Monday, June 28, 2021

Three fun adventures on the Florida Peninsula

Mention that you’re going to Florida, and folks think you’re headed to the beach. That may well be, but we also found other attractions on our recent trip to Fort Lauderdale in the Sunshine State.

Flamingo Gardens

Flamingos and many other birds have found sanctuary
at Florida's Flamingo Gardens

If you’re looking to visit a tropical paradise, this botanical garden and wildlife sanctuary is a great place to go. The Wray Botanical Collection features over 3000 species of rare and exotic plants. It includes Florida’s largest collection of “Champion” trees, including the largest tree in Florida. Specialty gardens feature plants that attract butterflies and hummingbirds, as well as multi-colored croton and bromeliad specimens. Two hundred year old live oaks and dozens of orchid species add to the serenity and beauty of this place.

What a beautiful peacock!

The Wildlife Sanctuary is home to more than 90 species of native birds and animals, most of which have been injured or are non-releasable for different reasons. Spend time watching the antics of more than 250 wading birds in the free-flight aviary. See birds of prey, peacocks (including a white peacock), eagles, flamingoes, and much more. Don’t be surprised by alligators, turtles, otters—even a tiger and panther.

Orchids and many other flower species
decorate the grounds of Flamingo Gardens

There’s so much to see that we spent an enjoyable morning traversing the well-groomed, beautiful grounds before stopping to rest with an ice cream. A narrated tram tour is available through the rainforest, wetlands, and jungle growth if you prefer to ride than walk.

Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park

This park on the Keys offers an opportunity for geologists and visitors to compare living corals of today with fossilized coral from 125,000 years ago. Visitors can see cross sections of ancient coral reef as they walk within the eight-foot-high quarry walls. Cuts reveal the thin layer of soil that supports plant life in this subtropical environment.

Windley Key is an excellent place for budding 
geologists to learn more about coral reefs.

The fossilized coral, also called Key Largo limestone or Key stone, was an important part of Florida’s 20th century history. After the land was sold to the Florida East Coast Railroad, the quarry was used until the 1960s to produce exquisite pieces of this decorative stone.

Imprints of ancient coral can be seen in these walls.

As we walked along trails, we observed more than 40 species of hardwood trees and plants native to the Florida Keys. 

Larry on a trail in Windley Key
State Park

Interpretive markers share information about natural resources of the park. An education center is open Thursday through Monday with exhibits about the Flagler Railroad, which was completed in 1912, and the geology of the Florida Keys. 

Hugh Taylor Birch State Park

Locals and visitors enjoy this lovely state park, which was
just a few minutes walk from our resort.

Because this urban park was just minutes from our Fort Lauderdale resort, we went there two times. Just a few steps from the beach, it features a two-mile paved loop, great for walkers and bike riders, that follows the Intracoastal Waterway before circling around near Long Lake. 

In addition there are two and a half miles of unpaved trails wandering through forest areas to different picnic spots or sports fields. The park is well-used by locals as well as visitors.

It's hard to imagine a tree as large and wide as this banyan.

We loved meandering around the huge banyan tree, meditation garden, and hammock trail for a chance to escape the city vibe and feel like we were out in the country. If you’re lucky you might see tortoises, lizards, and raccoons. 

Our kayak excursion in the park

Perhaps the most fun was renting a kayak and paddling down the fresh water lake on our last morning in Fort Lauderdale. We stopped in for liquid refreshments and live music at the outdoor restaurant before scoping out the beach scene one last time.

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