Exploring St. Augustine, Florida: History and Culture

Exploring St. Augustine, Florida: History and Culture

This post contains sponsored links. The item featured and linked, in this post is provided by St. Augustine Lighthouse (six admission tickets); all opinions and reviews are my own.]

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St. Augustine: History 

In June of this year, we had the pleasure of visiting St. Augustine, on the Atlantic cost of northeastern Florida. St. Augustine is a gem situated neatly along the shores of the Matanzas River and holds heavy historical significance! The Southern and Spanish-influenced St. Augustine, Florida was founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers and it is the oldest inhabited European-established settlement in the United States. When you are walking around on its centuries-old cobblestone streets, you will instantly feel like you are either in Europe or Old Florida, depending on which street you’re on! It’s a charming escape for anyone wanting to take a vacation!

Bridge of Lions; St Augustine, FL; Plate Girder; Painted, Metali

 

St. Augustine: Arrival

The Bridge of Lions will take you across the Matanzas River to the heart of the historic old town. Once across the bridge you have the choice of turning left on Avenida Menendez to the marina and sight-seeing cruises or right to the Castillo de San Marcos. You can also continue straight ahead on Cathedral Street into the heart of downtown.

 

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St. Augustine: Beaches 

One of the reasons we wanted to travel to St. Augustine was for the beaches! The beaches are so pretty! With a historic city being one of its main attractions, don’t forget about the  beaches near St. Augustine! From their sunrises to sunsets, they are stunning!

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Located on Anastasia Island, a barrier island off the mainland, St Augustine Beach has a natural feel with a wide beach and lots of good surf and shorebirds!

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St. Augustine: Lighthouse & Museum 

While traveling, one of our family goals is to visit every lighthouse we come by! The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum was a highlight for our entire vacation! When we arrived at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum  , we were greeted by Daniel Lee, who  took us on a tour of the property and we learned quite a bit of history about the lighthouse. He was very welcoming and informative on the history of the lighthouse.

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History: Pre-1862 

The story of the the current lighthouse in St. Augustine is not the original St. Augustine Lighthouse. The Spanish constructed the tower that became the first lighthouse in 1737. They used a naturally occurring stone called coquina to construct the original tower. The coquina tower replaced wooden watchtowers the Spanish built dating back to the beginnings of Spanish Florida.

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A map of Francis Drake’s 1586 raid on St. Augustine reveals the presence of a small tower on Anastasia Island. The map refers to the tower as “a Beacon or high scaffold standing on the sand hills, wherein the Spaniards did use to discover the ships at sea.” In 1823, John Rodman, Collector of St. Augustine, wrote to Stephen Pleasonton, Fifth Auditor of the U.S. Treasury, that despite the tower’s presence, “…it was never built for a lighthouse or used as one, but merely a look-out-house. The location is well suited…but a great proportion of the tower, nearly one half, is not sufficiently strong to bear any greater elevation either if wood or stone work.” 

John (Juan) Andreu became first keeper of Florida’s first official U.S. lighthouse in St. Augustine. Not only is he one of the first, he also holds the distinction of being the first Hispanic-American to serve in the Coast Guard and the first to oversee a federal installation of any kind.

Juan Andreu served as keeper until 1845 and the records are unclear as to who took over and served as lighthouse keeper from 1845 to 1849. John (Juan) Carrera served as keeper from 1849 until his death in 1853. Joseph took care of the lighthouse until his death, which he fell, while painting the lighthouse.

Joseph’s wife Maria Mestre de los Dolores Andreu was appointed keeper in place of her deceased husband. The Coast Guard recognizes Maria Andreu as the first Hispanic-American woman to serve in the Coast Guard. Maria was the lighthouse keeper from 1859-1862.

History: Current 

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The current St. Augustine Lighthouse is nestled among live oaks and beautiful Spanish moss making a stunning nautical canopy. Also located on the property is Maritime Museum, along with the light keepers house.

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There is also the Maritime Hammock which is a natural area that the coastline formed when it receded, creating stabilized beach dunes that allowed for larger growth trees.

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There is even a cute gift shop located on the property as well!

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St. Augustine Lighthouse: Climbing the lighthouse

To climb the lighthouse, you will need to climb 219 stairs! Trust me when I say that is is worth it! There are eight landings and even one with a bench. Plenty of space for others to walk past you and if needed, space for a break!

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When you walk into the lighthouse, walk to the first set of stairs, go to the very middle and look up! This is the view that you will see!

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The view from the top is amazing! We had a couple that were a little nervous to be up so high, yet is not our first time on the top of a lighthouse either!

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Amazing view of St. Augustine from the top of the St. Augustine Lighthouse!! If you decide to come to visit St. Augustine, don’t forget to stop by the lighthouse!

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St. Augustine: Downtown Old City Gates & St. George Street 

The Old City Gates are a site to behold toward the north end of St. George Street. The Old City Gates were at one time the only entrance into St. Augustine. The two ancient columns made of coquina were built in 1808 as a line of defense for the city.

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After visiting the Old City Gates, walk through to enter St. George Street, which is a historic street, that is filled with galleries, shops, restaurants and popular St. Augustine attractions.

 

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St. Augustine: Castillo de San Marcos

The Castillo de San Marcos is the largest masonry fort in the continental United States and was built to protect Spain’s claim to the New World!

Unfortunately due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the fort was closed on the inside. We did walk around the exterior of the fort!

St. Augustine: The Fountain of Youth  

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The Fountain of Youth was believed that anyone who drank from the fountain would have their youth restored. In 2,400 BC, the Native Americans, a tribe known as, Timucua, were amount the first to inhibit the land. Ponce de Leon was the first Spanish explorer to find the Fountain of Youth. The grounds at the Fountain of Youth are beautiful and you will also find several peacocks throughout the property!

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Drinking from the Fountain of Youth is wonderful experience that our family will never forget!

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I could honestly go on and talk about St. Augustine for a long time! We love this city so much!  It is such a pleasure to visit the historical St. Augustine and we know we will definitely be back!

❤️~Shae

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pop Up Camper Remodel

Pop Up Camper Remodel

Last year, February to be exact, we bought a 22 year old pop up camper for $500 on Facebook Marketplace. 7232F62F-38D2-4DBB-8DEF-BF3B247FD681We knew this camper was a diamond in the rough! We dreamt of all the family vacations we could take in this little pop up. 

FIRST THINGS FIRST-INSPECTION 

We took the pop up home and popped it up.D24D2384-69E4-4B61-8579-724ED8458C12We knew initially that it had some water damage and after some research, found out that these types of campers with ABS roofs, leaked.
67475424-8AA2-480F-AAC8-AF5D48D0B3DDThe roof  leaked because of the weight of the AC unit on top of the roof.
79088843-12EF-478A-9FA9-9D2050470CE0So right out of the gate, it looked like we needed to find a solution to help the roof not sag, plus we would need to replace the entire roof. 

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ABS CEILING & ROOF REPAIR

CEILING:

My husband found a solution for the sagging roof and it was going to be by placing two, 2 inch u-channels on the interior of the roof.

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We then left the camper popped up on a day when it was raining to make sure it would not leak! It worked! No leaks!

ROOF REPAIR WITH FIBER GLASS:

Next step was to replace the roof. We tore off the ABS roof then replaced it with a fiberglass top and painted it with marine paint. You can find that you tube video HERE . In this picture, you can see two coats of the fiber glass roof material on the roof.

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INTERIER REPAIRS-REPAIRING ROTTED WOOD

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For the interior, my husband needed to replace several sections of rotted wood. One was the top on the small cabinet by the entryway, part of the floor at the entrance, a section of wood beneath the bed, by the shower plus a small section on the seated area.

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PAINTING-INTERIOR

After replacing the wood, it was finally time to paint the entire inside of the camper!

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We painted everything, including the ceiling, in Ibis White  from Sherwin Williams. We took off all of the cabinet doors to make the painting go a little easier. I decided to spray paint all of the hardware and knobs to save cost.

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REPLACING CUSHION COVERS-HOW I SEWED COVERS

Next was making all of the cushion covers for the camper. I decided to use the existing cushions & zippers, since they were in good shape.

5C5AC292-ECB3-4349-9698-3156F055B44FI did use the attachment to my carpet cleaner to clean the cushions and let them dry in the sun. I found all of my fabric on sale at Joanne’s for $50. I used two coupons! I did not have a pattern for the cushions, so I used the existing cushions as my pattern, by laying the fabric on top of the cushions and left about an inch for seam allowance on all sides.
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REPLACING OLD MATRESSES

We could not use the old mattresses that came with the camper but we did find some mattresses at a local discount store for $19.99 each! We bought plastic mattresses covers to protect them at Home Depot for $8 each.

REPLACING BEDDING

We purchased our bedding from Beddy’s and they are an absolute dream! Absolutely perfect for campers! Ours is the Modern Gray All Cotton. Beddy’s has given me a coupon code for y’all to use! If you use SSG20 at check out, you can get 20% off your purchase! Thank you Beddy’s!

CURTAIN ALTERNATIVES

We have not replaced our pop up camper curtains with the typical camper curtains.

8177E0D1-EFF8-49AE-B934-78F300E0225DWe did use a few sheers from Wal-Mart that we attached with double sided adhesive strips, just to give a more “at home” feel to the camper. I bought two sets, as each set came with two.
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CAMPER BATHROOM-SHOWER REPAIRS

The shower only needed a cleaning and a new faucet.

3FF31442-B55B-4DF2-A637-A682E598EEFASome of our paint has chipped by the shower area but it’s not a huge deal to us since this is a camper.

F1E1A5C9-4E17-49DD-8C69-9035F7D6FF51We ordered the new shower faucet from Coleman Pop Up Parts.

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REPLACING FLOORS

 

4D5039D0-85D1-4F1D-AAE9-F68A9EF38AE7I decided to use stick down floor “hardwood” vinyl “planks”. I even staggered it to make it look like hardwoods. I bought two boxes for $15 each, at a local discount store called Ollie’s.

REPLACING CANVASES

F06D3A41-E0B3-414A-B776-2E5CAC539A8FOur biggest expense in our makeover was new canvases but we felt like it was a must have! We ordered them from Bear Creek Canvas . Their site is so easy to use! All you have to do is select the camper manufacturer, ours is Coleman, select the model year, 1997 for us, select if you want a complete canvas replacement or partial canvas replacement, ours was a complete replacement, then select your camper style, such as a no wing model, 1-4 wing model or a pickupper, ours was a 2-wing model. Once you have all of that selected, it will give you your price for the replacement. Our total was $1,050.00. The customer service was also wonderful!

CHALKBOARD PAINTED MENU BOARD

9172C203-98C6-4DC5-A985-9FBA13113C9CI even painted the inside of the door with half of black chalkboard paint so we could have a menu board. We already had this paint on hand!

PAINTING-EXTERIOR 

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The exterior also got a paint job from head to toe! We painted the exterior with a marine paint in Repose Gray  from Sherwin Williams. (We only use SW for all of our painting needs!) We had lots of helpers that wanted to help remove the old vinyl from the exterior of the camper and help paint!

FIRST TRIP

Leaving out for our first trip in the camper! 

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REPLACING CAMPER TIRES & SPARE TIRE 

We also replaced the tires on the pop up and purchased a new spare tire. The old tires were in good shape but we just wanted to make sure we had new tires, since we were driving so far away on our first trip. The best deal we found on tires were at Wal-Mart on sale for $26.99 each.

THE SUNSHINE STATE

Fort De Soto, FL

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ACCESSORIZE 

Most all of our accessories for our pop up came from a local Five and Below store- from our little stool, to the rug, to our outdoor mat.

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TROUBLE BEFORE PARADISE 

About 3 weeks before our first camping trip, our pop-up would not stay popped up so we had to order a Coleman Wiffle Tree Alternate. We were praying it would come in before our trip and that it would be the only issue and be resolved quickly with this new part! Thank God it worked and in just about 3 days before our trip! We purchased that part from Popuppaarts.com .

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TALLY UP

We spent a total of around $2,300 on our pop up makeover. Here is a breakdown of the costs:

$500-Pop Up Purchase Price

$1,050-Canvases

$80-Paint

$45-Mattresses

$60-Wood

$125-U-Channels

$125-Fiberglass Roof

$81-Tires

$20-Shower Faucet

$50-Fabric for Cushions

$30-Vinyl Flooring

$5-Wood Colored Caulk for floors

$144-Wiffle Tree Alternate-Part for lifting camper up

EGMONT KEY, FL

Wesley & I in Egmont Key at the lighthouse.

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SUMMARY


It was a lot of work but we are so glad to have little pop up to travel in! Definitely a bucket list item! Our two adult daughters helped us so much and we could not have done it without them! Definitely a family effort! You can read about some of our travels here . If you have any questions, please email me! What is your favorite thing about our renovation of the camper?

❤️-Shae

 

 

 

 

Disney Vacation-Budget Friendly with a large family

Disney Vacation-Budget Friendly with a large family

Hey friends! I always like to have total transparency! This blog post includes an affiliate link and we collaborated with Disney World on two, one-day park hopper passes. My opinions are always my own and I would never share anything with y’all that I don’t truly love. Thank you for your support friends!

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Disney World is a place where dreams come true! I understand it can be a challenge,  if your traveling as a large family. Planning is crucial but you can create the vacation of your family’s dreams! Today, I am going to share with you how our large family of 6 can go to Disney on a budget! Here are our tips.

1) Purchasing Disney World Tickets.

You will need to decide if you will be visiting all four parks, may be just one park and if you will purchase the park hopper option. For this trip, we decided to go with one park per day and not use the park hopper option. We have used the park hopper option in the past.

The best place that I have found to purchase Disney World tickets is Undercover Tourist . Let me show you  breakdown of the two options we chose from for this trip. We are a family of 6, needing four adult tickets, since ages 10 and above are considered adult tickets for Disney and two child tickets, ages 3-9. Don’t forget that kids under 3 can go to Disney for free!

Our first option is a four day base ticket with no park hopper for $406.47 per adult and $388.90 per child. Those prices include tax, no hidden fees and free shipping. Total=$2,569.36, with a savings of $271.00!

Our second option was a 2 day ticket with park hopper option for $323.64 per adult and $313.06 per child. Prices include tax, no hidden fees and free shipping. Total=$1,920.68, with a savings of $234.00!

For this trip, we chose the four day base ticket with no park hopper option. The reason we chose this option is because we did the two day park hopper option, on our last trip and we really wanted to have one day to spend at each park. If you do chose the two day park hopper option, it is doable but remember it is a lot of walking! We did Magic Kingdom on one day then Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Epcot, all in one day! If you do decide to park hop, don’t forget to use Disney’s transportation via the bus, monorail or the new Skyliner!

2) Decide on your lodging.

Since we have larger family, it is cheaper for us to stay off site, than in a Disney resort, due to needing two resort rooms. Plus, we travel with our family pet and she stays with us in our rental house. We like to use VRBO and can stay for around $65 per night. For this trip, we decided to stay for 6 nights and 7 days, which included a $30 pet fee and a $65 cleaning fee for the week. Our total lodging cost was $491.00. Another option is to  stay for 4 nights and 5 days with the two-day park hopper option, making your trip $325 lodging and  $1,920.68 tickets!

One option to staying on site with a larger family is
Disney’s Fort Wilderness . Depending on the time of year, you can stay here in your tent or camper for around $100 a night.

Disney resorts are magical!! We had the opportunity to visit the Grand Floridian on this trip, to attend the Disney Princess Perfectly Princess Tea Party.

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The Grand Floridian is a Victorian-style resort, decorated with Victorian Christmas decor, grandiose tree and a life size gingerbread house with a sweet shop inside of the gingerbread house!

3) Food: Cooking meals while on vacation.

One of the reasons we like to stay off site, is so that we can cook in our rental home and bring our own food into the parks. This essentially is huge money saver for us!  I will take our grocery budget for the week and meal plan every meal that we will have while on our vacation. For example, the day before we leave, we will pre-make several food items. For this trip, I made banana nut bread, orange rolls, speghetti sauce, chili and grilled chicken. I decided to freeze the speghetti sauce and chili. I baked the orange rolls for breakfast the morning we left, then had grilled chicken salads for lunch on our drive to Orlando. For dinner we had grilled chicken with rice and creamed spinach.

On our first day at the parks, I got up and made brioche french toast with berries and sausage links. For our lunch, we made sandwiches or spinach wraps and brought a bag of sweet potato chips with fruit. We also bring our Brita filtered water bottles for our drinks. For dinner that night, we heated our homemade chili on the stove! We did choose to have a couple Disney dining options for this trip.

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We went to the Disney Princess Perfectly Princess Tea Party , along with breakfast at The Plaza , where Chef Ken did a fabulous of taking care of all of my food intolerances!

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We also had dinner at The Crystal Palace and were able to catch the Magic Kingdom Fireworks show.

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The reason we chose to have two park meals is because we wanted to stay in Magic Kingdom all day to see the fireworks show that night. These meals are extra and will not be included in my finally total.

4) Disney Parks parking fees.

It will cost $25 per day to park in the standard parking lot. If you arrive early enough, you will actually be parking right next to the preferred parking area. We usually arrive in the parking lot about 30 minutes to an hour before the park opens, you will grab the best parking spot, right next to the preferred parking.

5) Souvenirs and deciding on spending limits.

How do we handle the souvenir money? We suggest to our kids to save their Christmas and birthday money received throughout the year from family members. My husband and I also do the same.

6) Our “chill day” at Disney Springs.

One other thing that we like to do while in Disney World is to have what we call our “chill day”. We will break up one of our park days to go to Disney Springs .

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You can visit their Trail of Christmas Trees which is 22-themed, Disney related trees.

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You can also visit with Santa at Disney Springs.

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Just check in at the Marketplace, head to the podium, give them your phone number and they will text you when it is your turn for Santa!

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You can also make an appointment for your little princess or prince for a royal transformation at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique  .

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Our two youngest little princesses enjoyed the royal treatment, at BBB, while at Disney Springs.

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One of the souvenirs that my husband and I like to purchase is a caricature, each time we visit Disney. The Art Corner has artists that can create beautiful caricature’s that can be hand-drawn or digitally created, along with Christmas ornaments.

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We love our newest caricature drawn by the artist, Keelan Parham . One of my favorite traditions when vacationing is purchasing an ornament to help remember our trip.

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Disney Days of Christmas  literally has hundreds of ornaments to choose from! We also enjoy looking around at the unique retail stores at Disney Springs.

Total Cost of Disney Vacation:

Our total cost for tickets, lodging and parking fees was $3,160.36. Our family loves going to Disney! There is something there for all ages, the parks are always clean, the cast members are always friendly and go out of their way to give you that special Disney magic! We can’t wait for our next Disney family vacation! I hope this information will help you when planning for your Disney vacation!

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“If you can dream it, you can do it.”-Walt Disney

❤️-Melia Shae

 

 

Exploring Egmont Key in Florida: Wildlife and History

Exploring Egmont Key in Florida: Wildlife and History

In June of this year, we had the pleasure of visiting Egmont Key, located at the mouth of Tampa Bay, Florida. It lies southwest of Fort De Soto and can only be reached by boat or ferry. The Egmont Key Lighthouse and the ruins of Fort Dade, a Spanish-American War era fort, are also located on Egmont Key. Egmont Key extends along the Tampa Port Shipping Channel. The nearest city is St. Petersburg, Florida. We took the Tampa Bay Ferry from Fort De Soto to Egmont Key and on the way over to the island, I couldn’t help but notice the Caribbean-like blue green waters of Tampa Bay.

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When we had almost arrived to the island, we had the pleasure of seeing three manatees!! This was the first time our family had ever been this up close to manatees before and I am almost at a loss of words by how amazing they were!

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Two of the manatees were kissing and they were such gentle animals!

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Arriving on Egmont Key!

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Once we arrived on the island, we walked along the pathways lined with palm trees and flowers. The flowers and palm trees were so beautiful!

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One of the first sight’s to see is the lighthouse!

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We continued walking along the pathway to the beach and decided to go exploring for sea shells! We walked along the beach and found all different types of sea shells.

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After shell searching, we worked up an appetite for lunch! We ate our lunch on the beach and decided to explore the forts on the island from the Spanish-American War.

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The picture below is Battery McIntosh, one of five gun batteries on Fort Dade.

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Fort Dade was built on the island in 1898 during the Spanish-American War and remained active until 1923.

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During this time, there was about 300 people living on the island with a small hospital, bakery, movie theater, bowling alley and tennis courts. While exploring the island, you will come across several of the remnants. The picture below is remnants of Fire Command Control Tower.

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We stumbled upon several gopher tortoises!

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We even got to feed one! Be careful though, they think brightly colored nail polish is food!

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Our family enjoyed seeing the lighthouse that was built in 1858, while being maintained by the Coast Guard for ships and boats.

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Picture below is of my husband and I!

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When we got back to the other side of the island, we headed straight to the water to cool off! It is very hot and humid, so please make sure to bring lots of water!

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On the ferry ride back to Fort De Soto, we saw dolphins!

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The dolphins were stealing all the fisherman’s bait fish off of their poles!

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Definitely a unique island to visit and explore!

Tips from our family:

*Pack food and plenty of water

*Bring sunscreen

*There are no restrooms on the island, so be prepared.

*Wear clothing and shoes that you don’t mind getting wet/sandy.

Absolutely a wonderful experience that we will treasure for a lifetime and it could possibly be one of my most favorite places to visit in the world!

Love~Shae