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


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

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."

Tour Greenwood Cemetery AT NIGHT

Brendan and I got a wild hair and thought it would be fun to video the Greenwood Cemetery Night Tour. Don Price is a CHAMPION of history and his walking tours are famously good. 

So, here's the thing about an iPhone at night. Um, it can't see things. It's not a cat. So, you're going to have to turn the sound WAY UP and sit in a totally silent room to hear this but honestly, you WANT TO HEAR THIS. 

I'll stop yelling at you now. Wait, one more. GO ON THE TOUR! Click here for the info and be sure to leave me a comment to tell me how much you liked it. 

Five Hours in St. Augustine, Florida

First stop of the morning was the the Hotel Ponce de Leon.  We took the tour of this mansion.  Given by Flagler students, every dollar of the tour fee goes back to student tuition and scholarships.  Our tour guide, Blake, knew every spot to point out, every door to approach, and shared secrets even we can't share here.  So much drama in this beautifully designed space.  Watch the full tour below to get your fill.  Cutting edge architectural features, indoor plumbing, and all the most modern of amenities 1881 could offer.  Look for nautical and religious themes throughout this truly majestic property.

If it looks like gold leaf, it is gold leaf.
— Blake

Gold leaf is everywhere.  From statues to water features to walls, ceilings, chandeliers, floors, and more.  All of it is glowing yellow in 22 karat gold.  There is a moment when Henry Flagler looked at the property and was so in awe of its perfection that he purposely had his masons create imperfections in the tile.  He believed that nothing could be perfect but God. 

We set out on foot from there.  In this supremely walkable historic district, balconies hang over cobblestone streets like they did in the 1600s.  It was easy to navigate up a couple blocks to the St. Augustine Distillery and Ice Plant Restaurant for brunch, which is served Saturday and Sunday from 10AM to 2PM. 

It really is an ice house.  Shaved, rock, sphere, and pebbled ice all happens here.  Carved from slow-frozen filtered water, it's some of the best ice I've ever watched melt into a drink.  On the menu?  Pancakes with fresh blueberries, blueberry sorghum syrup, distillery rum, whipped ricotta, candied lemon peel, and a dusting of powdered sugar. 


We had to grab the potato and grilled sweet pepper hash, and buttermilk fried chicken and hoecakes, collards, giblet gravy, and apricot butter.  TO DIE for.  Going back, I'd also try the fennel sausage, house made English muffin, and watermelon and tomato salad with roasted Shishito peppers. 

A tour of the distillery comes with a varieties of tastings and ends in the shop.  Every tonic, bitter, and libation you can imagine is here.  If you're a mixologist or just really like a beautifully crafted cocktail, this place is a one-stop-shop for education and tools. 

We wandered on into town passing 93 King.  No joke, it really is the smallest hotel in the city and the most adorable.  I can't wait to go back and stay there.  The brochure says it all. "Let's face it  - if you choose 93 King, you're not really a tourist.  More like a traveller.  You're probably not going to pick up 3rd degree burns at the beach, bathe in aloe, then stand in line at some tourist trap for a 'Captain's Platter.'"  Finally finding a place that makes me know I'm at home in a new city is priceless.  Check them out and plan to stay.

And if you do stay and want to get around but not on foot, check out Pedicabs of St. Augustine.  They'll move you around the city without you having to worry about traffic or parking or tripping off a curb.  Just call dispatch and let them take care of you.

Looking for Colonial era textiles, costumes, accessories, or fabrics?  Look nowhere other than St. Augustine Textiles.  It's like an explosion of history in a workshop.  Redcoats and rebels, muskets, leather shoes, cotton petticoats.  If you've ever visited Williamsburg, Virginia it's a bit like that. How,  HOW did women wear all of that in the heat?  HOW?

The next place both awed and scared me.  Wolf's Museum of Mystery was something else.  Imagine a room depicting an alien attack, a room for Lizzie Borden, cases of taxidermy and found items from burial mounds and tribes all over the world.  Some of it humorous, other bits so disturbing I can never go back.  Not for the faint of heart, or stomach.

Needing a treat after the gore, we popped into Cousteau's Waffle & Milkshake Bar.  We opted for the Unpaid Intern - a Belgian Liege waffle, sweet and chewy, topped with powdered sugar.  A classic and a delicious choice.  We also opted for the Belafonte - a Belgian Liege waffle topped with fresh strawberries, Nutella, and whipped cream.  Going back, I'd get the Jaguar Shark - a Belgian Liege waffle with maple syrup, bourbon whipped cream, candied pecans and candied bacon. 

Obviously we stopped for coffee.  Relampago Coffee Lab and Roasting Co. was top of my list and they didn't disappoint.  Delicious roast in a lavender honey latte.  A great pick-me-up before getting back on the road. 

What a day!  A super-neat, history-filled, delicious day-trip.  If you're living or staying in Orlando, consider a quick trip up the East Coast to St. Augustine, Florida.  The oldest city in the entire country.

Pro Tip: Go early in the day to miss the throng of tourists. 

Mote Marine Aquarium: Sarasota, Florida

Headed over to the Gulf Coast to visit family in Sarasota and make it a point to visit Mote Marine Aquarium. If you haven't visited, then you're really missing out on a special experience. The manatees, otters, seahorses, and sharks are always my favorite tanks. This time the jellyfish captured my heart. The little umbrella jellyfish looks like a tiny illuminated parasol. 


For a visit or more information you can click here. Definitely consider a special experience at Mote or even adopt a shark or other sea creature while you're there.