Kissimmee is in an ideal location. While in close proximity to the theme parks and some of Florida’s best known attractions, its central location allows you to set up your “home away from home” in the middle of the state, while taking short day trips to see more of what Florida has to offer.
Our very first trip to Florida was a Disney vacation. We opted not to stay in the parks, instead we chose a hotel in Kissimmee that was only minutes away from the action. This option allowed us to easily drive to the parks and stay for as long as we wanted. When we’d had enough of the magic, we’d drive back to our hotel to eat and relax. A couple days we took time to branch out from Kissimmee to explore St. Augustine, Cocoa Beach and Sanibel Island, each night returning to what we dubbed “home base”.
I planned to do the same thing on this trip. I carefully balanced our theme park and busy days by alternating them with trips to some natural locations throughout Central Florida. We picked oranges, traveled back in time to an 1876 Cow Camp at Lake Kissimmee State Park, took an airboat ride, caught a glimpse of West Indian manatees in their natural habitat and spent a wonderfully relaxing day at Sebastian Inlet State Park, almost two hours southwest of Kissimmee near Vero Beach.
Each year the park welcomes over 3/4 of a million people, making Sebastian Inlet one of Florida’s most popular and heavily visited state parks. The hard working staff and numerous volunteers keep the park running smoothly 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, closing only when threatened by a hurricane.
Sebastian Inlet is known for its recreational offerings. You can swim, surf, snorkel, scuba dive, fish, clam, lobster (anyone getting hungry?), bike or hike on the nature trails, bird watch, beachcomb, participate in a ranger program or visit one of the two museums that the park operates, the Sebastian Fishing Museum or the McLarty Treasure Museum.
The latter is located on the grounds of what was a survivors’ camp of a wrecked Spanish Plate Fleet that occured in 1715. Today you can tour the museum, watch a movie about the shipwreck and recovery efforts, view artifacts from the shipwreck and camp that are on display and walk out on a boat shaped observation deck to view the unpredictable Atlantic Ocean.
Amateur treasure hunters can pull out their metal detectors and join the recovery efforts on the beaches at no charge. Which is why my family traveled from Kissimmee to Sebastian Inlet; to satisfy a yearning for my husband.
I had hopes that he’d uncover a stash of doubloons so we could retire and live in Florida permanently and though the gold never materialized, I can’t complain. While my husband was searching patiently for gold, and my mother-in-law was on the look out for the perfect sea shell, the kids and I were busy goofing off and making memories.
We spent a beautifully relaxing day at the beach at Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, one that we’re not likely to forget anytime soon.
Tips for Visiting the Beach:
1. Pack sunscreen, even if it’s the middle of December and you don’t think you need it.
2. Grab your sunglasses. Your eyes will thank you.
3. Pack a blanket to sit on, towels to dry off with and a change of clothes, even if you aren’t planning to get wet. You just never know when a wave is going to sneak up on you.
4. Even if you don’t pack a lunch to eat on the beach, you should make sure you have plenty of water to drink.
5. Pack a small baggie to place shells and other treasure in and a small garbage bag to place your wet and sandy clothes and towels in.
6. If you plan to swim or be near the water, be aware of any posted warnings. It wasn’t until we were leaving that I realized the yellow flag that was flying wasn’t just for decoration, but was announcing the water and beach conditions.