After a long evening drive the night before from Kennedy Space Center. We ended up at an unlikely motel. The TravelLodge recommended both on price and quality by Booking.com was a surprisingly great find. Many may have turned away as it is a one story true 70s style motel, complete with drive-up-to-your-door-and-park access. It looks very much like it probably did when these one-story temporary home-away-from-home motels were built. However, for $75 a night, including microwave, refrigerator and free hot breakfast it is the deal of the week if one is wanting to explore the Everglades.
On the morning of our planned Everglade adventure we stopped for the necessary Starbucks (mom always feels better about an outdoor adventure if it is prefaced with a cup of Starbucks!) and then headed to the Alligator Farm.
At the Alligator Farm there were threats of storm looming in the distance. The occasional boom of thunder and lightening didn’t deter us from our airboat ride. We saw alligators and cranes as we progressed through the Everglades. It is amazing how the boats glide over six inches to a foot or two of water and it is everywhere. During the airboat excursion we were given the thrill of high speeds and 360’s. The kids and adults loved it. I think we would have stayed on them all day if we had the option.
Once we finished the airboat ride we got to see the alligators being hand fed. This was a weeee bit daunting as the ‘gators’ seemed to have no problem crawling up the 3 foot chainlink fence that separate us from them. Of course, we and the 100 other people didn’t back away from the fence either.
Within minutes of the conclusion of the hand feeding a downpour commenced. In Arkansas I call it a “toad-floater.” We waited for a bit for it to die down enough to make a dash to our rental car and then we were off to find lunch.
One of the fun things about vacations is finding those not-so-common eateries.
Today was no exception. On our way from the Alligator Farm to the Everglades National Park we found “Gator Grill.” A little road side foodie stop. It had a lot of the feeling of a food truck. To our delight we were able to get grilled gator tail and frog legs. To Kritterman’s delight he was able to procure the best 1lb. bacon cheese burger he has ever had in his life. It was so delicious we returned at 5:30 for an early dinner. We knew it was the best ever and didn’t know when we might be back. On top of it, we were able to teach the kids the #1 rule of dining on vacation… “The hole-in-the wall places make the best local food.”
It was still a downpour when we finished our lunch visit to “Gator Grill.” Eric always knows if you throw in some wine tasting in with the nature hiking, momma is always a happier camper. So we drove down to “Schnebly’s Winery.” There we sampled wines made from avacado, guava, mango, and passion fruit. All fruits common to South Florida. It was a delight and we ended up taking two bottles from this most southern winery in the United States with us to enjoy later on the vacation.
Finally the rain let up and we were able to head into the Everglades. The forest and swamps are lush with growth. The Gumbo Limbo trees with their smooth bark, colorful crickets and quiet alligators were an astounding sight. Unfortunately the mosquitoes were out in mass after the rain and ate us alive. After walking two trails and attempting a third we jumped back into our rental vehicle. Mosquitos- 1, Wilson family- 0.
We then headed back to “Gator Grill.” The owner recommended we check out “Robert Was Here Fruitstand” where they graciously cut up a ripe mango we purchased. We also bought star fruit and passion fruit to enjoy on the next part of our journey. It was quite a lively fruitstand with a bit of an animal farm, John Deere Tractor collection and a dog who liked to stand on his dog house to get a better view.
Finally we ended the night at a FroYo shop near our hotel. Surprisingly, FroYo shops are not easy to find in SoFla and with my family that can be dangerous. Happy to locate our cool creamy FroYo, we were content and exhausted from an exciting day in the Everglades!