Eight Ways to Explore Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Boca Raton, Florida

Established in 1951, the 145,000+ acre (one of the largest in America!) Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge preserves the remnants of the northern Everglades, which includes a cypress forest for 250+ species of birds; indoor, interactive exhibits; access to boat launches; and tons of hiking, biking, and paddling trails.

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10 Ways to Explore the Green Cay Nature Center in Boynton Beach, Florida

On a recent visit to Delray Beach, Florida to visit family, we explored the nearby Green Cay Nature Center in Boynton Beach and ended up spending the better part of a morning enjoying the beautiful wetlands and exhibits.  Originally farmland, the 100 acres property was sold by the farmers at a significantly reduced rate to the County with the promise the lands would be made into a wetland. It took two years, but in 2004 the property opened to the public and thousands of birds and wildlife began calling it home.  Green Cay is part of the Palm Beach County Nature Center system, which includes six additional centers throughout the area- check out the full list and details here.

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10 Ways to Explore the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum in Florida

Located across the street from Lighthouse Park and Cox Recreation Facility (both maintained by the city of St. Augustine), the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum complex  features indoor and outdoor exhibits, walking trails, and the opportunity to climb to the top of the lighthouse. Built in 1856, the first watchtower was 350 yards closer to the ocean than the current complex. The second tower, 165 feet tall, followed less than 20 years later, including the addition of the 1876 home for Head Keeper William Farn, Assistant Keeper Joseph Rantia and their families. Lightkeepers tended to the lighthouse until the mid 1950s when the light became automated.  The Junior Service League saved the property from being bulldozed in the 1970s and spent almost 20 years restoring the lighthouse tower, innkeeper’s home, and the original Fresnel lens. The museum officially opened in 1994 with a collection of over 19,000 artifacts and documents providing a timeline of the history of the lighthouse, its occupants, and the greater St. Augustine area.

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City Guide: St Augustine, Florida

Located in the northern part of Florida, St Augustine has the distinction of being known as the oldest continually occupied European settlement in North America. It was founded in 1565 by Pedro Menendez and his soldier and colonists, fifty years after Ponce de Leon claimed the area now known as Florida for Spain in the early 1500s. St. Augustine was under Spanish rule until 1763 when Britain took over for 20 years, followed again by Spain until the United States took over in 1821. Florida later became a state in 1845. The St. Augustine area became popular with tourists in the 1820s as a spot to escape cold northern winters, and the popularity grew when Standard Oil co-founder Henry Flagler founded the Florida East Coast Railway and began building hotels, churches, and a hospital throughout the area. Today, St. Augustine is a popular spot to be immersed in rich history and culture and the city offers plenty of family friendly adventures. 

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Playing “I Spy” at the Flagler Museum on Palm Beach Island, Florida

We recently spent time exploring St. Augustine Florida, a city that Henry Flagler basically built after the start of his 1912 Florida East Coast Railway and subsequent hotels, hospitals, schools, churches, and farms. (Read more about our adventures in St. Augustine in these posts. So, it was fitting when we also traveled to the West Palm Beach area of Florida in the same trip, we spent the morning at Flagler’s “winter cottage” Henry Flagler was successful in the grain and salt mining industries before he helped to found the Standard Oil Company with John D. Rockefeller and Samuel Andrews in 1867.  When he married his third wife, Mary Lily Flager, in August 1901, he promised her a “waterfront winter cottage” and had “Whitehall”, as it was named, built in a record 18 months. The Flaglers spent approximately two months there each year until Flagler’s death in 1913. 

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5 Ways to Explore the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument in St. Augustine, Florida

The oldest masonry fort in the United States, Castillo de San Marcos National Monument was built from 1672 to 1695 (with various interrupted breaks due to disease and conflict) to guard St Augustine, the first permanent European settlement, from both pirates and English troops. The fort was made from local coquina shell stone quarried in the area that is now Anastasia State Park and is up to 19 feet thick in some ocean side walls. The shell-stone walls helped up against cannon firing and helped the Spanish protect the fort.   In 1821, the United States acquired Florida from Spain and renamed the fort Fort Marion, later adding Florida’s first golf course on the grounds in 1895, and then declared a national monument in 1924. After being deactivated in 1933, the 21 acre fort was used as a US Coast Guard training base during World War II. The fort celebrated its centennial in 2016.

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