The beaches and snorkel trips that we discovered on the Florida Keys added so much fun and adventure to our family vacation to the Sunshine State. Florida is a long ways from our home state, and airfare is usually quite steep for this biggish family. But I discovered some great priced flights through Spirit and a plan was put into place!
One of the biggest reasons our family vacationed at the Florida Keys was that my husband has great memories from a trip he took before he and I married. So we packed up and 7 of us headed south for a glorious week of sunshine and salt life.
To fully relax and be comfortable, we rented a house. I tell you, I don’t think I’ll ever choose to stay in a hotel again if renting a house is an option. Before we did it, I was a little unsure if I could be comfortable vacationing in someone else’s home. With a little boundary setting, it worked beautifully. So every night we had dinner and planned for the next day’s adventure, then settled in for a quiet evening and night’s sleep.
The first place we headed in the Keys was John Pennenkamp Coral Reef State Park. The day before we left for vacation I read a blog post that I found on pinterest about the beaches on the Keys, so I wasn’t too surprised by what we found at John Pennenkamp, but the kids were disappointed. Apparently, sand is brought to the Keys by boat because the beaches are naturally made of rock and coral. That makes for hard beaches with a thin layer of sand. And lots of seaweed. Still the kids got into the water and had a little fun.
The next time we visited John Pennenkamp, we were all ready to go snorkeling. What a blast! Builder was so right that snorkeling is fantastic fun. We hopped on a boat from the docks at John Pennekamp State Park and sailed out to the Coral Reef. The boat ride itself was delightful, we sailed out away from the island with mangrove trees on either side until we were in open sea. Then the view was dotted with birds, sailboats and other boats headed out with snorkelers. Our captain and first mast were Wade and Lee. They filled us in on all that we needed to know to remain safe while exploring the coral reef.
The colors of the water really do vary as you move along. This is mostly because of the coral reef just under the surface.
Rather than rent snorkel gear, Builder bought each of us a set, he was that sure that we’d love it. He was right. It took me a little longer than the kids. Not ever spending much time by the coast I have found that I get a little anxious on the water. Now I was actually in the ocean. So several times I had to slow down my thoughts and remind myself to breathe slowly through the tube. That worked every time, not once did I have an equipment malfunction. It even became a little fun to “two two” in my tube to make sure it was clear of salt water.
The coral was beautiful. Purple Fan Coral caught my eye and I found myself going from fan to fan to see what was living around it. There were barracuda, bull sharks and dozens of pretty, colorful fish all around and below us. Oh I do hope we can go again.
You might notice the swim shirt on my daughter. Way back when Builder first went snorkeling he got a terrible sunburn on his back. We’ve all heard that story, and so when planning this trip I decided to make sure that didn’t happen again. We each chose a swim shirt from Lands End, and wore them often when we were in the water on our vacation. The only sunburns occurred on day 5 of our trip, during our beach day in Fort Lauderdale by the Sea.
If you find yourself planning a trip to the Keys, get a swim shirt and check out the snorkeling tours from John Pennekamp! You might even ask for Wade and Lee’s boat.