Coconut Grove hibiscus
If Miami had an old town, it would be Coconut Grove, its oldest continuously inhabited neighborhood. It was originally settled in late 1800s and annexed by Miami in 1925. And even though little of the frontier character remains, Coconut Grove still has its unique village-like feel (if you can tune out high rise hotels). Fortunately, it’s easy to find places where the past comes alive.
One of them is the Barnacle Historic State Park with the oldest house in Miami still in its original location having survived several murderous hurricanes. Just like a barnacle clinging to a sea rock, the house has stuck to the edge of the Biscayne Bay since 1891. It was built by Ralph Middleton Munroe, originally from New York, who bought bayfront property among the wilderness of Florida hammock (tropical hardwood forest) for… $400. Ok, it was quite a bit of money back then! Read the rest of this entry →
When the weather in the northeast turns cold, my thoughts migrate south in a snowbird fashion. Today I’m thinking about one of my favorite Florida escapes – Pensacola. More specifically, I mentally teleport to the Dunes hotel sitting on a narrow strip of Santa Rosa Island. It faces the Gulf and is separated from the mainland by a long sound, which means that every guest room faces the water. I still remember walking into my room and being greeted by the soft humming of the ocean surf, so close it seemed like I could just outstretch my hand and touch it. And I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw dolphins playfully jumping between the waves just offshore.
Santa Rosa is a perfect escape. The site of Spanish arrival in the early 16th century, this 40-mile barrier island today belongs in part to the Gulf Islands National Seashore with the landscape ranging from gleaming white beaches and rugged maritime vegetation to historic Fort Pickens on the island’s western tip. Built in 1834, it was the largest of four forts guarding Pensacola Harbor. During the Civil War, Fort Pickens was reinforced the day after Fort Sumter surrendered, later withheld the Confederate assault in the Battle of Santa Rosa Island, and became one of the few southern forts to continuously remain in Union hands. The Fort stayed under military use until after WWII when its old fortifications and gun batteries became obsolete and now is a part of the Seashore. Read the rest of this entry →