We had an early flight out of IAH into MCO on June 5th, so we were all rather bleary eyed when we landed in Florida. No one slept on the plane despite my thinking Forest might conk out mid-flight. No such luck. I think the flying was too exciting! I was excited, too! It had been four years since I had flown and there was a good stretch of time when I flew several times a year. I love to fly and to travel and not getting to do so now is definitely a bummer but maybe in a few years that will change again? That said, we were surprised not to have to take anything out of our bags or take our shoes off going through security in Houston. That was not the case when came back through Orlando, but it was pleasant not to have to deal with the hassle in Houston. The lines definitely moved quicker without all of that—my guess is Houston had more sophisticated equipment to scan everything.
When we landed in Orlando we had to get our rental car (more on that in a later post) and get on the road to New Smyrna Beach. It had been a long time since we’d been at the Orlando airport so I couldn’t remember where it was in relation to the rest of the city but quickly we realized it was not near the main part of town and we were on SR 528 heading east to the Atlantic with no place to stop for lunch. That didn’t matter, we were busy looking at the habitat on the side of the toll road and before we knew it Forest was asleep in his car seat. Oh well, onward to New Smyrna Beach.
I managed to fall asleep sometime after we got onto I-95 after lots of mental cussing of the Brazilian pepper on the side of the road. I thought Chris was nuts a few times when he said he saw Chinese tallow (Houston/SE Texas/Louisiana’s equivalent of BP) tucked into the side of the road but later on I saw one. Damn it. Snoozing peacefully, I woke up as we exited the highway and took backroads through Edgewater. And then we crossed the causeway over the Indian River Lagoon and we were in New Smyrna Beach. Quickly we found a place to eat, Norwoods Eatery and Treehouse Bar. I’ll be honest, the treehouse got us! We turned around after we saw it and went in and had a great meal! I definitely recommend it if you are in NSB!
After lunch we got to the hotel on the beach and changed into our swimsuits to chill on the beach for awhile. I do wish I’d looked into it a bit more because I didn’t realize this section of beach allowed car driving. I thought it was only the area around Daytona but apparently this area did too. Non-car driving beaches are one of the high points about Florida’s beaches and something I have a love/hate relationship with here in Texas. We made it work, though and enjoyed the time on the beach.
One thing I noticed was that while the water was relatively clear, it was more of an olive-green color instead of the blueish color down in the Melbourne area. We later even noticed a difference just 10 miles south when we drove to Canaveral National Seashore. Chris and I took turns going out into the ocean while the other stayed with Forest up on the beach or splash zone. I managed to find a tiny seashore on a piece of sargassum. I saw it floating and didn’t really expect anything to be on it and was pleasantly surprised when I saw it. I took the whole thing up to the shore for Forest to see and then released it after. Chris thought it was a pygmy seahorse but as I have no photos I can’t properly identify it. I was thrilled to see something like that, though! There were plenty of fish riding the waves, too.
After dinner we drove down to Canaveral National Seashore to scope the beach out down there, hoping for a wilder scene. The goal was to turtle watch as it was prime nesting season but to our dismay the gates closed at 8pm. We only had about an hour and a half to see what we could and unless a mama sea turtle was out nesting early, our chances of seeing a turtle were nil. On our way in we did see a gopher tortoise, our only one for the trip. I was hoping for more gopher tortoise encounters but we didn’t get enough time in the right habitat for that. And our encounter with this gopher tortoise was short because immediately mosquitoes came out to feast and we ran for the car. Luckily the beach was mosquito free due to the sea breeze!
On the shore there was evidence up and down the beach of sea turtle nesting–posts marking the nests. This was exciting! Memories from our time in Melbourne watching sea turtles nest and my one summer of volunteering for the Sea Turtle Preservation Society came back. I loved doing all of that! We were probably a few weeks early for any hatchlings to be emerging and most nests we saw were within the last few days or week. Definitely too early for those.
We probably walked two miles down and back, maybe a little more. Wandering up and down the beach, scoping out the debris line, checking out nests for dates, and picking up millions of shells for Forest. It was a great evening to be out on the beach! And there were fewer to no people the further we walked—how I like my beach!
The next morning we got up early for one last time at the beach. We were headed for the interior of the state later that day and everyone still needed more time at the beach. I don’t think any of us got our fill. Chris managed to see a sea turtle that morning (I think it was that morning, may have been the previous day) in the surf. Later, Forest and I watched from the balcony as a pod of bottlenose dolphins rode the waves. Forest really enjoyed seeing that! The hotel was really nice, almost like a small condominium. A bathroom near the door, then a long hallway with a bedroom to the side and then a living/kitchenette area near the balcony. We could have set up shop there for the week—maybe transport it to a car-free beach.
I’m glad we went to a different area of the state we hadn’t spent time in before but I do wish we’d had the time to go down to Melbourne or even explore Canaveral NS even more. There’s so much to that area that we just didn’t get to see. Maybe someday in the future!
After the beach we headed inland to Deleon Springs State Park—and that will be my next post!