“Visiting Small-Town Florida, Third Edition” begins shipping to bookstores today!
Monthly Archives: March 2011
One of Florida’s longest-running art festivals (since 1964), the Cedar Key Arts Festival now attracts over a hundred artists—painters, sculptors, and photographers, to display their finest work and compete in the festival’s juried competition.
In 1867, before he moved to California and founded the Sierra Club, naturalist John Muir hiked for seven weeks, from Indiana down to Florida. He arrived on the east coast first, and then veered southwest until he ran into the Gulf of Mexico at Cedar Key. Muir had contracted malaria along the way, and stayed in Cedar Key for several months to recuperate. Muir described his arrival in his book A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf: “October 23. Today I reached the sea. While I was yet many miles back in the palmy woods, I caught the scent of the salt sea breeze which, although I had so many years lived far from sea breezes, suddenly conjured up Dunbar, its rocky coast, winds and waves; and my whole childhood, that seemed to have utterly vanished in the New World, was now restored amid the Florida woods by that one breath from the sea.” The town may have grown (although very little) but the palmy woods and the scent of the salt sea breeze are much the same as Muir found them.
Mount Dora will be hopping this weekend, with antique boats on Lake Dora and antique collectibles and crafts in downtown Mount Dora:
Sunnyland Antique Boat Festival on Lake Dora, March 25 -27 www.acbs-sunnyland.org
Mount Dora Spring Antique and Collectibles Show, March 26 – 27 www.mountdoraspringshow.com
Amelia Island has all the charm of Pippi Longstocking (largely filmed on the island), all the history of St. Augustine (locals claim Fernandina is in fact older), and all the class of Pebble Beach (the Concours d’Elegance’s other location).
My husband and I knew we were in for a small-town vacation when our check-in instructions were, “The key is under the mat. Make yourself at home and enjoy!” And enjoy we did. We biked around most of the island, popping in at bed-and-breakfasts and eating our way through almost every local bakery, restaurant, and pub. As an added bonus, we got to gawk at the profusion of exotic, antique, or otherwise eclectic cars in town for the event.
Despite all of Amelia Island’s virtues, the Concours weekend is about one thing—cars. This year’s selection did not disappoint. Luckily, the event caters to enthusiasts of all levels: for instance, my husband was restoring Porsche 356s before he could walk, while I’m more an enthusiast-by-association. But some cars proved captivating for every spectator. My top picks were a Porsche 550A Spyder and a 1932 Ford Deuce Coupe. The former is better known as “the James Dean car” while the latter was the exact car used for the cover of the Beach Boy’s Little Deuce Coupe album. In terms of speed, I was quite impressed with the 1973 Ferrari Dino that set a Guinness World Record for driving from New York to Los Angeles in a smidge over 35 hours. In terms of luxury, I enjoyed the former limos of Hugh Hefner, Pavarotti, and Pope Paul VI. My husband was particularly excited to see a 1953 Porsche 356 pre-A and a 1936 Cord with electric flip up headlights and a column-mounted shifter. There was also an assortment of historic and modern rally and race cars, whose growling engines could be heard across the island.
After this Concours, I must admit that I am hooked. We’ve already booked our hotel arrangements for next year (which I suggest you do early!), and the event will surely be a staple on our March calendar.
Recommendations: For accommodations, the Elizabeth Point Lodge looks lifted from a brochure on the Hamptons—historic, elegant, and oceanfront. Smaller and more quaint is the Amelia Oceanfront Bed and Breakfast—they were planting their spring garden when my husband and I biked by. The historic Hoyt House is on the edge of downtown, graced with a pool and Jacuzzi. For dining, we relished two local bakeries—Chez Lezan and Patty Cakes—and lunch fare at O’Kane’s on the downtown strip. For dinner, the Palace Saloon is always pleasing (and it’s the oldest saloon in Florida!), however we found The Loop particularly delicious. What it lacked in historic ambiance it more than made up for in incredible food.
photography by Greg Peek
Pineapple Press announces March 25 release date for “Visiting Small-Town Florida, Third Edition“. Copies should begin to show up on book store shelves by second week of April.
This Wednesday Pineapple Press will host a live Twitter chat with Bruce Hunt, from noon to 1:00. To participate and ask questions follow @PineapplePress and/or @BruceHuntImages, and include one or both those Twitter addresses in your Tweet, along with the hashtag: #smalltownFla. For more about Pineapple Press author Twitter chats, go to : http://pineapplepressfl.wordpress.com/.
The perfect vacation in Florida? Some would choose a white, sandy beach. Others might go for a glitzy theme park. But for my family, few things can rival a trip to Steinhatchee in the state’s Big Bend area. Perhaps because our native roots extend for five generations, we avoid the usual tourist spots and cannot stomach long lines, snarling traffic or overpriced food. Instead, we head for oft-overlooked places that reflect the “old” Florida where nature is still dominant and majestic.
The first thing you should know about Steinhatchee is how to pronounce it. My rule has always been to follow the locals so in this case, it is STEEN-hatch-ee. Located about 1 ½ hours west of Gainesville, this small town is built along the shores of the same-named river, a sluggish, tannic waterway that winds its way into the Gulf of Mexico. Once there, its brown waters dilute to create one of the most productive estuaries in the state. Estuaries are the nurseries of sea life and those in the Big Bend are nurtured by miles and miles of shallow grass flats. No beaches here, but the treasures abound – rich fish life and wonderful beds for edible scallops – the true test of healthy waters.
For the last 15 years, we’ve spent Labor Day weekend in Steinhatchee, loading up our boat with kids, fishing rods, snorkeling gear, and high expectations for daily trips into its enchanted waters. Following the appropriate tides, we hunt for redfish and trout (or anything else that will bite) and then drop anchor to search for scallops. The sneaky bivalves usually sit on top of grass in anywhere from 3 to 9 feet of water but once they see you snorkeling toward them, they scoot away, making collecting them a challenge at times. When the fishing and scalloping disappoint (and that is rare), we still find magic – huge whelks, starfish, curious baitfish, circling bald eagles, soaring frigate birds, and bobbing sea turtles. All are there to share in the bounty.
The next best thing to a day on the water in Steinhatchee? Dining that evening on fresh scallops and redfish. It doesn’t get any better.
Info: Scalloping season July 1- September 10. Saltwater fishing license needed to scallop and fish. Some closed fishing seasons during the year – check with state guidelines. Many marinas available for boat rental or dock space: See www.seahag.com. Several restaurants and hotels available in town.
Leslie Kemp Poole
Mary Kathryn Rains
The 16th Annual Amelia Island Concours’ de Elegance will be held March 11 – 13, at The Golf Club of Amelia Island at Summer Beach, next door to their host hotel, the Amelia Island Ritz-Carlton. This year’s honoree will be legendary racer Bobby Rahal, 1986 Indy 500 winner (as a driver) and 2004 Indy 500 winner (as a team owner). The event’s featured marque makes will be Duesenberg, Allard and Kurtis, and they will also celebrate the 50th anniversary of the iconic Ferrari 250 GTO. Seminar speakers include, among others, automotive journalism and racing luminaries Lyn St. James, Janet Guthrie, and Denise McCluggage on “The Women of Racing”; as well as Brock Yates, on his legendary outlaw cross-country race, that ran four times in the 1970’s, the “Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash”. Our reporter-on-assignment Cameron McNabb, will be at the event. Watch here for her guest post report when she returns.
On the way back from James and Samantha Wregg’s wedding in Key West last weekend, I stopped at Bahia Honda Key (37 miles north east of Key West) to shoot some pictures from one of my favorite vantage points—the top of the broken-off end of an old section of US Highway 1 bridge. Ninety feet below I watched sea turtles, a school of leopard rays, and one nice-size shark cavorting in the emerald water.
Henry Flagler was seventy-five years old in 1905 when he began construction to extend his Florida East Coast Railroad beyond the southern reaches of the mainland. When word came that a shipping canal was to be dug across Panama, Flagler decided that his railroad must go all the way down to Key West. It would be the nearest rail terminal to the canal, by three hundred miles. Most considered the idea of building a one-hundred-fifty-mile railroad—that would skip across tiny coral islands, elevated over water, merely the preposterous dream of a crazy old man. It took seven years (four longer than they had first estimated), but on January 22, 1912, the first official train arrived in Key West, with eighty-two-year-old Henry Flagler aboard. Fifteen months later he died. Arguably, Flagler’s “Over the Sea Railway” still stands today as Florida’s most astounding engineering feat. The railway can be seen in this shot, in the lower section of the bridge. US Highway 1 came a quarter of a century later. This section (on the southwest side of Bahia Honda Key) was completed in 1938.