As it is well known, Florida is the flattest state in the USA, there are only a few mini hills in the Panhandle at the border to Alabama or within the Lakes Wales Ridge near Orlando.
Mountains in Florida – here they are
Visitors are all the more surprised when they enter Alafia River State Park. This park was once a phosphate mine and is now a mecca for mountain bikers. It offers maybe the steepest grades you can find in Florida. There are several trails divided into 5 levels of difficulty.
But you can also experience the charm of the “Mountains” by foot on nearly 20 miles of Hiking Trails – fun for the whole family.
The gorgeous vegetation and an abundant wildlife make the photographer’s heart beat faster.
Mosquitoes in Florida: Every Florida visitor knows them: Mosquitos and No-see-ums.
Insects and vermin feel particularly comfortable in tropical climates, so Florida with sometimes high humidity and heavy downpours is a real paradise for them. It depends on the season, the current weather and the area whether you encounter the blood-hungry mosquitos and no-see-ums. In the Everglades, the chance is certainly much higher than when strolling around the city or on the beach.
Not everybody gets a bite
In addition, some are more popular as victims and can hardly save themselves from stings, while others – even within the same family – are spared. This may be due to blood type, personal smell mix or diet.
If you are looking for recommendations on how to protect yourself from getting bitten, repellents such as “Off” or “Deet” are often mentioned. They are effective and widely used. However, the active ingredients of most common used repellents are not harmless and you may be looking for natural and safe alternatives.
Without a doubt I can recommend a mixture that I found on the Internet. We tested them several times while hiking through nature reserves, both in Florida and in Germany. It’s easy to mix. Just change the ratio to your needed amount and put it into a spray bottle.
16 oz witch hazel
16 oz Listerine Original
1/3 ounce tea tree oil
You have been bitten and it itches very badly? You are looking for help? For this purpose try “bite-away”! The itching disappears within seconds, without any chemicals. I bought mine on amazon.
Is the Sarasota Bay area …blessed? Depending on who you talk to, the answer is yes. There are various Sarasota Indian myths that the lands were blessed by Native Americans to be protected against hurricanes.
Some hold the belief that Sarasota is protected from hurricanes because the Native Americans who first settled there knew that it was safe from the elements.
Others believe that they blessed the lands to stay eternally safe from destructive storms and hurricanes. Still others think that it’s an ancient Indian burial ground on the lands of Sarasota that keeps it protected.
There is not much known about those ancient ones, who were not Tocobaga, the people of Tampa Bay, nor Calusa, people centered by Charlotte Harbor. Isn’t it tempting to believe in those fascinating myths?
Facts about a hurricane in Florida
Fact is: Sarasota Bay has not been a bull’s-eye for a major hurricane in Florida since reliable records began in 1871.
Science explains this luck with geography. The typical tracks are moving on a “hurricane highway” through the Bahamas and the Yucatan Channel. Then hurricanes curve towards the northeast. Cuba with its mountains is a major inhibitor of tropical systems. Heading to Sarasota would require an unlikely sharp curve into eastern direction, what would also significantly weaken any storm. Same is with the often seen scenario of landfall on the east coast of Florida, preventing Sarasota Bay from getting the worst of it.
Enjoy your vacation
So whether you choose to believe the legends or not, always be sensible and keep an eye on what’s going on – and enjoy your stay in the beautiful Sarasota Bay area from Venice to Bradenton.
By the way: Towns and cities in Florida are well prepared for severe weather conditions and will always inform the public if there is any action recommended. You have rented a vacation home? Ask your landlord if you have any questions.
Taking pictures is a wonderful way to make memories alive. We love to remember happy moments with family and friends, beautiful nature surroundings or impressive buildings. Let me show you today my favorite 3 places where I can never resist using my camera:
Venice Ave Drawbridge
I love Caspersen Beach. This beach is a beautiful and long sandy beach that has been left almost untouched in its natural state. With about 4 miles the longest beach in Sarasota County, it is the perfect place to enjoy unspoiled beauty far away from the crowds and a great spot to find the famous fossil shark teeth.
There is a beautiful short nature trail through a coastal hammock from where you always have a fantastic view. The unique look with the large rocks always reminds me a bit of the California coastline. Every time I visit this beach, I add some new photos to my “beach folder”.
Shamrock Park, only minutes away from our Villa Happy Gator, is my favorite place for walking and running – and for meeting all kind of animals. I love animals and get never tired of capturing them on pictures. My special friends are tortoises and scrub jays – although the latter are a real challenge to focus.
Biking along the Venetian Waterway Park at the Intracoastal Waterway is a must when I am in Venice. Away from the traffic, this trail provides exercise and relaxation alike. You pass the 2 Venice draw bridges – the Circus Bridge and the Venice Ave Bridge. I always admire those impressive monuments, that replaced the old small bridges in the 1980s. After crossing under Circus Bridge and just before reaching the Old Venice Train Depot, you have a great view of the Venice Ave Bridge. When a high boat is coming, the drawbridge is raised – and my camera is ready!
You love animals? How about a trip to Octagon Wildlife Sanctuary in Punta Gorda?
Since 1970 this truly impressive private non-for-profit organization has been rescuing and rehabilitating exotic wildlife. The Sanctuary is not a zoo, but a nursing home/retirement village for abused and unwanted animals.
You will see bears, lions, tigers, birds and a lot more other species. Each animal has a name and its own story, sometimes really touching.
You may pack a picnic lunch and enjoy a whole day at Octagon. Especially kids will love it. They are wheelchair accessible and have beverages available for purchase. There are multiple beautiful areas to sit, eat, relax, or cool off at the misting stations. Always check the weather before you come!
A boat tour along the beautiful coastline of Florida is a great experience for vacationers. Discover Florida from the water and see a whole different world. Find idyllic, natural beaches, discover the diverse island world or take a trip on the Caloosahatchee River.
Enjoy dolphins or turtles swimming by and admire the many colorful birds. The boat trip on Florida’s southwest coast will certainly be a highlight on your vacation.
Incidentally, renting a boat is quite easy in Florida: you only need your valid car driver’s license and you should be at least 21 years old. If you were born on or after January 1, 1988, you would need to purchase a “Florida Boating Safety Identification Card” in advance. You can purchase this life-long card with an online course here: https://www.boat-ed.com/florida/. With each rental you will receive a detailed introduction.
Our Venice area is perfect for a boat trip, so there are plenty of good boat rentals for all kinds of watercraft.
Furthermore we have dear friends that own a boat anchoring in Gasparilla, about half an hour south of Villa Happy Gator, and that they rent out to travelers at a very special and low rate. We gladly provide the contact info to our guests. Of course a profound introduction and fully comprehensive insurance is included. Please ask us for more information.
We love Florida and its wonderful nature – that’s why at Villa Happy Gator we want to do our utmost to ensure that our precious nature is as little affected as possible by our house and its care.
Our technical equipment is up to date and regularly maintained by specialist companies. Thus, the air conditioning works very economical and effective while maintaining high comfort. Our pool is a saltwater pool and therefore usually comes without any chlorine addition. The result is crystal clear water, which is good to the eyes and skin with a pleasant smell.
Pest Control is indispensable in the warm humid climate of Florida. But there are gentle methods that are good for the environment and for humans. We chose a system that even carries the USDA Organic label: “The Sentinel” – small, green containers that are placed around the house to form a protective barrier. Only in very rare situations, something stronger has to be used.
Our lawn is free from regular pesticide spraying. The lively vegetation attracts many colorful birds that we have here in South Venice.
Garden, walk- and driveways are kept clean by hand. In cooperation with our gardener we are in the process of testing an ecological weed killer to reduce the effort a bit.
Our cleaning team also is very sensitive. Vinegar and soda are common companions when cleaning.
Sarasota County is top in recycling. Paper and plastic are collected separately. Our guests will find sufficient containers as well as detailed instructions for the correct sorting.
The city of Venice and Sarasota County have recently adopted ambitious plans to reduce their impact on the environment, which we support.
In addition, we examine promising ecological projects in the area, whether we decide to sponsor them. We are always looking for new ideas to make Villa Happy Gator even greener. We thank our guests that have been very supportive and appreciate our efforts.
Here in South Venice we are fortunate to have a real gem for nature lovers right at our doorsteps: the South Venice Lemon Bay Preserve with its 222 acres of protected land along Lemon Bay.
The preserve is nestled in the densely packed suburb of South Venice, is a refuge for several protected animals and plants.
There are several miles of trails through coastal habitats including mangroves, tidal swamp, tidal marsh, coastal hammock and upland communities such as mesic and scrubby flatwoods. On your walk you will have the chance to meet a variety of wildlife such as gopher tortoise, Florida scrub-jay, bald eagle, river otter and an assortment of snakes, including the eastern coachwhip. Also bobcats have been seen there. Boardwalks afford visitors access across the recreated and restored wetland slough.
Be sure to wear sturdy shoes as sand spurs are very common. Also carry some water as you may walk longer parts of the trails in the open. With so much to discover, your walk could always take longer than planned. If you are lucky, a bunch of scrub jays will play their games with you.
The Preserve is divided in 2 parts. Each part has 2 entrances, all of them only minutes from your vacation home Villa Happy Gator:
„The Answers are in the Ocean“
Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium
If you are in the Venice area, be sure to visit this fantastic presentation of marine life in Sarasota!
Explore the secrets of the sea through touch pools, viewable-working labs and high-tech interactive exhibits that showcase the world-renowned research of Mote Marine Laboratory. See sharks, manatees and sea turtles, along with more than 100 other species of marine life.
Bay Walk and Talks
Eco Boat Tours
Seahorse Lab Tours
You may also join one of Mote’s Science Cafés in a local restaurant and take part in lively discussions.
Especially families love interactive, hands-on eco-adventures on the Sea Life Encounter Cruise. Eco Boat Tours are ideal for kids and a fun and fascinating extension of any visit to The Aquarium. Meet our marine natives — dolphins, manatees, osprey, eagles and other marine birds in their natural settings — and learn more about Florida wildlife from the ship’s biologist.
How about a Full Moon Paddle? Take a break from the sun and join them for an evening paddle as they explore Florida’s coastal waters at dusk. Discover the animals that bring Sarasota Bay to life at night while taking a relaxing paddle on the moonlit water.
Mote – Marine Laboratory&Aquarium started in 1955 with Dr. Eugenie Clark’s foundation of shark research and is now more than 200 employees strong, including more than 30 Ph.D. scientists. They conduct groundbreaking research with more than 20 diverse research programs focusing on today’s challenges as well as identifying and addressing future impacts. The advancement of this kind of research is vital to unlocking potential solutions to some of today’s most daunting global challenges.
1600 Ken Thompson Parkway
Sarasota, FL 34236
Ph: (941) 388-4441