Channel Islands NP: A Whale Of An Adventure

Channel Islands National Park might be one of the most under appreciated national parks of them all. Granted, there are still several national parks I have yet to visit, but Channel Islands has definitely been put on my ‘visit again’ bucket list.
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We had no expectations of this park and were open minded and excited to see something new. This national park is truly amazing and unique. So much natural beauty, landscapes, and pleasant surprises; like seeing a whale surrounded by a pod of dolphins and seagulls all in their natural habitat!

The Channel Islands are comprised of a total of 8 islands of which only 4 are included and designated as the national park. These four islands include San Miguel Island, Santa Rosa Island, Santa Cruz Island, and Anacapa Island. You must call ahead and plan your visit and tour either by boat or airplane concessioners that will take you to the islands. The national park visitor center is located nearby the Ventura Harbor where the boat excursions depart from. Ventura Harbor is also a visiting stop for the Hikiananalia California Voyage; a 2800 mile voyage from Hawaii to California using traditional old school non-instrument navigation.

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Ventura Harbor Channel Islands National Park

The several activities you can do on the islands include the following:

Swim
Snorkel
Hike, explore tidepools, beaches, & rugged canyons
Camp
Kayak
Sail

This is one of the top scuba diving sites in the world as well.

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Prisoners Harbor Santa Cruz Island

Santa Cruz is the island we chose to explore and go hiking. We also planned the extra tour of Painted Cave.  We called about a week prior to our visit and made our reservation and purchase on the catamaran boat operated by Island Packers, Inc. There is an additional fee for Painted Cave; and it was well worth it! Learn more about prices and trip info here: islandpackers.com

For this type of adventure, you need to plan and be prepared in advance for your day trip, which is the tour that we chose. We were informed to bring the following since there are no concessions, water, or supplies on the island.

Packed lunch and snacks

Enough water for entire day

Dress in layers, weather can be unpredictable

Bring needed supplements to minimize motion sickness if needed.

Bring hat, sunglasses, sunscreen

Do not feed any animals

We arrived early at the Ventura marina and checked in around 8:10 a.m., it’s recommended that you arrive early so you are not delaying the departure of the boat. The scheduled time to board the boat is about 9:15 a.m.

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Ventura, California

There were approximately 85-100 people on this excursion. The weather was windy and the seas were very rough due to the hurricane to the south of the area (near Mexico). The staff member who checked us in asked us if we were okay with rough waters and if we have issues with motion sickness. We told her, “guess we will find out.”

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Ventura Harbor Island Packers Inc. Catamaran

We departed on time and began the morning with a fun and exciting bumpy boat ride. It was about 30 minutes later, when several folks started to feel motion sickness, but the crew members were fantastic and continuously walked around the boat to check on people and helped anyone who needed it.

I admit, I was getting close to that sick feeling, but I turned on my mental power and made it to the island.

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The boat ride is about one and half hour long, and the passengers who did not purchase the additional tour were dropped off at Prisoners Harbor and those of us remained on the boat and continued onto Painted Cave. This ride was approximately an additional 30 minutes one way. All I can say is,.. this was well worth it!

Painted Cave

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Painted Cave

 

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Painted Cave looking back out to the ocean

Painted Cave is a magnificent site that is one of largest and deepest sea caves in the world! You will see multi colors of remnants of algae formed on rocks and is absolutely beautiful as it reflects off the blue-green waters.
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This was such an incredible experience to gently float into the cave and hear the quiet, serene environment with the breathtaking surroundings.

We spent about 20-30 minutes pondering within the cave, of which if the weather and waves are too strong, they do not go into the cave,. But on this day we were lucky enough to have been able to go deeper in the cave and capture some incredible photos.

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We continued on and returned to Prisoners Harbor on Santa Cruz Island and disembarked the boat and began our hiking journey.
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We began hiking the trail of Del Norte and found a picnic table setting at a perfect viewing point and spot for enjoying our lunch.


We hiked about 2 hours before we had to start heading back to the boat dock for boarding.

On the return boat ride, it was a much smoother more enjoyable ride the on the way to the island. And we got lucky again with an added bonus on this experience as we encountered a hump back whale and a swarm of dolphins and seagulls on a feeding frenzy. Photos by: My husband.

Humpback Whale

This was the most incredible thing to see! This made our trip to the Channel Islands one of the most amazing experiences we’ve had.

Exploring around the island was spectacular as we captured some of the features and beauty that make up Santa Cruz Island.


Channel Islands National Park exceeded our expectations no doubt! The thrill of traveling over water to unfamiliar land and exploring the unknown is exhilarating! The wildlife on the island migrated over on vegetation. These include mice and fox. Precautions are mentioned about avoiding all contact with any of the animals on the island. Learn more about his beautiful park at nps.gov/chis

Here is more information to plan your next trip to Channel Islands National Park

Channel Islands National Park   Directions
1901 Spinnaker Drive
Ventura, CA 93001
805-658-5730
www.nps.gov/chis

Island Packers, Inc.
1691 Spinnaker Drive, Suite 105 B
Ventura, CA 93001
805-642-1393
www.islandpackers.com

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California Dreaming Series|San Diego

Imagine a life where you are surrounded by the most beautiful landscapes, ocean blue waters, and palm trees galore? We might call this California Dreaming as you may think that no such place exists in your world. Well, this is our attempt to bring that world to you.

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San Diego downtown near the Convention Center

 

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San Diego view from Petco Park

San Diego is a vacationers dream with so many exciting attractions, amusement parks, the famous San Diego Zoo, and exquisite dining. However, San Diego offers so much more for you other than the average everyday tourist hot spots. Here are a few different things to discover and see less traveled areas in the San Diego area. Enjoy this photo journal series capturing some of San Diego’s hidden treasures that you may wish to explore. Happy Viewing.

Torrey Pines State Reserve: Hiking and Views

 

 

This is a peaceful, beautiful trail for visitors to enjoy in a clean, natural environment, and stunning landscapes and views. This is a reserve; according to torreypine.org, a reserve is not a park. This reserve is a targeted area protected for conservation and also has other restrictions different than a park. Read more here:

Torrey Pines State Beach

The beach is at the bottom of 300 foot sandstone cliffs of white and golden stone, with a greenish layer sometimes visible at the very bottom.
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At the north end of the beach the cliffs ends and Los Peñasquitos Lagoon, a salt marsh estuary, empties into the ocean. A county highway crosses the entrance, with limited free parking along the beach.
Learn more here:

La Jolla Cove

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La Jolla Cove and Shores are one the most photographed beaches in San Diego County!

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La Jolla Cove

It is home to several species of sea life including seagulls, seals, and occasional spottings of Orca killer whales. See more photos of this area here: La Jolla Cove

Sante Fe Hiking Trail: Coast to Crest

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Del Dios Gorge Hiking Trail: Coast to Crest

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The Sante Fe and Del Dio Gorge Trails are both segments of the San Dieguito River Park area and the Coast to Crest trails. Three pre-historic cultural periods describe parts of this region and portrays a peak at how Native Americans explored through this valley. The Harris Site is noted as one of the most significant archaeological sites on the National Register of Historic Places.

Miramar Air Show: Marine Corp Air Station

The Miramar Air Show was spectacular this year and certainly did not disappoint. This years air show theme was honoring 100 years of women in the Marine Corps. Also feature highlights were some impressive aircraft such as the F-35 Lightening II, F/A -18 Hornet, MV-22 Osprey, AH-1Z Super Cobra/Viper, and of course, the infamous Blue Angels! Miramar Air Show is an annual event usually scheduled for some time in late September or early October.


Petco Park and San Diego Padres

If you visit San Diego, you must experience watching a baseball game at Petco Park with an unbelievable backdrop of the city surrounded by the ocean and spectacular sunsets!

You can watch airplanes arriving for a landing in the distance behind the city buildings as you watch the game.


Stunning sunsets

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Balboa Park

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Carlsbad State Beach

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Take notice of how this beach has a massive amount of rocks that comprise the beach. Then take a look at Moonlight Beach located in Encinitas just a short distance south of Carlsbad.

Moonlight Beach: Encinitas

Mount Woodson: Potato Chip Rock

Highly visited hiking trail in San Diego county. Mountain Lion and her cubs were just recently spotted in this area near the Mt. Woodson golf course. (Date: Oct 4, 2018)

Black Mountain Hiking Trail


Lake Ramona Hiking Trail

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Learn more about these hiking trails as I describe in one of my blog posts here:  4 Great Local Hiking Trails in San Diego.

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San Diego sunrise

San Diego is an exquisite city to visit and experience. It’s a vacation and travel destination for millions of people. And yes, there are the popular tourist attractions that visitors love to see but there are also the less traveled amazing spots that will leave you speechless. So when you make your trip to San Diego, be sure to explore one or two of the hidden gems that will make your dream vacation more complete. Thank you for reading!  California Dreaming!

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Coming Soon:  California Dreaming Series | Palm Springs

Breast Cancer Awareness|Guest Blog Helping Mum Fight Across The Miles!

The following guest blog I wrote for CancerCare Parcel, a resource that offers comfort, support and inspiration to those dealing with or affected by cancer.

MUM, CANCER AND ME:  HOW I HELPED MY MUM FIGHT BACK FROM ACROSS THE MILES

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It’s Probably One Of The Worst Things For Someone To Be Told: “You Have Cancer,”

It can be devastating for a spouse or family member to hear it as well. I admit it, I felt my stomach fall to my feet when my mother called me on the phone to tell me the horrible news that she has breast cancer.  I felt intense emotions of fear, sadness and guilt because I lived over 2000 miles away from her. I held back tears as she told me she had Stage 4 breast cancer and will be having a mastectomy and up to 9 lymph nodes removed. So, some of you may be thinking well this isn’t too big of a deal, there are people learning they have cancer every day. But you see, this is my mother; my mum, a sweet, kind, and gentle soul.

READ COMPLETE ARTICLE HERE:

 

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Potato Chip Rock*Mt. Woodson San Diego

There are so many beautiful hiking trails and nature walks throughout San Diego County, but one of San Diego’s most popular and well known hiking spots is Mt. Woodson. This hike will offer you plenty of nature viewing pleasure and scenic landscapes.


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But the point of interest that captures many hikers is Potato Chip Rock. This narrow, thin looking piece of rock might appear somewhat risky and scary. 20180506_150631This is the most popular selfie and photo taking spots on the trail. Here are my captions from this gorgeous San Diego hiking trail.

Mt. Woodson: Backside Trail: 4.1 Miles Elevation 1220 feet

The backside trail is one of two different trails to hike to get to the Potato Chip Rock area. We decided to take the backside trail to see what Mt. Woodson was all about. 20180826_105432Especially since we wanted to enjoy a more moderate level trail and not over do it for the weekend.

 

This was a beautiful trail and we were complimented with a gorgeous sunny afternoon too. Parking for this trail is actually along CA-67; and it can be busy so be careful and be patient in looking for a space to park.
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The trail starts off nice and easy with neat walkways and shrubs and treeline paths. 20180401_153548Then there are some steep incline areas as it reminded me of being on my stair stepper at the gym. I definitely encountered some heavy breathing, but that’s my kind of workout.  20180826_120555Once you reach near the summit, you will see some radio antenna equipment and towers. 20180826_113644Just slightly past that area is the infamous Potato Chip Rock, and if you hike during the weekend you may encounter a waiting line to step onto the thin appearing but steady rock piece that looks like a potato chip. 20180826_115046
San Diego has such a vast array of things to do, including the beaches, nightlife, amusement parks, and more. 20180826_104304_Burst01But if you just want to take a few hours and explore the outdoors and keep it simple, go check out Mt. Woodson near Poway, California.
Directions

 

Beginning of trail from the backside path, (parking off of Highway 67).

 

Beautiful views from Mt. Woodson.

Read about more incredible hiking adventures.

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8 Ways To Make Epic Memories In Mammoth Lakes, California!

Making memories can be one of the most extraordinary things a person can do. It usually does not involve material items; no hand held gifts, or any fancy cars or clothing. It can however, bring unbelievable happiness and be extremely humbling. Actually, this might be exactly how I would describe my first time weekend road trip to Mammoth Lakes, California. Amazing and more!

But Mammoth, with its neighbor being Yosemite National Park, is not only a place for such incredible outdoor activity and stunning natural beauty, it’s also a place where one might enjoy grazing across the lake in a fishing boat with your father and brother. Or indulging yourself in the fresh air as you and your sister reach the summit of a mountain trail. And even taking in those remarkable landscape and mountain views with your sweetheart.

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Twin Lakes at Mammoth, CA

The amazing beauty in Mammoth is what I remember only hearing about it from friends. They told me how much fun there was to be had at Mammoth and where it is located. I’ve only heard about the incredible amount of activity that one can do there; such as hiking, biking, kayaking, skiing, boating, and surrounding yourself with total nature! And of course, people were always bragging to me about how beautiful, quiet, and serene it is in those mountains.

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Hence, the mountains were calling..(-John Muir) and then we go. A friend of ours had already planned her weekend road trip to Mammoth and she asked if we wanted to join her; and we said of course, we are all in! So we packed our bags and prepped the car and planned to maximize our weekend filled with incredible hikes, mountain vistas, and relaxing kayaking. Check out these great ways to make your own memories of which you may want to add to your own
Mammoth Mountain itinerary.

  1. Seven Lakes Point Loop: Hiking Trail and Views
    A. Elevation: 2372 Feet gain, starting at Twin Lakes Campground, it will take you by the bottomless pit and Lava Tube. (This hike is considered risky and dangerous due to the soft and loose gravel).
    B. Spectacular views of at least 5 or so lakes.
     

     

     

     


    2. Lava Tube: Hiking and History

Lava Tube is a conduit where lava once flowed, cooled and created a cave-like hole in the rock above Lower Twin Lake. This geologic formation is commonly referred to as “Hole in the Wall.”

 

 

Down In The Lower Valley Areas: Reds Meadow Valley
You will need to have access to the lower areas into the valley of Mammoth Mountain via shuttle down to these following areas.
DSC_0272The shuttle route begins at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area’s Adventure Center and makes several stops throughout the valley and begins operating when the Reds Meadow Road opens in the summer, and continues through Labor Day weekend. The price per person is $8 / ticket per day. The Reds Meadow/Devils Postpile Shuttle has provided transit service into the Reds Meadow Valley and to the Devils Postpile National Monument for over 30 years! The parking area fills up quick.

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The parking area leading to the ski lift adventure store at Mammoth.

3. Devils Postpile (Rainbow Falls hiking Trail) National Monument:
Devils Postpile National Monument is a National Monument located near Mammoth Mountain. The monument protects Devils Postpile, an unusual rock formation of columnar basalt. You will pass by Devils Postpile on your hiking path down to another spectacular main attraction: Rainbow Falls.

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Devils Postpile National Monument

4. Rainbow Falls: Hiking and Views with Waterfalls

Rainbow Falls is a waterfall in the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River.

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Rainbow Falls

Additionally, as you continue your hike you may notice the Pacific Crest Trail merging into the trail while passing through this monument. And you will also notice the National Monument lies within the borders of the Ansel Adams Wilderness.

 

 

 

There is also the ‘Lower Falls’ that many folks do not venture further down below. This is a beautiful area where waterfalls are splashing into the stream of which some people enjoy a cool dip in the water or some are a little more adventurous and they jump off some of the lower rock formations. This area is a nice place to relax, enjoy a snack before the hike back up the trail to the top to catch the shuttle to return from out of the valley.

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Lower Falls near Rainbow Falls, Mammoth Lakes, CA.

5. Minaret Falls Trail: Hiking Trail to Waterfalls. Minaret Vista

This is a moderate trail located near Lake Mary, California with scenic views. This hike is enjoyable and great for walking and nature trips and bird watching.

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FITLIFEANDTRAVEL.COM * Steller’s Jay birds in Mammoth

The falls are very nice and can be a challenge climbing upward to be close to them.
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The Minaret Vistas

East of Mammoth Lakes area.
6. Convict Lake: Kayaking

Kayaking on Convict lake is incredible as you can enjoy the calm and peaceful aspects of quiet and serene lake surroundings, as well as the outstanding views of Laurel Mountain that hugs the lake. This place has an interesting history attached to it as well. Back in the late 1800’s several prisoners escaped from a Nevada prison and fled towards an area now known as Convict creek. Read more about it here:

 

 

7. Hot Creek Geological Site:

Pretty but dangerous, this Hot Creek Geological site is an active hot bed of nature in action. Boiling water is bubbling up from the creek bed. Amazing to look at & ponder, but I keep a distance. Located at the bottom of a large volcanic basin, this is an interesting place to see and visit, but you must keep at a distance because the hot creek is dangerously hot and can contain arsenic and other natural substances that can be toxic.
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8. The Village at Mammoth:

Enjoy a day of fun, shopping, music, and other events at The Village at Mammoth. Here you will find many events and fun! The weekend over the Labor Day, we attended the Rock N Rye event; of which we enjoyed a few live bands, vendors, morning yoga, and many other activities throughout the weekend! This area is the quaint downtown part of Mammoth and is the home of many highly visited restaurants. We had dinner at two restaurants located in this area (the tourist area), but we later learned that the really tasty dishes were found in food eateries located on the other side of town away from the tourist area.

 

 

In summary, if you think a collection of ‘things’ will give you the same reward of experiences of quality time with family or friends in a special place, think again. Memories can not be fabricated, bought, fall apart, or manufactured. I know I will always cherish this weekend with my wonderful husband, and our special friend; Sam who was so gracious in asking us to piggyback on her weekend trip that she planned out and arranged the kayaking reservation and other fun activities!

Do you have any special memory making trips that turned out to be more than you expected?  Please share in the comments your memorable trips and if you have experience in Mammoth, California!  Thank you again for reading and for all your support! Here are some of my other memory making trips!

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Summer of Sunsets

Summer is one of my favorite times of year, so I wanted to compile a recap of some of the most spectacular #sunsets in places I have had the privilege of visiting. In the last 10 months, I have had the opportunity to go exploring and travel a little more than previous years. We seen places that we’ve only talked about and had a desire to visit, and now finally we have made our dream come true. Although there are many places we have yet to see, these sunsets have made for lasting memories and remarkable experiences we won’t soon forget!

Take a look at these stunning places and sunsets!

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Arizona near Phoenix
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Grand Canyon area
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Santa Monica, CA
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Cannon Beach, OR
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Eugene, OR
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Bradenton, FL
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Honolulu, HI
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Bismarck-Mandan, ND
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Honolulu, HI
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Scottsdale, AZ
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Sarasota, FL
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Moab, UT
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Honolulu, HI

 

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Austin, TX
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San Diego, CA
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Hawaii
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San Diego, CA
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Kauai, Hawaii
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Honolulu, HI
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Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Hawaii

Some of the most memorable moments are captured during sunsets, make sure you don’t miss out on your next moment! Hope these inspire you to go out and explore and venture for that perfect view and/or #sunset!

Read more about my scenic adventures here!

See more gorgeous views in Hawaii here!

Please feel free to comment or contact me, I would love to hear from you! Please follow my blog and subscribe! As always, I thank you for reading and thank you for your support!

3 Best Beaches On The Gulf Coast Florida

What does Summertime mean to you? For many, Summer is the season of making memories of fun times with family enjoying picnics, barbecue and watermelon! But for me, Summertime is all about the beachlife. This includes packing up your tote bags, gathering your fluffy beach towels and folding chairs and heading out to the beach every chance I get. IMG_0150Summertime and beaches go hand in hand, you can pack your lunch and enjoy a picnic on the beach, then grab your camera for those gorgeous sunsets that round up the day.
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I’ve spent a lot of time at some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. There are even a few I’ve been to that are located in areas not even accessible to the general public. But some of the hottest beaches in the world you could say are located in the state of Florida.
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Although the Summer season climate in Florida can be quite hot, it makes for a reason to head out to the beaches and jump in! Here are the three best beaches on the gulf coast you should visit today!

  1.  Siesta Key BeachDirections

Siesta Key Beach is located on Siesta Key in Sarasota, Florida. This is the beach of all beaches! It’s the beach you dream of with wide spaces of beautiful white sand of which the sand is cool to the touch. IMG_5271The sand at many beaches can be very hot on the feet during those scorching Summer days, but the sand at Siesta Key Beach is cool and very fine. The sand is made of Quartz and has a luxurious and cool feel to the feet!

There is a nice facility and large parking lot at this beach where you can find restrooms, and at times some events and activities are going on, for example seafood festivities and live bands.

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Additionally, every Sunday evening around Sunset there is the traditional Siesta Key Beach Drum Circle where people gather in a large circle and there are a few instruments being played, and folks can hula hoop or dance.

 

This is one beach you must visit on your next trip to Florida! Siesta Key Beach has also been named for some accolades recently as well.

  • o The whitest and finest sand in the world (The Great International Beach Challenge, 1987)
  • o The Best San Beach in America (The Travel Channel, 2004)
  • o The Best Beach in America (Dr. Beach, 2011, 2017)
  • o 2015 awarded #1 U.S. Beach (Street sign posted on Siesta Key)

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Siesta Key Beach Drum Circle Celebration
2. Bradenton Beach: Directions

Bradenton Beach can be found located on Anna Marie Island in Bradenton, Florida. From I-75 go take the exit for SR 64 and go west and you will run directly into the parking area for this beautiful beach.

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Bradenton Beach, FL
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Bradenton Beach, FL

From my experience visiting this beach, there is not alot of commercialism nearby or at this beach which is one reason why I love this beach! It’s sort of old school, it allows you to truly escape the crazy noisy things going on already in our busy lives.  Parking is free in this particular parking area, and the beach is what you see is what you get. There is a restroom building located at this parking area, and you can find a few businesses and swimsuit boutiques as you drive further south. There are a handful of free parking areas as well. It was a treat to be at the beach and see the Sand Art displays on the day we visited this beach in the month of December.

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Bradenton Beach Sand Art Display
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Bradenton Beach Sand Art Display
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Bradenton Beach, FL
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Bradenton Beach, FL

If you are looking for a quiet, and easy access to a beach for relaxing and enjoyment, Bradenton Beach will not disappoint.
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3. Clearwater Beach: Directions

This spectacular beach area is highly visited every year and offers a lot of beach fun and activity. Located in Clearwater, Florida, the beach is beautiful and lovely with its wide and sparking light colored sand and inviting blue waters to enjoy fun in the sun, building sand castles, or enjoying a picnic on the beach. There are several tourists who visit this beach so it can be busy, and parking can be a challenge at times.

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Clearwater Beach, FL
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Clearwater Beach, FL

You will see some hotels and resorts located directly on the beach in the distance. Several boutique shops and restaurants, and souvenir and snack shops line the streets on the main drag that lines this beach. You can also rent jet skis and boat tours to add a little adventure to your visit. The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is a must see as it is the place that the popular movie, Dolphin Tale, is based on.

Clearwater Beach has also been in the rankings of beaches in years past including one of the best beaches in the U.S. and many others. So while you visit the state of Florida, make sure to include a day at this stunning beach for an incredible beach day experience!

 

So the next time you think of Summer, the only thing that may come to your mind is Beaches! For me, there is nothing better than a day at the beach with your family playing in the water, relaxing on the sand, and enjoying a delicious picnic. When you come to Florida on your next travel or vacation, these three beaches are a must see to add to your itinerary!
Thank you for reading!

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