Category Archives: beaches

Tropical travel ideas, in Florida and other beach locations.

crowded beach drive on

There’s Something in the Sand, Crabs, Crowds, and Yikes!

Our trip to New Smyrna Beach today told me that summer is here. Kids are out of school, and trips to the beach pick up. Tourists are free to bring the family and they certainly do. All those white bodies, with red sunburned shoulders, are a sure sign that tourism is booming here in Florida.  This is Friday morning for Pete’s sake.

crowded beach drive on
Summer Crowds at New Smyrna Beach

We wanted to go out on the boat, but the ramp we usually use was full. No place to park the boat trailer. We checked out a couple more, but they were very busy too. Friday is the new weekend it seems. With many companies going to a 4-day work week, it might be best to avoid going out on Fridays as well as weekend days. Since we were dressed for outdoors, sunscreen and all, we decided to go to the beach.  We took the boat home and headed over the causeway.
We drove on at Flagler Ave. right behind a lifeguard / beach patrol truck. And it was crowded. We drove way down toward the jetty, and found a more sparsely populated spot to park.

Ghost crab on the beach
Ghost Crab (I think) on the beach

The tide was way out and going out further, so we had a lot of beach. Right away we saw Ghost crabs scurrying around. At least I think they are called Ghost crabs. One, in particular was near us, and I got some photos and video of him.
Then we went in the water. As I was coming back in from cooling off, I saw my son pulling a fishing line up out of the sand. Many people fish along the shore, and this was a piece that had been left / lost by a fisherman.
But at the end, buried beneath the sand, was this huge hook!

big fishing hook found under the beach sand
Big Fish Hook – found under the sand!

Hey… this is why I wear beach shoes when I go in the water! Look at the size of that hook. I hate fishing on the beach, for precisely this reason. My son always does it – fishes at the beach – but I am opposed. There are many other places to fish. Leave the beaches to the swimmers.  Imagine that thing stuck in the bottom of your foot… I feel woozy just thinking about it.

portable bathroom, porta-potty
Porta-potty… just in case

Unrelated in every way, but just in case someone has to really go to the bathroom… port-a-potties are at the exit.  FYI everyone.

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A Beach Without Shells

Disappearing Island at Ponce Inlet is a beautiful place to hang out and enjoy Florida nature at it’s best. But it is not the place to go to collect seashells.

Truly, I have only been to this area a few times, but on our recent visit I walked all over the soft sand and found nothing to collect.

The only seashells I found were a crown conch shell being carried along by a hermit crab, and this cute little Florida cerith with the snail still inside.  This photo was taken while the snail was under the water right along the shoreline.  The shell has interesting bumps around it’s tight spiral.

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Florida cerith

Our boat was anchored at the edge of a narrow canal and this little crab came crawling along the waterline. He just took his time and was unafraid of us.

My son thought he might be a baby Stone crab, and after looking it up in my book, I think he’s right. My book says that juvenile Stone crabs are deep purple in color.

little crab
Little Crab

If this little guy is a Stone crab, he may be caught in someone’s crab trap one day. When that happens, and if he is the right size, his big claw (only one) can be broken off and taken home to eat. The crab will grow a new claw back eventually. The whole crab is not used, just his claw.

For more information on catching and eating Stone crab, read this article at the Florida Sportsman site.

The Guy Who Caught The Bluefish

One late afternoon we headed over to Ponce Inlet so the boys could fish and I could search for some good seashells. It was a successful visit (for me), as I came home with lots of nice shells. I have some pictures of the seashells that I collected on my post, Take a Closer Look When Seashell Collecting.

The tide was going out, which is perfect if you are a beachcomber. The water was very rough, and the only people in the water were a couple of surfers, and some fishermen who stood thigh deep. My boys fished from the shore – and caught nothing.

One man, who was fishing out in the channel, did catch a nice big fish, and I asked his permission to take this picture. He was proud to show off his catch, and rightly so! What a gorgeous Bluefish he had!

fishing bluefish
This man caught a big bluefish

I’ve cut off his head on purpose to show the fish, yet keep his identity private. It was a long walk back to the cars, but he didn’t seem to mind that.

Now we have a boat and will be out fishing from the boat more so than onshore.  On our  second day of boat ownership, we lounged in the water around Disappearing Island which is in this same general area of this inlet.

Second Day on The New Boat Spent at Disappearing Island

Finally the day arrived, and we picked up our new boat. It’s a flats boat, Hewes Redfisher and we are loving it! Our second day out found us behind Disappearing Island at Ponce Inlet in New Smyrna Beach. (That’s in Florida, in case you weren’t sure.)

The reason we chose this type of boat is because it can get into (and out of) shallow water, like this canal. We were able to gain access to the backside of the expansive sandy island, and stay a few hours, while the tide continued to go out.  Parts of the canal were very shallow and the tide still had a couple of hours to go out.  It would be easy to become stranded.

floating in the ocean disappearing island
Feet up and floating in the beautiful ocean water around Disappearing Island.

We arrived at the Inlet around noon on a Friday, so it was not overly crowded. On weekends I wouldn’t attempt to visit this place, as it is a madhouse from what I hear. But if you love the party atmosphere, and love to party with lots of happy strangers, who also enjoy the sun and sea, this island is the place to be.

The little backwater canal where we parked was not big, and we shared the space with only 2 other boats. A pontoon was pulled up onto the beach and he was obviously staying for the day. Once the tide was partially out, he was for sure stranded until the next high tide.  The group had rafts, a smaller boat, and were doing some fishing.

boater stuck in the sand
Beached Boater Gets Help

The other boat near us suddenly realized they were stuck in the sand. As I was coming back from my walk across the island, I could see them rocking the boat trying to get it to move into the water.

A group of people from across the way came over to help, and so did my son. They got the boat free of the sand so the grateful boaters were able to leave.

Whenever the tide is going out, keep a careful eye on the water depth, or you’re stuck until the water comes back in again!  Unless some friendly (strong) folks come by to give you a hand.  I have a feeling it happens a lot.

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Looking across Disappearing Island to the Inlet

We did some fishing as we left the area and traveled down the canal. We also saw sea turtles popping up for air. I caught a catfish (ugh) and some kind of little silver fish which got off the hook. Then I had a good bite, but the fish bit off my hook and got away. I don’t know my saltwater fish yet, but my son does. He thought it may have been a Bluefish.

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Hewes Redfisher 18

It was a wonderful way to spend a Friday. Now I must work all weekend to make up for my time off.

By the way, I saw almost no seashells on the island. The crown conch I found had a hermit crab inside. I did find a cute little cerith seashell, and a little crab walked past us near the shoreline. Pictures on my next post.

jellyfish on beach

New Smyrna Beach Jellyfish, Seaweed, and a Bumpy Beach Drive

We are still waiting for the boat we ordered to come in and I’m dying to get out on the water.  For now I must be content with visiting the beach and river.

This morning I headed over to Flagler Ave. to see how the ocean looked.  There have been beach advisories lately because of the high winds, which cause high tides and rip currents. And sure enough, the waves were crashing and the beach was a mess.

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Messy Beach and Rough Surf

The tide was going out, so I decided to drive down Penninsula Ave. and get onto the beach from one of those drive-on spots.  The one I chose had a big puddle of sea water at the bottom of the ramp.  The toll-collector and I watched the car ahead of me navigate it along the edge, and he made it.  I have a 4-wheel drive Subaru, which always handled very well in the snow, so I was not afraid of a sea puddle (it was a BIG puddle).  I slid around a bit but made it out to the beach traffic lanes fine.  But the driving was very bumpy because of all the ruts in the sand.  For that reason I didn’t go very far before parking.

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Portuguese man-o-war 

The first thing I noticed, besides all the seaweed, was the blue jellyfish.  Yes, man-of-war jellyfish were scattered along the beach.  I got a couple of pictures and didn’t know what type they were until I got home and showed the picture to my son.  He knew right away it was a man-of-war.  Believe it or not, people (tourists?) were still going in the water!

I walked the high tide line of sand hoping to find some cool shells, but all I found was the regular variety.  My goal was to get close to the jetty and boardwalk of the Smyrna Dunes Park down by Ponce Inlet, but it was too far to drive on that bumpy sand.  I may end up getting a pass so I can drive to the park and walk along the boardwalks.

sea bird on beach
Sea Bird in the Sand

I did see something odd though.  A sea bird was plopped down in the sand.  At first I thought it was dead, but it wasn’t.  I’ve never been to the beach when a bird was nestled in the dune area.  I snapped a photo without getting too close.

beach shells

The shells I found were the regular arks.  I was hoping to find some unusual seashells because of the high tide and rough surf.  I didn’t find any super unique shells, but I did collect a little slipper shell, a black rock, and a Sea Purse Bean (photo below).

There are a lot of sea beans mentioned in my “Florida’s Living Beaches” book.  Some have a much thicker ring, but they are all hard and roundish in shape.  This is the first time I have collected a sea bean.

sea bean