Beach Camping in Jacksonville with a dash of History

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Kathryn Hanna Park - Atlantic Beach (Jacksonville)

If you’re looking for a relaxing, get away from it all, vacation that is near the Atlantic Ocean but yet is fairly inexpensive then you’ve found a great spot with Kathryn Hanna Park in Jacksonville.  The camp sites are well within walking distance to beautiful beaches of the Atlantic Ocean.  There are great big dunes protecting the land from the water and they’ve done a great job of this park in keeping it natural.

The beach is wide and nice at Hanna Park near Jacksonville, Florida.

The beach is wide and nice at Hanna Park near Jacksonville, Florida.

That said, we were here during a rainy three days and it felt somewhat like a rain forest at times.  Hot, humid and steamy feeling surrounded by lots of high trees and vegetation.  It was a great getaway and felt a lot like something different which is often what you’re looking for when you select a long weekend getaway.

The boardwalks over the dunes at Kathryn Hanna Park near Jacksonville at Atlantic Beach.

The boardwalks over the dunes at Kathryn Hanna Park near Jacksonville at Atlantic Beach.

Jacksonville

Jacksonville itself appears to be a city that has turned the corner and is starting to see more residential development in its urban core.  There are great wide swaths of land still to be re-developed and there is some infrastructure to support it such as a monorail type light transit vehicle that connects sections of the downtown.  The main bus terminal oddly is up on the north side of the downtown but connects with the monorail style system.

The campground at Kathryn Hanna Park near the beach in Jacksonville is a great place to call home for a while.

The campground at Kathryn Hanna Park near the beach in Jacksonville is a great place to call home for a while.

I paid attention to the bus system because it was my intent to take the bus from the beach to downtown.  Alas, the bus passed me up as you cannot flag them down and the section of road I was on didn’t have a bus stop.  Yes, the driver happily zoomed by me.  So I ordered an Uber vehicle which was quick and painless.

Downtown Jacksonville is fairly well developed for a Florida city with transit options that include a single line monorail style rail car similar to what many airports use to shuttle people to and from terminals.

Downtown Jacksonville is fairly well developed for a Florida city with transit options that include a single line monorail style rail car similar to what many airports use to shuttle people to and from terminals.

In the downtown area there are lots of museums including the incredible Museum of Science and History, the Jacksonville Contemporary Art Museum as well as the Cummer Museum.  Nearby is a zoo and some other attractions to keep you busy should you want to get out and have some fun in Jacksonville.

Kingsley Plantation

The road into Kingsley Plantation is very special indeed and gives you the impression immediately that you are going back in time to Kingsley Plantation.

The road into Kingsley Plantation is very special indeed and gives you the impression immediately that you are going back in time to Kingsley Plantation.

This is a well off the beaten path type of historical attraction that is well worth visiting.  It is down a windy twisty turny wooded road that is often dirt but once you get there it is an interesting piece of the region’s history.  Do not go at twilight as the mosquitoes are not fun.

Many of the structures at Kingsley Plantation near Jacksonville are restored.

Many of the structures at Kingsley Plantation near Jacksonville are restored.

The site was home to a man, Mr. Kingsley, who owned a slave that he married and set free and she in turn would help run the plantation and own slaves as well.  The story is fascinating and takes part in the early part of the 19th century.  You can still view many of the buildings including the former slave quarters.  For a full history of Kingsley Plantation you can go to the National Park Service web site on the subject.  

A nice view of the water from the Kingsley Plantation near Jacksonville, Florida.

A nice view of the water from the Kingsley Plantation near Jacksonville, Florida.

It is a government facility so it isn’t reliant on admissions and therefore is well preserved with adequate signage to explain the history of the plantation and the story of the family.  There are great water views from the back of the plantation and the staff are very happy to give you more information should you need it – and I would suggest speaking to the staff because they are very knowledgeable and help bring the history of the plantation to life.

Atlantic Beach

This is a charming little beach town with some great little shops and bars/restaurants around and you can easily walk the town in a short while but worth the poke around.  You’re guaranteed to find some place you want to slink into whether it is for food, drink or both.  We found a great place with indoor and outdoor seating called the Flying Iguana Taqueria and Tequila Bar.  The food was fabulous and the drinks were perfect – you can’t go wrong here.  Some historic structures are here too.  It is an easy drive here from Kathryn Hanna Park in a car.

The Flying Iguana on Atlantic Beach near Jacksonville was a great find in the drinks and food category.

The Flying Iguana on Atlantic Beach near Jacksonville was a great find in the drinks and food category.

In all, this makes for a great long weekend away and you can cover a lot of things or you can just lounge at the beach and campground and have a great time.  The camp store was not open when we were there and it didn’t look like it would open any time soon so come prepared.  Otherwise, its a great getaway.

 

 

 

History and Beaches: Camping in St. Augustine Beach, Florida

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St. Augustine Beach

I must admit I had never stayed in St. Augustine Beach before.  Actually I hadn’t been to the beach here before except a family trip in the 1970s.  And I worked for a museum for five years that had another facility in the old town section of St. Augustine.  So, finally, I decided it was time to visit.

We selected the KOA campground because it was fairly close to the ocean yet still close to the old town since we were just using bicycles to get around.  As with all KOA campgrounds, this one was well run and very clean with amenities to keep everyone happy.  It was Labor Day weekend in the U.S. so it was fairly busy.  It was nice to see the campground fairly full.

Cabins across the lake at the KOA Campground in St. Augustine Beach, Florida

Cabins across the lake at the KOA Campground in St. Augustine Beach, Florida

We used the pool which was great and we had a very good end site.  The bike ride to the beach was all of about 7 minutes so it is very convenient and directly down Pope Road.  The beach here is a short walk to the pier and has a shower and some parking too.  There is an old motel that is shuttered awaiting some type of development at this corner.

The Pier at St. Augustine Beach is less than ten minutes by bicycle from the campground.

The Pier at St. Augustine Beach is less than ten minutes by bicycle from the campground.

We managed to eat at two different places on A1A and both were very good.  The first, Little Margie’s FA Cafe is more of a small dive restaurant and I mean that in the best way possible – it was terrific.  It has indoor and outdoor seating and a small bar.  It is the perfect little beach place and does lunch and breakfast as well as a full liquor bar.  The nachos were excellent and the beers (5 Bud Lights for ten bucks) were cold!  Be sure to visit the unusual gift shop next door which is owned by the same owner and is worth a pop in to.

Little Margie's FA Cafe was the perfect place to relax and eat right across from the beach in St. Augustine Beach.

Little Margie’s FA Cafe was the perfect place to relax and eat right across from the beach in St. Augustine Beach.

The second place we went to, Salt Life Food Shack, was just down the road and is a much more polished place (despite the name shack) with indoor and outdoor seating, air conditioned inside and a roof deck.  It was fully non-smoking and had great views from the roof deck.  Ironically we opted for nachos here and they were heaping and fabulous!

The nachos at Salt Life in St. Augstine Beach were out of this world and paired perfectly with cold beer.

The nachos at Salt Life in St. Augstine Beach were out of this world and paired perfectly with cold beer.

St. Augustine

I’d been to St. Augustine many times and also been director of a museum there though I had an on-site manager so I didn’t spend that much time there.  Still, I’d been to St. Augustine many times and have many friends in the tourism business there.  But if I somehow could forget all that, I’d still find it a fantastic place that I’d highly recommend to everyone.  And I do.

We rode our bicycles into the town which was a bit further than probably most people would like to cycle especially in the heat.  But we did it in about thirty minutes.  We passed the Alligator Farm and the St. Augustine Lighthouse.  Both attractions I would highly recommend and have been to them both.

The outside of Taberna del Caballo in St. George Street, St. Augustine.

The outside of Taberna del Caballo in St. George Street, St. Augustine.

In the town we really just walked up and down St. George Street.  We stopped at the former Old Spanish Quarter which is now the Colonial Quarter.  We ate at the Taberna del Caballo and had a pleasant enough meal inside with paraffin lamps being the only lighting in the place made it feel special and more authentic.

After dinner we rode back to the beach to the campground and enjoyed a relaxing drink outside the RV.  Having enjoyed some ocean time, downtown historical time and some camping time, this was a great weekend getaway and one that we’d surely repeat if the opportunity presented itself again.

 

 

 

A Great Destination: Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

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Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

This is a destination that has been around for a long time and has been attractive to tourists for generations.  I remember coming here as a child in grade school on field trips.  I remember camping here as a family when I was a kid and playing on hay rides.  I remember coming here with my mother for lunch on the square after my father died.

There's lots to see in Gettysburg including this area across from the Battlefield Bus Tours.

There’s lots to see in Gettysburg including this area across from the Battlefield Bus Tours.

It is a special place in American history and a special place for anyone who enjoys travel with all the great built-in comforts of a destination that is well pulled together.  It is conveniently located within an easy drive of the northeast’s major cities.  And it is the perfect place to take your RV to explore and share those explorations with friends and family.

So when we were thinking of where to have a family reunion in Gettysburg, we settled on the Drummer Boy Camping Resort.  My sister had been there before and said it was great and we checked it out online so it would work just perfectly given what we saw.

The Drummer Boy Camping Resort at Gettysburg has a variety of scenes from peaceful to lots of family friendly fun.

The Drummer Boy Camping Resort at Gettysburg has a variety of scenes from peaceful to lots of family friendly fun.

We pulled into Drummer Boy Campground in Gettysburg.  It is a terrific place with multiple pools, excellent camp store, cabin rentals, video arcade, golf cart rentals and much more.  We rode our bicycles into the town of Gettysburg which took about 20 minutes.  There is a hill to climb but it was easy enough if you’re in somewhat decent shape.

One of the pools at Drummer Boy Camping Resort Gettysburg.

One of the pools at Drummer Boy Camping Resort Gettysburg.

Once in the town we rode around the quaint downtown and grabbed a bite to eat on the square at the Blue and Gray Bar & Grill located on the square.  The Maryland Crab Soup was delicious as were the raspberry jalapeno wings – not too hot – just right.

The Blue and Gray Grill on the square in Gettysburg is a great place for a drink and lunch.

The Blue and Gray Grill on the square in Gettysburg is a great place for a drink and lunch.

We meandered up Baltimore Street toward some of the attractions with our destination being the Gettysburg Battlefield Tours.  We paid for our tours and locked up our bicycles (they looked at us when we asked where we could park our bicycles like we’d just asked the time of the next high speed train to Miami as if we were the first to ever arrive by bicycle).  We found a spot that would work for us to lock them up.

The tours of the battlefield make several stops along the way and each one is fascinating.

The tours of the battlefield make several stops along the way and each one is fascinating.

There are a lot of various battlefield tours out there – what is the best battlefield tour in Gettysburg?  Well you’d have to take them all and be unbiased.  We were thrilled with the one we selected.  You can pay a bit extra for a double decker bus tour or a single decker coach is a bit less.  We opted for the first available which was a single deck coach and quite comfortable.  We had an excellent guide and really enjoyed the experience.  There were several places where we got out and really learned a lot.  It was fascinating in actual fact.

The tour guides on the Battlefield Tours are well trained and very interesting.

The tour guides on the Battlefield Tours are well trained and very interesting.

We got back after about a two hour ride and poked around in some of the nearby shops.  There really is no shortage of things to do here for the entire family.  There are small museums and loads of places in the battlefield itself to spend time.  There’s no shortage of monuments either.  And one of the things I remembered as a kid visiting was the ability to climb on a cannon.  Again, no shortage of those.

Some of the views are terrific when on the battlefield tours in Gettysburg.

Some of the views are terrific when on the battlefield tours in Gettysburg.

We took ourselves and our bicycles back to the campground where we met up with family for some camping fun.  We visited the pools and drove around on the golf carts and shuttled to the camp store.  The sites are very nice and we were close together so we could easily walk between the sites.  There are cabins for anyone looking for those and if you’re visiting Gettysburg looking for a camping cabin this is the place.

If you get hungry, you can always hit the Lincoln Diner in downtown Gettysburg.

If you get hungry, you can always hit the Lincoln Diner in downtown Gettysburg.

Overall whether you are using an RV or staying at hotels, Gettysburg is one destination that you have to have on your list.  And if you’re looking for a great family destination I can strongly suggest Gettysburg for that too.  For me, it was like reconnecting with a great old childhood friend.  We will be back Gettysburg.

RV Road Trip Note:

This is part of the series of blog posts on a fourteen day road trip from St. Petersburg, Florida to the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania with stops along the way north and south with no real planned itinerary.  We did this trip in our 30 foot class A motorhome in late July/early August with two bicycles strapped to the back.  We traveled down to Gettysburg after visiting Scranton, Hazleton and Mahanoy City.  It was an easy and quick drive during the morning.

Scranton – Hazleton – Mahanoy City: A Taste of the Coal Regions of PA

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An Unlikely Tourist Itinerary: Scranton – Hazleton – Mahanoy City

Scranton

For someone who was born in Wilkes-Barre (me) you would think they would have visited Scranton at some point.  Nope.  And I figured I may as well hit it on this trip and include some other places that are pretty far removed from any tourism itinerary.

The outside of the Downtown Deli in downtown Scranton, Pennsylvania.

The outside of the Downtown Deli in downtown Scranton, Pennsylvania.

This time of the year the autumn colors in the mountains are beautiful and the local convention and visitors bureau is promoting that, rightly so, because it is so worth seeing.  Scranton has at least been advertising and sending a message to prospective visitors to come and visit.

Lots of great little independent shops and restaurants are in Scranton.  Enjoy them - they are treasures to be found.

Lots of great little independent shops and restaurants are in Scranton. Enjoy them – they are treasures to be found.

I could critique the marketing but this isn’t the venue for that.  They’re trying and trying hard.  There is a shopping mall downtown and the city really was quite lively – something I didn’t expect. We ate at the Downtown Deli & Eatery which is in the heart of downtown.

Loads of interesting historic buildings can be found in downtown Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Loads of interesting historic buildings can be found in downtown Scranton, Pennsylvania.

The city positions itself as The City Electric but after visiting I could relate its historical past to the current experience.  But what a great place to visit and explore.  I wish we had eaten at Sal’s, which is a little local pizza joint that I’m positive has incredible pizza even though I didn’t go in.  It’s the type of place you travel to find.

Downtown Scranton has a mix of old and new in the downtown and it is very pleasant and walkable.

Downtown Scranton has a mix of old and new in the downtown and it is very pleasant and walkable.

Hazleton

the next stop down the line was Hazleton.  This is a city I’ve been to many times. My grandparents are buried here and lived here.  I remember it as a child as being a bit worn but with incredible people.  The one thing I was desperate to do was to eat a piece of Hazleton cold pizza.  It’s something you can’t find anywhere else.   We rode our bicycles from West Hazleton into the city and around.  Couldn’t find a pizza place really and the town was even more beat down than I remembered.

It is great just meandering downtown streets anywhere, but this was a scene in downtown Hazleton, Pennylvania that was really cool.

It is great just meandering downtown streets anywhere, but this was a scene in downtown Hazleton, Pennylvania that was really cool.

The city has attracted a lot of Hispanic immigrants and there was a lot of controversy about it.  I always thought it strange since the city was built by mostly German immigrants, my great grandparents included.  The appearance of the downtown area was very run down and almost seedy in spots.  I felt safe though.  It’s the kind of city you would love to help. It has great history and was once a great Pennsylvania city and a stop here is worth seeing what it has become and what it continues to do to stay alive.

Downtown Hazleton is a bit rough and worn but there are plenty of places to explore for anyone but particularly urban explorers.

Downtown Hazleton is a bit rough and worn but there are plenty of places to explore for anyone but particularly urban explorers.

There appeared to be some great Hispanic restaurants but we didn’t stay for lunch. I never got my pizza – partially because it was so surprising to see what Hazleton has become.  It will continue to evolve and I hope at some point will work on its visual blight and lack of retail and entertainment downtown.  It is a great American story as a melting pot and that story could be told just by walking around if it was done right.

The region itself, as promoted by the Luzerne County convention and visitors bureau, is well presented for what there is.  So, if you’re more interested in what is really on the tourist track, you can find a lot more here.  Most people don’t visit downtown Hazleton when coming to the area.

Mahanoy City

a bit further south of Hazleton off the expressway is a small town called Mahanoy City.  It is part of Schuylkill County where there are plenty of other things to do and see though this is what we chose.  There isn’t anything here in Mahanoy City to draw tourists other than seeing an authentic coal mining town that has seen a population decline for a while.  My great great grandparents lived here and so I had to stop and visit the historical society.  The people couldn’t have been more helpful – something about the people in this part of the country makes them very honest and friendly and helpful I think.

Mahanoy City has seen better days but is still a great place to pull off the expressway and explore.  This is the main street (Centre Street)  in downtown Mahanoy City.

Mahanoy City has seen better days but is still a great place to pull off the expressway and explore. This is the main street (Centre Street) in downtown Mahanoy City.

Mahanoy City at one time, in the early part of the 19th century, had more bats per capita than any other town in America.  So why not capitalize on it with an authentic bar crawl?  Or historical markers on the oldest bars?   The town is well kept and has quite a bit of residential housing still in it but in need of upgrading.  It really could be a tourist destination if done right. At the moment, it’s a nice town to visit to experience what it once was though there isn’t much in terms of shopping but it is real and authentic with wonderful people.

One of the residential streets in Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania.

One of the residential streets in Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania.

There are plenty of towns in this region worth visiting.  I would love to see them all. But even more, I would love to see one or two of them work on attracting tourists by developing a scene and “product” that would attract people.  All the elements are there for some of these towns and cities to become a great tourism draw.  These towns are in three different counties with different tourism promotion oversight: Lackawana, Luzerne and Schuylkill Counties.  All three counties have attractions worth seeing and spending time exploring those counties.

 

RV Road Trip Note:

This is part of the series of blog posts on a fourteen day road trip from St. Petersburg, Florida to the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania with stops along the way north and south with no real planned itinerary.  We did this trip in our 30 foot class A motorhome in late July/early August with two bicycles strapped to the back.  We traveled here from the Poconos and came down the expressway to Scranton, then Hazleton and then Mahanoy City before making our way to Gettysburg.

US Highway 6: Milford – Lake Wallenpaupack – Honesdale – Waymart in the Poconos

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US Highway 6 in the Poconos

If you’re looking for a great, off-the-beaten-track road trip, look no further than US 6 in the Poconos.  This throwback in time is authentic, explore-worthy and scenic.  Surely over the years loads of tourists have used the highway as a transportation link.  Today, this forgotten highway is worth exploring as it represents a bit of a trip to the past and the highway itself has become the destination.

Bushkill Fals is our starting point on this section of our road trip.  It is an excellent place to visit if you have no problems walking.

Bushkill Fals is our starting point on this section of our road trip. It is an excellent place to visit if you have no problems walking.

We were coming up Route 209 from Bushkill Falls (something you can’t miss if in the area) and linked up with US Highway 6 at Milford.  Milford is a great little town and one that was surprisingly well kept and pleasant.  It did have some odd parking restrictions that I now recall as I write this but nothing that prevented us from parking and walking the town.

Fretta's is a great little Italian Deli in Milford, PA

Fretta’s is a great little Italian Deli in Milford, PA

Where can you find a great Italian market in the Poconos?  Well, don’t let the chain coffee store or auto parts store on the main road try to fool you - the town of Milford is well worth exploring despite not having unique shops on the Highway 6 through town.  We eventually found a great Italian market with Fretta’s, a small but excellent place to shop for food on the main side street in the town.  We definitely bought our share.  Don’t expect a large market – this place is small, neighborhood or small town scale and is incredible for being just what it is.  This is the type of place that, when you find it in your travels, makes the journey that much better simply because it exists.

One of the pleasures of travelling the back roads is that the most random stuff pops up like this art and abandoned building together.

One of the pleasures of travelling the back roads is that the most random stuff pops up like this art and abandoned building together.

This is the county seat of Pike County.  I felt immediately comfortable here for some reason that later when I started looking in my family tree, I realized my great grandparents were here at some point as one of their children was born in Milford.  I am not sure how these feelings work or what science they are based on, if any, but I do think there is something to genetic memory whether it is tied to DNA or an aura or something else we haven’t discovered yet.

This historic small town in Pennsylvania is really a great place to stop along US 6.

This historic small town in Pennsylvania is really a great place to stop along US 6.

Anyway, back to traveling.  Route 6 continues through beautiful country and past a lot of interesting places.  You’re exploring so stop and do some exploring wherever you want.  There’s no shortage of scenery, shops and interesting places.  The next major area you get to is going to be Lake Wallenpaupack.  There’s lots to do here and plenty to see.  There’s camping as well.  It is a well-developed area for tourists and, like much of the area, a bit of a throw back to a different time – which is why it is so appealing!

Yet another random finding along the back road of US 6 in Pennsylvania was this field with deer.

Yet another random finding along the back road of US 6 in Pennsylvania was this field with deer.

Past this is Hawley, another small town well worth experiencing.  It has a diner and a general store and is the kind of place you wish you could just land and spend a few days relaxing.  You’ll come up to White Mills and eventually to Honesdale.  Honesdale itself is a small town but compared to the ones you’ve just driven through it is the big town of the region.

The town of Waymart is along US 6 and you can stop in at this general store for a real taste of local.

The town of Waymart is along US 6 and you can stop in at the Waymart Deli for a real taste of local.

Honesdale is one of those towns that is loaded with potential and opportunity from a tourism perspective.  On the northbound trip through the town, you don’t pass through the best of shops and urban scenery.  But the potential is there.  The town’s southbound section of US 6 is a bit better and has much more in terms of shops so be sure to circle down the southbound part of US 6 in Honesdale.  Hopefully one day the town will figure out how to attract more tourists and really become a destination as it has a good foundation already.

You can take US 6 into Carbondale or bypass it and enjoy this lovely view of the town in the distance.

You can take US 6 into Carbondale or bypass it and enjoy this lovely view of the town in the distance.

Continue your journey along US 6 and you’ll pass through Waymart.  Unfortunately, the route mostly by-passes the small town so you can deviate here and do a quick tour around or get out and explore some more.  You have the option to visit Carbondale or join up with the Lackawana Valley Highway which we did and headed toward Scranton.  You could also take Business Route 6 and really explore your way down to Scranton which is what I would have preferred to do but we didn’t have the time.

There are plenty of campgrounds in this area so you are well set.  We stayed at the Ponderosa Pines Campground near Honesdale and found it wonderful.  So happy travels and enjoy the journey like we did.

 

RV Road Trip Note:

This is part of the series of blog posts on a fourteen day road trip from St. Petersburg, Florida to the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania with stops along the way north and south with no real planned itinerary.  We did this trip in our 30 foot class A motorhome in late July/early August with two bicycles strapped to the back.  We traveled up here from Delaware Water Gap and were headed out on US Route 6 to visit the Poconos with our destinations being Scranton and Hazleton.  

The Incredible Bushkill Falls in the Poconos

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Bushkill Falls

This was one of the most pleasant surprises on this 14 day road trip.  If you haven’t been and are within easy shot of this place, do yourself a favor and go see it.  Bushkill Falls will not disappoint you.

We weren’t quite sure what to expect but we arrived and found easy parking for our motor home.  It is advertised as the Niagara of Pennsylvania and while it isn’t like Niagara Falls, it certainly was beautiful and definitely worth a visit.  I mean really, where can you find water falls in Pennsylvania?  I didn’t know until this trip.  There is a collection of buildings that actually makes for an interesting day out.

There are a collection of buildings all offering something to do or to eat at Bushkill Falls.

There are a collection of buildings all offering something to do or to eat at Bushkill Falls.

Our expectation was far less – we thought it was just the falls.  We got to the box office and bought our tickets to go in.  I was a little concerned about the trails and how much time we’d spend there but it is easy enough to spend as little or as much time as you’d like.  This is exploring the Poconos of Pennsylvania at its best.  A totally unplanned stop and see.

This fun creature greeted us in one of the exhibits at Bushkill Falls in the Poconos.

This fun creature greeted us in one of the exhibits at Bushkill Falls in the Poconos.

If you really enjoy hiking, this is a great place.  If you enjoy walking through nature without a whole lot of exerting yourself and still see incredible beauty then this is for you also.  There’s a variety of trails and no matter what you do it is well worth the price of admission.

Here's the way down to the falls at Bushkill Falls in the Poconos of Pennsylvania.

Here’s the way down to the falls at Bushkill Falls in the Poconos of Pennsylvania.

We walked but I wouldn’t say it was a lot.  I wouldn’t do it with a boot on my foot but if you’re able to walk a few blocks you shouldn’t have any problems if you don’t opt for the longer trails.  There are several options to choose from and you can even venture down some and return without going too far.  There are some excellent photo opps and it was fun at one watching everyone taking their selfie at the falls.

There are a lot of paths along the water at Bushkill Falls and so much beauty to soak up.

There are a lot of paths along the water at Bushkill Falls and so much beauty to soak up.

After experiencing the falls, you walk back and the collection of buildings offers food, mini golf, mining activities for kids, an Indian museum, a taxidermy collection and more.  This is far from high brow entertainment but it was good clean fun and we really enjoyed it.

The actual falls are incredibly beautiful and surrounded by nature itself.  Bushkill Falls is really breathtaking.

The actual falls are incredibly beautiful and surrounded by nature itself. Bushkill Falls is really breathtaking.

There are also pavilions, paddle boats and a small lake and there’s lodging nearby.  It would make a fun weekend trip.  The web site for Bushkill Falls is very well done and has a lot of information on it should you want more information to visit.

One of the pedestrian bridges at Bushkill Falls, Poconos, Pennsylvania.

One of the pedestrian bridges at Bushkill Falls, Poconos, Pennsylvania.

 

RV Road Trip Note:

This is part of the series of blog posts on a fourteen day road trip from St. Petersburg, Florida to the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania with stops along the way north and south with no real planned itinerary.  We did this trip in our 30 foot class A motorhome in late July/early August with two bicycles strapped to the back.  We traveled up here from Delaware Water Gap and were headed out on US Route 6 to visit the Poconos even more.

 

Intercourse PA

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Intercourse PA

Having lived in the Harrisburg area and left when I was going into graduate school, I never really got the opportunity to play tourist in Lancaster County much and do the whole Amish Country scene.

Well let me tell you it is a wonderful experience and such fun.  Sure there is some commercialization of the scene but overall it is a great experience and appeals to all ages.  There are ample hotel rooms and campgrounds in the area and no shortage of things to do for all ages.

We ended up driving our RV up to Intercourse from Coatesville, PA and spent the day there.  We easily parked in a free parking lot and unloaded our bicycles and rode around exploring the town.  It is fairly compact and well suited to visitors with amenities.

Intercourse is a village that is easily done on foot or bicycle.

Intercourse is a village that is easily done on foot or bicycle.

You never really know what the prime attraction is for an area until you experience it for yourself.  For me, the tourist attraction in Intercourse PA that I couldn’t find anywhere else but here was a market called Stoltzfus Meat and Deli.  The store is a treasure for anyone who enjoys food.  There are things you won’t find anywhere else and they are all fresh and delicious.  If you’re in the area, you owe it to yourself to stop in here.

The meats at Stoltzfus Meat and Deli in Intercourse PA are simply incredible.

The meats at Stoltzfus Meat and Deli in Intercourse PA are simply incredible.

It is on one of the side streets and not on the main street of Intercourse but it is well sign posted.  We bought bacon and sausages as well as cheese and other things.  I can’t imagine having this place within driving distance of my home – I’d be as large as a house.  They also do the New Castle, Delaware Farmers Market for anyone who lives within easier range of that town.  And to make this even better, it is across the street from the Intercourse Canning Company - another thing to not miss when in town!

The baby goats were adorable at the Kitchen Kettle Village in Intercourse PA.

The baby goats were adorable at the Kitchen Kettle Village in Intercourse PA.

Kitchen Kettle Village is another place we visited.  It is loads of fun and we actually spent some time at the little petting zoo they have there with some of the most adorable baby goats.  And it was free.  There are horse and buggy rides that are conducted from here though we didn’t do it.  We saw plenty of them coming and going interspersed with the Amish people and their buggy’s.  The merchants are well worth exploring too.

Don't miss  going into the smaller shops in Intercourse.  Every place has something worth looking at and eventually buying.

Don’t miss going into the smaller shops in Intercourse. Every place has something worth looking at and eventually buying.

Kling House Restaurant is at the Kitchen Kettle Village and is a great restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating.  It is popular and for good reason.  The food and service is excellent.  I can highly suggest the pretzels and mustard on the appetizers menu.  Soft and delicious with excellent mustards.   The sweet bolgna sandwich really took me back to childhood and I wish I could have one every week!  The salads are beautiful and everything is fresh and delicious with a taste that is unique to Lancaster County.

The pretzels at the Kling House Restaurant in Intercourse PA are absolutely delicious.

The pretzels at the Kling House Restaurant in Intercourse PA are absolutely delicious.

There are other smaller shops up and down the main boulevard with homemade Amish or otherwise items and they are at very reasonable prices.  So anyone interested in furniture or linens would also find plenty of interest here.  And of course you can buy coffee cups, magnets and lighters that say Intercourse.  Those are made in China.

Shops along the main street carry something for everyone.  This shop was an interior decorator's dream in Intercourse PA.

Shops along the main street carry something for everyone. This shop was an interior decorator’s dream in Intercourse PA.

There is a merchants association in Intercourse with a good web site to give you a further idea of what there is here.  It is a small town but you can base yourself here and spend as much time as you’d like exploring the towns of Lancaster County PA and really enjoy it.  As with all tourist destinations that are well developed, there are outlet malls should you tire of the more authentic experiences.

You will see Amish buggy's along the streets of Intercourse PA.

You will see Amish buggy’s along the streets of Intercourse PA.

Nearby are the villages of Gap, Blue Ball, Paradise, Mount Joy and of course the City of Lancaster.  If you live within several hours of this destination and haven’t been lately, you owe it to yourself to get away to the Lancaster area.  It really is a joy.

 

RV Road Trip Note:

This is part of the series of blog posts on a fourteen day road trip from St. Petersburg, Florida to the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania with stops along the way north and south with no real planned itinerary.  We did this trip in our 30 foot class A motorhome in late July/early August with two bicycles strapped to the back.  We traveled to Intercourse, Pennsylvania from Coatesville and from there we went to Dillsburg which is near Harrisburg. 

 

The Incredible Beauty and History of the Delaware Water Gap

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Delaware Water Gap

This wasn’t something that was on our list of things to do on its own.  But the region ranked up there and it was part of our circle tour of the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.  Being in the tourism industry, I found it particularly fascinating from that aspect as it was once one of the greatest inland tourist destinations in the United States.

The Deerhead Inn, home of Jazz in the Poconos.

The Deerhead Inn, home of Jazz in the Poconos.

It is easy to see why it was so popular in the earlier 20th century for it is a place of incredible beauty and the small town is charming.  From here it is easy to see much of the Poconos in day trips.  The town didn’t have a railway station until 1903 though it did have excellent hotels for visitors during the Victorian era when it first became quite popular.

The Shawnee General Store is just one of the many charming places you'll encounter in the Delaware Water Gap region of the Poconos.

The Shawnee General Store is just one of the many charming places you’ll encounter in the Delaware Water Gap region of the Poconos.

Don’t expect grand hotels that you might find in the old Victorian spa town of Karlsbad (Karlovy Vary) in the Czech Republic.  This is still a fairly rural feeling place and it is hard to imagine the town with thousands of tourists in another century. Nearby in Minisink there is the Minisink Hotel which I believe is more of a pub and restaurant and has a great reputation – another reason to return!

Lots of history in the Delaware Water Gap including this structure which is one of the old inns and still operating in the area.

Lots of history in the Delaware Water Gap including this structure.  The area is home to an incredible amount of historic tourism infrastructure.

The Historic Castle Inn is located right in the heart of the small town and, while it isn’t operating as an inn these days, you should see it.  Built in 1906, it is now home to antiques and ice cream and a whole lot more.   The Deer Head Inn is the oldest continuously running jazz club in the United States and also offers accommodations.

The Minisink Hotel is one of the many places you pass while on the Delaware Water Gap trolley tour.

The Minisink Hotel is one of the many places you pass while on the Delaware Water Gap trolley tour.

Despite all this the borough of Delaware Water Gap has less than 1,000 residents.  So don’t expect a big town when you visit.  I would have loved to learn more about where these hotels once were and a bit more about the history of the area.  The first hotel dated to 1829 and was built by Antoine Dutot, the town’s founder.

Water Gap Trolley

So wanting to learn more we boarded the Water Gap Trolley which is conveniently located and includes a small gift shop, snacks and waiting area grounds.  We easily pulled our RV into the parking lot and bought our tickets.  The trolley tour was interesting and took you out to some of the scenic vistas for which the area is so well known.

The Delaware Water Gap trolley terminus where it is very comfortable to wait for the next tour.

The Delaware Water Gap trolley terminus where it is very comfortable to wait for the next tour.

Our tour guide gave us a lot of information about various celebrities who once lived in the area and plenty of history.  People seemed to enjoy the leisurely ride and information.  It is an easy way to relax and get an orientation to the area so I would suggest the trolley if you have the time.  There is an information center nearby off the I-80 expressway which we didn’t visit but would be a good place to collect information on the Poconos or anywhere else in Pennsylvania for that matter before starting out on your own tour of the area.

The views of the region aboard the trolley are incredible in the Delaware Water Gap.

The views of the region aboard the trolley are incredible in the Delaware Water Gap.

The Region and Camping

It is easy to base yourself in this area and visit some of the places we’ve visited on this trip.  Jim Thorpe, Split Rock and Lake Harmony, Milford and the US Highway 6 are all nearby.  If you’re camping, we can suggest the KOA at Delaware Water Gap quite well as this is where we stayed.  It is a great campground, has a pool and plenty of amenities to enjoy.  It was a charming natural environment that could easily serve as a base for exploring the region or you can just as easily have a leisurely time camping and doing as little or as much as you’d like.

This charming house is just one of the random sights you will find while touring the area.

This charming house is just one of the random sights you will find while touring the area.

RV Road Trip Note:

This is part of the series of blog posts on a fourteen day road trip from St. Petersburg, Florida to the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania with stops along the way north and south with no real planned itinerary.  We did this trip in our 30 foot class A motorhome in late July/early August with two bicycles strapped to the back.  We headed to Delaware Water Gap area after visiting Split Rock and the Jim Thorpe area.

An Indoor Water Park in the Poconos

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Split Rock and Lake Harmony

My parents used to hang out here when they were young.  It was a different era for sure but I wanted to come here to see the area and experience some of the same scenery my parents did.

We drove around Lake Harmony and into Split Rock.  I got an immediate feeling when we first went around a corner and I saw Lake Harmony.  It was a peaceful feeling and one that I can’t describe but I felt like my father, who passed away in 2004, was with me on this trip to see where he used to go boating.  We continued around South Lake Drive and I imagined the late 1950s and how this must have been absolutely exotic back then.

My mom and dad at Split Rock Lake Harmony in this vintage 1959 shot showing what is the front of the lodge near the waterfront.

My mom and dad at Split Rock Lake Harmony in this vintage 1959 shot showing what is the front of the lodge near the waterfront.

We continued into the Split Rock Resort and Golf Club which is a gated community that charges a dollar to access the road through it.  Our destination was the H20ooohh! Indoor Water Park.  This being summertime, it could well have been outdoors but we had to see an indoor water park and could only imagine how spectacular it must be when it is cold and snowing outside.

The Komodo Dragon is a really cool flow rider and its really entertaining to watch people give it a shot.

The Komodo Dragon is a really cool flow rider and its really entertaining to watch people give it a shot.

We had no problem parking our RV in the parking lot of the resort.  It is well in the mountains and affords great views.  It is definitely the type of place you’d want to stay if you were doing a trip to see the fall leaves changing colors.  The ambiance throughout the entire area was great.

The main vista as you enter the indoor water park at Split Rock in the Poconos.

The main vista as you enter the indoor water park at Split Rock in the Poconos.

So, having only ever done outdoor water parks, we were curious about this place.  It certainly isn’t like the large Florida water parks – and we certainly didn’t expect it to be.  But we were pleasantly surprised with just how big it is and how relaxing it could be.  It was plenty warm enough to go in and out of the water and there was a snack bar to serve guests a variety of basic snacks and drinks.

One of the pools at the H20ooohh! indoor water park at Split Rock Resort at Lake Harmony in the Poconos.

One of the pools at the H20ooohh! indoor water park at Split Rock Resort at Lake Harmony in the Poconos.

Watching people try their skill at the Komodo Dragon – which is the only indoor flow rider in the state – was a lot of fun.  I never did try it but enjoyed watching others play on it.  All ages gave it a shot and the staff appeared very good at working with each individual to give them a great experience.  It is the type of experience that you want to be sure your bathing suit is well secured though so if you plan on trying it prepare that in advance so there are no accidental wardrobe malfunctions!

The slides at the water park go outside at the indoor water park at Split Rock in the Poconos.

The slides at the water park go outside at the indoor water park at Split Rock in the Poconos.

The attraction also features a wave pool, some hot tubs and some long slides that wind their way in and out of doors which probably are extremely cool to experience in snowy weather.  They were great in the summer.  There’s plenty of splash zones for smaller kids and there were plenty of seats to be able to sit wherever you want.

This historical view of one of the cottages at Lake Harmony at Split Rock was taken in about 1959 and my dad used to spend a lot of time there.  I'd love for someone to identify where it is and what perhaps it looks like today, if it is still there.

This historical view of one of the cottages at Lake Harmony at Split Rock was taken in about 1959 and my dad used to spend a lot of time there. I’d love for someone to identify where it is and what perhaps it looks like today, if it is still there.

In all, it was a great experience and truly is a special attraction in the Poconos.  The area is filled with beauty and it is easy to see why the region has been such a tourist destination for years.  I can’t wait to return some day in the winter and then again in the fall and again in the summer and also in spring.  There is something magical about the Poconos that draws me to it as one of those special places that has a really good feeling.

 

 

 

Historic Small Town of Jim Thorpe in the Poconos

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Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania

Where can you find an incredible historic town nestled in the mountains of Pennsylvania that is a tourism success story?  Look no further than the town of Jim Thorpe located in the Poconos of Pennsylvania.

There’s a lot of history here and this historic and charming small town could well be one of many old towns in this part of Pennsylvania that have all the basic infrastructure and potential but no tourists and no local attempt to create a tourist destination.  Jim Thorpe, once known as Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk, figured it out long ago and is a success story in tourism thanks in part to active historical preservation and the Mauch Chunk Historical Society.

The passenger train of the Lehigh Gorge Railway departs Jim Thorpe Station.

The passenger train of the Lehigh Gorge Railway departs Jim Thorpe Station.

Sure, it is surrounded by incredible beauty in the mountains.  Its small streets and mountain views combined with the Lehigh River below remind you in some way of a foreign land though the architecture is purely American.

The railway station at Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania is a wonderful structure.

The railway station at Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania is a wonderful structure.

What makes Jim Thorpe so special beyond these natural resources?  It has taken advantage of the natural resources and provided visitors plenty of things to do and plenty of reasons to stay here.  Let me start with the river.  There are a number of white water rafting companies operating in the area providing all sorts of options from the very basic and beginner experience right the way through to dam release opportunities for the more experienced.

The Lehigh River and pebble beach at Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania where you can see rafters and kayakers going down the river.

The Lehigh River and pebble beach at Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania where you can see rafters and kayakers going down the river.

Off the water, there are a lot of bicycle rental options as well and plenty of nature to ride around.  There are shuttles that pick you up as you ride mostly downhill or you can set off on your own through the trails in the area.  The Poconos even has its own website for biking.  You can’t go wrong if you’re up for a bit of exercise and Jim Thorpe is the perfect place to base yourself.

Historical buildings are everywhere in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania.  This is directly across from the railway station at a nice green.

Historical buildings are everywhere in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. This is directly across from the railway station at a nice green.

Along with biking and rafting there are plenty of other things to do.  If seeing the regions natural beauty sitting down is your thing, why not pick up the train at the historic train station in the center of the town.  The Lehigh Gorge Railway offers tours of the area by rail.

One thing about Jim Thorpe is you have to look up, down, around and over to really find all the beauty, history and architecture in the town.

One thing about Jim Thorpe is you have to look up, down, around and over to really find all the beauty, history and architecture in the town.

There are no shortages of restaurants, bars and shops in the town and it is easily walked.  You can park your car at the main parking lot by the railway station and there is even room for RVs.  The cost is $5 and from here you can spend the day exploring the town or taking up one of the excursions whether it is cycling or rafting or taking the train.

Do not miss going down Race Street in historic Jim Thorpe, PA.

Do not miss going down Race Street in historic Jim Thorpe, PA.

We ate at an historic restaurant called the Molly Maguires Pub and Restaurant which is part of the Hotel Switzerland and is the town’s oldest pub.  It was easy to imagine the “good old days” in this pub as it is full of character.  We weren’t all that hungry and so I opted for the clam chowder and my partner wanted a kids meal which he wasn’t allowed to get per our waitress.  So he opted for something else.  We noticed a few NO signs around the pub and just figured it was more of a policy and procedures approach to service rather than a customer-focused approach.  It certainly wouldn’t cause us not to return – it was a great place, just not as service-oriented as it could be.

The Molly Maguires Pub and Steakhouse in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania.

The Molly Maguires Pub and Steakhouse in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania.

Looking to camp in the Jim Thorpe area?  We did.  The Jim Thorpe Camping Resort is located a few miles up the hill from the town and had everything we needed including a camp store, laundry facility and even a pool.  It was a nice wooded place and there were some seasonal sites here.  It is easily an area that is attractive to visitors.  We were there in July/August and the temperatures were perfect at night.  In fact, being from Florida, the reason we didn’t go white water rafting is we were too cold!  In our defense, it was unseasonably cold and was a low of 50 the morning we were planning on doing it.

 

The Jim Thorpe Camping Resort is a nice wooded place not far from the town though I wouldn't recommend bicycling it unless you do well on steep grades.

The Jim Thorpe Camping Resort is a nice wooded place not far from the town though I wouldn’t recommend bicycling it unless you do well on steep grades.

Jim Thorpe is called the Switzerland of Pennsylvania.  Having been to Switzerland a number of times, I kind of see how it can be called that.  It is more magical and special in some ways though as it is purely an American story steeped with American history and beauty.  I cannot wait to return!

Going uphill toward the Opera House, you'll pass beautiful restored houses as well as get some great exercise if you haven't got enough from the white water rafting, biking and hiking.

Going uphill toward the Opera House, you’ll pass beautiful restored houses as well as get some great exercise if you haven’t got enough from the white water rafting, biking and hiking.

The State of Pennsylvania offers a free guide to the state and it is very well done.  If you’d like a digital version or a printed version you can go to their website.  Enjoy your travels – you can’t go wrong with Jim Thorpe!

 

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