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Thread: Florida - What not to miss?

  1. #1
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    Question Florida - What not to miss?

    Hey everyone,

    I'll be down in Florida for a week late Feb/Early March. It will be a family trip, not a pure photography trip, but I'm looking for suggestions of what not to miss (photography or not). We have a bit of a plan already, attempting to take in more than one part of the state, but trying not to pre-plan too much in each location. If anyone has any "Must see" things to suggest, we'll try to work it into our schedule.

    We'll be down there with my dad, who doesn't have the best mobility these days, so we're looking for ideas that don't involve any long hikes. Also Bella won't want anything that takes too long. She likes photography, but not *that* much. Bella isn't into big Theme Park rides yet either, so any parks based mainly on rides aren't on our list.


    28th - We plan to visit the Everglades areas (from Homestead), take an air-boat tour. Not sure exactly what there is to see. Suggestions very welcome.

    29th-2nd - Orlando area. Plan to go see Canaveral. Wife/Daughter will go to Universal (for Harry Potter) one of the days, leaving me and my dad to a photography day. This site lists 7 photography hotspots... which would you suggest (or what alternative) for early March, that doesn't involve a hike? Anything else a must see in Orlando area?

    3rd-4th - Tampa/Clearwater. Hoping to do a dolphin boat at Clearwater, and spend some time on the beach. Any other suggestions for this area?
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  2. #2
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    To heck with Photography.....I would want to go to Harry Potter.

    Only time I was in Florida was a month after Andrew hit in 92, I think things might have changed a bit....

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidEccleston View Post
    Hey everyone,

    28th - We plan to visit the Everglades areas (from Homestead), take an air-boat tour. Not sure exactly what there is to see. Suggestions very welcome.

    29th-2nd - Orlando area. Plan to go see Canaveral. Wife/Daughter will go to Universal (for Harry Potter) one of the days, leaving me and my dad to a photography day. This site lists 7 photography hotspots... which would you suggest (or what alternative) for early March, that doesn't involve a hike? Anything else a must see in Orlando area?

    3rd-4th - Tampa/Clearwater. Hoping to do a dolphin boat at Clearwater, and spend some time on the beach. Any other suggestions for this area?
    Of that list sites around Orlando, I've done 3-4. Merritt Island is a drive. The hikes are optional. I would try to get there early in the morning or late at afternoon for best light, but plenty of a wide variety of birds. Mike (Busted Knuckles) knows it better than I do, but that would be the obvious option if you do not want to hike. Circle B Bar Reserve (I actually found from the comments section) is great, but it is a hike. Joe Overstreet road is also a drive and I really enjoyed it the time I did do the drive. But Merritt Island is another league. I've also heard good things about Orlando Wetlands, but it opens in mid-Feb so I've missed it. There are birds in and around Disney, and I got 1-2 shots I like there, but unless someone knows someplace more specific to go, I would consider others better "destinations."

    In terms of entertainment for tourists, "Disney Springs" (formerly "Downtown Disney") is worth a walk through. As you might expect, the entertainment factor is high with the food being pretty good as well.

    My only other comment might be too late to incorporate, but Sanibel Island is one of my favorite places. Great combination of wildlife (Ding Darling preserve), beaches, shells, and restaurants. Also, you can get a boat ride to Cabbage Key, which is rumored to be the inspiration of "hamburgers in paradise."

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    For birds....Ft. Desoto is also awesome and only requires short walks from parking areas to the beach but it's probably 2 hours west of Orlando (just south of St. Petersburg on the gulf coast). I have also heard there are a lot of birds at GatorLand Park but I believe it's a boardwalk system there.

    I took a photo tour once on a pontoon boat with a guide named James Shadle. We left out of the Alafia River to some small islands that were excellent bird spots. It was a great day and just involved a boat ride and wading in the shallow water.
    Last edited by Joel Eade; 02-21-2016 at 12:25 PM.

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    Thanks guys. The last time I was in Florida was about 35 years ago... I'm sure it's changed... and I don't remember much except for chasing lizards around the pool at the hotel, and the lineup for Space Mountain.

    Manofmayo, I like Harry Potter too, but Universal knows what they're doing... splitting Harry up between two parks, with a two-park ticket getting you access to the Hogwarts Express to get between them... At $200 a head (converted to Canadian), so I'm looking to limit how many of us go.

    Brant, Great. I'll keep Merritt Island near the top of the list. Depending on what we find in the Everglades, perhaps we'll end up driving across to Sanibel... We'll see how it goes.

    Joel, we may be able to squeeze Ft. Desoto into our Tampa/Clearwater area part of the trip, thanks.
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    Wow, $200 CAN a head....no way, not even for Harry Potter (I am too cheap).

    Sounds like a cool trip, I will eventually make it back to Florida, maybe as part of a larger road trip.
    ---
    Way too much gear and even more lighting equipment.

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    What Brant and I refer to as Merritt Island is actually the Black Point Wildlife Drive in the Merritt Island Bird Refuge. It is basically on the road to the Cape Canaveral National Sea Shore park.

    I have not yet been to Ft. Desoto but hear good things. The Circle B Bar reserve and the Orlando Wetlands park (in Christmas Florida) are similar in that they are really the last steps of a waste water treatment program - no smells. Orlando Wetlands is about 5x bigger than Circle B, for a donation (you set the level) they will drive you around in a 10 person golf cart - drop you off at the back and then you can walk to the front, etc - The volunteer is a Canon/Bird enthusiast - knows his birds. I was there the last day before it closed in Nov to Feb 15 and we did pretty much the whole circuit. Huge place. Tons of birds.

    The "must" if I was going to do any 1 of them would be Merrit Island/Blackwater Drive 1st thing in the a.m. The lighting, activity and species are just amazing. Orlando Wetlands will most the wading birds, except the salt water varieties. I would go to google earth and look at the panoramio pics. Orlando Wetlands may have a few more song birds.

    Merritt Island is 1st up for ever Heron/egret type you can think of, a number of different smaller wading birds, a few terns, white pelicans (usually) spoonbills, ganules, coots, several different ducks, an eagle or two, Osprey, and occasional hawks (I think it was a coopers hawk not sharp shinned Brant - but i really don't know). And of course a couple of seagulls. Not far from the Black water drive is the Scrub Jay habitat/drive and saw my first along with a grey jay and countless swallows going by. My wife and I saw a bobcat at the end of the day we went (I went to the wrong side of the tree and could only make it out barely while my wife watched in full broad side for about a minute). When I go I usually do 2-4 loops through the drive. At the end of the day weather permitting, there are several places you can get the iconic small mangrove in mirror flat water sunset shot.

    I should have gone this weekend but domestic tranquility concerns overtook my photo ops away from the house. I might go next weekend weather permitting (it is so close I am a fair weather photo dude).

    Glad you are coming to FL, I wish it was on a Weekend and I would be happy to do the guide thing at Merritt Island - I have to be in frozen NJ 1st on the 29th

    Happy clicks.

    Mike
    Last edited by Busted Knuckles; 02-22-2016 at 12:38 PM.
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    Thanks Mike.

    We're doing Saturday to Saturday, with both Saturdays being wasted to travel, so not much weekend time. I'm not sure we can pull off early morning. None of us are morning people, and our hotel is apparently nowhere near Universal, so the exact time we can leave for the drive is dictated by when we can drop off the park-goers.

    I know birders always want more reach. How painful will it be, using my 70-300L on crop? Should we be looking at renting something longer? I think somebody mentioned Florida birds are almost tame, so perhaps 300 will be fine.
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidEccleston View Post
    I know birders always want more reach. How painful will it be, using my 70-300L on crop? Should we be looking at renting something longer? I think somebody mentioned Florida birds are almost tame, so perhaps 300 will be fine.
    There will always be the bird that is far off that you want the shot of, but you should have good opportunities close in with the 70-300L on crop (480 mm FF equivalent). Merritt tends to have both near and far. Thus far my experience with wetlands was the birds were a bit closer. You might want to think about the golf cart ride, but Mike probably has a better idea of that.

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    even if you dont stick around for sunset, the shells of Captiva and Sanibel Islands south of Tampa are great, kids and parents alike. if a storm rolls by, bonus!

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    Tropical Retreat by ernogy, on Flickr

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    Seashells - - - Captiva, Florida by ernogy, on Flickr
    Last edited by erno james; 02-22-2016 at 08:38 PM.

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