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December 28th, 2011

This coming spring, Mr Chiots and I are headed down to Florida for a few weeks.  It’s actually a work trip, so we’ll be filming a few events and working for some of the time, but there will be some time to relax. Visiting the Dry Tortugas National Park is at the top of our list, and of course we’ll be visiting Biscayne National Park and Everglades National Park as well.

We’ll be driving with our tiny trailer of course and seeing a few sights along the way.  We’ll probably head down the eastern coast and return via the western coast of Florida and then north.  We don’t have our route set in stone, we’ll decide that based on interesting places we want to visit along the way.

Any suggestions for great gardens or any sights along the way on down in Florida that we shouldn’t miss?  Restaurants, farmer’s markets, farms, or any other great places to stop?

35 Comments to “Suggestions?”
  1. Ken Toney on December 28, 2011 at 6:45 am

    We spend several weeks in Naples every year, my wife is from there. I have always liked the Naples Botanical Gardens. In Fort Myers is an organization called ECHO. Their global farm tour showcases the techniques they teach for sustainable, urban farming. It’s always fun to visit there.

    I noticed your return route will take you through West Virginia. My wife and I own a farm and B&B, The Ponderosa Lodge Farm, in Lookout. We are about 15 minutes from The New River Gorge Bridge. If you find your way near us you are welcome to stay and tour our farm. It would be a nice break from staying in a trailer.

    Good luck on your trip. Can’t wait to read about it.

    Reply to Ken Toney's comment

    • Susy on December 28, 2011 at 9:59 am

      One of our events is actually in Naples, so we’ll be spending a few days there. I’ll definitely add these items to my list – they sound wonderful!

      Your B&B sounds lovely, we have actually camped around there before because we went white water rafting & hiking there once.

      Reply to Susy's comment

      • Mary S. on January 3, 2012 at 11:13 am

        What Ken said. The Naples Botanical Garden has been completely redesigned in the past couple of years and is well-worth the trip. I visit Naples every year. If you get a chance, try biking or kayaking in Lover’s Key State Park just north of there. It’s beautiful.

        to Mary S.'s comment

  2. daisy on December 28, 2011 at 6:48 am

    I hope you’ll be able to stop at Calloway Gardens in Georgia.
    We hope to get back there someday. The butterly exhibit was amazing!
    I posted about it here:

    There are lots of quirky places in Florida to see and we have mineral springs toward the upper middle part of the state. You could do a search through the state park website:

    Wishing you safe travels!

    Reply to daisy's comment

  3. kristin @ going country on December 28, 2011 at 7:16 am

    I can’t remember if you’ve been to Longwood Gardens yet, in southeastern Pennsylvania, and you’ll be too far west to hit it on this trip, but we went yesterday on our way home from D.C. and it will totally blow your mind. So if you haven’t been yet, schedule it for a future trip.

    Reply to kristin @ going country's comment

    • Susy on December 28, 2011 at 9:55 am

      I love love love Longwood, one of my favorite gardens to visit. I’m planning on heading out there hopefully next summer!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  4. Emily on December 28, 2011 at 7:49 am

    Merritt Island is beautiful if you decide to change your route a bit :)

    Reply to Emily's comment

  5. Corrie on December 28, 2011 at 8:56 am

    Corkscrew Swamp, also in Naples, is great! My family loves Lookout Mountain/Rock City in Chattanooga– fun and kind of kitschy-retro.

    Reply to Corrie's comment

  6. Bell Pepper on December 28, 2011 at 9:26 am

    If you like history and you’re going to Dry Tortugas National Park you might want to stop by Fort Jefferson.,_Florida

    I read about this place in Assignation Vacation which delves into the history and places surrounding the assignation of Lincoln and several other presidents. It sounds morbid (and I suppose it is) but it was a funny, well written read.

    I’ve wanted to get there myself but time and money haven’t permitted. :(

    Have a great trip!

    Reply to Bell Pepper's comment

  7. K.B. on December 28, 2011 at 9:35 am

    No suggestions for the trip, since I’ve never been there, but if you like murder mysteries, Nevada Barr writes a series featuring a park ranger, and one, Flashback, is set at Dry Tortugas. It gives some of the history of the area, and so might be an interesting read before you go :)

    Have fun!

    Reply to K.B.'s comment

    • Susy on December 28, 2011 at 9:56 am

      This might be a good option for an audio book, we always try to find a few that are relevant to the areas we’re traveling to/through.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  8. Allison on December 28, 2011 at 10:13 am

    If you are hitting up the Keys, and haven’t been there before, Mallory Square has the prettiest sunset at Key West :)

    Reply to Allison's comment

  9. Misti on December 28, 2011 at 10:34 am

    Ooh one of my favorite subjects: Florida! ;)

    I wanted to visit Dry Tortugas when I lived there but I didn’t feel like shelling out the money for it when we were saving for the AT. Biscayne—better visited *under* the water. But Everglade’s is beautiful, but don’t bypass Big Cypress National Preserve (drive down Loop Road or take any of the trails that are at the Oasis Visitors center (The Florida Trail goes through here). Also you should go to Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve. This is where all the ghost orchid stuff happened back in the 90s and while they are not blooming now you might be able to see one on a tour. Call the ranger’s office to find out about swamp tours.

    On the SW coast, definitely Corkscrew Swamp, Sanibel, and if you have time Cayo Costa State Park. On the SE coast, you have to hit up Fairchild Botanic Garden…tropicals everywhere! I would also say the Redland Fruit & Spice Park. If you want to visit nurseries, send me an email and I can get you a few to check out.

    I could write on and on and on about this subject, but one last one…I see your route will take you past Jupiter…hit up Blowing Rocks Preserve, a Nature Conservancy park. One of the stranges places to see rocks on the coast of Florida! If you are there are the right time, the rocks will ‘blow’. I’ve watched sea turtles and a manatee from the beach there.

    Oh, in the Keys, the Wild Bird Sanctuary in Key Largo is free but welcomes donations. A lot of migratory birds come to the back of the island there to bum off the free fish at feeding times.

    Man. Now I am jealous! ;) Have fun!

    I will probably be back with more things for you to check out! ;)

    Reply to Misti's comment

  10. Clare on December 28, 2011 at 10:40 am

    This is a would if I could suggestion: Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm in Virginia! Friends have been and say it’s very educational.

    What fun to plan a nice trip in the middle of winter!

    Reply to Clare's comment

  11. Annie on December 28, 2011 at 10:47 am

    I see one of your routes is not that far from Little River Canyon in the far northeast corner of Alabama; a place definitely worth the visit. Most people don’t think of Alabama when it comes to natural resources but we are the most naturally diverse state east of the Mississippi. We visited last spring and I posted about it on my blog. It is an awesome place. There are a number of wonderful gardens also, Bellingrath comes to mind, but mostly they are around Mobile. Don’t know if you want to go that far out.

    Reply to Annie's comment

  12. Grace on December 28, 2011 at 11:12 am

    Do think about stopping in Savannah, throwing your dietary principles to the wind, and eating a heart-stopping but soul-satisfying meal at Paula Deen’s famous The Lady and Sons. Everything in there is a superlative – the best (fried chicken, mac-n-cheese, you name it) you’ve ever had. You will gain 5 lbs. You will not mind. The basket of various freshly baked breads alone was worth the wait for a table.

    Reply to Grace's comment

  13. risa on December 28, 2011 at 11:32 am

    If you are going through Daytona you may want to scoot over to San Mateo and see this:

    I have mapped it for you on the Flickr map

    Reply to risa's comment

  14. Yvette Ferry on December 28, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    Oooh, how exciting! I’m in Miami. There’s a lot to do and see here, but there are 10 places (gardens and otherwise, and one is a road) I would put on my “do-not-miss-under-any-circumstances” list.

    In Miami, heading south…

    1. Vizcaya Museum & Gardens –

    2. The Barnacle –

    3. From the Barnacle, take the Ingraham Highway (it’s just the name of the road, not a highway) south to get to Old Cutler Road to Fairchild. This is one of the oldest roads in Miami, a beautiful and historic road, unlike any other you’re likely to have seen.

    4. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden –

    5. From Fairchild, head down and over to Schnebly Winery ( Not a garden, but it’s the only winery in Miami, and it’s lovely. It’s in the heart of our agricultural district, which is also worth seeing on your way down. The wines are made onsite exclusively with locally grown tropical fruit…passionfruit, mango, star fruit, avocado…no grapes.

    6. On your way back to US1, stop at Robert Is Here (this is an old and special fruit stand) and pick up some tropical fruits you may not have ever heard of and honey from our local bees. (Also, please send my love to the goats.)

    In Islamorada…

    7. Rumrunners Island Bar – Mile Marker 84, on the north-bound side. This is in “Holiday Isle,” waaaay in the back, away from all the people, ON the water. Do stop here for 10 minutes on your way down, or on your way back up. GO UP to the crow’s nests. Bring your camera. Resist the urge to stay there all day.

    8. Morada Bay Cafe – Mile Marker 81.5, on the south-bound side (if you blink, you’ll miss it). Have lunch on your way down, or on your way back up. A rare treat, even for South Floridians.

    In Key West…

    9. Nancy Forrester’s Secret Garden –

    10. All of Key West is botanical eye candy. Meander down as many residential side roads as you can. DO have brunch (in particular) at Blue Heaven. You won’t want to miss it, or the free-roaming chickens.

    Reply to Yvette Ferry's comment

    • Susy on December 30, 2011 at 8:35 am

      Ton’s of fascinating suggestions, must keep this list at hand!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  15. Jennelle on December 28, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    If you get hungry for lunch around the time you’re going through Charleston, WV, I can recommend Bluegrass Kitchen or Tricky Fish. I’ve reviewed them both on Yelp. Both are owned by the same peeps, who try to source local ingredients when possible. Easy access off the interstate (Greenbrier St./State Capitol exit), although now that I think about it, parking may be a challenge w/ the trailer…

    Reply to Jennelle's comment

  16. Lennette Daniels on December 28, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    Building on Risa’s comment above, if you check out San Mateo you should scoot up to Palatka and see Ravine Gardens. ( Since you are coming home through Gainesville, FL, you may want to check out Kanapaha Botanical Gardens ( and the Butterfly Rainforest at the Natural History Museum ( Also, the Devil’s Millhopper is amazing. ( and Payne’s Prairie (

    I could go on and on since I live in Putnam County and work in Gainesville plus I have lived in Columbia County and Ocala.

    I would urge you to stop in Savanna as someone else suggested. It is beautiful in the spring.

    Enjoy your trip!!!

    Reply to Lennette Daniels's comment

  17. Elane on December 28, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    I live in Jacksonville and my two favorite places are:

    The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens (
    This a wonderful zoo and the gardens part isn’t just tacked on. The entire park is beautifully landscaped.
    Kingsley Plantation (
    This is on a island on the intercoastal. The majority of the island looks just like this part of Florida did hundreds of years ago. There are trails that lead to the water and over the old Indian middens from when the Timucuan lived here. There is also the remnents of a plantation that was built on the intercoastal that shipped sea island cotton and indigo.

    Reply to Elane's comment

    • Susy on December 28, 2011 at 4:29 pm

      Funny that you mention the zoo, we actually went to the Jacksonville zoo about 5 years ago when we were there for a seminar, it was quite nice, we really enjoyed it!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  18. Susan on December 28, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    My niece and family live in Gainesville, GA. There is a nice campground on the lake not far from their home: River Forks Park, 3500 Keith Bridge Rd, Gainesville, GA 30504. Also, I noticed that you are passing close to Jonesborough, TN which is northeast of Knoxville. It is a charming little town, home to the national storytelling festival which I’ve attended and the people there are among the nicest and most accommodating you will find. There is a museum dedicated to American Storytelling there and they have events throughout the year, not just during the festival in September. I do recommend it. Have a great trip. I will look forward to your reports along the way.

    ps. I received your lovely card today and it’s displayed proudly on the fridge.

    Reply to Susan's comment

  19. Carol on December 28, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    Blue Spring State Park is a manatee refuge, and you can usually see a lot of manatees in a beautiful environment. The spring is the best time. I can’t remember the exact location, but I believe it’s near Orange City.

    I adored Savannah, and you’d certainly have ample opportunity for beautiful photography while you’re there. (I have heard that you shouldn’t go there too close to St. Patrick’s Day; apparently it gets a little crazy.) Savannah is gorgeous. It also has the distinction of being one of only two cities that Paul would willingly visit again. The other is Toronto.

    Reply to Carol's comment

  20. Amy on December 28, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    My husband and I were in Ft. Myers last March and drove down to Flamingo and Everglades N.P. We were shocked to learn that the southern part of the park still did not have potable water after Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma (yup, that was 2005!) It was in huge contrast to the resort areas 30 minutes away. As much as I loved my vacation and the wildlife, I still had a hard time driving back to my air-conditioned poolside hotel. So glad you’re taking the trailer!!

    Reply to Amy's comment

  21. Michelle on December 28, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    If you come through Morgantown WV, you can stop at Cooper’s Rock state park, which is awesome- beautiful view of the canyon and river. If you’re here on a Saturday after May 1st, you can visit our great farmer’s market in downtown Morgantown. We also have an arboretum that West Virginia University maintains, and you might be in time for the plant sale the WVU agricultural extension holds in the spring.

    Other than that, have fun!!! I love road trips!

    Reply to Michelle's comment

  22. Ghislaine on December 28, 2011 at 11:51 pm

    You’ve already been to Longwood Gardens and Monticello, haven’t you? Then I would go to Polyface Farm, Joel Salatin’s place. I’m hoping to go this summer myself. Enjoy your trip!

    Reply to Ghislaine's comment

  23. Pearl on December 29, 2011 at 12:55 am

    Next time I go to Sarasota Florida I want to visit this place…

    We always eat here…
    and another favorite place is…

    Another place that’s awesome but very pricey is the Biltmore Estate and Gardens in Asheville NC…

    Reply to Pearl's comment

  24. anotherkindofdrew on December 29, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    Well, two options. Both involve the Tiny r(E)volution family. As we will be dividing our time this year between eastern North Carolina and middle Georgia you can come either depending on where we are and where y’alls gigs are. You know that at either you have free space as well as free hook ups for the teardrop as well as Wi-Fi, homemade food, and a precious little girl to play with. Let’s do try to at least meet up on the side of the interstate though!

    Reply to anotherkindofdrew's comment

  25. Kim on December 29, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    I’m from Tampa, so glad you’ll be coming through our area :)

    In Tampa there is the gardens at USF

    In St. Petersburg there is a fantastic Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings

    In Sarasota there is also a nice FM and the Selby Gardens, totally awesome and worth a visit!

    Reply to Kim's comment

  26. Jenny on December 31, 2011 at 12:52 am

    I second Cayo Costa–it has fabulous beaches if you like beachcombing. We camped, but I believe they also have cabins. You ferry over so wouldn’t be able to take your trailer. Sanibel is lovely but I found it pretty touristy crowded. We also like the funky vibe of Cedar Key. Up on the panhandle, Apalachicola used to be a great little town, but we haven’t been there since the hurricane. Not sure what it’s like now. The shrimpers were hit hard in the hurricane, I think. St. Joseph Peninsula State Park is awesome–beautiful beaches!
    My husband grew up in Tampa and Sarasota so we’re west coast folks!

    Reply to Jenny's comment

  27. Seren Dippity on January 4, 2012 at 2:27 am

    When we drove down the coast to the keys a few years back, one of our favorite stops was at the Fruit and Spice Park.

    Description from the website: The Fruit & Spice Park is the only tropical botanical garden of its kind in the United States. The Park’s tropical climate can be found nowhere else in the continental U.S. and hosts over 500 varieties of fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs, and nuts, and other commercially important plant specimens from around the world.

    Their website has been updated and it looks like they have a restaurant now. When we were there they had a small store where you could purchase seeds and fruit. On the tour, you get to taste whatever is ripe and in season straight from the trees. I loved the place.

    Reply to Seren Dippity's comment

    • Susy on January 4, 2012 at 11:59 am

      This sounds like a wonderful place, must make sure to stop!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  28. kara on January 4, 2012 at 11:19 pm

    I see one other person has mentioned it … but on your return trip, if you jog a little east into western North Carolina you can visit Asheville which is utterly gorgeous. Beautiful mountains, the Biltmore house, Grove Park Inn, wonderful art and music districts … I highly recommend it as a short detour

    Reply to kara's comment


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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