Salisbury Beach, Massachusetts: A Study in Beach Town Tourism


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Salisbury Beach, Massachusetts
The Perfect Beach Destination in Need of Marketing, Historic Preservation and a Little Renovation

Firstly, this was written after our second vacation in Salisbury Beach so, while this isn’t the destination for everyone, it certainly has broader appeal than the message and impression the town, or tourism agency, is giving. And the town has displayed plans for a redeveloped town center in the square for everyone to see. If the plans come to fruition there won’t be much of a need to visit this unique slice of American pie.


Rack brochure for Salisbury, Massachusetts shows the common beach umbrella and the phrase “More than a Beach”

The main road into the beach from Salisbury has several really old school motels and campgrounds as well as a classic old ice cream business (Foote’s), independently owned, of course and they proudly sell fried foods too. And there are no chains along here which is the main attraction. You’ll pass summer cabins (Beach Road Grove Cabins) that look like their right out of the set for Dirty Dancing.

In the town itself, it is easy to see there’s several blocks that seriously need renovating, restoration or rebuilding. The problem with the town’s plan is that it looks like the entire four blocks around the town center will be rebuilt rather than a combination of restoration and rebuild. The town’s marketing materials really don’t play off the nostalgic feel the town center has. This is its primary positioning point. All up as well as down the coast there are towns with beaches, bands and bars. But there aren’t any that have the small town beach feel from the 1960s and 70s that Salisbury Beach has done an excellent job of creating – or rather preserving. And I don’t think it was intentional.


The campy mid-century signage at Joe’s Playland makes you smile. You just know there’s fun inside and its nostalgic. And it certainly is. This place is a great time and a great throwback in time.

On the north side of the square you’ll see Joe’s Playland with its unique signage that is straight out of the 1960s when skee ball and crane machines were king and video games hadn’t been thought of. It still gives tickets and prizes in fact. There’s Tripoli Pizza with the most classic of neon signs and Cristy’s Pizza with its unique sign and building as well as an independent dime store that is a treasure of a retail experience and a large Broadway sign on top of it. This block alone is a throwback in time that really movie set producers couldn’t recreate any better if they were looking for a 1960s set in a beach town.


More mid-century design at Christy’s Pizza in Salisbury Beach.  It isn’t the most pure of designs but it is campy and classic which makes it so fantastic.

The south side features a bar called the Upper Deck – a cash only business like so many and some great pizza and fried dough places along with a classic building that looks like it might have been a haunted house at some point on one end and a fun house on the other. Someone said to me they remembered the clown faces from when they were a kid – and his was someone in their late 50s. These buildings used to be all over America’s beach towns and the great thing is they are still here in Salisbury Beach. There’s also a small chocolate and salt water taffy shop – Willey’s – on the corner of this block.


The Tripoli Pizza neon sign is a gem in Salisbury Beach, Massachusetts.

The town’s plans show for all of this to come down. That would be criminal in my mind. A slap in the face to the American beach experience from the 1960s. The other blocks around the center probably should come down as they have no historic significance and are mostly abandoned now. The town’s promotional material just needs to be tweaked with some nostalgia that might include some mid-century fonts, encouraging people to rediscover their past, fall in love with the smell of cotton candy again, thrill at skee bowl, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find an American over 50 who wouldn’t love to have a slice of pizza while playing in their past.


Part of the redevelopment promotion sign in the town center showing what the town might look like.  Pretty uninspiring.  

Throughout the town there are little beach cottages the type that used to be everywhere in places like Florida and New Jersey but have long since been torn down and replaced with non-descript condo buildings that lack charm and any sign of peeling paint. If this were to be the strategic direction for marketing of the town the product could use some additional focus. Placing some coin operated machines that were at least forty years old could be beneficial as would placing some 1960s cars throughout the downtown almost as if they were some type of public art.


Here is an example of what has been put into the seafront.  It could be any beach town, USA.  The food was good but it really stood out as out of place architecture that took away the authentic feel of the town. 

And think of the great social media exposure you could generate with those old fashioned beach face cutout things that people posed in that promoted the destination. Some of these types of things are not expensive but, when added to the product mix in this case, could be highly effective in creating a truly nostalgic destination – or at least a beach destination where there was a preserved historic district that offered all that. Once you have an anchor product that is different from anywhere else, you can fill rooms and restaurants surrounding this core – and there are some things here that are completely misplaced. The Sea Glass Restaurant and some of the slightly more upscale establishments in this area that are so obviously out of place in this destination at the present time.


These fun old machines are still in working order and can put a smile on any late baby boomer’s face.

New businesses that easily play off the nostalgic theme and compliment the historic core experience could be added. While there is obviously a need for some demolition and rebuilding with some mixed use development, the core two blocks could be restored to their original mid-century look and the new development could very easily have a look and feel that would compliment the historic district.

Looking at the destination marketing brochure you’ll find very little differentiation with other beach towns. They use the tired phrase “More than just a beach!” – just like every other beach town. They also tout their history – just like nearly every other New England town. It is interesting but not something to position yourself on. In the welcome from the Chamber of Commerce typical words like “explore” and “discover” are used just as they are in every destination across the country. The 1638 little cemetery is on equal footing as the beach itself given the geographic equality given to the entire Salisbury town. There’s a bike path that is also promoted and the cover of the brochure features an umbrella and beach chair. It is challenging for these beach towns to differentiate themselves – there’s even stock photography in this brochure.


A campy collection of signage is all part of the beauty of this place.

Looking at this destination from the outside it is clear how to increase business and make Salisbury a much more attractive place without large-scale construction projects. Hopefully the town will give some serious thought to what it wants to be because what it is isn’t far from what it could be. Charming, nostalgic, family-friendly, good value with loads of accommodation options where you can still buy beach pizza, play skee bowl, win prizes, sit in a photo booth, and so much more. It is all about making memories and this classic destination has the perfect foundation to re-invent itself.

Camping on the Beach at Cape Canaveral


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This is a must-visit campground for anyone.  Jetty Park Campground has so much going for it and is such a gem I actually thought about not writing about it.  First off, it is super easy to get to directly off the former Beeline Expressway (the 528) out of Orlando and a few quick miles from the I-95 too.

When you get there, you’ll find a camp store with lots of things and a friendly staff.  A nice lounge is also in the registration area.  There are a variety of sites including some great tent locations if that’s your thing.  There are sites that will also handle the big rigs too.  Just outside the campground fence is the park open to the public and it is quite nice!


One of the many special things about Jetty Park is that you can view cruise ships departing Port Canaveral from pretty close up!

First off, it is right in Port Canaveral so you can see large cruise ships coming and going.  The coming is early morning when it is still dark – I saw one at 6 AM/0600 coming in.  The going is generally between 4.30 and 5.30 PM/1630-1730 and only on certain days though we stayed a Friday through a Monday and saw activity each day – one day three large cruise ships left.  And we even saw a Trident Submarine heading out to sea!  That was extra special.


In addition to a great camp store, there’s also a restaurant and sundries shop, roof top deck and bathroom facilities near the beach which is all part of the complex.  And this store sells beer which is so important for camping.

You can also walk or ride your bike to the beach – a gorgeous beach on the Atlantic Ocean and there is a bait shop that sells all sorts of things besides bait – and a great snack bar too – along with an observation deck and toilets.  On the beach, there is a lifeguard station and a place you can rent beach chairs, umbrellas and other items making this a perfect spot to walk to from your RV.


Looking south from the beach that is part of Jetty Park Campground

We rode our bikes on the beach all the way to the Cocoa Beach Pier and had a great lunch there and rode back quite easily.  We had a beer at Pelican’s on the Pier and there is indoor as well as outdoor seating.  It is a full restaurant and there are other places to eat and drink there so it is worth a visit though all websites seem to go to a timeshare called Westgate Resorts when you search on it so maybe they own the Pier, but it is the best place for information about it.


The Pier at Cocoa Beach is a nice bike ride south from Jetty Park and has plenty to see and do around it as well as on it.

There are nearby restaurants you can ride your bicycle to quite easily and we stopped at Exploration Tower which is in the port and near restaurants – though due to parking lots being quite large you really don’t want to walk between locations – so you can easily ride between it and other things.  Admission is very reasonable (check the website before going as there sometimes is a deal to get tickets online cheaper in advance).  At $6.50 for an adult it was absolutely worth going to even if you don’t use a coupon (which you can find at the camp store).


Exploration Tower is a great attraction and one we’d recommend.

We started at the top with great views of the ocean, Cape Canaveral, the various rocket launching pads and more.  There’s free binoculars you can use when you’re there on the top floor and while we are two adults, there seemed to be plenty to amuse all ages including smaller children.  There information on the port on one level and space information on another and a film on yet another floor.  It was really entertaining as well as educational and it was absolutely spotless clean!


Of course there are lots of other things nearby including the Kennedy Space Center itself but what we did we could do without a vehicle other than bicycles.  I’ve written about a visit here before that still has great information about the Space Coast, Melbourne and Cocoa., The Brevard Zoo and also the Kennedy Space Center.   Also the official tourist agency, Visit Spacecoast, has great information too.

We cannot wait to return to Jetty Park and Jetty Park Campground.  We only hope we can get in!

Sugarloaf Key


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Everyone needs to do the Florida Keys at least once in a lifetime.  For those of us who live in the State of Florida, we’re lucky to get to do it much more often.  And a trip to Sugarloaf Key with your RV is perfect for exploring the Keys and, in particular, Key West, without breaking the bank because even camping is expensive in the Keys compared to other places.


The office and store at the KOA Sugarloaf Key near Key West includes Jeep rentals, pool, pub, hot tub and cafe.

We opted for the KOA at Sugarloaf Key for a number of reasons.  It has a pool, a nice area you can go snorkeling right off the small beach on property and there is a bus that provides frewquent enough service right into Key West without the hassle of having to park and drive.  Plus they have an onsite restaurant and bar.  And incredible sunsets.


The views out on Crane Blvd were excellent and very natural.  It was an easy 30 minute bike ride to the end.

We brought our own snorkeling equipment and went snorkeling right off the campground’s small beach.  There is a pool and hot tub which were great to have and the Lazy Lizard Pub and Lazy Lizard Cafe both at the pool area.  We ate at the cafe and it was very good.  There is a marina with boat rentals and all the fishing accoutrements that go with it.

We did go exploring on our bikes and went out Crane Blvd all the way to the end.  The road dead ends at the sea and is blocked from traffic at some point but it makes for a nice bike ride.  Missing was any sign of wildlife.  Not a bird.  Not a frog.  Not a deer.  It was noticed and it was strange.


The blue seas are a welcome sign no matter how many times you visit the Florida Keys. 

Another day we took the bus (Lower Keys Shuttle) into Key West which is 14 miles from the campground on Sugarloaf Key.  The buses run roughly every hour and sixteen mintues or so.  There honestly is no rhyme to the bus schedule and they do cover some miles so don’t plan on it being too precise in its timetable.  But for $2 it was a great deal and easy to use.  Oh, and we brought our bicycles with us and loaded them on the front of the bus.  It was easy and great to have a bicycle to ride around when we got to Key West.


We got lucky and didn’t have anyone next to us, otherwise, the sites are a bit close together.  But it is the Keys and to be expected.

Once in Key West there are thousands of things to do.  There is so much for everyone. We rode our bicycles around the whole island – it isn’t a big place but there are fun historic neighborhoods you won’t see if just doing the main routes so consider bringing your bikes on the bus.  We’ve been to Key West so many times, I forgot to even take any pictures of the town this time.  But if you’ve never been, this is a great way to see Key West and still get a full Keys experience which is laid back and near a bar!



The Perfect North Florida Beach Camping: St Augustine


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Beach Camping in North Florida at its Best

So much is written about St. Augustine as a tourist destination that I won’t go into it.  I’ll just say it must be on your list of places to visit sometime.  And, if you like beach camping, and who doesn’t?, then North Beach Campground in St. Augustine is absolutely the best place to visit.


The road into the campground just forces you to relax right away and by the time you get to your campsite, you’re already on vacation.

I have known the owners through the Florida Attractions Association for many many years and they can’t find a nicer couple of people.  But I had never done their St. Augustine Sightseeing Cruise which leaves from near the Bridge of Lions at the Municipal Marina.  There is great history to this and the Usina family that can all be read on the various websites for the campground and the Sightseeing Cruise.


The pool area at North Beach Campground, St. Augustine

The campground is directly across the street from the beach and the Atlantic Ocean.  There is a pool and an incredible camp store.  The campground is very secluded and the sites are excellent.  There is a restaurant across the street on the ocean called The Reef Restaurant as well as Aunt Kate’s which is on property and has been serving food for over 100 years so you know it is good – I can personally attest to it having had drinks in the Victory Bar and eaten at Aunt Kate’s Restaurant on this trip.  There is indoor and outdoor dining at Aunt Kates and it is  charming and good as you can imagine.  And it is on the water!


Can’t you just imagine yourself sitting on the front porch of Aunt Kate’s Restaurant already?

The Reef Restaurant is a larger place that is well established and is a great place to eat and drink as well.  Both are within easy walking distance of your campsite here.  So no drinking and driving issues despite being fairly isolated in a beautiful beach environment.  And quite frankly, the camp store has everything and then some – one of the best camp stores I’ve seen.


Dinner at Aunt Kate’s Restaurant, St. Augustine, was incredible!

So, if you’re looking for a weekend getaway to the beach or a week’s stay to include all the many many things to do in the town of St. Augustine I can think of no better beach destination than North Beach Campground.  If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t have written about it simply because I have known Frank and Betty Usina for years.   I also had the great pleasure of seeing long-time friend and colleague Barbara Wilson there who has worked for them for many years.


For anyone interested in fishing there is a bait shop by Aunt Kate’s Restaurant, St. Augustine.

These are all experts in the hospitality industry and I can assure you I have the utmost respect for them and the experience you’ll have at any of their facilities.  And just to be clear none of them knew I was visiting and we paid like anyone else so, while the treatment was the best, it was just because we were everyday paying guests like you will be.

You owe it to yourself to discover this campground if you like the beach and have an RV.  I believe they also have cabins to rent so even if you don’t have an RV you need to discover it.   We love going to the east coast of Florida to escape some of the heat in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area and to take in some ocean air which is great for allergies we’ve found when compared to the Gulf of Mexico on the west coast.  So get planning and check it out!


A Homosassa River RV Getaway


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If you’re in the metro Tampa/St. Petersburg or even Orlando area you don’t have a lot of options to discover really old Florida.  The best trip back to a simpler time is a road trip up to Homosassa.  This town is relatively small and somewhat historic.  There are opportunities to experience nature and opportunities to experience something you won’t quite find in a big town.  It is a great experience and an easy one to have.

Carefree RV Resort, Homosassa, Florida

We stayed at the Carefree Homosassa RV Resort and found it to be a wonderful place with a pool and the basics but its real attraction is the location near Homosassa and the Homosassa State Park.  We didn’t go to the state park but will on another trip.  This time we wanted to soak up the authentic local feel.

The Homosassa River and Springs is a really fantastic piece of nature in Florida

We stopped by The Freezer Bar – an old ice plant where fishermen would place their catches on ice.  There is no website but here’s information from Yelp.   They are so out of the way they don’t even have a website or probably monitor social media.  A great experience though it takes a bit to figure out the system of ordering drinks, ordering food, paying for it all and then some.  I don’t want to spoil that fun – its a great local place and the food is very good albeit confusing where to order from.  Go get some beer and then study what people do.  It is a great people watching place too.  It is at a marina and they’ve got seafood and outdoor seating – bring cash or use their ATM.  Great place.

The shrimp cocktail was perfect at the Monkey Bar in Homosassa, Florida

We also had breakfast at the Starting Gate Restaurant.  This was a treasure of a find and a local dive that has the best damn breakfast you can imagine.  I live for finding these sorts of places and they do exist.  I had the eggs benedict and I’ve had it all over the place and this was just slightly different and absolutely wonderful!  And the story of the restaurant is great too!  It is in an old filling station (gas/petrol station).

Monkey Island, Homosassa, Florida

Another place we visited was the Monkey Bar – I had a fantastic shrimp cocktail there and the drinks are great.  There’s indoor and outdoor seating and you overlook Monkey Island.  The island is very near the restaurant and there are indeed monkeys you can watch while you eat and drink.

Riversport Kayaks is perfect for renting a kayak in Homosassa, Florida

Located near the Monkey Bar, you’ll find Riversport Kayaks, on the property.  Also located here is the Homosassa Riverside Resort if you’re looking for a hotel room.  All considered, if you do not have an RV, this is an excellent choice for accommodation.   The people at Riversport couldn’t have been better.  They were friendly and professional and got us in our kayaks quickly and easily and told us the best routes.  We paddled to the head springs and you pass an area before the No Wake Zone where boats are creating a wake so it is best to stick closer to the shore on this section.

The headsprings of Homosassa Springs, Florida

There were a lot of boats at the head springs and people swimming.  There wasn’t a place to put the kayak so we didn’t get out of them and go swimming.  We were able to pull up to a concrete base of a small bridge and could get out there but there is nothing at the head springs to really allow you to leave your kayak and do any exploring or swimming that we were able to find out.



Silver Springs: Florida’s Original Tourist Attraction Is Still Worth Visiting


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A day trip to Silver Springs and Wild Waters or a weekend away.

You could quite easily make a day trip of going to Silver Springs from many parts of Florida.  I’m not sure you’d make a day trip just to go to Wild Waters – though you shouldn’t.  It is, however, a great weekend or long weekend getaway from most places in the state and should definitely be on your list of things to do.


A wide section of the trail from the Silver River Campground to the Silver Springs and Wild Waters attractions.

It is a study in tourism itself, an industry that has long been near and dear to me in Florida.  Silver Springs was once the major attraction in the state in the strictest sense of the word attraction.  You paid entry and had a great experience that you couldn’t get anywhere else.  It was a magical place.  The glass bottom boats (still operating) were incredible and allowed you to see straight down to various springs as well as seeing fish and everything in the crystal clear waters of the Silver River.  The State of Florida turned the attraction into a state park a number of years ago.


The glass bottom boats are truly a treasure at this attraction and their historic significance is as strong as their entertainment and educational value is still to this day.

The colonnade of shops, restaurants and other tourist facilities is an excellent example of mid-century modern architecture – the original structures having burned down.  There remains some smaller educational exhibits along this row along with a restaurant, fudge shop, event space and a rather underwhelming retail shop.  The social history of the area is what I find interesting in addition to the natural history.  You can learn about it here.  There were other attractions in the area that also closed.


I placed my cell phone on the glass and took some amazing photographs.  Here you can see one of the springs.  In many shots I got fish.

When the State of Florida took over the park, Wild Waters, opened in 1978, was not re-opened.  The state is slowly bringing the old water park back online and most of the attractions in it are now operational, though it does have some wear and tear and certainly isn’t a large water park.  But it is fun and plenty of excitement and a great value at only $15.  There is limited food and beverage service onsite.  They were out of straws when we visited so don’t expect perfect guest satisfaction.


Wild Waters at the Silver Springs State Park is near Ocala.  It is a great value and one of the best ways to cool off in the area.

The campground is a few miles away from the two attractions and there is a trail you can ride your bike to the attractions.  This isn’t something I’d suggest in the summer as it is very hot.  The road is very bike-friendly and is probably just less than two miles of bike riding away from the campground.  The trail is fun and nice – just don’t do it in the summer.  The campsites are excellent and the campground is well maintained with wonderful pull-through sites.


It was great to read about the history of Silver Springs and its importance in the movie and television days when the attraction was still open as a commercial facility.

We really will return here someday soon as there is plenty to do and it is accessible.  The Silver Springs Park is free if you pay to get into Wild Waters or free if you stay at the campground.  The glass bottom boat cruise, which lasts about an hour, is $11 for adults.  This is a great value and our guide was very informative and probably has been doing tours for decades.


Through the entire glass bottom boat adventure you see incredible natural landscapes that were the setting for some amazing productions.

If this is your destination you can pick up supplies on the way in as there are plenty of supermarkets within range.  If you’re passing through, it is enroute to Ormond Beach via US40 through the Ocala National Forest which is a pleasant drive.  The town of Ocala is also a very short drive away and has a few shops and restaurants and a nice little square.   It is also only about 90 minutes from Tampa where you will find the wonderful Lazy Days, Camping World and RV One – those are the only three we can recommend and will add that online reviews can be made by employees and their family members so beware of RV dealerships that appear to have a great online reputation.

Blue Springs and the St. Johns River: Florida the Way it Was.


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Where can you camp and experience a nature cruise, springs you can swim in and canoe and kayak rentals?  Blue Springs State Park.

This is an awesome and relatively inexpensive way to spend a weekend in Florida.  We made reservations online in advance for the campground at Blue Springs State Park.  I can’t recall if they were $24 or $28 per night – but the campground was awesome.  Our site was a full concrete pad (15) while others were gravel.  Enough shade to keep people happy but enough direct southern sky exposure for satellite users!


Our amazing camp site for the weekend, site 15, was fully paved and easily accessible to the springs as well as bathhouse across the paved street.  There were baby wild pigs nesting in the brush behind us!

On this trip we did a two hour river cruise of the St. Johns River that leaves directly from the state park by concessionaire St. Johns River Cruises.  There is a small concession stand here and there is a historic house, the Thursby House, nearby.  The historic house only dates to the 1870s but that is pretty old by Florida standards.  It is well interpreted and gives you a good feel for what the area must have been like during the times of steamships.


The bike and foot path between the campground and the springs is paved and taked only minutes to go between the two.

The two hour cruise leaves at 10AM and 1PM daily.  There are other options but we took the 10AM cruise and it was $25 each.  There is a toilet onboard the boat and there are sodas and potato chips.  It was extremely well narrated by Rebecca, who has been doing these tours for quite some time and her experience was evident.


I captured this photo of a manatee swimming just in front of us whilst on the boat cruise.

We spent time looking at red shouldered hawks, blue herons, baby alligators, purple somethings and a whole lot more.  It was really quite fascinating.  The boat holds quite a few people though on this trip there were only nine of us so we got to move about the boat quite freely and get a bit more personal attention.  The scenery was beautiful and you can well imagine the 19th century steam boats plying the St. Johns River and seeing exactly what we were seeing.  Though I must admit I did think there most likely were more birds and wildlife along the journey back then.


They’re well hidden in this photo, but there were about five baby alligators in the wild in this shot.  The mama was somewhere nearby I’m guessing.

After two hours you return with about a ten minute period of speeding along.  Most of the journey is at a low speed due to manatee zones and we certainly saw our share of those!  We also learned how to spot their trails.  Once back onshore we rode our bicycles back to our campsite and grabbed lunch.  We changed into bathing suits and headed down to the springs which was no more than a five minute bike ride away.  There were plenty of people with dive gear and snorkeling gear too so take note of that!


The natural beauty of the cruise along the St. Johns River is incredible.

At the springs there is a camp store that is adequately stocked as well as a gift shop that had tube for rent as well as other related merchandise.  We had noodles so we brought them with us.  There are two places you can enter the water – near the shops or along the boardwalk a few minutes down you can put in there and float to the other spot nearest the shops.  We did both actually.  The bed is rather rocky in parts and it was easier with something on your feet to maneuver upstream so keep that in mind.


The closer you get to the spring head the clearer the water.  Lots of gar swimming in this scene.

The water, a constant 72 degrees F/22 degrees C, was cold compared to the outside temperature in the 90s/30s but in we went.  The water was nice and smooth – you could swim right up to the spring too – which goes down about 80 feet/24 meters.  I had no problem standing in the waters anywhere I swam though.   After a few hours of playing in the spring water we headed back to the campsite.  It was a great day and a lot to cram into one day so you can easily spend a weekend or more here.  There were kayak and canoe rentals by the dock and there’s also Segway tours.


The swimming in the springs is very refreshing and there is plenty of room to explore.

Nearby Orange City has some history and culture.  A large grand hotel from the American Railway Era is a dominant structure along the main street.  There are also plenty of chain shops and restaurants in the commercial district of Orange City.  The downtown section is very very small and almost all activity takes place in the strip malls that dominate the area.


There is a boardwalk that runs much of the length of the state park from the Blue Springs Spring Head right to the dock where you can catch a boat cruise of the St. Johns River.

Orange City is located about half an hour north of downtown Orlando and half an hour west of Daytona Beach.  The town of DeLand, which is the county seat for Volusia County, is a town well worth exploring if you’re in the area.  I can also highly suggest Sanford to the south for a visit.  Deltona, also nearby, is the metro Orlando’s second largest “city” and is  a massive and nearly endless neighborhood of 80,000 people all living in detached houses with no downtown and no history.  Even the mid-century homes first bought by retirees do not have a single representative in the landscape.


Thursby House, Orange City, on the grounds of the Blue Springs State Park.



Summertime fun in the White Mountains of New Hampshire


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White Mountain Adventure from North Woodstock to Mount Washington

The highlight of this trip is two things: the cog railway up to the summit of Mount Washington followed by a relaxing drink on the porch of the Omni Mount Washington Resort. We traveled through Franconia Notch State Park from North Woodstock/Lincoln area to get to the railway and the drive is just incredible.

There are a lot of tourist centers around this region that would make a trip to Mount Washington a great day trip.  But in our case we were staying in North Woodstock – boondocking (well we did plug in so that’s a bit like cheating) at another couple’s house.  This is the best kind of camping there is!

We traveled through Franconia Notch State Park where there is no shortage of things to do and see but we just drove through and got off at US3 from the I93.  We followed signs to Mount Washington (US 302 is where you leave US3) and enjoyed the drive. The anticipation of a travel experience can be a lot of fun.  I had no idea what to expect only having read about the old 19th century cog railway going up the largest mountain east of the Mississippi.


View from inside one of the carriages of the cog railway going up to the summit of Mount Washington

We arrived and parked – though it was crowded – and immediately went to the box office for tickets.  We were able to get on the next train that was just about to depart.  I would, however, strongly suggest you make reservations in advance as the trains do sell out and we were very very lucky.  Our conductor was entertaining and we were off before very long to the top of the mountain.  I didn’t even really have time to get nervous.


The views everywhere are breathtaking and you truly are above the clouds when you are at the summit of Mount Washington

The cost of the trip for adults is $65 and the trip is roughly two hours.  There is an excellent brochure that you can download here that gives all sorts of details about the experience that I can’t possibly get into.  The feeling of being on top of the world pretty much summed up my experience.  It was incredible.  Awesome in the true meaning of the word before it was used to replace “okay.”  If you live in the Rocky Mountains or the Alps, you might not have the same feeling but for most people this would be an incredible experience.  Keep in mind it is quite a bit colder up the mountain!


View of one of the trains starting to descend Mount Washington.

At the summit there is a place for food and drink.  Plenty of observation points.  A photo moment you can queue for if you like that tells you how high you are.  There’s also an interesting building that once served tourists that we went into.  The views are breathtaking and the Appalachian Trail goes right by here providing yet more interest and interesting people.  After a bit more than an hour at the top it was time to go back down.


The front of the Omni Mount Washington Resort

We made sure we hit the well run gift shop on the way out.  We then drove to the Omni Mt. Washington Resort.  I do love old hotels and this, surrounded by the beauty of the mountains, was spectacular.  We sat on the back porch of the hotel and had drinks and some appetizers.  This was worth every penny.  It was relaxing and historic and a moment in time that could have occurred a hundred years ago.  It was magical.  I went for a walk to the shops in the basement and poked around some of the hotel’s public spaces.  Again, magical is the best description.


Inside the lobby of the hotel it feels like another century in places.

All in this was an incredible day and one you could easily re-create from anywhere in the area.  Plan ahead, dress appropriately (given the change in temperature at the summit), and relax.  Soak up the beauty as there is no shortage of it on this trip!


Lake George and Glens Falls: Introduction to the Adirondacks

An RV Trip to Lake George/Glens Falls, New York

We picked up a motorcycle cruising map and figured we’d do the route from North Woodstock, NH to Lake George, NY via the route 104 and then the route 4. It took about four or so hours and was well worth it. The scenery is incredible and there’s ample opportunity to stop and something unique for food or some shopping. We ended up stopping in Vermont at a general store. Bridgewater Corners Country Store, 5680 US Route 4, Bridgewater Corners, proved to be perfect. There’s gas, a deli, a picnic area, coffee, gifts, sundries, and more. Really anything you would need would be here. We continued through Killington and stopped at the visitor center there to pick up enough materials to know that we must return and spend some time there – possibly skiing!


The Bridgewater Corners General Store is truly one of the great stops along this byway in Vermont.


We found our home at the Lake George RV Resort just off the Route 4 and it really is one of the best RV resorts anywhere.  Of course the price reflects it – we paid nearly 100 dollars per night so this isn’t the best option if you’re on a budget. We had cheap or free camping on almost our entire 2 and a half week vacation so we splurged. This is the type of place you come for a week and settle down and probably get a weekly rate – or even a seasonal if that’s an option for you.  Either way, it is worth it as one of the best RV experiences anywhere.


One of the best camp stores ever is at the Lake George RV Resort in Lake George, N.Y.

The place is packed with all sorts of activities and amenities: indoor swimming pool, outdoor heated swimming pool, tennis, two cinemas, bike trails, laundry and one of the best camp stores you’ll ever find anywhere. There is a trolley system within the park and to the outlets area just about a km down the road so you can actually ride your bike there. From here you can connect to the region’s trolleys (buses with an old trolley body) that are run by Greater Glens Falls Transit.


The outdoor heated pool was excellent at the Lake George RV Resort and even this Florida man could handle the temperature.

We took the trolley into Lake George one day and into Glens Falls another day.  We could have easily spent a lot more time here as there is so much to do and it is so accessible from the campground. Our trip int Lake George was excellent and we visited a lot of the little shops, bought some spruce tree scented soap that was great, grabbed a quick bite to eat at The Bank and visited the Fort William Henry followed by a drink on the grounds of the Fort William Henry Hotel situated just adjacent to the fort.


Fort William Henry in Lake George, N.Y. is a great place to tour for a few hours.

It was nice learning about the history of the area and the fort through the exhibits and being a museum professional I realized the tired exhibits were being upgraded through time and wasn’t bothered by their age.  The nice thing about the fort were the re-creations and the way the staff engaged the children.


The Lac du Saint Sacrement on Lake George, N.Y.

I was instantly taken back to my childhood days of visiting historic sites and what grabbed my attention.  I also felt a tug at my youth in the gift shop as I remembered a lot of the things my parents would buy me after visiting such a site.  A nice drink on the lawn of the hotel next door was a real treat with excellent views of Lake George and a nice lawn and pool area.


The views are spectacular at the Fort William Henry Hotel in Lake George, N.Y.  Grab a drink at the outdoor or indoor bar and sit on the back porch overlooking Lake George.

Another day we took the in-resort trolley to the outlets and then transferred onto the Glens Falls Transit trolley to go into the town.  Very easy to do so don’t let transit intimidate you.  Once in the town we walked around and found a place to eat.  Davidson Brothers Brewing Company looked excellent and it had outdoor seating along with entertainment that was setting up.  We were seated quickly and the wait for a server took a really really long time despite several tables near us being visited a number of times.  Finally (and it must have been at least twenty minutes and the place was far from busy) we asked a woman to get us a server as she cleaned up a table near us.  She apologized and said a drink for each was on the house.  This was a perfect example of a service recovery and turned what was really shaping up to be a bad experience into a great one.


Excellent craft beer at Davidson Brothers in downtown Glens Falls, N.Y.

The food was excellent and the craft beer was really some of the best I’ve ever tasted.  I had the Ryley, a Summer Ale, and it was really incredible and cold on a warm day.  So I would strongly suggest a visit here because it really was a great experience once we got served.  They have a no tipping policy and we attributed, rightly or wrongly, the service to that policy.  The server we did get was terrific and very friendly as well as professional.  We easily grabbed another bus headed back to the resort and the driver let us off where we needed to be while other passengers continued on to Lake George for the summertime fireworks display.


Downtown Glens Falls, N.Y. isn’t very big but has a lot of interesting architecture that is purely American and well preserved.

All in, this was an incredible couple of days and an easy one to do if you have no tow car with your RV or if you’re just looking to get a taste of the Adirondacks without committing too much time.  I assure you, like us, you’ll be back to explore a lot more.


The Kankamagus Highway: Natural New Hampshire at your own Pace

The Kank: A scenic New Hampshire drive called the Kankamagus Highway or New Hampshire Route 112

Conway to North Woodstock/Lincoln

This incredible scenic drive (55 km/34 miles) is well worth doing if you’re anywhere near it.  I’m sure it is especially great when the leaves are turning colour, however, we went on the drive during summertime and found it particularly enjoyable.  We started our journey on the coast and so arrived via the US 4 to NH 16 route.  It put us into Conway where we went to the Main Street and grabbed something to eat at the Sweet Maple Cafe in Conway, N.H.  The food was good and it has indoor as well as outdoor seating.  I do recall that there were signs telling you where to place your plates when finished and some other signs whose message I don’t recall.  Still, a great little place to stop for a bite to eat (and they have a small retail area too).


Inside the Sweet Maple Cafe, Conway, New Hampshire

We started our journey and before too long – like five or ten minutes – we were stopping alongside the Swift River to get out (there’s plenty of opportunity to stop along the way – and remember we were in a 35 foot motor home).  The scenery is gorgeous and there were little paths to the river which we took.  We laid out on some smoothed rocks – and there were plenty – and just relaxed.  A great place to bring a picnic which we would do again when we take this route another time.  If you want a great detailed guide, including various hikes, you can download one from the State of New Hampshire’s website here.


There were no shortage of fabulous places to pull over and just soak in the sun and nature along the highway.

Further down the highway is the Sabbaday Falls Picnic Area followed by the Rocky Gorge Scenic Area.  The Rocky Gorge is a place we stopped and walked down to the waterfalls and then did the short hike to the lake.  You can also bring your pet on these walks.  There is a confusing system about paying entry at these locations but we paid our money on the honor system and placed the receipt on the dash even though we didn’t have a pen to fill out the information.


Sabbaday Falls makes for a great stop along the Kank

There are a number of campgrounds along the way and some other scenic spots.  A word of warning.  Do NOT take your RV to the Sugar Hill Overlook as there is no RV parking and you cannot turn around – it is a dead end and you will have to reverse out into traffic.  This is not marked.  The Sugar Hill Scenic Vista pullover does go through and is possible with an RV.  There are other overlooks and we didn’t stop at all of them so please double check and if you can’t see whether it is possible for an RV to make it, assume not.


Plenty of trails along the Kank make it a great byway to take your time on and discover great swaths of nature that in many cases are not crowded.

Towards the end of the highway you’ll pass Loon Mountain Resort with loads of ski trails.  We stopped at what looked like an indoor shopping mall but turned out to be mostly abandoned except for a doctor’s office and a small coffee shop.  This is along Main Street in Lincoln, N.H. but behind it is the South Mountain Resort. There was a sales office so I’m assuming they were selling condos or timeshares.  We didn’t find out but discovered Seven Birches Winery located inside the newly constructed condo type building designed to look like an old Edwardian lodge but it is way too clean and flawless to be authentic.


The Seven Birches Winery was lots of fun with their five wine tasting flight

We had lots of fun sampling five different types of wine and then, of course, opted to buy some.  I particularly liked the blueberry which I bought and shared at a party recently upon returning to rave reviews.  A nice way to spend some time as long as you’re not the driver.  Back in town we had dinner at Brittany’s also in Lincoln, N.H.  Later we visited North Woodstock just past the exit from the interstate (where the official visitors center is located).  This is a nice little town also and has a great general store, ice cream and candy shops and some restaurants in its main street.


You will find great moments along the entire scenic highway in New Hampshire.  This was at the Rocky Gorge Scenic Site.

We dined another night at the Woodstock Inn Station & Brewery.  It is a warren of rooms and buildings and includes indoor and outdoor seating, multiple bars, a brewery with a retail component and quite frankly is something you can’t miss if rambling around the small town so go for it.  We enjoyed the food and the service was good though the staff appeared as though they could use a course in customer service there was nothing egregious to report on.


The Woodstock Inn Station & Brewery is definitely the place to be dining or drinking outside in the summer.

All in, this is a great introduction to the White Mountains of New Hampshire and the welcome center can easily offer you much better guidance on details depending on your needs.  But whatever you do, don’t miss the drive along the Kank and the little towns on each end.  Enjoy the journey.