The key to having a great trip is to have a journey in mind, not just a destination.
This means whether you’re off to an island paradise or a beautiful European city, take the opportunity to see things on the way and don’t just sit there once you get there.
A couple of months ago, I told you about my road trip through Florida, but I had to take a detour to tell you about my unexpected, yet fabulous mini-vacay to Alton, Ont. But as the colder temperatures are upon us, my Florida trip, and the sweltering heat I enjoyed there, seemed appropriate to go back to.
In Part 1, I told you about South Beach, Miami. My next stop was Marco Island, Florida, to the Marco Island Marriott Resort and Spa.
But as it was a road trip, I have to tell you about a couple of amazing stops we made along the way.
Shark Valley is the place to go for any nature lover. Shark Valley staff offer people educational and environmental tours of the northern region of “The River of Grass”, better known as the Everglades, at the Everglades National Park.
Here you can have a walking or tram tour led by a naturalist or bike through this unique and fascinating ecosystem and spot wildlife, such as alligators, birds and turtles to name a few.
I took a walking tour, and although I didn’t see any animals, and it was fascinating to learn about this natural region of subtropical wetlands.
An almost three-hour swamp buggy tour - lead by eccentric guide Captain Steve - through Big Cypress National Preserve, another portion of the Everglades National Park, offered me views of wildlife, namely alligators, deer and a plethora of beautiful birds.
Riding on a giant buggy, which basically is a jeep with a canopy top and giant monster truck wheels, driving through the Everglades is like stepping into another world. It’s hot, you’re surrounded by trees, plants and wildlife and with Captain Steve telling us the history of the area, it was like the past and the present were meeting and coming to life.
A fifth generation Gladesman , Steve told stories of his family, who were the first to give Everglade tours, of the native tribes who once lived here and the beauty and danger of the area if you don’t give it its proper respect. The scenery is gorgeous, the experience is once-in-a lifetime and you’ll come out of there with a new respect for the Everglades.
After a long day of enjoying the natural beauty of southern Florida, we were off to another kind of beautiful – Marco Island – and the Marco Island Marriott Resort and Spa. I loved everything about this gorgeous place.
The Marco Island Marriott Resort and Spa is situated on three miles of pristine beach front (and my room had a gorgeous beach view), boasts eight restaurants, has shops onsite and a luxurious spa. Staying here is like being at an amazing all-inclusive resort. Everything you could want is at your disposal: golf, swimming, water sports, the beach as well as guided wave runner and everglade day trips.
But my favourite afternoon was my awesome excursion - a three-hour catamaran tour to Sand Dollar Island.
OK, I’ve been collecting shells from my vacations ever since childhood, so the idea of taking a boat to an island that’s home to some of Florida’s best shells wasn’t too hard to resist.
This tiny island is filled with beautiful shells, including its namesake the sand dollars, dotted with protected turtle nests. Best of all, no one was there but the five of us from the tour – paradise!
Next month, we’ll continue my Florida adventure with a popular vacation spot for Canadians - Clearwater Beach, Florida.
Maria Tzavaras, a freelance writer for the past 12 years, took up travel writing a year ago. She likes learning about new people, places and cultures, which she accomplishing by visiting a far off country or someplace in her own city. Maria also does animal advocacy and rescue. If you have a suggestion for a travel story, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org