Florida welcomes us not only with summer-like temperatures, but also with a completely different architectural style: in St. Augustine, the oldest city in the USA, the Spanish influence cannot be overseen. Round and playful archways, more stone than wooden houses… like in another world! In addition, the population density increases further compared to the already densely built-up East Coast the closer we get to Central and South Florida. If there are no state forests (in which you can wildcamp without any problems contrary to national or state parks) or boat ramps (which have also proven themselves as good overnight places) nearby, we have to resort to more non-mainstream overnight options such as church parking lots – but if possible, not from Saturday to Sunday because of the Sunday morning ceremony. Not always as close to nature as usual, but at least we always managed to avoid a Walmart parking lot as a “last resort”.
What becomes even more evident in Florida than in the other states we have visited so far is the inconsistency of the regulations and of life in general: throwing away garbage in nature is prohibited and results in a $5,000 fine, but almost every American leaves his engine running (sometimes even while shopping) so that the air conditioning can maintain the chosen temperature. There are “No-Overnight Parking” and other prohibition signs everywhere, so that it often takes several minutes to find out what now actually applies. But well, other countries have different customs and that’s exactly why we travel…
And Florida is expensive….e.g. tickets to the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral for USD 75 per person. So, we constantly weigh between “we will probably never come here again so let’s go for it” and “is it really worth the money and you don’t have to participate in everything on the world trip”.
As you can easily see, Florida leaves us with an ambivalent impression. But there are also real highlights: visiting our friends Jutta and Mati (which I have known for over 30 years) in Key Biscane and our new travel friends Tini and Peter in Cape Coral. Great conversations, good food and up to 130 km/h speed boat trips sweeten our everyday travel life. Karin can even celebrate her birthday with friends instead of just with me alone in the middle of nowhere, even on a boat trip with a “floating sofa”, as Karin calls it.
Or the Keys with their forever long water bridges and the great place Key West where we get to know the Hemingway cats with six toes. We also do one of the most beautiful snorkeling tours since we’ve been on the road, which really amazes us. The corals are still pretty nice and there are lots of big fish. For Karin’s birthday, I will also fulfill her dream of swimming with dolphins.
In the Everglades we find great nature, some nice tracks for Shujaa and above all lots of crocodiles. Partially lying directly on the track in the sun and gliding into the water just before us. We also do an adventurous canoe tour on the 9-Mile Pond through a labyrinth of small, mangrove-strewn waters and a kayak tour along the Bay of Florida with many manatees. Both great nature experiences.
Unfortunately, in Miami we also get to know the No See Ums for the first time, about whom we have already read a lot. Tiny tormentors that actually look like mosquitoes under a magnifying glass. As always, we’ve had the fly screens down and some light inside, but the tiny ones come through the screens, so we get hundreds of bites. However, the electric mosquito plug we brought with us from Germany brings relief.
What surprises us is the extreme population growth in Florida and the booming economy. People from New York, Silicon Valley and above all from Latin America are flocking here to live and do business. The area is vibrant, there is construction going on everywhere and south of Fort Lauderdale almost only Spanish is spoken. Sometimes people no longer understand in English in shops. Somehow, we feel more comfortable here and memories of South America come back and we no longer feel like we are in the USA.
What really made us depressive is the extreme devastation of this year’s hurricane season. In particular, Hurricane Ian, which raged along the Gulf Coast around Fort Meyers two months ago, left behind an incredible amount of destruction. For hours we drive through areas that look like atomic bombs have exploded. On our speedboat excursion we do not stop for a swim because dead fish are still floating everywhere in the water, the water is more brown than blue, and it smells accordingly. Various regions still lack electricity and water. Despite the impressive aid and development skills of the Americans, it will take years before normal life will be possible again here.
The arc between the panhandle and the rest of Florida, known as the “Big Bend”, brings us back the already missed nature with deserted areas and beautiful places to stay. The beaches are also beautiful: Finally blue sea and snow-white, very fine sandy beaches bring us great days at the beach on the Panhandle, which is said to have the most beautiful beaches in the entire USA. The location of the beaches, perpendicular to the waves rolling in from the Gulf of Mexico, results in particularly fine sand, the absence of rivers that wash dark sedimentary rock into the sea ensures a snow-white color. Karin is lucky and jumps through the water.
Florida: definitely not the classic Overlander destination and a state with a lot of contrast and dynamism. But that is what we are trying to discover and understand!
so what did you think of Cedar Key? I saw your vehicle in town and waited to see what you would write and how you found us. we are still pretty much like old Florida, not overbuilt like South Florida and no traffic. I’m enjoying reading about your adventures.
Thank you for your comment. Unfortunately we wrote nothing about Cedar Key, even it was absolutely beautiful. You can imagine, usually we see many places and luckily we see a lot of nice things so we are not able to talk about all, but in that case we should have … 😉 It is a nice, cute city with a kind of silent charme. We enjoyed the calmness after the busy part of Florida.
Bests Karin & Oliver
Very nice…we like….