FLAGLER BEACH, FLORIDA – The weather didn’t cooperate so much, but I found a great spot in Florida this past weekend.
Flagler Beach is only a half hour or so north of Daytona, home to roaring race cars and motorcycles. But it’s honestly a world away.
Where Daytona and other Florida cities have high-rises lining the beach, Flagler has a law that forbids buildings on the beach. Instead, almost all the buildings (one or two stragglers got in but that’s it) are across the small, two-lane highway, A1A.
It makes for a marvellous drive up from Daytona, with nothing between you and the Atlantic except small dunes and palmettos and scrub brush. Unlike the dark grey sand in Daytona, the beaches up here have coquina shells in them, making the send a beautiful shade of orange-pink that I haven’t seen elsewhere in Florida.
There’s not a lot to the town; a small square with a few small restaurants and t-shirt places and ice cream stores and a string of pubs and restaurants along the side of A1A.
The Golden Lion Pub is a great spot just north of Main St. I had two tasty fish tacos with local wahoo that were topped with four coconut shrimp, plus a side of chips and salsa, for $13. Try finding that in Miami. The “love bugs” were out on the weekend; a bi-annual event where black and orange bugs swarm all over the place. It was tough sitting outside but I stuck it out for a while on the second floor patio while a reggae band warmed up below me and folks sat inside, unbothered by the little critters.
I had a nice blackened mahi mahi with veggies and beans and rice at the Funky Pelican at dinner, which has great views of the pier and the ocean. They also have a couple of giant blackboards outside and coloured chalk so you can write a message to a special loved one. Or not.
The museum in town is a cute one, with tributes to a local astronaut and also to a former mayor named “Kissing George” because he couldn’t resist smooching his female constituents. I was told this didn’t always go over well and that the mayor had bad teeth. But he also helped build the town’s pier and set off great fireworks on the Fourth of July, so maybe he wasn’t all bad.
There’s a pretty state park south of town called Gamble Rogers, with a fine beach and camp sites and walks you can take through the forest to discover the “real Florida.” There often are manatees in the intracoastal waterway inside the park, too, although I didn’t see any.
Further north is an old plantation called Washington Oaks, named for a relative of the first American president. The grounds are lovely and feature a pretty rose garden, plus small ponds and huge oak trees dripping with Spanish Moss, which I’ve been told in the past is a relative of the pineapple.
Definitely some great atmosphere and a lovely walk.
I bedded down for the night at a small motel called the Si Como No (“Yes, why not” is the translation from Spanish). It’s hugely colourful with red and blue and yellow and purple painted exteriors and fun, quirky interior design. The property is right across from the beach and also backs onto the intracoastal waterway so you can kayak or canoe or paddleboard if you like. There’s also a small spa on site.
The place was pretty deserted in September but I can imagine it would be fun and full of life in summer, especially around the casual tiki bar they have.
Most definitely a slower paced part of Florida, and one I found quite delightful. It’s not Miami or Tampa or Daytona or Naples, but that’s the point.
CANADIANS ON THE MOVE THIS FALL
A survey from Pollara that I spotted in the Montreal Gazette found a huge, 43 per cent increase in the number of Canadians who plan to travel this fall compared to last year.
“More than three quarters of Canadian respondents (77 per cent) plan to get away this season, compared to just half (54 per cent) in 2012, according to Pollara pollsters. And travellers won’t be doing it on the cheap: fall getaways will set the average person back $2,563 — a figure that rises to $3,677 for those planning to flee the country,” the Gazette said.
While 45 per cent of travel plans involve trips within Canada, the majority of vacationers will cross the border. Thirty per cent are headed to the U.S., eight per cent to Mexico, another eight per cent to Europe, and seven per cent to Central America, South America or the Caribbean, the paper said.
NEW SECURITY SCREENING
Great story in Wednesday’s Toronto Star about how new technology may allow Canadians to once again take liquids on board a plane. Wouldn’t that be great? There’s an entire generation out there without a clue about what it’s like to take a can of Coke or a bottle of water – or wine – on board an airplane.
It might take until 2016 for the technology to be put in place but it’s still welcome news….