Wednesday, March 7, 2018

"Spring Break" In and Around Hillsborough River State Park

The beaches are relatively quiet now, but as March arrives, so do the tourists in search of warmth and sunshine.

During "March Madness" Florida style, we will be in the heart of one of the prime spring break destinations, Fort Myers. While we hope to enjoy some beach time, we will be spending the majority of our time working with another local Habitat for Humanity affiliate. These Care-a-Vanner builds are like an adult mission trip for us in that we have lots of fun while serving others.  

  We receive so many blessings through the new friendships that form while putting several coats of paint on baseboard ...

 ... or hanging drywall.

Before we embark on more construction fun, we decided that that it was good to take some time to recharge our batteries. 

A week at Hillsborough River State Park was a perfect way to re-energize. Hiking, biking, and exploring the beauty in and around the area gave us the "Spring Break" that we needed.

Our campsite was located under a lovely hammock of live oak trees. Since live oaks are continually shedding leaves, our "backyard" looked like a peaceful autumn landscape. But the blooming wildflowers in the park, including the Zephyr Lily, definitely celebrated the return of sunshine and longer days. 

This state park, located about an hour northeast of Tampa, has many miles of hiking trails. Our favorite trail ran right along the Hillsborough River and was home to alligators, birds, and sun-worshipping turtles.

After a day of getting "caught up" on sleep and fix-up jobs on the RV,

... it was time to start our "Spring Break" with day trips to some of Florida's beautiful areas. We hope that the pictures and short descriptions will give you some ideas for your own active vacation. After hearing about recent blizzards and nor'easters, we imagine that our Northern friends, like this snowmen, are in need of a fru-fru umbrella drink on a sandy beach!

Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island State Parks

Located a little north and west of Tampa, these barrier islands deliver ... 

... beautiful, uncrowded beaches,

... hiking trails among the palms,

and great shelling opportunities.

Bridges connect so many bodies of water here in Florida, but the only way to get to Caladesi Island is by boat.

For those of you who don't have your own yacht and captain, the Caladesi Island ferry leaves from the Honeymoon Island dock every half hour. It is definitely the way to enjoy some of Florida's untouched beauty. 

Bike Ride on the Withlacoochee Trail

This 46 mile paved bike trail was located about 30 miles north of our campground. 

We enjoyed meeting up with some Habitat friends for an afternoon of biking and conversation. The miles fly by when I get to enjoy "girlfriend" time!

Good conversation as well as fresh-squeezed orange juice from Ferris Groves in Floral City helped us complete our 25 mile journey.

St Petersburg

We took a day to explore the beach community of St Petersburg. We loved the beautiful beaches, interesting architecture and the handsome dudes that hang out at the beach.

In search of lunch and a cold one, we came upon one of our new favorite craft breweries. Located in Madeira Beach, just north of St Petersburg, Mad Beach Brewing served up a refreshing honey mead beer as well as delicious burger and shrimp dishes. The food and beer along with the comfortable patio seating, friendly service, and a Mad Beach coaster made this one that we would like to visit again.

Afterwards, we decided to expand our artistic experiences with a visit to the Salvador Dali Museum in downtown St Petersburg. 

During our self-guided audio tour, we developed a new appreciation for his surrealist style and his clever use of optical illusions in his paintings.

What do you see?
Abe Lincoln or the woman looking out a window?

Always nice to enjoy a new activity together!

Biking, Sponges, Breweries, and Sunsets 

On our last day of "Spring Break", we drove into Tarpon Springs and took a bike ride along the Pinellas Trail. This beautiful urban trail stretches 37 miles from Tarpon Springs to St Petersburg.

Being an urban trail, there were wonderful discoveries along the way like ...

... a trailside brewery in Palm Harbor,

... ice cream and "artsy" dolphins in Dunedin,

... a touristy historic village in Tarpon Springs

renowned for their sponge industry
(my dishwasher loves his new sponge),

... as well as their Greek food
(we both loved the baklava!).

We ended our week with a colorful sunset over the Gulf ...

... grateful that we have found our "Spring Break" in the beauty that surround us. 

Until next time ... seek out the beauty of spring around you ... and enjoy the adventures in your life!

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