Tag Archives: state parks

boardwalk at Blue Springs

Blue Springs Crystal Clear Water and Manatee Refuge

Blue Springs is one of Florida’s many state parks. It is known for it’s crystal clear swimming water, in season. It’s also a place where manatees take refuge during winter months (November to March). When the manatees call it home, there is no swimming.

Located in Orange City, I’ve been to this Spring quite a few times, but that was years ago. Now I don’t live so close, but we traveled there recently by boat, down the St. John’s River.

The Park was a busy place with kayak rentals and people lined up to take a river cruise. We came in by boat, which is free.  Just find a spot (the area is not all that big), tie off to a tree and head into the park.

boats docked at blue springs state park
Parked on the water at Blue Springs

After winding our way through tourists and finding the bathroom, we headed up the boardwalk to see if there were manatees around. I was half hoping to be able to swim, but didn’t think it was allowed because of the manatees. I was right. The place was closed to swimmers.
And we didn’t see any manatees. Which was fine. We see them all the time out on the Indian River which is where we usually go boating.

boardwalk at Blue Springs
Viewing area, which is also the swimming area in season.

The Thursby House is still standing. I never know what to expect when I visit places because they change so much. It seems that everywhere has to continually expand and grow in this state to accommodate the influx of people.

Thursby House
Thursby House at Blue Springs State Park

Now I guess you can take a self-guided tour of this historic home, whereas no one got to go inside before. We could look through the windows only.

Blue Springs
Blue Springs clear green water

The water is a beautiful green color and crystal clear. We saw lots of big fish. The water temperature out in the river was around 72 the day we visited, which is about the same as the temperature of the Spring. It’s probably why there were no manatees in the Spring. They were probably on the river.  We didn’t see any on the river, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t around.  The St. John’s River water is dark brown and you can’t see a thing beneath the surface.

I did get some video of manatees in the wild at a boat ramp we visited near the Haulover Canal.

Boardwalk at Blue Springs
Boardwalk at Blue Springs

There is a nice wooden boardwalk all along the water that leads up to the actual Spring where Scuba Diving is allowed for those who are certified.

On the Park grounds you will find rest rooms, picnic areas, places to buy food and souvenirs, and lookout areas to view the water.  Camping spaces and cabins are available.

It’s a busy place in summer for swimming, and winter draws the tourists who want to see manatees. In fact, there is probably no time of year when this park is not full of people.

Check out the Blue Springs website to learn more.


Late in the Day Trip to Smyrna Dunes Park

One of the long boardwalks that make up the park.

Recently I went to Smyrna Dunes State Park to walk, visit the beach, and take photos. My camera was full, so I had to keep deleting photos to take more, which was annoying.   I would have taken a lot more photos.

My son had his girlfriend visiting over the Christmas break. She lives in New Hampshire and had never been to Florida. Well, the Christmas break is NOT the time to visit as everyone in the world is visiting Florida then…. or they are waiting to come for the spring break, which is also a horrible (touristy) time to come here.

We went to Smyrna Dunes Park late in the day and had to leave by 6:00PM or be locked in, so I was constantly checking the time. I was the odd man (woman) out accompanying the young sweethearts on a romantic stroll among the dunes, but I did come in handy when it came to photo taking.


We ended up on the west side by the Intracoastal (Indian River) where the sun was beginning to set and my son wanted pictures. So I used the girlfriend’s cell phone to take most of them, and got some very good photos (if I do say so myself). The sun was setting and they posed in silhouette… ah, young love!

The Park is a long boardwalk over the dunes that leads to the ocean and river  in several places, and Ponce Inlet. I had visited this place years ago – probably 15 or 16 – and it has changed. Now there are trails just for dog walkers, and there were many people taking advantage. The dogs are not allowed on the boardwalks except at certain places.


At one point we walked down to the beach by the rocky jetty. The tide was out, and lots of little shells were caught in seaweed along the beach. My picture here shows some of the seashells I found. Pieces of shells that were once quite big, and the regular finds of the incongruous arks and cross barred venus clam.


We saw a gopher turtle (tortoise) snacking on some weeds in the dunes (no photo, camera issues), and I was reminded of the one that used to live in the corner of my yard. They are big turtles and slide down into their dens that are a maze of underground tunnels. My daughter volunteered at the Central Florida Zoo (named differently now) and learned all about them. They are quite amazing wild animals. With all the building going on constantly in this state, they are threatened. The gopher turtle, like much wildlife in this state, has lost a lot of it’s natural habitat.

Ponce Inlet lighthouse and beach at the end of the boardwalk.

We had a lovely time walking the boardwalk, and I was sorry I didn’t just buy the $20 yearly pass. I may go back and use this place as my exercise area. But I do have a beach pass, so I can drive onto the beach and then use the boardwalk, or simply walk along the beach. I’m lucky to live so close to this beautiful area.

Where is Bonita Springs, Florida?

chairs and umbrella at the beachI recently became interested in Bonita Springs in Florida when my neighbor told me it’s where she goes to spend the winter. How jealous am I? Very. However, I do plan to one day be able to do that very thing – become a “snow bird” and spend part of my time in New Hampshire and the rest somewhere in Florida.
I love the Gulf Coast area, as do so many others, so I thought I would try to discover what I can about the Bonita Springs area and share it here.

Bonita Springs is located in the southwestern area of Florida, with Ft. Meyers to the north and Naples to the south. It is not far from the famous islands of Sanibel and Captiva, which are great shelling places, so it makes sense to me that the beaches in Bonita Springs would also have great shelling.

Looking at property, I found a nice home for less than $200,000 on a canal.   It appears that I could live in an old mobile home for a lot less than that.  But, if I wanted to live on the ocean, I’d better become a millionaire.  (I’m workin’ on it!)

For beaches, there is Bonita Beach Park and Barefoot Beach.  State Parks in the area include Lovers Key and others (see them all on this map).   Also, check out this map page for a bird’s eye view of the Bonita Springs and surrounding area.

Of course boating and fishing are popular all over the state and this area is especially good with it’s abundant backwater areas and calm gulf water so close.  This side of the state is very built up and busy, probably more so than the Atlantic Ocean side, where I spent most of my time when I lived in Florida.