Archive for August, 2012

Private, Pristine & Perfect: Slideshow of Palm Island

A visit to Palm Island Resort feels like letting out a deep breath.

It feels separate from the everyday world where cars shriek and people hurry. It feels remote, perhaps because it’s accessible only by private boat or by ferry.

It’s quiet. You can hear birds and the music of the wind rustling the trees. The sand is soft, and the water is clear and tinted an emerald color. It’s a haven for plovers, eagles, egrets and shorebirds of all sorts. Sea oats bristle from the dunes, and the tide deposits sand dollars, coral, shark’s teeth and shells in great heaps along the natural shoreline.

The villas are roomy and comfortable, and ours boasted soaring views of the Gulf. We could throw open the doors and listen to the surf all night.

The Resort encompasses a two-mile portion of private, pristine beach on the Gulf of Mexico at the northern end of Knight’s Island, a sliver of sand snuggled close to the Intracoastal Waterway on Florida’s southwest gulf coast. Golf carts, bicycles and walking are the only means of transportation.

It’s private. It’s pristine. And it’s perfect. Check out my slideshow and you’ll see what I mean.

Warning: Watching this video could result in beach-envy, and may even result in a vacation.
 

Continue reading Private, Pristine & Perfect: Slideshow of Palm Island »

Video: View from the Delray Beach Marriott

A real friend is someone who takes a vacation on a sun-drenched beach and does not send a card. ~ Farmer’s Almanac

Apparently I’m not much of a friend because I couldn’t wait to share this little video I took from my fab digs at the Delray Beach Marriott. It’s a Mediterranean-style hotel snuggled close to the Atlantic at the corner of A1A – Ocean Boulevard and famed Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach. It’s comfy and beautiful and the staff is the best ever.

The views aren’t bad, either . . .

Warning: This video may cause beach envy, and may even result in a vacation.

Continue reading Video: View from the Delray Beach Marriott »

Try Horse Surfing in Bradenton

Horse surfing: It’s a little crazy, it’s a lot of fun and, as far as anyone can tell, Bradenton is the only place on the planet to try it.

I galloped into this adventure in Palma Sola Bay (less than hour from Tampa), courtesy of Timothy Mattox’s Great World Nature Tours. My husband and I met Timothy by the Bay, where we were paired with appropriate mounts. We started with a ride along the sands, along with four or five other fun-seekers. Helpers led the horses of less-experienced riders, but I got to enjoy a canter on the back of my trusty, grey steed, dubbed "Batman."

Next, we waded into the water. The water lapped at Batman’s knees but rapidly deepened. When it reached his withers he started swimming – a first-time experience for me, though I have ridden hundreds of horses. I cannot begin to express how utterly strange it is to have a mullet leap out of the water inches from your horse’s nose or to have a Jet-Ski cruise by.  I was laughing out loud along with most of the other riders.

Then it was time for the main event. Batman snorted as I crouched on my knees and wobbled. A moment later I was standing atop him like a circus rider, bare toes dug into his slippery, wet coat, waiting for him to wiggle and plunge me into the drink. I was horse-surfing!

Well, for a second, anyhow.

Want to try it, too?

Visit www.beachhorses.com. The only way to book a ride is online.

Insider’s Tip: This adventure books up quickly, so reserve a spot as soon as possible.

More details: If you’re nervous, have never ridden, are getting long in the tooth or have young children, don’t worry. Great World Nature Tours can probably accommodate you. If you have fewer than 50 hours of formal riding instruction, your horse will be on a lead line the entire time. Enjoy a leisurely ride on the beach and add wading, swimming or surfing according to your wishes; rides are geared towards you.

You must weigh less than 240 lbs. Anyone under the age of 16 must wear a helmet (provided). If you have more than 50 hours of formal riding instruction you can trot and canter.

Continue reading Try Horse Surfing in Bradenton »

Try Horse Surfing in Tampa!

Horse surfing: It’s a little crazy, it’s a lot of fun, and as far as anyone can tell, Bradenton is the only place on the planet to try it.

I galloped into this adventure in Palma Sola Bay (near Tampa), courtesy of Timothy Mattox’s Great World Nature Tours. My husband and I met Timothy by the Bay, where we were paired with appropriate mounts. We started with a ride along the sands, along with four or five other fun-seekers. Helpers led the horses of less-experienced riders, but I got to enjoy a canter on the back of my trusty, grey steed, dubbed “Batman.”

Next, we waded into the water. The water lapped at Batman’s knees but rapidly deepened. When it reached his withers he started swimming – a first-time experience for me, though I have ridden literally hundreds of horses. I cannot begin to express how utterly strange it is to have a mullet leap out of the water inches from your horse’s nose, or to have a Jet-Ski cruise by.  I was laughing out loud along with most of the other riders.

Then it was time for the main event. Batman snorted as I crouched on my knees and wobbled. A moment later I was standing atop him like a circus rider, bare toes dug into his slippery, wet coat, waiting for him to wiggle and plunge me into the drink – I was horse-surfing!

Well, for a second, anyhow.

Want to try it, too?

Now we’re cooking with gas! Just visit www.beachhorses.com. The only way to book a ride is online.

Insider’s Tip: This adventure books up quickly, so if you want to try it, reserve a spot as soon as possible.

More details: If you’re nervous, have never ridden, are getting long in the tooth or have young children, don’t worry. Great World Nature Tours can probably accommodate you. If you have fewer than 50 hours of formal riding instruction, your horse will be on a lead line the entire time.  Enjoy a leisurely ride on the beach and add wading, swimming or surfing according to your wishes; rides are geared towards you.

You must weigh less than 240 lbs. Anyone under the age of 16 must wear a helmet (provided). If you have over 50 hours of formal riding instruction you can trot and canter.

Continue reading Try Horse Surfing in Tampa! »

Free Jazz Concerts by the Gulf in Naples

Imagine it: The sun dips over the Gulf, painting the sky pink and orange. The air is perfumed with salt. You have a cocktail in your hand, and you’re swaying to the beat of some mellow jazz. Everyone seems to be smiling.

You don’t have to imagine any more – and even better, this sweet scenario won’t leave your wallet wailing. The popular, free SummerJazz On The Gulf 2012 concert series is grooving into the Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club from 7-10 p.m. on Aug. 25 and Sept. 22, 2012.

And there’s more news to twirl your beach towel.

You don’t have to be a guest at the resort to enjoy the concerts. You can park just north of the hotel at Lowdermilk Park. Parking is free if you have a Naples Beach sticker. If you don’t want to hassle with driving or parking, you can use the free trolley service running to and from the resort.

The fine print: You may bring lawn chairs or blankets for seating, but coolers are not permitted. Call 239-261-2222 for more information or directions. You’ll be able to buy refreshments and grilled items.

Insider’s Tip: Snag some seafood at the resort’s H.B.’s on the Gulf. It’s Naples’ only beachfront restaurant. My favorite is the Ahi Tuna. Or, just snag a specialty drink at the Sunset Beach Bar and Grill, named Naples’ "Best Beach Bar" by the Travel Channel.

Continue reading Free Jazz Concerts by the Gulf in Naples »

See a Pod of 50 Dolphins at Clearwater Beach!

There are boatloads of reasons to visit Clearwater Beach.

After all, it’s just a splash away from Tampa, with a wide beach that’s thick with sugar sand. Its pier stretches far into the clear, shallow, emerald-hued waters of the Gulf. A ‘pirate ship,’ parasailing and watersports offer entertainment. Plus, it features nightly sunset celebrations at Pier 60, complete with street performers.

But if you want a little extra reason to visit it, I’ve got a doozy.

Through Sept. 4, 2012, you can see a pod of 50 dolphins there – really!

Okay, I admit, the dolphins are made of fiberglass, but it’s still pretty cool. Local artists decorated the six-foot-long dolphins, and each is a unique creation. The display also pays homage to Clearwater's resident movie-star, Winter-the-dolphin. The Warner Brothers 2011 movie "Dolphin Tale" features her true, inspirational story.

Insider’s Tip: While you’re in Clearwater, make sure to surf over to Clearwater Marine Aquarium. You can see Winter and enjoy animal experiences that include feeding stingrays and putting on a snorkel and interacting with dolphins.

Continue reading See a Pod of 50 Dolphins at Clearwater Beach! »

See Yourself in Jax Contest Offers Awesome Prizes this August!

Could you see yourself in Jacksonville?

Maybe you’d be stretched out on an Atlantic beach, slathered with sunscreen, listening to the ocean. Maybe you’d be thinking about taking another dip to cool off.

Or maybe you’d be at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, zip-lining over alligators with a dry mouth and pounding heart. Maybe you’d be sailing away into the sunset with your sweetie, snuggled tight while you watch Ma Nature’s spectacular show.

How you see yourself in Jacksonville could help you win big prizes with Visit Jacksonville’s latest Facebook photo contest. The See Yourself in Jax contest lets you upload photos of your Jacksonville vacation to their Facebook page for a chance to win one of four prize packages –including season tickets for two to the Jacksonville Jaguars games!

Just ‘like’ Visit Jacksonville- U Don’t Know Jax on Facebook and upload your Jacksonville photos to the contest site at www.anygiventimejax.com. Then keep all of your fingers and toes crossed…

Check out the sweet prizes:

Prize Package #1: Teal Ticket!

  • Two Jaguars Season Tickets

 Prize Package #2: For Nature Lovers

  • Two Night Stay at One Ocean Resort & Spa for two
  • Two Sunset or eco cruise from Jax Water Sports
  • Two Passes to Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens
  • Two Passes to St. Augustine Alligator Farm

 Prize Package #3: Downtown Adventure

  • Two Night stay at a downtown hotel for two
  • Two tickets to the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra
  • Two tickets to the Jacksonville Top to Bottom Tour by Adlib Tours
  • Two water taxi passes
  • Meal at Whisky River for two

Prize Package #4:  “Experience Jacksonville” Gift Basket*

  • Four tickets to a Jacksonville Bullies Game and t-shirt
  • Two “Bread & Bagels for a Year” certificates
  • Two tickets to the Jacksonville Symphony
  • Local candy store treats
  • Local brewery growler and gift certificate
  • Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens Tickets
  • *More prizes and tickets will be added to this list from other local attractions. 

Insider’s tip: I’d advise you to enter now, because the contest ends at the end of the month. Get the picture?

The fine print: To enter, you must be at least 18 years of age and a U.S. citizen or permanent legal resident (green card). Visit Jacksonville employees and their immediate family members are not eligible. Immediate family includes only spouses, parents and children. No purchase or payment necessary to win.

Continue reading See Yourself in Jax Contest Offers Awesome Prizes this August! »

Saturday Yoga on the Beach on Anna Maria Island

Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape ~ Author Unknown

Yoga and the beach share several assets: Both can soothe your soul, raise your sagging spirits and allow you to view the world in a slightly kinder, more relaxed way. So you can imagine what a powerful – and pleasant – recipe they make when you mix them together.

Every Saturday at 8:30 a.m. (weather-permitting), you can enjoy yoga at Pine Avenue public beach access on Anna Maria Island, Gulf-side. This relaxed, beginner-friendly class is open to all. The cost is by donation. Call 941-794-6723 for more information.

Insider’s Tip: Bring a big towel or sheet, water and sunscreen.

Never been to Anna Maria Island?

That’s as sad as a surfer without a swell, because it’s lovely. This little sliver of sand is only seven miles long, and so narrow you can often see the Gulf and the bay at the same time. It’s an old-fashioned, laid-back escape, with sugar-sand beaches.

Its waters are emerald-hued and, many times, so clear you can see your toes when you are neck-deep in it. One of my favorite things to do there is to rent a Hobie-Cat and go sailing. You might even say a visit there could help you stay balanced…

Continue reading Saturday Yoga on the Beach on Anna Maria Island »

Escape Tampa: Saturday Yoga on the Beach on Anna Maria Island!

Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape ~ Author Unknown

Yoga and the beach share several assets: Both can soothe your soul, raise your sagging spirits and allow you to view the world in a slightly kinder, more relaxed way. So you can imagine what a powerful – and pleasant – recipe they make when you mix them together.

Every Saturday at 8:30 a.m. (weather-permitting) you can enjoy yoga at Pine Ave. public beach access on Anna Maria Island, Gulf-side. This relaxed, beginner-friendly class is open to all. The cost is by donation. Call 941-794-6723 for more information.

Insider’s Tip: Bring a big towel or sheet, water and sunscreen.

Never been to Anna Maria Island?

That’s as sad as a surfer without a swell, because it’s lovely. This little sliver of sand is only seven miles long, and so narrow you can often see the Gulf and the bay at the same time. It’s an old-fashioned, laid-back escape, with sugar-sand beaches.

Its waters are emerald hued and many times, so clear you can see your toes when you are neck-deep in it. One of my favorite things to do there is to rent a Hobie-Cat and go sailing. You might even say a visit there could help you stay balanced…

Continue reading Escape Tampa: Saturday Yoga on the Beach on Anna Maria Island! »

Win a Hutchinson Island Beach Vacation in the Poseidon Photo Contest

I see them all the time. They appear on my Facebook page and countless other pages, on Florida Live and on VISIT FLORIDA.

Beautiful pictures – featuring dolphins, giggling children, awe-inspiring sunsets – are seemingly everywhere I look, giving proof to the fact that many of you are skilled photographers.

And that could be a good thing for you, because you could win a Hutchinson Island family beach vacation with one of those photos. Just enter Hutchinson Island Marriott Beach Resort’s Express Your Inner Poseidon Photo Contest.
 
How it works

  • Submit a photo (under the "submit an entry" tab of the Hutchinson Island Marriott Beach Resort & Marina Facebook page) of you or your family enjoying an aquatic activity by Friday, Aug. 24, 2012.
  • Encourage (plead, beg and bribe) your friends to vote for your entry.
  • Keep all of your fingers and toes crossed; the photo with the most votes wins.

The prize is as sweet as sunshine. One grand prize winner will receive:

  • A two-night stay at the Hutchinson Island Marriott Beach Resort & Marina for a family of four
  • A $100 voucher for Treasure Coast Paddle to enjoy aquatic adventures
  • Four tickets to The Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center

Never been to Hutchinson Island?

That’s as sad as a surfer without a swell, because it’s a natural wonder. This Treasure Coast getaway is snuggled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River, encompassing the beaches of the historic towns of Port St. Lucie, Fort Pierce, Stuart and Jensen Beach. It’s quiet, old-fashioned, and boasts water sports galore, shopping, and lip-smacking local restaurants.

Insider’s Tip: An island must-see is Gilbert's Bar House of Refuge, a historic haven for shipwreck survivors perched atop jagged limestone formations in Stuart.

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Continue reading Win a Hutchinson Island Beach Vacation in the Poseidon Photo Contest »