Discover a Secret Island in Grant, Florida

The Indian River Lagoon is the most bio-diverse lagoon in the Northern Hemisphere and an indispensable refuge to the nearly one million neighboring Central Florida residents. Today, we're going to explore the lagoon in a couple of kayaks.

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If you don't have your own kayak, I recommend checking out Island Paddle in Grant, FL. They're a Florida nonprofit Citizen Support Organization dedicated to the preservation, restoration and enhancement of the Indian River Lagoon Aquatic Preserve spoil islands and education of the importance of the spoil islands as valuable educational, recreational and conservation resources.

Island Paddle is located in Grant Station, which is right across the street from the main boat ramp in town. You can rent kayaks, canoes, and paddle boards or try out one of their tours: Sunrise Paddle, Paddle Board Yoga, or Mullet Creek Paddle Tour.

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Once you're out on the water, you can paddle at your own pace to reach one of the many sandbars and islands on the lagoon. Be careful when you're swimming too far out from shore because the lagoon contains brackish water. That means it's a mix of both salt and freshwater, so you may find some bigger fish and alligators. Always watch out for boaters when you're in the channel.

The island we explored had so much plant life! I encourage you to download a plant identification app on your phone and see how many different types you can find. You're sure to encounter animal life as well. Frequently, there will be porpoises that swim right up to your kayak but we weren't so lucky today.

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Rule one of being out in nature: leave no trace! Explore as many islands as you wish, as long as you help preserve their natural beauty. I like to bring a trash bag with me to clean up any litter that I find.

Happy exploring!

 

 Tina Fleming is a partner at Townie Tourist and an Orlando-based travel and lifestyle blogger at Tina In The Sun. She's a cat mom, self-proclaimed foodie, and moonlight singer in an a cappella group called Geekapella.

Explore Historic 'Green Gables' and Melbourne, Florida

If you haven't ventured south to Melbourne, Florida you need to put it on your day-trip list.  It's about an hour and a half south of Orlando on the Atlantic Coast and I was amazed by what I found there.  First, let's talk about a visit to Green Gables

Green Gables was the winter home of William T. Wells and his family.  Wells was a metallurgist who was known for his patent on the manufacturing of rustless iron.  In 1894 Wells and his wife Nora, sons Stanford and Prescott, and daughter Gladys traveled from New York to find a healthier climate for Nora's health issues. 

Melbourne was the perfect mix of friendly neighbors, great fishing, and outdoor activities.  In 1896 Green Gables was completed on the high bluff facing the river just north of town. 

This Queen Anne style house was the first of its kind and unique to a property like this, the house has remained family-owned to this day.  However, after the 2004 hurricane season it was deemed uninhabitable. 

The house is now used for events and parties but needs extensive repairs and restoration. You'll see some damage in the photos. 

The Wells family contributed to the expansion of Melbourne both architecturally and culturally.  Mrs. Wells built the first auditorium in the region and stage boasted perfect acoustics.  She arranged the Chautauqua of the Tropics and had musicians, actors, poets, and lecturers come to visit and perform.  The Wells' dedicated a portion of their land to the public which became Wells Park and the main branch of the Melbourne Public Library.  They also provided the means for the first pubic high school.  They were generous and progressive and left a legacy that remains today.

This 122 year old structure is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has an unparalleled view of the Indian River.  What a spot to experience the beauty and history of Brevard County.

Green Gables 

To arrange a tour or visit, reach out by email at the address below.

Mail: P.O. Box 1086, Melbourne, FL 32902

Address: 1501 South Harbor City Blvd, Melbourne, FL
info@GreenGables.com
http://SaveGreenGables.org

 

Click below to watch the Townie Tourist walk through Green Gables. 👇👇

Daytrip - Exploring Melbourne, Florida

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Melbourne is an easy hour and fifteen minutes from downtown Orlando, and tolls and highways make the trip simple.  (The alternative is a longer scenic route takes you through Fort Christmas which is another great stop on Hwy 50.)

Get to town and head first to the Historic Downtown area.  Drive slowly over the railroad tracks and park.  You won't want to miss the following:

Jacqueline's Bakery - 906 E. New Haven Ave, Melbourne, FL 32901 

This is a family-owned, French bakery and cafe. Chef Jacqueline uses European style butter, French traditional flour and American artisan flour (both non-GMO) and everything is baked from scratch.

Things to try:

  • Continental Breakfast - tartine, croissant, orange juice, coffee

  • Apple turnover

  • Quiche Duxelles

  • Vegetarian Baguette (ask for it with butter instead of hummus) Trust me.

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Russian House - 822 E. New Haven Ave, Melbourne, FL 32901

You might not realize this but there's a very large Russian population in Melbourne. Perhaps because of its proximity to the Space Coast.  Scientists maybe?  Who knows.  All I know is that a visit to the Russian House can take an hour just listening to stories from the old country and playing with nesting dolls.  The food, drink, trinkets, art, books, posters, and more are worth a visit.

Walking up and down this Main Street area is a good start. If you've got your fill of this first stop, hop back in the car and head a little closer to the coast.

EGAD - Eau Gallie Arts District - About a half-mile down the road is the Eau Gallie Arts District (EGAD) which is full of art, galleries, murals, and so much inspiration. Also...pie.

 

Joan's Perfect Pie - 1478B Highland Ave, Melbourne, FL 32935

Fresh pies, baked daily.  Joan runs a tight ship and her pies are hefty and delicious.  Choose savory or sweet and you won't be disappointed.  All of the fillings and dough are handmade and the crust is an all butter crust; brown and flakey. 

Outdoor Mural Installs - Be sure to check out all the public art murals around this district.  You can find a list here.

Foosaner Art Museum - 1463 Highland Ave. Melbourne, FL 32935

This free museum is a complex that contains three buildings: a 15,000sq ft gallery space; the Renee Foosaner Education Center with spaces for drawing, painting, pottery, and printmaking; and the Harris Community Auditorium for lectures, meetings, and performances. 

The permanent collection is over 5,000 works on paper, paintings, sculpture, and industrial design of the Modern and Contemporary periods.  Click here for the hours and installation details.

Hungry for more?

Chez Quan's - 1470 Aurora Road, Melbourne, FL. (321) 622-6979

This place has to top your list for what to eat for lunch or dinner.  What happens when you mix Thai and American and Latin all together?  Chef Adam can show you.  And you want him to.  A simple cement floor and bowls full of love.  It's always a good idea to show up for Wu Tang Wednesday. 

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There's so much more to explore so look for a second installment happening Fall 2018.

Hotel Palms in Atlantic Beach, FL

I don't have a ranking for must visits in Florida, but Hotel Palms is at the top of my list right now.  I can't express to you how much one night there was able to relax me.  It's my new Shangri-La.

The Hotel Palms is a modern, beachside motor court hotel established in 1947.  Three blocks from the Atlantic Ocean and walking distance to shops and restaurants of Town Center.  Average rates start at $149 for a double queen room. 

The place has been renovated in a modern style that is cool and unique.

Check out the video tour I did with Ryan Montez and see for yourself.

 

Here are just a few things the Hotel Palms has to offer:

Beer and wine lounge w/ local craft beers
Private courtyard
Customizable Unlikely Local itineraries
Outdoor shower
Patio seating
Outdoor fireplace
Breakfast delivery
Complimentary wifi
Local coffee brewed fresh each morning in the lounge
Malin + Goetz toiletries
Salt and Stone sunscreen & lip balm (available for purchase)
Breakfast delivery
Complimentary wifi
Free beach cruiser and foam board rentals

Hotel Palms
28 Sherry Drive
Atlantic Beach, FL 32233

904-241-7776

CHECK AVAILABILITY

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Big Cat Habitat in Sarasota, Florida

Have you been to the Big Cat Habitat & Gulf Coast Sanctuary in Sarasota, Florida? This large animal rescue organization provides a home for tigers, lions, monkeys and other exotic animals in need. I got a chance to visit this amazing organization with Clayton Rosaire. His mom, Kay, founded the place in 1987 and has been a cat-mom for years, educating the public on conservation and animal care. Now Clayton is leading the charge and it's truly impressive.

Please note that there's a real liger. This animal is rare and probably one of the largest animals I've ever actually seen up close. HOLY HECK he's big. His mom was a tiger and his dad was a lion. They generally are born in captivity because hey, roommates get real close.

We get up close with some of the residents ourselves and really far away from other ones. Watch to see what happens. Also, if you feel like contributing to this amazing organization. Click here. 

Selby Gardens in Sarasota, Florida

I used to live in Sarasota and Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is one of my favorite places to wander.  Named for Marie Selby who lived on the property with her husband, William, for over 50 years.  She loved nature and when she passed in 1971, she left her home and gardens to the community "for the enjoyment of the general public." 

Selby Gardens is the only botanical garden in the world dedicated to epiphytes.  They research, study, display, and conserve these plants that live on other plants.  Like air plants, they don't harm the host plant but rather just hang around as pals.  Some of the best examples are orchids, bromeliads, and gesneriads.  (Say that three times fast!)

It's a place of research and the scientific staff here have discovered more than 2,000 plant species. The collections on property include an herbarium of more than 110,000 dried and pressed specimens and over 30,000 preserved in fluids with some of the rarest dating back to the 1700s. 

If you're in Sarasota, take a couple hours to visit Selby Gardens.  The LIVE video below takes you on a walking tour through this living museum and shows the unique Warhol: Flower in the Factory works all over the property.  The exhibit is open from February to June 30, 2018 and "explores the surprising, and little known, role of nature in Warhol's art and life."