Friday, December 27th started off with a nice breakfast at our hotel then a drive to the Biscayne National Park. If you like water you will love this park as 95% of it is covered in water. Inside the park are also the northernmost islands that make up the Florida Keys. They are much harder to get to than the Florida Keys you may be accustomed to thinking of; the islands that lead to Key West all have a road going to them while each island in this park is only accessible by boat. We had a tour scheduled for the morning and was able to walk around the visitor center for a little bit.
When it was time for our tour to Boca Chita Key, we boarded a small boat. Most of the area near the shore has a very shallow sea depth to the sea floor so we took it a bit slow while heading out. The slow exit was also due to any potential manatee’s that might be in the area. On the way out we had some friends to wave to as well.
Boca Chita Key itself is not very large. There is a boat dock there and a lighthouse along with a few other buildings. There is also a small beach on the east side of the island.
We decided that it would be a good idea to have our lunch there as well so we picnic’d on one of the park benches next to the water.
The island does have an interesting history though. Mark Honeywell bought the island in the 1930’s and built his families holiday resort there between 1937 and 1940. They would hold lavish parties there for all of their rich friends. Ships coming to the island would be greeted with the firing of a cannon. I believe our guide even told us about how there was once an elephant brought to the island for some of the parties.
As we were walking up the lighthouse a small rain shower came in. We stayed inside while it passed.
Here are some other highlights from the island.
We had some good views of the Keys on our way back to the mainland too.
After this excursion on the high sea’s we had a few more stops for the day. The first of these was an alligator farm based in the Everglades.
Now, you might be asking what an alligator farm is. This place may indeed sell alligators for meat (I can’t remember if they actually do that or not), but the biggest thing they do with the alligators that they raise is loan them out to zoo’s and other animal retreats. They also have alligator encounter packages, shows that are quite informative, and they even have a few other animals like the ones below.
And, of course, they have a plethora of alligators of various sizes and ages.
We were able to make it to one of the alligator shows. In the pictures below, the alligator was dragged all the way from the back of the enclosure by its’ tail. It was kind of a funny situation in that there were two alligators in the back. One of them noticed the guy coming and started walking away as fast as it could. This left the other alligator for the guy to grab, as it was completely unaware he was coming for them. The guy claimed that pulling an alligator by its’ tail does not hurt it, but who is to say really.
Our next adventure at the farm was to be an air boat ride!
Our pilot for the ride went by the name of Crazy Paul and he sure was a bit crazy, but in a fun way!
While we were near the farm we slowly crept out into the swamp along a channel. Crazy Paul pointed out some animals that were hanging out along the way including some alligators that were lazing about getting some sun.
Then it was time for lift off! We sped out of the channel as fast as Crazy Paul could take us. Myself, Andrea, and Aiden were all in the front seat. Every time the pilot took a turn or did a 360 degree spin the front of the boat would dip under the water which in turned drenched our feet and legs with dirty swamp water while getting us wet in other places too. It sounds a bit gross when I say it like that, but it was still a blast. My shoes, however, stunk for a few days afterwards.
After our crazy ride we walked around the farm a little more to hopefully dry off some before getting into the car again.
Our final stop for the day was not very far away as it was still inside the Everglades. It was a visitor center for the Everglades National Park.
We took a short trail that was on a walkway built over the swamp. It really gave us a good idea of how deep the water was (maybe a few feet) along with how the animals and the vegetation co-exist together in such an odd environment. And we also walked right by another alligator that was next to the walking path.
That’s all for today folks! Please come back for the final installment of our trip to Florida!