S: Florida 2010
FC: Florida Family Vacation May 29-June 5 2010
1: The Drive... The drive with 3 young kids was not easy to say the least. It took 15 hours from Beaufort to reach Inlet Beach, Florida. Everyone was exhausted and tired of the car ride. Joe and Shannon drove the entire way. Our navigation system in the car was leading us - it did ok despite the time it directed us to the middle of a corn field. What a trip!
2: So...when we finally made it, the first thing we did was unpack the food then head to the beach with all the kids. Casey (Michelle's friend that lives here) came along and was like our personal tour guide. The beach was absolutely beautiful!
3: The white sandy beaches were pristine (no sign of the oil spill that was threatening to hit) and it was quiet-no large crowds or fighting over a spot to sit-just perfect. The water was clean and a beautiful blue/green! | Swimming in the ocean was different - you had to ride out the waves and learn how to keep from getting knocked down. Lena was nervous about being in the water because the first wave that hit us made me fall over, she got used to it though.
4: The house we rented was called "The Last Resort." It was a 3 bedroom house (top pic) with a private pool and a nice big deck (partially screened) The view was nice from the deck-you could overlook the gulf for miles. The owners, Susan and Donald Alfeiri lived next door (their house pictured in middle). We were about a 10 minute drive from Panama City (condos in Panama City could be seen from the deck.) Overall, it was a nice house. (Cost was $2000 per week.)
5: The kitchen was the only thing we really complained about-it was not set up for "gourmet cooking" as described on the Internet, but we just had fun with it and made due with what we had | The private pool was very nice to have-the ocean was fun to swim in but not for long-fighting the waves got old. It was nice to walk out and be at the pool! The kids enjoyed it too.
6: The Beach! | We tried to relax, but it was hard to do with 3 kids!
7: Testing the waters... | Lena usually loves the water, but the waves were much louder than we expected when they hit shore. She was very nervous to be walking out in the water. It took almost 3 days before she would walk where the waves hit your feet! (Sam wasn't scared-those boys have no fear!)
8: The walk to the beach from the house was longer and harder than we expected (took about 5-10 minutes to walk and carry all the stuff). The boardwalk was only a minute drive but we had Michelle's new Tahoe and did not want to get sand all over the inside - when you leave the beach you are covered in it! It was harder than expected to keep anything clean! Before you knew it the kids had sand in their ears and nose and your beer had mysteriously acquired a sandy, gritty taste! Good thing the house had an outdoor shower to rinse off before we went inside! The weather was hot but there was always a good breeze coming off the ocean so that it was tolerable and easy to enjoy (and burn!)
9: "A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawn mower is broken" - James Dent
10: The beach tends to wear you out, it was nice to be able to sit down and relax for a bit | Eat, drink, be happy and make a good margarita!
11: The breeze on the deck from the ocean made it a very nice spot to relax-we spent most of our time here. | It was nice to have Casey show us the ropes and clue us in to the good spots to visit. | Relaxation means something different to everyone...some ate, some slept, but mostly...we drank! The kids were well attended to and we needed to relax a bit! What is vacation for if you can't enjoy a cold one?
12: Pier Park The park was like a big drag strip with stores and restaurants along with a few rides for the kids. We rode the rides (3 rides costs $30!) Then we walked until we found a good place to eat. The area was crowded and expensive but nice to get out to see.
13: Reggae J's Island Grill, Panama City Beach | This was a very busy place-lots of people and they even had live birds! It was a good place to eat, we tried grouper for the first time (not bad). The weather got bad and we got to see a tornado that was over the ocean-it cleared up very quickly and stayed over the ocean.
14: Soaking up the sun!
17: The Safe Way to swim.... | When she does it...she does it in style....
19: Digging in the Sand | The boys thought digging holes in the sand was just fun. So, they dug big holes and stuck the kids in them. Everyone enjoyed the nice white sandy beaches. (Logan especially-he just couldn't believe they make a sandbox this big!)
20: Building Sand Castles! | Joe was having fun building his sand castle but he had more help than he could ever ask for with Sam and Lena at his side. It would have been a really cool sand village but we had to leave because a storm was coming in-we made it home just as it started to rain.
21: The weather here was perfect, hot and humid but tolerable. It rained every day but not for long enough to ruin any plans. The ocean was clean until the seaweed came in on the third day and made it not so fun to swim in. The surf was rather calm the first couple days but the last 2 days it was so rough you didn't even get in the water. Overall, the beach was the best part of the trip.
24: The routine had become: the kids were up by 6:30 daily so we would make breakfast then pack up and go to the beach before it got too hot. Then when we had enough of the beach we would come home, put the kids to bed and then we got to relax . The hammock was a nice place to hang on the deck.
28: We had date nights when we swapped watching the kids so the couples could go out and enjoy an evening together. For our date night Joe and I went to Bayou Bills to eat (ate some good sea food) then went for a stroll on the beach at sunset. It was a beautiful evening. The beach was quiet, no one around. We sat and watched the sun set and listened to the waves. Then we walked up and down the coast letting the water lap against our feet. It was perfect. We met some locals that were shark fishing off the beach-that was interesting. They take a kayak out into the water about 400 yards at dark and drop bait and wait for something to bite. Overall, it was a wonderful experience. It was nice to have a nice quiet evening to just enjoy the sounds and sights of the beach at sunset. The scenery was gorgeous. The old pier at the inlet was also very pretty. What a beautiful beach!
29: Sunset on Inlet Beach...
30: We decided to go to the inlet this evening to see what it was like. It was quite the walk-took probably close to 15-20 minutes to walk there from the house with the kids. | We took a short cut-this is the view looking up the trail going over the dune to the beach. | And this is the beautiful view you get as you come over the dune onto the beach. | This is where the inlet opens from the ocean into the rare dune bay. The old pier is here which was taken out by a hurricane. The area was nice for the kids- it was really shallow and the waves were minimal due to the shallow water and wide area of sand.
31: We stayed here for a long time. The kids really had fun. They enjoyed looking for sea shells (we found a lot) and digging in the sand for white crabs. We did find a large blue crab (bottom left) which was pretty feisty, along with some pretty shells that had hermit crabs living in them (we put them back). The water still had seaweed in it and the bay inlet was long and shallow but the water was too warm and fishy smelling to want to swim in it. It was much nicer to play in the small waves at the opening of the inlet.
32: On the beach there are little round holes in the sand. Shannon and Sam figured out if you dig deep enough you will find these little white crabs (middle picture). Sam was so excited about the crabs. Lena would just stand back and say "what's that" or "oh wow!"It was cute. Once it started to get dark the beach would be lined with these crabs as they came out to feed on stuff the tide would was in. We stayed at the inlet until it was almost dark. The sunset here was beautiful, especially by the old pier... | Looking for sea shells the tide would wash in. Lena loved this part of the trip. She brought back a bunch of shells.
33: Sunset at the Inlet...
36: Going to Shell Island... | We rented a pontoon boat to take out onto the bay for half a day and go to Shell Island. It was named after all the shells that are on and around the island, so we decided it would be nice for everyone to take a boat ride for the day. It was a nice day but it looked like a storm was brewing over the ocean...but we took off. It took about 30 mins to get to the island (Logan helped navigate the way). Casey and her daughter Keegan came along too. Lena and her had a great time.
37: The kids came well prepared with shovels, nets and buckets to find some good shells... | Look at my shells mom! (she was very excited) | Well, we did not find many shells but Joe did find a sand dollar. It was looking like it may storm so we loaded up and headed home around 11am. | This is the island. It is only about 200 yards wide here and the ocean lays just on the other side. It is completely uninhabited-no bathrooms or nothing. The water was clear-you could go about waist deep and still see your feet.
38: The ride back was fun. Lena and Keegan helped the entire way...they kept a look out for danger, helped Joe drive the boat, make sure the engine was running correctly and even help direct Joe the right way to go. It was quite comical to see those two get all excited over going somewhere in the boat. Lena just loves to be on the water! (Joe calls her his "river rat" because she loves to be out on the water so much!)
39: Well, as predicted the storm came and it looked like it could get bad...but Joe got us back to the dock just as it started to rain. Good thing! Now it's home for lunch and nap time.
40: More beach fun... (babe watchin' as Sam and Joe called it)
41: A beautiful afternoon on the beach... Attempted to build a sand castle and failed due to over achievers (our children) so relaxation and soaking up the sun worked out better.
42: Yes...that is a ding dong and it is for breakfast... | Yes, bath time was a must (especially after the beach) but Logan thought now was a good time...clothes and all. Lena also thought her blanket and diaper might need a good washin' also,... | Lena enjoyed hiding in the cabinets (good thing we didn't forget to look there before we left) and jamming out to her harmonica in her t-shirt, beads and diaper at 6am. Good morning... | Relaxation may have been hard to find but laughs came pretty easy when you have 3 goofy kids to keep you entertained...
43: Yep, dressing ourselves these days can be hazardous...Sam's shoes, Logan's shirt, diaper, and Aunt Michelle's underwear on her head... | Ice cream usually does the trick also. We went out to Red Robins to eat and ice cream after - it was good but expensive. (That cone was $6.00) Good thing it's vacation.... | But, there isn't anything better than rompin' with dad on the bed... | Ahhh...yes relaxation. Porch swing, Grandma Shirley's deer sausage and a nice breeze. Perfect setting for a nice evening at home while Michelle and Shannon went out.
44: Gulf World | Lena was a little nervous about the sea lion being so close. | We went to Gulf World on our last day. It was a small zoo with all types of tropical and aquatic animals. It was geared towards the kids and they had a blast! They saw everything from snakes and lizards to sea turtles and dolphins. | We caught the end of a sea lion show that had started before we got there. It was a neat show and the kids were entertained. We left to look at all the animals and just so happened to be at the sea lion display when the trainers came and got them out for a small show, right in front of us! We were about a foot away from the sea lion the entire time. It was really cool! The kids didn't know what to think-those sea lions are a lot bigger when you are up close! | Sam and Lena checking out the goldfish pond
45: There was a display where you had a chance to pet the sting ray. They were small and swam around the outside edge often so it was pretty easy to pet one. Lena was not too interested in sticking her hand in the water but I got to pet one-it just felt really slimy. | Lena was not so impressed with the tortoise. It think they scared her a bit (they are a lot bigger than the turtles at home!) | Lena enjoyed looking into all the aquariums that were right at her height! | We even went to see a bird show...it was neat but the kids were not as entertained as with the sea lion show.
46: It did cost $60 for 2 adults (kids under 2 were free) - expensive but really worth it. I think the big kids got just as much out of it as the little ones... | Lena wouldn't miss a good chance to dance and clap to the music... | We left and ate lunch then came back for the dolphin show. It was very neat. The dolphins jumped and flipped and showed off well. There was lots of action and lots of music. The kids were really entertained despite it being so hot in the arena.
47: The kids had fun and so did we but everyone was ready to see Beaufort again. We left at a good time too - the oil had hit Pensacola Beach (60 miles up the coast from where we were!) The trip home was better than the trip down (we gave the kids benadryl to help them sleep!) It took us 14 hours to get home (we did stop to eat dinner). Nothing is better than home... | Joe, Lena (2 yrs), Katie, Shannon, Sam (3 yrs), Michelle, and Logan (1 yr) We packed everything Friday morning then went to Gulf World. We came home let the kids take a nap then headed out around 5pm. It was a tight fit getting everyone in Michelle's Tahoe! Good thing we had a trailer to put everything else in! | Going Home....