Weekend getaways to Florida (especially near Lemon Bay) in the middle of winter are always welcomed! I love to try and get a mid-winter vacation in to sneak away from the cold and get some Vitamin D. However; this year there was a major factor standing in my way, Zika virus. Before you get all “whoa congrats on the pregnancy” “I had no clue?!” Well that’s because I am not pregnant. However; not understanding the lasting effects the virus can have, my husband and I made a conscience decision not to put ourselves in harm’s way. We actually went as far as to cancel our New Year’s Eve trip to Miami and the Florida Keys.
My grandparents live on the West coast straddled between Tampa and Fort Meyers. They made it abundantly clear that no signs of Zika had been identified near them. When a flash sale from Allegiant Airlines (a new airline to Trenton-Mercer Airport) popped up promising $75 round trip flights to Tampa, we couldn’t pass it up.
While we doused ourselves in bug spray as an extra precaution, we were able to spend a full weekend in sunny 80 degree weather with my siblings and grandparents. Life was pretty good! For most of the weekend we just relaxed at the beach with no excursions or plans for the day. However; my grandparents surprised us with a sunset dolphin cruise on our last night there. They informed us that this was their “go-to” adventure for when guests come to visit. They had come to know the captain and were overly complimentary of his knowledge of the wildlife and local land.
When we arrived at the Lemon Bay Tour marina, we were introduced to a stand-in captain for the day (Bruce couldn’t be there). The long covered boat can fit a group up to about 40 however; we soon realized we were its only occupants that night. No complaints here, we got our own private sunset tour! We set sail and started up the bay’s coast.
Within 15 minutes we had already scouted our first dolphin sighting. I have never seen them so close and just gracefully moving through the water. It’s such an exciting sight to see. We were also introduced to many of the Key’s birdlife from pelicans and ospreys to larger birds like hawks. The pelicans diving for fish was also a bit thrilling (the look like they are doing Kamikaze style diving!).
After an hour and a half learning about the local wildlife and some of the bay area’s history from our captain we picked a viewing area to watch the sun set. If you’re lucky you may even get a chance to see the urban legend of the “Green light flash” just as the sun disappears on the water’s horizon. We chugged back to the marina and finished off our night at A Better Scoop (# 5 ice cream shop in the country) for some ice cream for dinner (We were on vacation…no judging!). There is also no photographic evidence of this as we polished our ice cream off in record speeds.
Lemon Bay Tours is a perfect group activity. Its affordable ($30pp), has stunning vies and it’s a great way to learn more about the area. Aside from the sunset cruise that we took there is also an afternoon nature tour and even a party boat option.
Take a look at their website for the full list of cruises. http://www.lemonbaydolphintours.com
If you haven’t taken a cold weather retreat yet, I hope this will entice you!
…all for the love of the dish