Bella Vida by Letty

road trips

Wekiwa Springs Florida State Park

Wekiwa springs florida state park

Some of the best natural attractions Florida has to offer are its cool refreshing springs. Springs are the point where groundwater flows out of the ground where the aquifer surface meets the surface of the earth and Florida has one of the largest concentrations of springs on earth. There are many beautiful clear freshwater springs throughout central and north Florida. I was blown away at my first visit to Rainbow Springs Florida State Park. So much so I am determined to visit more of them.

Wekiwa Collage

The springs are great for cooling down, swimming, picnicking, paddling, canoeing, camping, hiking and nature watching. The best time to visit is summertime because these bodies of water remain relatively cold, about 72 degrees year round. It is the perfect way to keep cool on a hot summer day.

wekiwacanoe

Florida Springs are a great alternative to pricey theme parks.

Wekiwa Springs is only a 40-minute drive from Orlando theme parks located in the town of Apopka. We visited during the week but if you are heading out there on a summer weekend call in advance. They do close their gates when they reach capacity. Admission is only $6.00 per vehicle. A big difference from pricey theme parks and we had just as much fun.

Wekiwa 3

Wekiwa Springs has a very large walled off swimming area unlike other springs. You are allowed to canoe, kayak, paddleboard other areas just be respectful of nature. There are alligators everywhere. In addition there are miles and miles of hiking trails. Be aware that Florida has a large black bear population. If you plan on hiking go prepared. The only hiking I did that day was on the boardwalks scattered around the swimming area. I saw raccoons and a variety of birds including a few gorgeous swallowtail kite.

If you visit during summer weekends arrive early.  We spent an entire day swimming, canoeing and exploring the trails.  They have a gift shop and small concession stand which serves snacks, burgers and hot dogs. Or you can bring your own picnic.

Have you been to Wekiwa Springs?

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Road Trip to Louisiana’s Romantic Antebellum Past on River Road

Plantation on River Road Louisiana

You have not visited Louisiana until you’ve driven down River Road to experience Louisiana’s romanticized antebellum past.  It’s where rich elite Europeans settled, building incredible mansions guarded by giant live oak trees draped in moss surrounded by acres of fields.  Every need and desire easily fulfilled.  Any request brought to the Mississippi banks.  Steamboats arrived often with lavish furnishings, materials and visitors.  I imagined Louisiana’s countryside today would be similar to Bon Temps, the fictionalized town where HBO’s True Blood series takes place.  As a matter of fact I told my sister I would be visiting Bill Compton’s McMansion this particular Sunday morning and as a good sister she told me to be careful.  It was everything I imagined and more.

Plantation on River Road Louisiana

During my trip to New Orleans I heard many tales of extravagantly rich families owning plantations and acres upon acres of land and industry in the countryside and the extreme poverty of its slaves and laborers.  These tales peeked my curiosity so I hit up Louisiana’s back roads to do some exploring to experience it for myself.

It was much closer than I thought it would be.  After only twenty minutes I was already approaching the massive cable stayed bridge allowing me to cross the Mississippi River.  Leaving behind the highway and it’s view of a swampy area where I could see the tops of tall trees covered in moss standing in sappy brown waters.  Hale Boggs Bridge is quite an impressive feat of engineering due to its gargantuous size.  I think everything in Louisiana is done with the intention of being bigger and better.  There was a soft drizzle as I reached the Mississippi’s West bank.  Large ships, barges and cargo carriers floated by with all the patience in the world leaving behind small ripples that would crash into the shore.  The contrast of industry and bright green vegetation once you reach the other side is beautiful.

Plantation on River Road Louisiana

 

At the stop light there was a lovely perfectly manicured small town to my right, looking up large brown metal and steel cables of the super structured bridge and then I made a left turn onto River Road.  The first thing I saw was new money, a community of large brick mansions with long winding gated driveways.  Continuing past a very ugly industrious zone I got an unexpected surprise, miles and miles of nothing but sugar cane.  The seemingly endless fields of sugar cane reminded me of my summer visits as a young girl to Puerto Rico.  I would have to pass miles and miles of sugar cane fields on small back roads to get to my grandparents home.

Sblue shack

The view is green for miles on a road that twists and curves along the river.  Unfortunately you cannot see the waters of the Mississippi River because the banks have been built up high in order to prevent local flooding.  Sprinkled in between farm lands were the old plantations I had heard about.  Some were grand in beautifully maintained condition while others in disrepair or completely abandoned.  It is very expensive to maintain large old historical homes which in addition often have several more structures on the property.  Small rural communities would appear after miles of fields.  Some more modern than others but most look quite poor.

shack off river road in Louisiana

There is nowhere to stop on winding River Road unless you are visiting a plantation.  I was warned not to pull over on this back road because its heavily used by big freight trucks and visibility is poor due to its many curves.  I recommend a visit to one of the many plantations.  I visited Oak Alley Plantation which was so nice it will be featured in its own post.

River Road is a great way to see Louisiana’s past reflected in its present just a beautiful short drive away from New Orleans.  I turned around after about an hour but River Road continues winding right alongside the Mississippi

River Road Louisiana

Travel Tips

Bring plenty of water and snacks.  There are no restaurants or shops including gas stations so gas up beforehand.

Visit a plantation to learn the incredible history of the area.

Don’t stop off River Road.  There is one spot I found where there is designated roadside parking just past Oak Alley Plantation.  You will be able to see a tiny part of the Mississippi River there.

mansion old river road louisiana

Have you driven down River Road?

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“Time is like the Mississippi River. It only flows in one direction. You can never go back.”   Suzanne Woods Fisher

Do I change like a river, widening and deepening, eddying back on myself sometimes, bursting my banks sometimes when there’s too much water, too much life in me, and sometimes dried up from lack of rain? Aidan Chambers

The Tigris, the Euphrates, the Mississippi, the Amazon, the Yangtze. The world’s great rivers. And every one of them finds its way to the ocean.”  Alison McGhee

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Amazing Spot for Photo Ops Blowing Rocks Jupiter, Florida

Blowing Rocks, Jupiter, Florida

Florida is a huge state with two spectacular coasts donning some of America’s most beautiful beaches.  On one of my many road trips I discovered an amazing spot perfect for photo ops.  The place is called Blowing Rocks Preserve.  I found it because the town it’s in has a wacky name so of course I wanted to explore it.  The town is called Jupiter and located in Palm Beach County Florida.

Blowing Rocks Preserve was named for the rocky Anastasia limestone shoreline.  This one mile stretch is special because most of it is either underground or underwater.  It’s one of Florida’s rarest surviving landscapes.  There is a dune habitat with beach sunflowers, bay cedar, sea grapes and sea oats.

During the summer months the beaches provide important nesting habitats for endangered sea turtles.  The sea turtles and the nests are protected by federal, state and local laws to prevent extinction.  Do not touch them or their nests.

On the day I was there a rain shower passed through causing giant splashes as the Atlantic Ocean slammed into the hard rocky surface.  Don’t be afraid to get wet.  It’s a really fun sight to see and makes for some wonderful photos.

Blowing Rocks Jupiter, Florida

Blowing Rocks Jupiter, Florida

Blowing Rocks Jupiter, Florida

While researching I found it turns out that a bunch of famous people have homes in Jupiter, Florida.  Burt Renolds, Tiger Woods, Celine Dion, Tori Amos, Michael Jordan, Dara Torres and Camilo Vargas just to name a few.  If you’re interested in history the Town of Jupiter has a website with a timeline dating back to prehistoric times when the Tequesta lived there.

Blowing Rocks, Jupiter, Florida

I recommend this spot whether you just have a few free minutes or an afternoon to spare.

Have you been to Blowing Rocks or Jupiter?

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“For me, the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity.” Henri Cartier-Bresson

“When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice.”  Robert Frank

“A great photograph is a full expression of what one feels about what is being photographed in the deepest sense and is thereby a true expression of what one feels about life in its entirety.”  Ansel Adams

 

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