Fiesta Key and Jolly Roger

Upon leaving the timeshare in Orlando, we were reserved in Thousand Trails Orlando (Clermont) where we will be spending quite a bit of time this winter. Because the half price discounts offered via Passport America are not accepted after November in most parks in the keys, we realized we should make a trip down there while the discount is good. So off we went for 9 nights in the keys.

On the way down, we stopped in at John Pennekamp State Park and spent a couple hours there. Then we spent our first couple of nights at Fiesta Key. Some things about this park were very nice - they put us in a spot just behind waterfront - not bad for the half price deal. Their restrooms had been remodeled, the restaurant / bar area and many other areas of the park were in the process of being upgraded. Nice to see Encore is working on it! However, there were some areas that really looked run down, including the sad little hot tubs (new layer of paint probably isn't gonna help much). We did enjoy our stay, had several really nice neighbors including a guy who clued me in to using Shea Butter to keep off the no-see-ums. It works - seems to be a real solution for noseeums - awesome!

I also like this area for the Florida Overseas Heritage Trail which ran uninteruppted all the way north to the Channel 5 Bridge and all the way south through Layton and Long Key State Park...I was able to do a 6 mile walk easily without ever having to walk on the highway.

During our stay at Jolly Roger, we donated blood at Dolphin Research Center and spent the rest of the morning seeing our dolphin friends. We also visited our old favorite restaurants including Sparky's (still has the 25 cent wings and shrimp, but wasn't as good this time!) and Kings Seafood (which still has outstanding and very inexpensive seafood soup). We also got together with some Jolly Roger friends for happy hour at Cabana Breezes (they also have 25 cent wings and shrimp now, and a really good band) in Key Colony Beach. It was great to catch up with many of our friends at Jolly Roger! Sorry we missed a few who haven't arrived yet.

at John Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo

Gary just has to get that bobber!

Showing off his bobber as we walked the Wild Tamarind Trail

Nice long entrance road into Fiesta Key, and they've given it a facelift

All new beach furniture

The swimming / snorkel area was pretty full of seagrasses during our stay, due to the wind

Hot tub not operational, they are repainting

The bar / restaurant was closed, but you could still sit at the tables on the waterfront

Their pool area has a fantastic water view all around

Mouth of the harbor

Looking from the pool area over their very large harbor

It's a large pool with an 8-ft deep end

This harbor can accomodate some pretty large boats

Waterfront and pavillion near the premium sites

One entire section was full of trailers for a reality TV show filming

Fiesta Key is almost directly south of Flamingo in the Everglades

Just one row back from the waterfront

Nice sunset over the harbor

This vulture adds a special touch to the "Drive Carefully" sign

Our old favorite

Ah, Talon and Pax - glad we were able to spend some time here

Snorkeling with the nurse shark at Jolly Roger

And a puffer fish

And the big school of brightly colored parrot fish

A cool experience with Sandhill Cranes - up close and personal

I really like Sandhill Cranes. Their calls can be so mesmerizing echoing over a foggy lake. They are big, beautiful majestic birds. But in Florida, they seem to be everywhere and I can imagine some Floridians feel about them the same way many Canadians feel about Canada Geese - they can be noisy and very very messy!

While at Wild Florida, we were sitting in the picnic area and 2 cranes approached us, calling loudly - I can only assume they were begging...?  They walked right up to me and weren't slowing down...I had to get out of their way! There was a lady behind us who was talking to them, maybe they were heading her way? Here's the video:

Video of Sandhill Cranes calling

2014-11-06 Airboat Ride at Wild Florida

We attended a 90-minute timeshare presentation (actual time: more like 3 hours). For our 3 hour investment, we got a $25 certificate for an italian restaurant, and also an airboat ride. Though I don't recommend investing your vacation time attending a high-pressure sales presentation, in our case, we have the time available and it allowed us to do something we otherwise would not have spent money on. we went to Wild Florida.

The airboat ride was really fun - we've never done that before! Saw lots of birds, alligators, and also got to enjoy their wildlife park. It was feeding time so all the animals were out and active. Nicely maintained and all the enclosures seemed clean, though I still am sorry for animals which seem to be in enclosures which are too small.

The trip to Wild Florida was in the same vicinity as our "next door neighbors" in Maine - Paul and Carolyn. So we planned this visit for the same day, to save fuel. We had lunch at the little restaurant in their park and had a nice visit!

what do we see?


Bald eagle

Lots of birds!

Scariest thing yet - Gary in the driver seat!

A really spectacular Cypress Swamp

Lots of big gators in the enclosed swamp

Is this sign really necessary?

Many other animals kept in this park

King Julien! Let's see if he can whistle

This wonderful sloth put on a little (slow) show for us

And there he goes...slowly ever so slowly...

One of the most amazing animals was the cotton top tamarin

After Wild Florida, we headed over to St Clair to visit Paul and Carolyn, who are staying in a park which is undergoing improvements and is really quite nice. They have a terrific roomy and shady spot, a nice pool area, and a really good little restaurant in the park.
Sandhill Cranes seem to be everywhere in Florida, and not shy

Pretty little lake in the park

An endangered Wood Stork!