Houseboating on the St. Johns River

Houseboating on the St. Johns River

Houseboating on the St. Johns River

By Ilona Merritt

If you’re looking for entertainment, shopping, or fancy restaurants on your vacation, this one is not for you. However, if you ever wanted a truly relaxing holiday, houseboating on the St. Johns River would be the answer.

The St. Johns River is the longest in Florida and is significant for commercial and recreational use. At 310 miles long, it flows north and winds through or borders twelve counties. The drop in elevation from headwaters to mouth is less than 30 feet. Like most Florida waterways, St. Johns has a shallow flow rate of 0.3 mph and is often described as “lazy.”

My long-time dream of a houseboat trip came true this summer, with my husband and two dear friends. Hontoon State Park near Deland was our destination. Once you leave I-4, it is all two-lane country roads. We had to cross a drawbridge before turning onto Hontoon Road, where the Holly Bluff Marina was located, only to travel later on the river when we had to radio the Bridge Tender to open up the bridge for us to pass beneath.

Upon arrival at the marina, we were greeted by a very gracious and helpful staff. The entire area was well organized, and the houseboats were all lined up waiting for us. They are well cared for, and supplied with everything we needed for the trip. We only brought our food and packed casual clothes. An amicable staff member came aboard and gave us instructions on how to handle the boat, and off we were on our adventure. It is important to know that whenever the boat is moving, it must be piloted. Therefore we appointed a captain and a first mate.

A cruise on St. Johns is a return to original natural Florida. The scenery along the river varies with elevation. Pines occur in the higher areas while palms, swamps, and marshes variously border the river and its tributaries. Much of the land bordering the river is part of the Ocala National Forest and will never be developed. Many parts of the Tarzan movies were filmed here, and while relaxing on the deck, it was easy to imagine Tarzan traversing through the trees and swamps. Wildlife is abundant. In the winter, the manatee travel to this area for the warm water springs, constant 72 degrees. We saw great blue and little blue herons, ospreys, and eagles soar in the sky above. Lest we forget, fishing is prevalent.  There is no swimming in the river. The water is brackish and brown with tannin. Alligators are common, as are other water inhabitants, such as bull sharks and snakes.

The route to travel is laid out very precisely and was sent with the contract. There was plenty of time to study the course. With Lake Monroe on one end and Lake George on the other end, there were many things to see and wildlife to watch. It is essential to stay in the channel due to the shallow water. There are branches of the river which are hazardous and are not to be entered. The lakes are shallow and can be dangerous. The river features scattered pockets of civilization with small communities. There is an abundance of alligators in the St. Johns River. Once considered endangered, they are now a preservationist success story.

The river experience will not be forgotten. We enjoyed our meals on the boat and spent the evening playing board games and cards. We charted our own course, enjoyed the beauty of this area of Florida, the camaraderie with our friends, and the casual and laid-back life on the St. Johns River.

October 2022 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

October 2022 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

First and foremost, all of us at The News hope that all of you reading this came through Hurricane Ian healthy and safe. Our News team fared well, considering. A few trees and power lines down, loss of power, and the general inconveniences of temporarily...

September 2022 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

September 2022 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

In this issue… Run with the Hemingways, explore the new ER at Sun City Center, take a Night Out with the sheriff’s department, see how SCC is Sprucing Up, celebrate Photo Club competition winners, get updated on the Long Range Plan, make some...

Local Lookalikes Run With the Hemingways

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Community Expo Showcases ER at Sun City Center

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5th Annual SCC Relay for Life Surpasses Goal

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August 2022 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

August 2022 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

In this issue… Learn how volunteers here and abroad are helping Ukrainian refugees, meet some local teens investing in our community, catch the raptor show at the Florida Aquarium, celebrate our Independence, raise a nesting pole with the...

Hungry for Something New? Different?

Hungry for Something New? Different?

Hungry for Something New? Different?

By Andrea L.T. Peterson

As local legend goes, “A cyclone blew seven tikis onto the banks of the Alafia River in 2016,” inspiring the Polynesian “flavors and flair” of Riverview’s Tiki Docks Bar & Grill located at 10708 Palmetto St. (visible from U.S. Hwy 301, just before crossing the Alafia River from the south).

While you can easily pass the turn off, it is considerably more difficult to miss the building itself—emblazoned with colorful tikis overlooking the river itself. The setting, the exotic décor, are as inspired as the menu which includes a raw bar, salads, sandwiches (starting at $11), an assortment of seafood dishes (from $16), and steak ($24) for the landlubbers like myself as well as a kids’ menu. Reservations are probably a good idea for a large group. The bar itself is well stocked, and there’s live music.

Good food, ambience, an idyllic setting with ample outdoor seating and easy social-distancing—perfect for that special occasion.

October 2022 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

October 2022 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

First and foremost, all of us at The News hope that all of you reading this came through Hurricane Ian healthy and safe. Our News team fared well, considering. A few trees and power lines down, loss of power, and the general inconveniences of temporarily...

September 2022 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

September 2022 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

In this issue… Run with the Hemingways, explore the new ER at Sun City Center, take a Night Out with the sheriff’s department, see how SCC is Sprucing Up, celebrate Photo Club competition winners, get updated on the Long Range Plan, make some...

Local Lookalikes Run With the Hemingways

Local Lookalikes Run With the Hemingways

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Community Expo Showcases ER at Sun City Center

Community Expo Showcases ER at Sun City Center

Community Expo Showcases ER at Sun City CenterBy Bob Sanchez The ER at Sun City Center hosted a Community Expo to show off the brand-new facility to the public. The free-standing building is an extension of Manatee Memorial Hospital....

5th Annual SCC Relay for Life Surpasses Goal

5th Annual SCC Relay for Life Surpasses Goal

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August 2022 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

August 2022 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

In this issue… Learn how volunteers here and abroad are helping Ukrainian refugees, meet some local teens investing in our community, catch the raptor show at the Florida Aquarium, celebrate our Independence, raise a nesting pole with the...

Ybor City: History Made Fun

Ybor City: History Made Fun

Ybor City: History Made Fun

By Kai Rambow

 

Did you know that: (1) Tampa’s population exploded from 700 to over 7,000 in a year; (2) Tampa was the cigar capital of the world; (3) Tampa was the first place with universal health care? It all started in Ybor City, and you can learn all kinds of things presented in a fun way on a walking tour.

“This is my hometown. It’s so much fun to learn about Tampa’s history,” commented one woman on the tour. A little later, two men debated what was worse in the beginning: the alligators, mosquitos, or heat and humidity. A walking tour, led by Max Herman, was engaging, entertaining and fun.

Vincente Martinez-Ybor transformed Tampa into a real town. Herman has the ability to share history in a fun way. Facts are only important to help the story of Ybor City/Tampa. The stories on tour kept everyone paying attention. While experienced Cubans came here to work, so too did Italians, Germans, and other immigrant groups. Each group built their own social halls (part of the tour) to celebrate and maintain cultural traditions. These social groups also created the first universal health for their members.

 

Background Preparation

A great way to start your tour is a quick visit to the state museum. A short video provides a great overview of Ybor City’s development. Displays in the museum highlight important milestones, complete with historic pictures. This is a great way to get a foundation before taking the tour. Unfortunately, the casita showing original homes in Ybor, is currently unavailable to visitors.

 

The Columbia Restaurant

After the tour, you’ll be hungry. You can continue the history by eating at the 110 year old Columbia restaurant. Cuban bread and the sandwich were invented in Ybor. Their Cuban sandwich is unique because it has salami (remember the Italian immigrants) making a hearty meal. It is the original.  You can order the half-and-half special. You might want to try their famous 1905 salad (created in the 1970s) and Cuban sandwich. Incidentally, the Cuban bread comes from La Segunda Bakery, also in Ybor, and 100 years old.

 Tips: You might want to drive from the garage (see itinerary and parking below) to here as it is a few blocks away.  There is plenty of parking in the back. Be sure to look at the beautiful Spanish tiles on the front of the building. 

 

Cuban Cigars Still Made Here

Tabanero Cigars loves having visitors, even if you don’t smoke. I am not a smoker, but I do know which end of the cigar to dip in brandy. Since Tabanero is a boutique cigar store you can see everything up close, and you are welcome to take pictures.  There is a coffee bar towards the back with great Cuban coffee. 

 

Tips for a Great Trip

Suggested Itinerary:  Arrive at 9 and visit the state museum park. Move car to parking garage around 10:30 a.m. Stop by Tabanero Cigars take some pictures and have a Cuban coffee. Walk across the street and take the historic walking tour with Max (be sure to make reservations) at 11 a.m. After tour head to the Columbia for lunch.

What to Wear: Comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen ,and sunglasses are important. Be sure to take a bottle of water with you as well. Note: Herman knows all the shady spots to stop while on tour. 

Where to Park: Street parking is only good for two hours. If you park in the garage on 15th Street, you won’t need to worry about time and it’s only one dollar per hour. From the garage it is a short walk to the meeting spot for the tour.

Ybor City Historic Walking Tours

Max Herman

(813) 505-6779

www.YborWalkingTours.com

Ybor City State Museum

1818 E 9th Avenue

Wednesdays-Sundays; 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

The Columbia Restaurant

2117 E. 7th Avenue

Tampa, Florida  33605

(813)  248-4961

www.columbiarestaurant.com

Tabanero Cigars

(Cuban coffee)

1601 E. 7th Avenue

Tampa, Florida  33605

(813) 402-6316

October 2022 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

October 2022 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

First and foremost, all of us at The News hope that all of you reading this came through Hurricane Ian healthy and safe. Our News team fared well, considering. A few trees and power lines down, loss of power, and the general inconveniences of temporarily...

September 2022 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

September 2022 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

In this issue… Run with the Hemingways, explore the new ER at Sun City Center, take a Night Out with the sheriff’s department, see how SCC is Sprucing Up, celebrate Photo Club competition winners, get updated on the Long Range Plan, make some...

Local Lookalikes Run With the Hemingways

Local Lookalikes Run With the Hemingways

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Community Expo Showcases ER at Sun City Center

Community Expo Showcases ER at Sun City Center

Community Expo Showcases ER at Sun City CenterBy Bob Sanchez The ER at Sun City Center hosted a Community Expo to show off the brand-new facility to the public. The free-standing building is an extension of Manatee Memorial Hospital....

5th Annual SCC Relay for Life Surpasses Goal

5th Annual SCC Relay for Life Surpasses Goal

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August 2022 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

August 2022 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

In this issue… Learn how volunteers here and abroad are helping Ukrainian refugees, meet some local teens investing in our community, catch the raptor show at the Florida Aquarium, celebrate our Independence, raise a nesting pole with the...

Getting Wet in the Dry Tortugas

Getting Wet in the Dry Tortugas

Getting Wet in the Dry Tortugas

By Kai Rambow

 

Key West may be the end of the road, but you can head 70 miles farther west by taking the ferry to the Dry Tortugas. People love taking this day trip. It is a national park, so that means it’s on many people’s bucket list. There are several other reasons for taking this excursion. It’s remote, so you can get away from it all. It’s historic with a ginormous fort. It’s scenic surrounded by clear, beautiful blue water. And it’s fun, with opportunities to explore the fort, swim and snorkel.

 

Ft. Jefferson

This huge fort covering 16 acres has a rich history. park rangers offer guided tours. If you love interesting history, it’s worth taking the tour so you know what you’re seeing.

 

Snorkeling

There are several spots to go swimming and snorkelling.  Explanations about the different water spots are given during the ferry ride.  The snorkeling is more fun than spectacular.  Clear blue waters will evoke Caribbean feelings.  There are places to rinse off and change clothes near the dock.

 

Tips for a Great Trip

 

Weather

Surprisingly rough seas frequently occur during the winter; calmer waters prevail during the summer.  This trip can be great, but it’s expensive.  One couple took the ferry in the winter and almost everyone was seasick.  They were given a voucher to purchase another trip at 50 percent off.  Recommendation is to check the marine forecast first for Dry Tortugas, not Key West, then check the marine forecast between Key West and Dry Tortugas. If conditions look good, then book your ticket.

 

What to Bring

The ferry’s website provides very good information on almost all aspects of the trip.  Since this is an all-day excursion consider packing the following: comfortable footwear, light jacket, towel, bathing suit, change of clothes, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, camera and possibly something to read.

 

Itinerary

The ferry is a comfortable, fast catamaran with indoor and outdoor seating. Breakfast and lunch are included. Snorkeling equipment, entrance fee for Dry Tortugas National Park and Fort Jefferson is also included.

Check in time is at 7 a.m. Once you check in, you’re issued a boarding pass, so if you’d like to select a really good seat it’s a good idea to arrive a little early.  Boarding begins at 7:30 and the ferry departs at 8.

Tip:  Crew will tell you that breakfast will be available for some time, so no need to rush.  Breakfast is only available for one hour and once out of a food item, such as fresh fruit, there were no replacements. Recommend you line up and get breakfast early.

The ride is a little over two hours with scenic views leaving Key West, possible dolphin sightings halfway and lovely views approaching Ft. Jefferson.

The ferry arrives at approximately 10:15. Most passengers will disembark and get outfitted with snorkeling equipment. The Fort Jefferson tour starts at 11 and takes almost an hour. It is possible to tour the fort and snorkel after, but a little planning is required.

Tip:  Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. right in the middle of all these activities.  It’s a similar situation to breakfast with the best items available until gone. You can tour the fort, and, if you eat right after, you should still have a good selection.

After lunch, you will still have time to go swimming or snorkeling, as the boat leaves at 3 p.m. Passengers will start to board at 2:30, a return a little earlier will beat the crowds for showers, clothing changes and seats. It’s a full day and many passengers slept on the return trip, arriving refreshed in Key West by 5:30 p.m.

 

Dry Tortugas National Park

www.nps.gov/drto

 

Dry Tortugas Ferry

www.drytortugas.com

October 2022 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

October 2022 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

First and foremost, all of us at The News hope that all of you reading this came through Hurricane Ian healthy and safe. Our News team fared well, considering. A few trees and power lines down, loss of power, and the general inconveniences of temporarily...

September 2022 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

September 2022 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

In this issue… Run with the Hemingways, explore the new ER at Sun City Center, take a Night Out with the sheriff’s department, see how SCC is Sprucing Up, celebrate Photo Club competition winners, get updated on the Long Range Plan, make some...

Local Lookalikes Run With the Hemingways

Local Lookalikes Run With the Hemingways

Local Lookalikes Run With the HemingwaysBy Kai Rambow “Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” – Ernest Hemingway“There might have been some alcohol involved,” recalled Gary Mull.  Mull...

Community Expo Showcases ER at Sun City Center

Community Expo Showcases ER at Sun City Center

Community Expo Showcases ER at Sun City CenterBy Bob Sanchez The ER at Sun City Center hosted a Community Expo to show off the brand-new facility to the public. The free-standing building is an extension of Manatee Memorial Hospital....

5th Annual SCC Relay for Life Surpasses Goal

5th Annual SCC Relay for Life Surpasses Goal

5th Annual SCC Relay for Life Surpasses Goal By Bob Sanchez The 5th annual SCC Mini-Relay for Life drew hundreds to St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church on July 29 to raise money in the fight against cancer. The event raised $16,757.39, easily...

August 2022 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

August 2022 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

In this issue… Learn how volunteers here and abroad are helping Ukrainian refugees, meet some local teens investing in our community, catch the raptor show at the Florida Aquarium, celebrate our Independence, raise a nesting pole with the...

The August 2019 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

The August 2019 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

In this issue…

Recall the fun of the Fourth of July Breakfast and Pool Party, find a new and interesting story in local Book Nooks, meet a neighbor who’s a real clown, and get to know a creative local sculptor. Then, discover an idyllic North Florida getaway, learn why TV star Mike Rowe was in town, discover how the Florida Aquarium is saving sea turtles right here in South County, meet a local athlete, have Coffee with a Cop, and learn how to protect your pets during the Dog Days of Summer.

Then be sure to…

Check out the SCC Bulletin, Kings Point, Community News, Dance, Military News, Faith & Service, Arts, Sports, Travel, and South County Events sections to help you plan your month. And travel with your friends and neighbors who took The News around the world.

Read the August 2019 Issue of The News

October 2022 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

October 2022 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

First and foremost, all of us at The News hope that all of you reading this came through Hurricane Ian healthy and safe. Our News team fared well, considering. A few trees and power lines down, loss of power, and the general inconveniences of temporarily...

September 2022 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

September 2022 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

In this issue… Run with the Hemingways, explore the new ER at Sun City Center, take a Night Out with the sheriff’s department, see how SCC is Sprucing Up, celebrate Photo Club competition winners, get updated on the Long Range Plan, make some...

Local Lookalikes Run With the Hemingways

Local Lookalikes Run With the Hemingways

Local Lookalikes Run With the HemingwaysBy Kai Rambow “Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” – Ernest Hemingway“There might have been some alcohol involved,” recalled Gary Mull.  Mull...

Community Expo Showcases ER at Sun City Center

Community Expo Showcases ER at Sun City Center

Community Expo Showcases ER at Sun City CenterBy Bob Sanchez The ER at Sun City Center hosted a Community Expo to show off the brand-new facility to the public. The free-standing building is an extension of Manatee Memorial Hospital....

5th Annual SCC Relay for Life Surpasses Goal

5th Annual SCC Relay for Life Surpasses Goal

5th Annual SCC Relay for Life Surpasses Goal By Bob Sanchez The 5th annual SCC Mini-Relay for Life drew hundreds to St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church on July 29 to raise money in the fight against cancer. The event raised $16,757.39, easily...

August 2022 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

August 2022 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

In this issue… Learn how volunteers here and abroad are helping Ukrainian refugees, meet some local teens investing in our community, catch the raptor show at the Florida Aquarium, celebrate our Independence, raise a nesting pole with the...