Florida Gardening forum: Seeking travel help for a Pacific Northwester

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Name: Deb
Pacific Northwest (Zone 8b)
Region: Pacific Northwest Organic Gardener Herbs Dragonflies Dog Lover Keeper of Poultry
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Bonehead
Jan 28, 2014 11:53 AM CST
I am traveling down to Florida end of February with husband, sister, and her husband. We are all around 60-ish - the women are gardeners, the men are golfers. We plan to fly in to Fort Lauderdale and have a hotel lined up for first night, then will rent a car and just meander. Any tips on where to go, what to see, secret spots, or cozy places to stay? We plan to head south down the keys, but that is the extent of our formal planning. To keep this remotely on topic, any garden tours along the way? Thanks for any assistance. Take care -- Deb
I want to live in a world where the chicken can cross the road without its motives being questioned.
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
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dyzzypyxxy
Jan 28, 2014 2:58 PM CST
Vizcaya is a wonderful stop in the Miami area, c/w gardens and an old mansion to tour.

Also I hear the Redland Fruit and Spice Park http://www.fruitandspicepark.org/ is not to be missed. I'm going there for my first visit in May for their big orchid festival.

There are nurseries on every street corner, especially in the Homestead area but you'll miss out on them if you let the guys drive, and you end up on the Interstate. Take back roads. There is golf everywhere, so find a course for the fellows, then take off with the car for garden adventures. Being an orchid nut, I'd recommend you find RF Orchids in Homestead and then ask them where to go from there to enjoy garden tours. Mostly just walking the streets will be a garden tour for you, I'd think. Even visiting a Home Depot or Lowe's garden center will be an adventure.

I'd caution you to make reservations if you're headed down the Keys. You could book one place for the whole time you're there, then just 'meander' out from it. Day trip down to Key West, day trip to Pennekamp Park on Key Largo . . . etc. You're coming at the absolute height of tourist season, and most decent places will be full. We've had a super busy season this year due to the terribly cold weather in the Northeast. You may end up with either something really expensive or really scuzzy. Or both!! Key West especially gets booked well ahead, especially on weekends. Even in the off-season you can't hardly book a room there on a weekend.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Hetty
Sunny Naples, Florida (Zone 10a)
Plumerias Photo Contest Winner: 2015 Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Database Moderator
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Dutchlady1
Jan 28, 2014 3:34 PM CST
Please come to Naples and visit the Naples Botanical Garden if you have time! I work there. It depends on how long your trip is of course.
I second RF Orchids in Homestead. A treat.
Vizcaya is nice, and of course Fairchild Tropical Garden in Coral Gables. That can take you a day to get through.
The Fruit and Spice Park is great when they have a festival, otherwise really just if you're into tropical fruit.
I agree to book something ahead, and Marathon is the 'middle key' and therefore pretty central and not as pricey as Key West.
Name: David Paul
(Zone 9b)
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DavidofDeLand
Jan 28, 2014 4:24 PM CST
If you do head to the Key's;... The Coral Castle is a fascinating coral rock structure and surreal landscape created by a Latvian American eccentric named Edward Leedskalnin north of the city of Homestead, Florida in Miami-Dade County at the intersection of South Dixie Highway and SW 157th Avenue.

It is Magical indeed. Key's flora will amaze you... Smiling
Name: Hetty
Sunny Naples, Florida (Zone 10a)
Plumerias Photo Contest Winner: 2015 Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Database Moderator
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Dutchlady1
Jan 28, 2014 4:40 PM CST
I agree
Name: Deb
Pacific Northwest (Zone 8b)
Region: Pacific Northwest Organic Gardener Herbs Dragonflies Dog Lover Keeper of Poultry
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Bonehead
Jan 28, 2014 11:06 PM CST
Thanks for the inspiration. We all prefer back-roads over highways and I look forward to exploring some of the gardens/sights you have mentioned. We'll re-think our gypsy plan and perhaps get a central spot to home-base from. I of course had no idea we'd be in the thick of your tourist season, which certainly puts a different swing on things. Clean is good, fancy is unimportant, resorty-hotels is not what we are after. At one point about a year ago I ran across some cottages on-line right on the ocean which for the life of me I can't remember the name of. Nor where they were located, other than perhaps right before the keys. I remember calling the folks and they were very laid back with lots of availability. We ended up not going then and I sure wish I would have put their web site somewhere retrievable, but alas... All I remember is the name was kind of catchy and each cottage was over-themed (too much pink mermaid in one, perhaps starfish in another).
I want to live in a world where the chicken can cross the road without its motives being questioned.
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
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dyzzypyxxy
Jan 29, 2014 9:42 AM CST
Try a Google search, or Trip Advisor is also excellent. For example try "Marathon Key, weekly rental" and see what pops. In fact I just tried it, and it did come up with "tropical cottages" at one spot but they were booked up already.

Everything's going to be pretty pricey, too. But with 4 of you to share, maybe it will be more reasonable. You don't know anyone with a condo or time share, do you? It's great to stay somewhere that has at least a kitchenette so you can eat breakfast without having to find a restaurant every day.

If you got a spot "before the keys" that would still face you with a 3+ hour drive down to Key West. It's a two lane road all the way down the Keys with little chance of passing, and is very busy in winter. As Hetty says, Marathon is more or less halfway, so that's where I'd aim.

Or head over here to the West Coast, we have Keys too! There's a spot on Longboat Key here in Sarasota just like what you're describing, only without the kitsch. Lots of golf, and the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, not to mention the Ringling Museum, and many other delights. You'd be able to visit Hetty in Naples on your way by. Big Grin
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Deb
Pacific Northwest (Zone 8b)
Region: Pacific Northwest Organic Gardener Herbs Dragonflies Dog Lover Keeper of Poultry
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Bonehead
Jan 30, 2014 10:30 AM CST
Thanks Elaine, my sister and I (the travel bookers) are trying to wrap our heads around what we would have time to do/see in about a 2 week period without running around like chickens. We're thinking of spending the first leg down on the keys and I think we've found a nice smallish place there. We'd like to experience the Everglades, and I'm seeing a Loop Road out of Ochopee which looks interesting -- any thoughts on that? Or a better/alternate option? We're not much into formal tours, we'd rather do a selfie and have rented an SUV. So, we may be looking at a couple days on the Gulf side and then return to the Fort Lauderdale area for the last couple days to catch our flight back. However it works out, this will be totally new to me -- I'm up at the complete opposite end of the US and have never ventured to the southeast.

And, yes, looking forward to being astounded by the flora.

Thanks all for your help - so fun to visit a totally new area!

I want to live in a world where the chicken can cross the road without its motives being questioned.
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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dyzzypyxxy
Jan 30, 2014 11:46 AM CST
Great, sounds like you have a plan, Deb. I am a Canadian from Vancouver so yes, I can say for sure it is a different world down here. (except today when we are having a very rare taste of cold, wet, grey PNW weather) We're sailors, so usually are commuting across Alligator Alley (I-75) with boats in tow. We have stopped a few times on our way across the Everglades to check out the gators, but never really gone 'in depth'. You'd enjoy crossing via Hwy. 41 instead. It's the 'scenic route'.

To be honest, I'm not sure you'll be able to do more than barely scratch the surface of the Everglades in a few days. It's an enormous and complex ecosystem and I know people who go camping down there for a couple of weeks every year who say "the more we see, the more we know we haven't seen". You can't just park by the side of the road and go for a hike, as you'll either run into sawgrass 7ft. tall that cuts you, knee deep mucky water, or jungles of impenetrable vines. Go for the State Park option, they've made it all more accessible to casual travelers and have also cleared out a lot of the invasive exotic species and plants so it is actually more "natural" than the wild areas.

The Fakahatchee Strand Preserve http://www.floridastateparks.org/fakahatcheestrand/ is supposed to be fascinating, and is home to some very rare native orchids although not sure they'd be in bloom in Feb. Absolutely fabulous birds, bring binoculars! Be prepared for insects, snakes and gators! Especially put insect repellent on your ankles and lower legs against chiggers that abound in the long grasses. Very itchy bites! I like the natural insect repellent "Herbal Armor" available from REI. Use lots of it, and even if you get bit, put it on and it takes away the itch! (for me at least)

I must admit, I've always found it tiring not knowing where my next meal or bed for the night is going to be. It's not quite as spontaneous, but more relaxing to have coffee and cereal before setting out, and know the way back to the base if you have a place reserved. No packing/loading every morning either. I guess it comes with age, huh? Rolling my eyes.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
[Last edited by dyzzypyxxy - Jan 30, 2014 3:04 PM (+)]
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Name: Michele Roth
N.E. Indiana - Zone 5b
I'm always on my way out the door..
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chelle
Jan 30, 2014 12:30 PM CST
For what you want, Deb, your planning couldn't be better. Late February's influx of travelers to the Sunshine State can turn the interstate thoroughfares into vehicle-clogged quagmires. Back-roading is a great way to see lots of interesting and beautiful flora, meet lots of terrific, laid-back folks and the slower pace is enjoyable, too. I second Elaine's reminder to plan plenty of time to loaf around in the Keys; from what I recall, traffic meanders through it...there's simply no way to rush from point A to point B. I remember thinking we might have simply walked faster through most of it, but it was a great experience anyway. While in the Keys, we went out on a boat and into the sea for a fabulous skin diving adventure that I'll never forget! Great fun...I can't wait to visit again. Thumbs up

Hetty's area is fabulously beautiful as well...it's definitely worth the drive up there, if you have the time. Smiling

Definitely pack tall sturdy boots and long pants if you're planning to do any serious nature hiking. Snakes really are a threat, and with the thick undergrowth you oftentimes can't see them to avoid them. The fellas might share their tee-time with gators, too, which isn't out of the ordinary day-to-day scope of things...at least it wasn't when I lived there. Big Grin

...and above all else, don't feed the gulls! Hilarious!
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Name: David Paul
(Zone 9b)
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DavidofDeLand
Jan 30, 2014 12:40 PM CST
Just be welcome and play the Gypsy when you and family are here Deb. You will fit in what you can and will love South Florida.

Its a fact!

The Flora is going to be everywhere and anywhere you visit down there for one thought;...and if you are happy in any one place you visit;........try to forget time and suck in the happiness as though you were living there forever. I know you will not over plan? Whistling

(Gypsy spirit, Gypsy spirit, Gypsy spirit, Fun Vacation!)
Name: Hetty
Sunny Naples, Florida (Zone 10a)
Plumerias Photo Contest Winner: 2015 Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Database Moderator
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Dutchlady1
Jan 30, 2014 12:56 PM CST
All the above advice is great. I second taking the 41 over the 75 any day as it takes you straight through the Everglades with plenty of opportunities to stop along the way.
If you do think you'll make it to Naples please let me know and I'll suggest a few things to do.
Name: Misti
Farrrr NW Houston (Zone 9a)
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Misti
Jan 30, 2014 4:10 PM CST
When you head to Homestead I highly suggest going to RF Orchids and to Richard Lyons Nursery---both are awesome! And Fruit & Spice Park is definitely not to be missed! Take the tour, you'll be able to eat samples of what is in season.

In the Keys, stop at the Keys Wild Bird Center on the west side of Key Largo--might even be Tavernier at that location.

There's SO much to do in S. Florida, I think you'll have plenty to keep you entertained!

Definitely do Loop Road. It can be potholey and bumpy, but it just makes slowing down all the more worthwhile. Plan several hours for that trip and stopping. You can hit up Chokoloskee after for a meal.

I could go on and on for days about Florida! ;)
Name: Deb
Pacific Northwest (Zone 8b)
Region: Pacific Northwest Organic Gardener Herbs Dragonflies Dog Lover Keeper of Poultry
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Bonehead
Jan 30, 2014 5:27 PM CST
I'm busily making notes on my Nook of different places/things to do (or not, sometimes one just has to roll with the day). We're booking a motel at the beginning and end of the trip, 4-5 days out on the keys, and leaving the rest to fall where they may. Definitely will take 41 through the Everglades and the Loop Road. @Dutchlady1 I do think we will spend a couple days at least on the gulf side, near or close to Naples. That's the loose plan anyway.
I want to live in a world where the chicken can cross the road without its motives being questioned.
Name: Hetty
Sunny Naples, Florida (Zone 10a)
Plumerias Photo Contest Winner: 2015 Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator Region: Florida Cat Lover Garden Sages Cactus and Succulents Tropicals
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Dutchlady1
Jan 30, 2014 8:59 PM CST
Please keep me posted! I'd love to meet you or show you around the Botanical Garden if time permits.
Name: Deb
Pacific Northwest (Zone 8b)
Region: Pacific Northwest Organic Gardener Herbs Dragonflies Dog Lover Keeper of Poultry
Birds Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Garden Ideas: Master Level Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Sages Plant Identifier
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Bonehead
Feb 10, 2014 3:20 PM CST
Thanks, Hetty. I'll have my Nook with me which has internet access. Both my sister (Lauribob on ATP) and I would love to meet you. Hopefully we can schedule a rendezvous of some sort.
I want to live in a world where the chicken can cross the road without its motives being questioned.
Name: Lin
Florida (Zone 9b)
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plantladylin
Feb 16, 2014 2:14 PM CST
I'm way late seeing this thread and someone may have already recommended it but a nice place to visit in the Lauderdale area would be Butterfly World: http://www.butterflyworld.com/start.html
~ Eat, Sleep .... Play in the dirt ~
Name: Deb
Pacific Northwest (Zone 8b)
Region: Pacific Northwest Organic Gardener Herbs Dragonflies Dog Lover Keeper of Poultry
Birds Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Garden Ideas: Master Level Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Sages Plant Identifier
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Bonehead
Feb 16, 2014 2:29 PM CST
Thanks, Lin. I will have internet access while traveling and will reference this thread while we are out and about. All four of us are rather free spirits and will likely just roll with whatever comes up. Not too much into advance planning (I actually have a difficult time booking flights because who knows...)
I want to live in a world where the chicken can cross the road without its motives being questioned.
Name: Lin
Florida (Zone 9b)
Region: United States of America Morning Glories Region: Florida Houseplants Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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plantladylin
Feb 16, 2014 5:17 PM CST
LOL, I like your kind of traveling - no muss, no fuss ... just relax and enjoy the scenery! I hope you have nice sunny days and little traffic on your journey. The Florida Keys are beautiful but my preference and favorite part of the state is the less hectic and more beautiful southwest coast, from Naples north to Bradenton. Have a wonderful vacation!
~ Eat, Sleep .... Play in the dirt ~
Name: Deb
Pacific Northwest (Zone 8b)
Region: Pacific Northwest Organic Gardener Herbs Dragonflies Dog Lover Keeper of Poultry
Birds Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Garden Ideas: Master Level Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Sages Plant Identifier
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Bonehead
Mar 7, 2014 6:55 PM CST
Thank you all for your helpful advice. We have now returned from our trip to your lovely state and found it gorgeous and relaxing. We limited our stay to the southern part, rented a cottage on Cudjoe Key for several days, then drove over 41 and 94 to Everglade City where we rented a mobile home on stilts at the edge of a canal for a couple days. Stayed away from the large cities for the most part. The only 'tourist' thing we did was the Coral Castle, which was indeed amazing (I could have skipped the tour guide commentary but oh well). Saw lots of alligators, did some fishing and canoeing, admired all the local flora everywhere, enjoyed the balmy weather and got my skin all softened by the humidity, which was not over powering. We whistled through Key West and swam at Higgs Beach, but opted not to stay for the Mallory Square celebration, it was just too crowded. Very fun for us to compare the furthest northwest point (Cape Flattery in my state of Washington) with the further southeast point of the US, and also to note the difference between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Yours is much saltier than ours and such a beautiful turquoise color; while ours has a much higher surf crashing over rock stacks and of course extremely colder. We had a wonderful visit.

If I can ever return the favor of recommending sites of interest in Washington, please start a thread in the PNW forum. Take care - Deb
I want to live in a world where the chicken can cross the road without its motives being questioned.

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