the Jetty

This area is at the tip of Smyrna Dunes Park, which contains a long boardwalk that goes out to the beach area and jetty. The day we visited the stairway to the boardwalk was taped off because the sand had been washed away from the pilings.

Inlet from Atlantic ocean to ICW
This photo was taken on the inlet side of the jetty, looking out toward the ocean.

View the official page of the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse.

Back in Florida and Not So Thrilled

map of floridaI prepared myself for months for the big move back to Florida. I knew it was not going to be easy adjusting to living in this state again. All the reasons I left are still present, and are now even worse problems.  Mostly it’s the tremendous growth. I’ve only been gone eleven years, but I now get lost driving on the roads I had driven for nearly thirty years.

Yesterday my son drove me to Lake Mary to get a Florida driver’s license (horror story in itself) and I had no idea where I was! Not only are there new, two-lane roads everywhere, there are buildings and traffic (it was 1:30 PM) and people everywhere.  And don’t forget the fast food places on every corner. This is Florida. I knew it would be like this.  Even with all my preparation – I knew what I was getting into – seeing it in person is stressful.

I have to get to the point where I am living a Florida lifestyle that contains my favorite things. Namely, my own home, proximity to the ocean, Intracoastal, and country living.
In fact, if I lived in a house like the one in the photo below, loving Florida would be easy!

It’s necessary to have your own little oasis (be it ever so humble) to escape to when all the crowds, crime and traffic in the Sunshine State bog us residents down.  I need to find my oasis.

florida house on the water
What’s Not To Love?

To stay calm I try to visit calming places, away from the crowds.  We took a nice trip over to the seacoast last week. We ate at a little out-of-the-way seafood restaurant, called Goodrich’s, right on the Indian River, and visited Seminole Rest.  It was hotter than hell, but we walked all around the historic site, which is an old Indian colony / shell mound.

A few weeks ago we went down to Haulover Canal and watched the manatees.

This is the Florida I can appreciate, and like.

We want to take the Gheenoe out and go fishing, but I can’t fish because I don’t have a fishing license, which I can’t get until I get a Florida driver’s license.   And that is not an easy item to acquire.  I’m surprised they don’t need dental records, because the DMV needs just about everything else.

The amount of paperwork needed to transfer my New Hampshire driver’s license to Florida is mind-boggling and STUPID. I attempted to do this yesterday. I looked up what I needed for paperwork and took a fistful of stuff to the DMV. After waiting 1/2 hour I was told I needed a marriage certificate..!!! To get a driver’s license.!!!  I didn’t scream, but it’s hard to stay calm.  Not only was the whole ordeal a big fat waste of time,  I still can’t go fishing.

So I am trying to like Florida.  I have to live here, so I need to find my oasis.  Once I can get to the beach often and get out on the water every day in our boat, I will have a better outlook.  There are still many things to like about Florida… I’m just not seeing enough of them at the present time.

Surprised By a Little Seafood Restaurant in Oak Hill

deck view of intracaostal
Looking north

Someone told us about Goodrich’s Seafood Restaurant while we were visiting the Oak Hill area a week or so ago, so we stopped in for lunch.

It’s a little, out-of-the way place that sits right on the Indian River / Mosquito Lagoon.  They have indoor or outdoor seating, and we chose to sit outside on a picnic table.  Even though the weather was very hot, the sea breeze kept it comfortable enough.

Unfortunately I was having stomach issues that day, so I had only the crab patty appetizer. I would have liked to order a real meal.  My two sons were with me and they each had fish and chips.  Everything was very good.   My younger son, who has grown up mostly in the northeast, asked “what are hushpuppies?”  Poor thing, he’s led a sheltered life.  The condiments and extra napkins were kept inside a fishing tackle box on the table, which added to the seaside atmosphere.

This place is really not so little… there are tables with thatched umbrellas, picnic tables,  and other tables under the extended porch roof, as well as a bunch of indoor seating.  The ladies room was super clean!  I look forward to going back when I can really enjoy a nice meal.

Sorry, no food photos, just views of the water, which is better than food🙂

deck dock seaside restaurant
Looking South

It appears that one could bring the boat right up and dock it to go inside and eat, but no one did that the day we were there.

outdoor dining by the Indian river
Indian River view from the deck of Goodrich’s restaurant

The historic site called “Seminole Rest” is just a bit farther south. In fact, if you look closely you can see the orange roofs of the two houses on the property among that background clump of trees in the picture above.

You may be interested in reading this article written by travel writer Bob Rountree who got a photo of a rare white pelican from his visit to this area. He also goes into more detail about this restaurant and surrounding area.

Our Visit to Seminole Rest in Oak Hill

house structure seminole rest historic site
Homestead at Seminole Rest – “Instone House”

We happened to be in the Oak Hill area a week or so ago and first ate lunch at Goodrich’s, then visited Seminole Rest. The location of ancient Indian shell mounds is a protected area which is now part of the National Park Service.

Florida has shell mounds in many places which were left by the Indians who inhabited the state and lived off shell fish, along with fish other types of food. Because of the high use of shellfish, big mounds of discarded shells have become protected areas. In Seminole Rest, two houses sit atop the mound site, which is actually two separate mounds.

The photos on this page are mine, and are not free to use.

Seminole Rest
The “Caretaker’s House” at Seminole Rest

This is not a large area.  It’s a quick walk along cement pathways that wind past twisted, gnarly trees.  It’s a quick walk along the shoreline and out to the new-looking dock on the property. The day we visited was very hot, so it was a quick visit. We didn’t even read the signs set up along the path or go into the house, which I believe serves as the Visitor Center. Someone was sitting on the porch, and the lights were on. The extreme heat made us just want to run back to the car’s AC.

In this photo you can see Goodrich’s restaurant where we ate a delicious seafood lunch sitting on the deck by the river. (It’s that flat building in my photo.)  Although it was HOT, the sea breeze made sitting outside for lunch bearable.

Oak hill Goodrich's
View to the north – Goodrich’s Restaurant

The house names and other information I am sharing here came from looking up the info online.  I’d like to go back when the weather is nicer and go into the house.

Obviously the two houses have been updated with bright yellow paint and red roofs.  It certainly is unusual to see a house built on a hill along the Florida coast.  Click on the link below to see pictures of these structures in more rundown condition.

Read more about Seminole Rest at the National Park Service website pdf, and get more info such as directions, hours and history.

Instone house sits on the Indian River
View of Instone House From the Dock