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Archive for October, 2012

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We now come to my least favorite part of the Panhandle, Crestview. I mean, it’s a thriving town, due to state politicians from the area ensuring there were big military bases in the area. Happy that people have jobs and a growing economy and all that. But the place has none of the charm that you find anywhere else in the Panhandle. The courthouse isn’t on US 90, though close. And it’s ugly. The only part that looks older than 20 years is the downtown historic district. Yet that doesn’t help much, since it’s only a few blocks long and fairly blah. Downtown Wildwood is more interesting, and that’s saying something.

So scope out the historic district, and maybe the old depot on the edge that’s closed now. If you’re hungry, you can kill two birds by going to the KFC on SR 85 and visiting the Lundy monument across from it. ‘Cause that’s about all the scenicness the town has to offer. If there’s anything else, I’d love to know about it. (see Google map)

From here, you can continue on US 90 east, or take a radical detour to Alabama, or near enough. It’s going to take at least an hour out of your trip, but I’d include it. Maybe not the first time you’re in this neck of the woods, but some time. You see, you’re only 30 miles from the highest natural point in Florida. All 345 feet of it. Britton Hill.

It’s less than a mile from the Alabama, and the town of Florala. The road to get to Britton Hill (CR 285) is not as well maintained as I’d expect for one leading to such a significant state landmark. Even the signage to get there isn’t that great. A small park has been built on the site, with basic facilities. It’s across from a huge open field, so you can see the landscape rolling away from you. The drive to and from here is pretty and relaxing too, what with the gentle up-and-down of the road and the almost total lack of traffic. This is what I’m talking about when I tell folks how great the Panhandle is, Crestview notwithstanding. (see Google map)

Getting to US 90 again from here, just take US 331 south. Should you be going east on US 90 from Crestview instead, you’ve got another 30 miles stretch of forest to go through. Now, though, the trees are closer and the road curves more. Not radically, just enough so you’re not subject to highway hypnosis. The next town is as opposite as you can get from Crestview. Probably why it’s my favorite town in the Panhandle. That and the name. DeFuniak Springs.

It was named after Frederick R. De Funiak, a VP for the L&N Railroad. For a while it was a social center, home to a southern branch of the Chautauqua. The town was built around Lake DeFuniak. Circle Drive goes around the lake, but only three buildings are on the inner side. They are the First Presbyterian Church, the Walton-DeFuniak Library, and the Chautauqua Hall of Brotherhood. All the others are on the outside, so it’s like the lake is surrounded by a long circular park. Lake DeFuniak itself is the only round spring-fed lake in the Western Hemisphere. The only other lake like it is near Zurich.

Unlike Crestview, major efforts have been made to preserve DeFuniak Springs’ past. Most of the houses around the lake are historic, the downtown has lots of historic buildings. Unfortunately, this hasn’t helped out their economy as much as it should. I wouldn’t want it to turn into Crestview, but it would be nice if they got more tourism so they’d have more income to help in their preservation efforts. Please visit, walk around the lake and downtown, go to the winery south of town, stay the night, and tell your friends. It’s also a great place to use as a base to explore the area. (see Google map)

Twelve miles to the east of DeFuniak Springs is the subject of my very first post on this blog, Ponce de Leon Springs State Park. That post, and these pictures, say it all. (see Google map)

You’ll be coming to the Choctawhatchee River soon. If you want to get a different perspective, and a better look at the river, take the turnoff on your right (Boat Ramp Road) just after crossing the bridge. It ends in an open area at the river. You can see the underside of the bridge, and see the old railroad bridge next to it up close and personal. There aren’t any tables, but if it’s sunny and you have a blanket and some food, it wouldn’t be a bad place for a picnic.

Time for one more detour almost to Alabama, up CR 179. This one is only 13 miles, though, and the road is fairly level the whole way. It’s another one I’m proud of, since it was hard to find. It happens to be the only NRHP in Holmes County, the Keith Cabin. I tried finding it the first time I was in the area in 2008, but failed. I thought I’d passed it, but after I got home and did more research, I realized I hadn’t gone far enough. I didn’t get back to the area for over 2 and a half years, but when I did, I found it. Made of wood and over a century, yet it looks brand new. Someone, or someones, put a lot of love into it being in that great of condition. (see Google map)

Last is Bonifay. It’s the county seat for Holmes County, but I just passed through until I found there were a few historic bits. Nothing on the NRHP, but there is stuff that’s eligible. I rather like the old houses. (see Google map)

  • Residence (105 Waukasha Street) (AGFHA)
  • Commercial Buildings (Pennsylvania Avenue and Waukasha Street) (AGFHA)
  • Holmes County Courthouse (201 North Oklahoma Street)
  • Old Holmes County Jail (North Oklahoma St and Nebraska Ave)
  • Residence (209 Kansas St. East) (AGFHA)
  • Residence (411 Tracey St. North) (AGFHA)
  • Residence (803 Waukasha Street) (AGFHA)

Nearly done with US 90. In a few weeks I’ll knock out the last bit, between Bonifay and Tallahassee. Oh, except for Jacksonville, but I’m putting that off for a while. Sorry, just not a big fan of that city. Anyway, that’s it for now. See you on the road!

Route length: 85 miles

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We return to the Pensacola vicinity to explore the other major road in and out of town (not including the interstate), US 90. I’ve covered the stretch east of Tallahassee. Now it’s time to cover the west half.

I’ve mentioned before what a pleasant drive most of I-10 is. This is especially true of this section, even zooming through. There are no major cities between Pensacola and Tallahassee. Since the speed limit is 70 mph, that means you can go from one to the other in three hours or less. Should you want to get to any of the county seats along the way, they’re all within about 6 miles of the interstate. So start in Pensacola, or Tallahassee, or anywhere in-between; it’s all easily accessible.

Should you eschew the interstate, I would recommend one stop along it that you might like to check out. It’s the longest entrance to a rest stop in the state. If you’re going west, that is. On the east side of the Apalachicola River is a rest stop on the south side of the interstate. Going west, you have to take an off-ramp and cross a bridge over the interstate to get to it. The medians around here are wide, a quarter of a mile or more. Honestly, you’ll think you’re never going to reach the end.

Once you get there, though, you’ll find a larger rest area than others along the way. It’s probably because it serves eastbound and westbound traffic. Picnic tables, a walking path, and large bathrooms. There may be showers, but I can’t remember for sure. Unfortunately, you can’t see the Apalachicola River from the rest stop, nor get close to it.

Which is another reason to visit the rest stop, since you’ll cross the big bridge that crosses the river. All the bridges that cross the river are impressive, and I’ve seen everyone, so believe you me.

Enough about the interstate; we’re doing US 90. Speed limits in the urban areas are 35-45, but between they’re 55-65. Just the driving between Pensacola and Tallahassee will take you about 4 hours.

We’ll begin in Milton, which though in the next county over, is a suburb of Pensacola. The first spot is on the western fringes of Milton, the Arcadia Sawmill and Arcadia Cotton Mill. This was another one of those that had vague directions. However, some research led me to discover the site was now part of a historic preservation park thing. There are informational displays, and a long boardwalk that takes you through the adjacent semi-swampy areas.

From here you can go next to Bagdad or Milton. I suggest the former, as you’ll be doing less backtracking.

Bagdad is only a couple miles south of Milton. Most of it is a historic district. I’ve walked a bit of it, but mostly drove around. Didn’t see any sort of downtown; it’s all residential. Considering how close they are to Milton, I guess they never really needed a commercial area. I couldn’t find any of the slave houses mentioned in AGFHA, but I didn’t look very hard for them. They could be gone; I’d be amazed if any still survived.  I’m sure the local history folks could help to find out. (see Google map)

  • Bagdad Village Historic District (Roughly bounded by Main, Water, & Oak Streets, Cobb & Woodville Roads, Cemetery, Pooley, & School Streets) (NRHP)
  • Benjamin W. Thompson House (4661 Forsyth Street) (AGFHA)
  • Bagdad Post Office (Thompson Street and Forsythe Street) (AGFHA)
  • Bagdad Methodist Church (Forsyth Street and Overman Street) (AGFHA)
  • Emma Fournier Forcade-Donald Youngblood House (Church and Allen Streets) (AGFHA)
  • McNair House (Allen Street) (AGFHA)
  • Slave House (Limit Street) (AGFHA)

In the US 98 posts for this region, I mentioned Yellow River Marsh State Park. You can get to it from Bagdad as well as US 98. It’s remote either way. (see Google map)

Now go over the small bridge that crosses the creek that separates Bagdad and Milton. You’ll initially encounter the old depot, which now houses a railroad museum. Further on you’ll enter the historic district, which encompasses most of downtown Milton and a block or three north and south. The building where the local historical museum was got damaged by fire back in 2009. They had to close it, but it may have reopened by now. I hope so, ’cause I rather like Milton, and would like to learn more about the area from the folks there. Maybe even a story or two about their most famous son.

I mentioned a while back that US 90 goes by the courthouse of every county it passes through. Across from the history museum is one, for Santa Rosa. I didn’t think it was an old one, but I found out it was built in 1921. There was remodeling done 40 years later, which may have reduced how much of the old architecture you could see and thrown me off. But I did like it when I first saw it, even thinking it was modern.

The local historic society has put out a walking tour, which you can find here. (see Google map)

When I was doing Wellborn, I talked about the bit of Florida State Road No. 1 that was still there. Now you can see a much longer section, that’s also on the NRHP. It goes several miles west of Milton, just to the north of US 90. I’ve seen at least one car parked on it, so you can drive it (very slowly) for old time’s sake. Or just park nearby and walk along it. Very much like the old brick Dixie Highway, a part of which is east of Hastings, but a better-kept portion is in Maitland. (see Google map)

Once you get past the end of old Florida State Road 1, you’ll be going through some of the Blackwater River State Forest. That’s about all you’ll see for the next 25 miles. Do look for the turnoff to get to the Blackwater River State Forest. It’s very popular with canoers. Even though out of the way, there were a goodly amount of folks picnicking and such both times I was there.

By the by, the photo at the top of the blog is of the Blackwater River, in the park. In case you needed some additional encouragement to check it out.

Just before you get into Crestview, there’s another turnoff that will take you to the Baker Block Museum. Which is in the town of Baker, and is a living history museum. I’m not sure what the ‘Block’ part is all about. The building isn’t a block long. (see Google map)

We’ll stop here. Next time, my least and most favorite towns in the Panhandle. See you on the road!

Route length: 35 miles

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We were leaving Charlotte County on US 41 last time. You’re about to re-enter Lee County now. From here on, you’re not going to see anymore "nature" on US 41 until you get out of Naples. Then you’ll see nothing but nature until you reach Miami.

First you’ll reach North Fort Myers. Take a right onto Pine Island Road and you’ll get to the old J. Colin English School. Like most schools, you’ll have better parking options if you visit on the weekend. Plus you can get pictures of the buildings without all those annoying kids in the way.

The next few spots are way west on Pine Island. I’ve not seen a one of them, so can’t say whether they’re worth the trip or not. You’ll have to get to the north end of the island to catch a boat to Cayo Costa State Park. So if you want to see that, you can always check out some of the other things along the way. (see Google map)

South on US 41 again, you’ll encounter another big bridge. This one crosses the Caloosahatchee River, whose start you may have seen if you did the Lake Okeechobee circumnavigation. You’ll also be going over the Caloosahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, which is a small island in the middle of the river. You may feel a bit deja vu, because once again you’ll be in a historic district on the other side. But this time you’re in Fort Myers, and the district is a bit smaller.

Like Punta Gorda, I’m going to the outer limits to the east first. In fact, so far out you might consider coming from the other direction. I have, via LaBelle once and Arcadia another time.

This next several miles will be educational in more ways than one, since you’ll see four old schools. All are still in use, but not all are schools now.

We’ll start in Alva. Don’t know if the name of the town has anything to do with one of the most famous winter residents of the area, Thomas Edison. Bit of a coincidence if it didn’t. On the north side of Okeechobee Waterway are the Alva Consolidated Schools. They remind me of the old Clewiston Schools, in that they are two different styled buildings next to each other. Cross the Waterway and visit the Eden Vineyards & Winery. No, not been there yet, but hope to. Next are the Olga School and the Buckingham School, both of which are now community centers.

After that, you’re out of the suburbs and in Fort Myers, or close to. You’ll pass the old Merge-Hansen Marina, the last old school (Tice Grammer), and the Terry Park Ballfield. Which was full up when I stopped there. (see Google map)

Further in are some historical houses and museums. Oh, and a couple more historic schools. I think Lee County may have more schools on the NRHP than any other county, now that I think of it. (see Google map)

Next are a number of older homes, some of specific interest. My favorite is the Murphy-Burroughs House. It’s somehow palatial and casual at the same time. Plus behind it you can get an amazing view of the two US 41 bridges. (see Google map)

Finally back in the historic district. It’s roughly a square mile, so it’s very walkable. If you can park in the middle, that’s ideal. But if the streets are filled up, you should park at two of the opposite sides, which works almost as well. It seems like most of the buildings here are historic, but they may have building codes set so new construction has to blend in. However they did it, they did it right.

Just outside the district limits is the Towles House, which looks like it was built a year ago. Another great job of upkeep. If only more cities had the resources to do the same, or the will. (see Google map)

  • Fort Myers Downtown Commercial District (Roughly bounded by Bay and Lee Streets, Anderson Avenue and Monroe Street) (NRHP)
  • Earnhardt Building (2258 1st St) (AGFHA)
  • First National Bank (2248 1st St) (AGFHA)
  • Old Lee County Bank (1534 Hendry St) (AGFHA)
  • Richards Building (1615 Hendry St) (AGFHA)
  • Robby and Stucky Building (1625 Hendry St) (AGFHA)
  • Lee County Courthouse (2120 Main Street) (NRHP)
  • US Courthouse and Federal Building (2110 1st Street ) (NRHP)
  • William H. Towles House (2050 McGregor Boulevard) (NRHP)

Last but perhaps most are three houses, all in a row. Well, two of them. The third, Casa Rio, is nice, from what I could see through the gate. But next to it are the winter estates of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. Didja know they both lived here and were neighbors, back in the day? I did, thanks to my NRHP obsession. It’ll cost you twenty bucks to get past the fence and see the houses up close. I didn’t feel like laying that much out the last time I was there, so I took shots from the sidewalk. Easy, since it’s a low picket fence. Next time I’m there, I think I’ll actually go in. Hmm, I’m putting together an itinerary to revisit down there, ain’t I? (see Google map)

The next two locales I’d suggest going to on the weekend, ’cause the road (CR 869) that gets to both is busy, especially during weekday rush hours.

Firstly, Fort Myers Beach. It’s a 30-35 mph speed limit through the developed area, so don’t expect to zoom through. The old school and the Mound House are pretty close together, the state park about five miles down. It has two entrances. If you want a park passport stamp, go to the southern one. You can also see Mound Key to the north from here. If you have a boat, this is one of the places to get there. (see Google map)

Return to CR 869 and head west to Sanibel. I’d heard about the place, but wasn’t prepared for how wildly popular it was. The downswing in the economy doesn’t seem to have hurt them much, if the massive traffic when I visited is any indication. There’s just one land route, which has a toll bridge. Six dollars later and you’ll be on the island.

A good part of the island is a National Wildlife Refuge, but the rest is developed and then some. The high rises are closer to the beach, with the small touristy buildings near the bridge. I like the old lighthouse on the east end of the island, even with the two dollar parking fee. There’s a very new NRHP there, the ‘Tween Waters Inn. I hadn’t planned on going back, but I guess I’ll have to brave a return visit. Still, if I go on a weekend next time, perhaps I’ll enjoy it more. (see Google map)

There are a few bits left around the edges. Like the Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium, which appears to be surrounded by a golf course. And the Railroad Museum of South Florida, not to be confused with the Southwest Florida Museum of History housed in an old railroad depot. (see Google map)

Time to go to Naples. But along the way is a state park that made me break my 30 minute rule. One of my top ten favorites, Koreshan Unity Settlement Historic District. It was the home of an odd cult (yep, Florida). They’re not around anymore, since celibacy was part of their religion, and they didn’t get that many converts. There’s a shocker. But most of the wooden buildings they constructed remain, after over 100 years. It’s right on US 41, so it’s easy to find and not a diversion at all.

Oh, the 30 minute rule? Well, I wanted to visit all 150+ state parks in a reasonable amount of time. Especially since I was trying to visit all 1600 or so NRHPs as well. So I decided early on to only spend a half hour in each state park. If I liked what I saw, I could always come back in the future and spend more time. There were only a few state parks that tempted me into staying longer during the first visit, like Koreshan. That it’s on the NRHP as well was a factor, but I’m also a sucker for the bizarre. And Koreshanity? Pretty bizarre. (see Google map)

There you are, southwest Florida. I shan’t be doing a Naples post for a few weeks, unless there’s a-clamoring. So many places, doncha know. See you on the road!

Route length: 230 miles

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This series of posts will be about the last part of the state I visited, southwest Florida. US 41 through Charlotte and Lee Counties, specifically. I wrote an extensive description of my first visit in April 2010. I made a follow-up trip the following year, to get those bits and bobs I didn’t get before. Now I’ll give you the whole kit and kaboodle, in one nicely wrapped package. Well, two.

Note that this area contains one of the larger concentrations of National Wildlife Refuges in the state. Most are restricted to the public, as they are, you know, meant to be refuges for wildlife away from people.

This part of the state was also hit hard by the collapse of the housing bubble. Couldn’t prove it by me, though. When I was there in 2010 and 2011, there was much hustling and bustling. No empty storefronts I could see, or forests of For Sale signs. They seem to be recovering now, so go and pump some money into their economy, eh?

First off is Charlotte County. In a state with possum monuments and psychic towns and gravity defying hills and bat towers, the first stop on this trip is in a class by itself. And I’ve not seen it yet! I’ve gotten to most everything I wanted in that region, so I dunno when I’ll get around to checking it out. Maybe on the way back from spending a night in Everglades City.

Oh, the quirky attraction, which I hope is still there? It’s in a Dairy Queen off I-75 at the Kings Highway exit. In one of their restrooms, to be specific. It’s the she-inal. Which is a urinal, for women.

What a brilliant idea, right? Not so much. Someone came up with the concept in the ’90s, and they were installed all over the US. In Dairy Queens, primarily. They weren’t popular, though, so they gradually disappeared from DQ bathrooms. This one, near Port Charlotte, is one of the few left. Yep, another of those ‘only in Florida’ oddities that make me love my home state. Thank you, Lord, for making Florida so… abby-normal.

Next stop is a terrific place to learn about the counties’ past, the Charlotte County Historical Center. The lady there when I visited was very helpful. There are a goodly number of books and old photographs, so soak up all the history you like.

Across the street is the site of the old Mott Willis Store. It’s one of the sad NRHP stories, since it was torn down only a year after being added to the Register. Many people labor under the misapprehension that National Register status protects sites from destruction. Not so. It mostly recognizes they’re worth protecting. It allows access to tax incentives for restoration and such, and can be used to promote a place to encourage preservation. But I’ve run across several buildings that have been demolished by man, not nature, after being added. Sometimes money from Uncle Sam can’t fix a problem, doncha know.

From here, head southwest. You’re heading for Boca Grande, but there’s some stuff to see along the way. Like El Jobean. It was a housing development that never really developed. Just off El Jobean Road you can find two NRHPs, an old post office and old hotel across the street. The hotel is barely visible. Not because it’s far from the road, but because it’s horrendously overgrown. I’m surprised that any of it is standing. Unless someone takes an interest in the near future, it won’t be standing for much longer. The post office, on the other hand, is in use. There are some pictures of the area in one room, and the rest is a casual restaurant. I recommend the burgers. The one I had was yummy and decently priced. That and the fries held me over most of the way back to Ocala.

Over a bridge and you’re near two state parks, Stump Pass Beach and Don Pedro Island. The first looks popular (nice beaches). Don Pedro Island is only accessible by boat, so if you’ve not got one (like me), you’ll have to just look at the island from the dock on the shore. (see Google map)

About 3 miles down from the Don Pedro Island State Park shoreside entrance, take a right onto Boca Grande Causeway. Which will lead you, inevitably, to Boca Grande, which is in Lee County. It’s like several of the islands around here, where there’s a fee to get on them. Usually it’s around 5 to 6 bucks.

Once you pay, you’re on your way. There are a couple more bridges you’ll cross, where you can see quite a few boats on the water. It is built up, but nowhere near as much as, say, Sanibel Island. After the bridges, you’ll be on a narrow two-lane road with a bike/walking path next to it. Eventually the road opens up a bit and you’re in Boca Grande proper.

The historic sites are in clusters, so you’ll be doing the park-walk-drive-repeat tango a few times. But I don’t think you’ll mind, since there’s little traffic and adequate parking all over and it’s so darn quaint.

Keep heading south on Gulf Boulevard and you’ll get to Gasparilla Island State Park, where besides some outstanding beaches you’ll find two old lighthouses. One is tall and metal, which you’ll pass first. At the end of the road is the other, low and square. The keeper’s quarters are right next to it. If you get there at sunrise on a weekday morning, like I did, there’s a good chance you’ll have the place to yourself. I can imagine there are hordes of people here on the weekends. If you look northeast, you may be able to make out the Island Bay National Wildlife Refuge. It’s a restricted one, so even with a boat you can’t land on it. Admire it only from afar. (see Google map)

Time to head back to the mainland, and Charlotte County. You want to catch US 41 south. Once you cross the bridge over the Peace River, you’ll be smack in Punta Gorda.

In fact, you’re pretty much in the historic district. I’ll dwell on it in a bit, but first the outlying stuff.

Go northeast on US 17 to get to the neighborhood where two NRHP houses are. Villa Bianca is a private home, but you can get fairly close to the Babcock House. I think it’s been recently renovated; it looks practically new when I was there. (see Google map)

Now head back towards downtown. You’ll notice how little developed it is along here. I don’t know why, but it’s nice to see for a change.

The old high school got hit hard by the 2004 hurricanes, but you couldn’t tell. They’ve done a great job with repairs. I was there on a weekday, and the place was in full swing. Nearby is the old railroad depot, which is now a historical museum. (see Google map)

North on US 41 will get you back to the historic district. It’s moderate-sized, so you can’t just park the spot and walk the whole thing, unless you want to spend half the day doing so. Check the map link and decide your strategy. Parking is good, with some streets metered. On Retta Esplanade west of US 41, there’s a city park where you needn’t pay for parking. So if you want to do more walking then driving, park here and save yourself some money.

It’s a pretty park anyway, right on the river, so it’s worth stopping at in its own right. There are also standard park facilities available, well-maintained. After you’ve been on as many roadtrips as I have, you find yourself being as happy to find clean public restrooms as interesting historical sites. File them away for future trips. Knowing where the bathrooms are will save you a whole bunch of leg crossing and feelings of desperation.

If it’s open, you can visit the A. C. Freeman House, which has a history museum and Chamber of Commerce offices. Lots of useful info to be had there, I’m sure.

I wasn’t particularly moved when I first visited Punta Gorda. It just seemed like a generic model for midsized Florida cities. The second time, though, I warmed up to it. The weather was as close to perfect as it gets on both trips, which helped. I also noticed how beachy it felt. It’s the architecture; quite a few houses along Retta Esplanade wouldn’t look out of place in Cedar Key or Fernandina Beach. Which is odd, since Punta Gorda doesn’t have beaches. Not even on the river.

I’ve knocked everything off the list that I wanted to see in Punta Gorda, so it’s not like I feel compelled to go back there. But there’s a niggling wish that a new NRHP will get added so I’d have to return to photograph it. And let’s not forget the she-inal. We shall see. (see Google map)

You can go down Burnt Store Road to get to Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park. It don’t impress me much. If you like hiking or horseback riding, you’ll probably love it, ’cause there are scads of room to do both. (see Google map)

Otherwise, go south on US 41. In a little while, the buildings thin out. You’re not driving through protected lands, but it feels like you are. There’s mostly road and semi-prairieness for the next 15 miles. Enjoy, because after this there’s nothing but city driving.

That’s it for Charlotte County, and a little bit of Lee. Next time, the rest of Lee. See you on the road!

Route length: 100 miles

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Finally, the last part of underdeveloped US 1/A1A.

We left off at Savannas Preserve State Park. Go down South Indian River Drive. At some point it changes to Northeast Indian River Drive, and you’re in Jensen Beach. Look for the Northeast Dixie Highway turnoff on the right. Go down that for half a mile and you’ll see a relic of Florida tourism gone by, the Stuart Welcome Arch.

When this part of Dixie Highway was well-used, visitors from the north would flock down in their jalopies at breakneck speed. I think they may have exceeded 30 mph! When they got this far, they would see ‘Stuart’ emblazoned on the Arch as they passed through. On their way home, they would see ‘Jensen’. The Arch has been renovated over the years, and the names are still on each side. There’s an abandoned Twistee Treat right next to it. Perfect place to park and walk around to get the whole over-Arching experience.

Back over on Indian River Drive is Indian Riverside Park, which is part entertainment complex. There are a couple of museums, a long pier out into the Lagoon, and an old house on a Indian Mound. I always like when a lot of cool stuff is close together like this.

There’s another museum further down the road. Beyond that a ways is the last surviving House of Refuge in the state. There were a series of such houses along the east coast to help shipwrecked sailors. One of the shipwrecks is right off the coast from here, the Georges Valentine. This is also were you’ll start to see the rocky stretch of the east coast, which goes down to Jupiter. I was there on a stormy day, and I can imagine how desolate this area must have been when the Refuge was first built. It reminds me of some parts of California along the Pacific. Without the seals, though.

I included the Bay Tree Lodge, but you’ll have to park on the roadside if you want to get a closer look. An OK-looking building, but maybe more effort than it’s worth to see it. (see Google map)

Cross the US 1 bridge to get to the historic buildings in Stuart. Visit the Stuart Heritage Museum if you want to learn more about the area’s history. Some historic sites are close by as well. To see the sites closer to US 1, I suggest parking at Shepard Park. I’m all about the free parking.

If you want to visit St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park, there’s no easy public access. You can either park and walk for a few miles, or take a boat. (see Google map)

Head south and you can visit a couple more bits of Stuart history. Then down Dixie Highway will get you to Seabranch Preserve State Park. Look sharp, there’s only a parking lot near the VFW with a small picnic area. Go beyond that if you’re into nature hikes through the sand and scrub.

To the east is St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park. It’s accessible by boat, or a very long walk. Should you have a kayak, the best access point is at the end of Cove Road. There’s a big dock on the west side of the park that you can probably see from there. If you want to take the land route, head south from Seabranch until you get to Southeast Bridge Road and take a left. When you reach Beach Road, go north by the fancy homes sheltered by palm trees and seagrape bushes. You may go by Beach Road 2, a Florida’s 100 building, since it’s on North Beach Road. It does look pretty cool, but I don’t think you can see it from the street. From what I’ve turned up, the owners prefer it that way, so don’t look hard. At the end is the parking area for the north end of the Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge, which costs 5 bucks to use. From there, it’s 3 miles up the beach through the refuge to get to the state park. (see Google map)

Off US 1 further down is Hobe Sound, and the old Olympia School. It was in sad shape when I was there, but it’s been recently renovated, which I’m always happy to find out.

Further down and A1A and US 1 merge and stay so into Palm Beach County. The next concentration of civilization is miles down, because you’re going through federal and state preserved land until you get to Jupiter. Nothing but sand dunes covered in palmettos and grass. It’s hard to believe that West Palm Beach is so close.

You’ll go through more of the National Wildlife Refuge first, and there’s a visitor center on the east side of the road. They didn’t know about Reed Wilderness Seashore Sanctuary, the NNL that’s part of the refuge. Surprising. (see Google map)

Right next to the refuge is Jonathan Dickinson State Park, which contains a hodge-podge of history. The man the park was named for was a Quaker who shipwrecked here in the 17th century. There was a military camp here during World War II, and an eccentric trapper lived on the Loxahatchee River. It’s a big park, with an observation tower that gives you a spectacular view of the area. You can see the Atlanticto the east, and the scrub and trees going on and on in all other directions. Further in is a visitor center, and nearby is a picnic area which is the jump-off point for a boat tour of the Loxahatchee. It goes to the trapper’s former home. Be advised that there are only about 4 tours a day, and they’re dependent on times. Too low and they won’t go. I’ve not managed to get there at the right time yet. I want to take the tour, but definitely need to plan ahead for it when I next get down there.

After leaving the park environs, you’ll soon be in Jupiter. The city, not the planet. It’s in Palm Beach County, and is the last bit of calm before you enter the maelstrom that is South Florida. Any time I’m going north from Miami, it’s where I feel like I’ve finally escaped from Miami. ‘Cause it’s all urban, urban, urban from North Palm Beach to Homestead. Yeah, since I left, I do not miss it down there.

OK, upbeat. I’ve fallen in serious like of Jupiter. On the north side of town is an old lighthouse. Blowing Rocks Preserve is not too far away, on Jupiter Island. I keep getting there at the wrong time. I look forward to seeing it, since it’s like the area near the House of Refuge. But with plants growing along the shore, so it’s not so barren. (see Google map)

Cross the bridge on US 1, and the Burt Reynolds & Friends Museum is on the right. It may be permanently closed, though, since when I was last there the grounds looked ill-maintained. There’s a nice park with an old home on a mound in it. It also has the best Italian restaurant in the world.

Well, maybe I exaggerate. But Casa Mia (on Indiantown Road, west of US 1) has some of the best Italian food I’ve ever had. I stumbled on it when I stayed nearby during the first time I was in Jupiter. When I was there five months later, it was still there and as great as before. I found out later that the father of one of the owners runs a very popular restaurant in London. I like to do Italian for my birthday in November. I’m not saying I’ll go every year; it’s over a three hour drive from Ocala. But maybe I will. Yep, it’s that good. And I’m not the only one who thinks so(see Google map)

Actually, the insanity doesn’t start until a few miles down. So you can get to Juno Beach without too much fuss and see the Loggerhead Marinelife Center. It’s right on US 1 in Loggerhead Park, so it’s a breeze to find. (see Google map)

That’s it for the less utilized parts of A1A and US 1. Future posts about the routes will be about the urbanity of them all. See you on the road!

Route length: 120 miles

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This go-round will look at the rest of US 1 and A1A between Brevard and Palm Beach Counties. That being Vero Beach to Jupiter. Three counties: St. Lucie County and Martin County, and the northern smidge of Palm Beach. The upper part will mostly be along US 1, with a jaunt or two over to A1A. At some points along the way, the two roads are concurrent.

South from Vero Beach, go down US 1. You’ll be seeing more dunes and scrub between cities. I’m rather surprised that the great Miami Megacity (which to me is Dade and Broward and Palm Beach counties on the east coast) hasn’t gobbled it’s way further north. Maybe in part because there’s a big honking state park and a National Wildlife Refuge in the way above Jupiter.

After you’re in St. Lucie County, you’ll pass by the entrance to the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute. Check out the Harbor Branch Discovery Center there, which is free and open to the public. Normally I don’t go into museums, but for some reason I felt like peeking inside. It’s not big, basically a large room. But there are some cool displays and live aquatic critters. An employee will come up to you and show you around, and answer all your questions.

From there, get to St. Lucie Boulevard and go west. You’ll get to Casa Caprona, which is now an apartment complex. Way further west is a house/estate known as Immokolee. But it’s another of those that all you’ll see is the driveway, so I’d say it’s not worth the drive. Unless, like me, you’re OCD about visiting NRHPs. (see Google map)

Should you want to see a string of fancy older homes, visit the St. Lucie Village Historic District. It’s the former site of Fort Capron, which was the successor to Fort Pierce. There’s a historical marker that marks the site. The fort was built in the mid 1800s and has been gone for a long time. The houses antedate the fort, so I don’t think they’re directly related to each other. More like that there’s a great view of the ocean here, and folks do love their waterfront property. Near the south end (which is the best place to start) is the house of a former Pennsylvania senator, who wintered here. (see Google map)

Next is one of those A1A jaunts. First, though, stop at the city park to see the CeeCee Ross Lyles memorial. She was a stewardess on Flight 93 and perished along with all the other passengers and crew on 9/11. The county history museum is nearby, supposedly, but I couldn’t find it. I didn’t look super-hard, though.

Cross the North Beach Causeway Bridge to get to A1A and two beachy state parks, Fort Pierce Inlet State Park and Avalon State Park. The former has a ranger station and lots of parking, so it’s probably well-used. Avalon only has a parking area next to the beach, but it looks pretty popular too. Between is the Navy Seal Museum. Also Jack Island Park, which is close to the site of the wreck of the Urca de Lima, the first Florida Underwater Archaeological Preserve. That park may be closed, so Avalon State Park may be an option if you want to cast your gaze towards the Urca de Lima. (see Google map)

Back on shore, if you want to see the only NHL in the area, go to the Zora Neale Hurston House. It’s only notable because it was her home. It’s the dullest NHL building in the state. For a few years I used to live in a place rather like it. There’s no parking available anywhere close, not even on the street. I was content with just driving by slowly and taking some pictures from the car.

Now you can go to downtown Fort Pierce, where there are quite a few historic and interesting looking buildings. Could be a historic district, but isn’t. The buildings are somewhat spread out, so you’ll need to park at three or so different spots if you want to walk to them all in a reasonable amount of time. Then there are a couple that are a bit further out. Both are schools, the old St. Anastasia Catholic School and St. Lucie High School. Only the latter is still in use. (see Google map)

This is the eastern end of the old Florida Cracker Trail, the western end being in Bradenton. There’s an annual festival in February celebrating it, with people walking and riding from Bradenton to here. I can’t find where they end up, but I don’t doubt that if you’re in town you won’t have a problem finding it.

Head south on South Indian River Drive so you can get to Fort Pierce. That is, the site of the original fort after which the city was named. It’s now part of Old Fort Park. There’s a moderate sized mound in it, but I don’t know if it contains any remains of the structure. It’s a small park, but pleasant and restful.

You can jog west to the pale pink Mediterranean Revival Jules Frere House. I wouldn’t recommend going to the Hammond House, though, since the only thing you’ll see from the street is pasture. (see Google map)

Get back to South Indian River Drive. A nice drive, with older homes along the way on the right, and the Indian River Lagoon on the left. I wonder if it used to be part of A1A, since it kind of feels like that when you’re on it. If you can drive it from Fort Pierce down to Stuart, it’s a lovely way to spend an hour or two. You could also take A1A on the other side of the Lagoon. I’ve not driven that part, but it looks like it’d be scenic too.

You’ll pass through Ankona, which may have been a happening place in the past. Now it’s pretty much a road sign at either end. There are some classy old houses through here that are listed in AGFHA. If you want to do more than drive past, parking off the road on the grass is your only option. And there aren’t a lot of places with enough room, so keep the eyes peeled. The last two houses are just south of the turnoff for the state park at the south end for the county. Up to you what order to see them all. Also note that the Eden House isn’t easily visible from the road, even if you’re walking, due to lots of foliage. (see Google map)

  • Adams House (2501 South Indian River Drive) (AGFHA)
  • Hugh West Home (2507 South Indian River Drive) (AGFHA)
  • Padrick House (2513 South Indian River Drive) (AGFHA)
  • Capt. John Miller House (12387 South Indian River Drive) (AGFHA)
  • Eden House (13055 South Indian River Drive) (AGFHA)

Take a right at Southeast Walton Road to get to the last spot for this post, Savannas Preserve State Park. I think there’s another entrance further north, but I’m not sure. You’ll find a visitor center inside the park with displays and such. This is one of the walking/hiking/riding parks. It doesn’t extend all the way east, so no beaches. Only just miles and miles of miles and miles. So you won’t have hordes of people traipsing around, if you want a less social park experience. (see Google map)

That’s St. Lucie County. Next week, Martin County. Until then, see you on the road!

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We’re starting this last section of US 90 on the Madison/Suwannee County border, on the Suwannee River itself. You’re in Ellaville, though it’s not much more than a road sign and a highway patrol station.

You can also see the old Hillman Bridge, which is just north of the US 90 bridge. It carried the original road across the river. It’s closed to vehicle traffic, but you can walk it from one side to another. There’s an old building on the west side, which looks like it was a store or maybe a tourist trap. I’m surprised how intact it is.

A few miles on through Twin Rivers State Forest is the entrance to the Suwannee River State Park. There are overlooks of the river, but it doesn’t look like it’s set up for swimming in the park. Boating, maybe. If you take the right path, you can get another vantage point of the Hillman and US 90 bridges, as well as the railroad bridge next to them. (see Google map)

The rest of the road is rather desolate until you get to the edges of Live Oak. Which surprises me, since you’ll pass one of the few intersections of US 90 and I-10. There’s an on and off ramp, but not even a convenience store or gas station. Only the remnants of one. Most other I-10 exits have at least a fruit stand. I can’t figure out why this is such a major exception.

It may feel like you’ll never get to Live Oak. But you’ll reach the fringes in another 4 miles. Then you’ll wonder if you’ll ever get out. Not that it’s Jacksonville or anything, but it seems bigger than Monticello or Madison. Maybe there’s just more development along US 90.

Downtown Live Oak isn’t a historic district, but it easily could be. All the historic places on the list immediately below are in close proximity. Parking near the old city hall and then across from the courthouse are the best options, I think. (see Google map)

There are two more Live Oak sites, but they’re a ways east. First is the Hull-Hawkins House, on the NRHP. I thought I’d never find the dang place, but tireless research on the part of yours truly lead me to it. The other is Mandi’s Chapel, part of Camp Weed. It was included in Florida Architecture: 100 Years. 100 Places.. One of the rare examples not in or near a major urban center. I don’t know how accessible to the public the camp is. Check before you go. (see Google map)

The last stop in Suwannee County is the teensy town of Wellborn. There’s a short section of the old Florida State Road No. 1 here, and some old buildings, all near the railroad tracks. Also a blueberry festival. Might check that out some year. (see Google map)

  • Brick Commercial structure (CR 137 and 8th Avenue, across from post office) (AGFHA)
  • Brick road (8th Avenue, west of CR 137)
  • Walters House (1750 8th Avenue) (AGFHA)
  • McLeran Stores (1309 6th Avenue) (AGFHA)

There you go, another portion of one of my top roads in the state done. See you on the road!

Route length: 130 miles

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