We visited so many interesting places during our Florida adventure you'd think it would be difficult to choose a favorite. It wasn't. Hands down our favorite Florida destination was Manasota Key. Located in Englewood, FL this narrow strip of land separates the Gulf of Mexico and Lemon Bay. Manasota Key was a peninsula that was transformed into a barrier island by the Intracoastal Waterway. It's 11 miles long with a total area of 3.1 square miles, roughly 640 acres. A short walk between the bay & the ocean makes it easy to catch a sunrise or sunset.
We planned to spend one week on Manasota Key but loved it so much we stayed for two. We combed the beaches in front of our resorts daily but one particular spot on Manasota Key kept drawing us back, Stump Pass Beach State Park. If you're driving to Stump Pass parking is $3 per car for the day. (Plan to arrive early during peak season.) Stump Pass Beach State Park is open daily from 8 am until sundown. Visitors can enjoy the beach, fishing, birdwatching, hiking, kayaking or paddle boarding on the Gulf of Mexico and Lemon Bay.
Stump Pass Beach State Park is a remarkable place, beautiful and so diverse. Five distinct natural communities can be found at Stump Pass. A mile-long nature trail leads visitors through all 5 areas. See if you can spot them in the slideshow below.
Beautiful, isn't it? Well, believe it or not, it gets better. Walking the nature trail at Stump Pass is like visiting an informal botanical garden. It's full of Florida natives, complete with plant identification markers!
A little off topic but still plant related, I didn't realize Scheffleras bloomed and produced berries. In our neck of the woods Schefflera is a house plant. The Schefflera below is part of the landscaping at the condo we rented. It's not native to this area but it sure is beautiful. I love the look of the multi-colored berries against the variegated foliage.
Interesting facts: Gopher land tortoise spend a great deal of time underground. Their dens can extend up to 50' into the ground. These burrows protect the tortoise from heat, sunstroke & bush fires. It's common for gopher tortoise to share their dens with snakes. In fact, 100 different species of animals are known to take shelter in gopher tortoise dens. During bush fire events, the gopher tortoise's burrows are essential for the survival of the ecosystem.
We hung out on the point for a long time looking for shark's teeth & pretty shells. We took a break from beach combing to watch the birds. That's when we spotted a pair of dolphin in the bay. We were so excited! It was the first time either of us had seen dolphin in the wild. It was fun to watch them pester the fisherman for handouts.
We decided to hike the beach back to our condo instead of taking the trail. Of course we did, that's a mile long opportunity to look for more shark's teeth! Along the way we happened upon saplings & sticks decorated with seashells. It made me smile. Guess we're not the only ones who think this place is special.
I snapped the photo below on our walk back to the condo. It's now a large canvas that hangs in our home like a vision board. A daily reminder to keep up the hustle so we can return to this wonderful place next winter.
Our final few posts will highlight the treasures we found while out beach combing Stump Pass Beach and Manasota Key. Marine & wildlife, fossils, seashells and one incredible night of ocean fluorescence. See you soon!
"From bonsai we receive peace of mind, health, and life's pursuits.
We can also learn generosity, patience and even a philosophy about life."
Saburo Kato, Bonsai Master
Morikami Bonsai Exhibit
Bonsai In Training (Not on Display)
If you're fortunate enough to live in the area, Morikami offers two bonsai classes at their Oki Education Center. Beginner & intermediate classes teach the ancient art of bonsai. Morikami offers a wide range of classes on a variety of subjects including Japanese Tea Ceremonies, flower arranging, art & language. For more info about Morikami's Bonsai Display or Learning Opportunities please visit their website.
We're heading to Morikami's Japanese Museum next.
Day Trip #2 - A visit to Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens located in Delray Beach, FL between West Palm Beach & Fort Lauderdale. Morikami includes 6 distinct garden areas spanning 16 acres, two museum buildings, the Cornell Cafe, Sheishin-an Tea House and a lovely gift shop featuring Japanese art, tea sets & kimonos. There is also a 200 acre park to explore with trails, pine forests & picnic areas. We had an incredible day but did not see it all.
The Morikami Japanese Gardens provides an experience unlike botanical gardens. Maps are provided to identify key areas but there is very little signage and no plant identification markers. Nothing to distract from the garden's purpose; personal insight, discovery and invigoration. There is no "right way" to interpret this garden.
Heian Period - 9th to 12th Century
Incorporates lakes & islands. Meant to be viewed by boat.
Kamakura & Early Muromachi Period - 13th to 14th Century
Pure land "Buddha Heaven." Meant for strolling.
Early Rock Garden
Early Muromachi Period - 14th Century
Often inspired by Chinese ink paintings. May include dry waterfalls.
Karesansui Late Garden
Muromachi Period - 15th to 16th Century
Karesansui "dry landscapes" use rocks but few plants. Known as Zen gardens.
Hiraniwa Flat Garden
Edo Period - 17th to 18th Century
Shakkei "borrowed scenery" incorporates background landscape into garden designs.
Modern Romantic Garden
Meiji Period - Late 19th to Early 20th Century
Drew influence from nature. Gardens more modern but less abstract.
Lanterns, Statuary & Water Features
I sought good fortune but was content to find happiness.
The Bamboo Grove
It's impossible for me to choose a favorite garden at Morikami. They were all so different. However, I have to give a special mention to the bamboo grove. It was simple but offered an unexpected surprise. The bamboo grove is a living wind chime planted for sound. Beautiful & so relaxing.
Our visit to Morikami Japanese Gardens was an experience to remember & repeat. Japanese gardening might not be your style. Go anyway! This garden is worth a visit. Morikami is inspiring on so many levels. Incredibly beautiful, peaceful and calming. As I left the gardens I couldn't help but notice how good I felt.
Morikami Japanese Gardens & Museum is so spectacular I couldn't fit it all into one blog post. Coming up next, a look at Morikami's extensive Bonsai Collection & a visit to the Japanese Museum. Keep following.