Florida in January: Retrospective

We were in Florida from 1/2 to 2/2/2022.

the Airstream and a palm tree at night
Playing with nighttime photography in Key West

It seems obvious, but: spending January in a warm place is a great idea. We weren’t sure if we’d like spending so much time in Florida, and while we didn’t love all of the Florida we saw, we did love some and would return to a few spots. And yes, I know Georgia is not part of Florida, but I’m including Jekyll Island and Savannah in the discussion.

Here’s where we went:

  • Juno Beach for a night on the way south – had the best beer of the trip there at Civil Society
  • Key West for a week – loved it and would definitely return, but maybe eat less Key lime pie
  • Everglades National Park for two nights – would like to go back and kayak into the bay, which we couldn’t do because of the wind
  • Ft Myers Beach for two nights – nope nope won’t return
  • Venice for two nights – would potentially return–for the river, not the city–and stay in the state park, although our campground was fab
  • Palm Harbor for three nights – liked it but would only go back if our Tampa friends wanted to hang out
  • Homosassa for two nights – definitely but only during manatee season (Nov-Apr) and not in March (spring break crowds)
  • Bronson for three nights – we just love Black Prong
  • Gainesville for two nights – we’d go back to hike more in Paynes Prairie, but if parts were flooded in dry January, not sure we’d be luckier at another time
  • Ormond Beach for one night – nope
  • St Augustine for four nights – absolutely will go back for the architecture, history, food, drink, beach
  • Fort Clinch for one night – we liked it but it’s pretty out of the way
  • Jekyll Island for one night – it’s such a neat place; we might go back if it were convenient, but probably not as we feel like we’ve seen what there is to see
  • Savannah for one night – a really fun place to spend a night on the way home

Favorite wildlife

manatee up close in the Homosassa River

MANATEES in Homosassa!

Dolphin in the Homosassa River

Dolphins in Homosassa!

drawing of a roseate spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbills in Palm Harbor and Gainesville. I wasn’t able to get a photo of a Roseate Spoonbill so I followed a drawing tutorial to show you one. 😂 See google for a real image!

anhinga sunning itself in a tree

Anhingas whenever we stayed near water. The fellow above was just outside Ft Clinch State Park.

armadillo in GTR Research Preserve

Armadillos in Gainesville, St Augustine, and Ft Clinch; check out the claws on the guy above who lives outside St Augustine.

Hiking summary

wading in the flooded Cones Dike Trail
Where we turned around on the Cones Dike trail in Paynes Prairie outside Gainesville

This was more of a biking trip than a hiking trip.

We went on ten hikes, for a total of 33.3 miles; Bugsy was there for everything but the Everglades hike and the second and third Paynes Prairie hikes, where she wasn’t allowed.

Our favorite hikes were Cones Dike in Paynes Prairie and Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin.

Biking summary

biking the Overseas Trail
Riding the Overseas Heritage Trail north of Key West

We went for eight bike rides, for a total of 174 miles, and talked about how we need to get Bugsy a sidecar and doggles so she can go too.

Our favorite rides were to Baby’s Coffee in Key West and the Pinellas Trail from Palm Harbor to Tarpon Springs.

Between the two of us, we got FIVE flats, in Key West, Venice, Palm Harbor, St Augustine, and Jekyll Island.

Boating summary

Bugsy on a pontoon boat looking at dolphins in the Homosassa River
Bugsy vs The Dolphins near the Gulf of Mexico

Being able to get out on the water was a really special part of this trip! We kayaked in Key West, Everglades, and Homosassa, and canoed in Venice, and took a pontoon boat out to the Gulf of Mexico in Homosassa.

Our favorite boat experiences were the mangrove tunnels in Key West, and the manatees and dolphins in Homosassa!

Memorable food and drink

Bugsy at Andy's Cabana
Andy’s Cabana in Key West

This is a tricky category, because we eat and drink so many things while traveling. That’s why I prefer to label it “memorable” rather than “favorite.”

All of the following places were winners to us in terms of ambiance, so assume that by default. We particularly enjoyed Andy’s Cabana for drinks and Hogfish Bar & Grill for food in Key West, Snooks Haven for the riverfront live music scene in Venice, Galloping Gourmet food trailer in Bronson, The Floridian for food and drinks in St Augustine, Wicked Bao for food in Fernandina Beach outside Fort Clinch, and The Grey for food and drinks in Savannah.

I already mentioned that our favorite beer was at Creature Comforts near Juno Beach. I think second favorite may be Two Tides in Savannah, and from there our tastes diverge too much to do a ranking. J is more of a beer guy so let’s see what he says: Don’t go to Florida for great beer. Aside from Civil Society near Juno Beach (on our first night in Florida) we struggled to find both really good breweries and really good bottle shops. Well there you have it.

Favorite campgrounds

Bugsy sleeping at our campsite
Our campsite at Boyd’s in Key West

Boyd’s in Key West (Stock Island), Camp Venice in Venice, Black Prong in Bronson, North Beach Camp Resort in St Augustine (Vilano Beach)

License plate game results

The trip info you’ve been waiting for, I’m sure: we didn’t see Hawaii, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, or Wyoming.

Would we do it again?

Bugsy on a rock on the Alamo Loop Trail
Catalina State Park in Tucson

Yes… if we only have a month, and therefore can’t get all the way out west. Arizona > Florida, no?

Yes… but it would get stiff competition from an AustinNew OrleansEastpoint type of itinerary.

Now that I’m digging around, I notice that our trip to Arizona when the Snowpocalypse hit Texas wasn’t too much longer than a month, so I think we should do that one again next time we’re needing sunshine, and hope it doesn’t snow!

3 Replies to “Florida in January: Retrospective

  1. Speaking from just a little experience I have to say Arizona in ANY weather is better than Florida in their best weather… Besides you can have all four seasons in just one trip to Arizona. Bet you can’t do that in Fla….

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