A House-Sit on Florida’s Northeast Coast

Atlantic Beach, Florida

Atlantic Beach, Florida

When my husband and I accepted a house-sitting assignment in Atlantic Beach, Florida this past February/March, we had no idea what to expect. Of course I did my usual online research about the area, and pinpointed a few places I knew I’d want to visit, but that’s all.

I’ve always headed to either Orlando or the Gulf Coast before. I’d never set foot in northeast Florida, so I was excited to learn more about this area, it’s people, and what it had to offer travellers. I have to tell you, I was blown away! The house we were caring for was a rambling one floor home that was quite comfortable. We were house/pet sitting for a lovely lady with two senior dogs that needed caring for while she was away on a cruise to Hawaii. The dogs, Pumpkin and Alfie, were wonderful. Their temperaments are both friendly and they walked very well on a leash. With the house being just two blocks from the beach, it was an ideal opportunity to get to know the Atlantic Ocean side of Florida.

What I hadn’t expected was for the area to be so lush and full of tropical flora and fauna. Although northeast Florida definitely experiences cooler winters than her more southern siblings, she is extremely green and inviting. The beaches are some of the widest and longest I’ve ever experienced, which was thrilling to discover. We were there from February 24th to March 15th, so we certainly got a taste of the cooler and wetter temperatures (ranging from around 9C to about 21C, or 48F to around 70F), but having left Southwestern Ontario, Canada’s unusual temperatures of -27C weather (-16F), we were happy to trade our heavy winter outwear for much lighter jackets and running shoes.

Jellyfish, Atlantic Beach

Jellyfish, Atlantic Beach

Because we were required to walk the dogs first thing in the morning and around 4pm each day, we had ample opportunity to get acquainted with the neighbourhood, say hello to others passing by, and chat to some of the neighbours. On all but a few occasions, we walked the dogs on the beach to allow us to really experience the Atlantic Ocean, and so I could pick up a few interesting shells along the way. We also saw our first beached jellyfish on the Atlantic Beach sands, and had to take a picture to show our young grandchildren back home. A few days the fog came in and blanketed the coast, making our walks eerily silent, enveloping us in a grey shroud our eyes could penetrate by only a few feet. We loved it!

Poe`s Tavern

Poe`s Tavern

I’m a fair weather girl though, so I revelled in the days we were able to get out and soak up some sun. The small village of Atlantic Beach was lovely, but there wasn’t much to see or do in the town itself. We did discover a unique and inviting pub though, Poe’s Tavern. Poe’s Tavern on Atlantic Beach is a welcoming place to stop in for a beer and a burger. With a well rounded menu offering over fifty beers to choose from, its in-house- ground gourmet burgers and hand-cut fries, well, you simply can’t go wrong. Unfortunately, the day we were there the weather was overcast and rainy, so we sat inside the cozy pub area and soaked up the atmosphere of dozens of Edgar Allen Poe photographs and quotes. On a trip to the ladies’ room, I was surprised to hear a man’s voice coming from the overhead speakers reciting one of Poe’s works, rather than the usual muzak or radio stations one usually hears. The waitress was friendly and knowledgeable, the atmosphere was ideal for a cool, dreary day, and the food was excellent. Had the weather been sunnier and warmer, we’d definitely have sat outside on the large patio dotted with many tables and umbrellas. If you’re in either the Atlantic Beach or Charleston, South Carolina, one of my other favourite cities, do stop in and check it out for yourself.

That’s all for today. Stay tuned for more revelations about our trip to Florida’s east coast, topped off by a perfect five day stay at a resort condo in Orlando with our daughter and granddaughter!

Ontario’s West Coast

Grand Bend Beach

Grand Bend Beach

 

While many visitors to Ontario head north to the Muskoka and Kawartha Lakes for relaxation and recreation, Ontario’s West Coast areas are an absolute must-see for those looking for sandy shores, quaint village shopping, and an eclectic mix of eateries for every taste and budget. After all, the beaches along Lake Huron’s shores are second to none, and Grand Bend’s bustling summer tourist attractions make it one of the best spots to visit for families and individuals of all ages.

 

Long the summer draw of the younger, twenty plus set, Grand Bend is starting to grow up, but maintains it’s fun, exciting outlook. Three years ago the township undertook a major revamping of Main Street, along what is familiarly known as ‘The Strip” down to the beach. New sidewalks and roadway were installed, along with welcome park benches to entice visitors to sit a while and people-watch. A beach front child-friendly splash pad and playground down at the water’s edge is ideal for very young children, and beach volley ball nets beckon the young and young-at-heart to indulge in exercise and competition. Along Main Street, beautiful overhead floral baskets drape from light poles, while the Welcome sign stretching across Main Street’s entrance reminds guests and residents alike that they are indeed, welcome to Grand Bend.

 

The bars and eateries lining Grand Bend’s Main Street are a must to sample, from fully licensed eat-in restaurants, to fries, hot dogs, and ice cream shops lining the road down to the beach. A quick skip across the bridge to River Road provides some of the best fish and chips around at Purdy’s. Nothing beats a basket of the fresh catch of the day while sitting outdoors alongside the river and watching the pleasure boats cruise by. For those looking for something offering a little more, next door to Purdy’s you’ll find Smackwater Jack’s. This is one of Grand Bend’s newest eateries, and features excellent food, a full bar, and outside patio that graces the river’s edge, for a truly memorable eating experience. Of course no trip to Grand Bend is complete until you’ve walked with an ice cream cone along the beach’s boardwalk to the pier that juts into the lake. An ideal spot for fishing, it’s also one of the best places to watch incredible sunsets at the end of a perfect summer day.

 

Just five minutes south of the village of Grand Bend is The Pinery Park, one of Ontario’s finest provincial parks. Famous for its beach sunsets, incredible fall foliage of the encompassing Carolinian Forest, and extensive campgrounds, The Pinery comprises several acres of walking trails, boardwalks, and is truly a nature-lovers paradise.

Main Street, Bayfield

Main Street, Bayfield

A little further north up the coastline from busy Grand Bend, and you’ll encounter the enchanting village of Bayfield, with it’s many lovely boutiques and shops, eateries and outside patio restaurants reminiscent of old Europe. Sit outside and eat a meal al fresco at the Black Dog Inn and watch the pedestrians wander by, or step inside the quiet interior of The Little Inn on Bayfield’s Main Street, for a delightful retreat from the outside world. With its old world charm, antiquity, and incredible menu, this is one of the best places to stay and dine in the area. A short drive along Bayfield’s Main Street past rows of gingerbread houses leads down toward the water, beach, and river front, where ships of all shapes and sizes come and go. For those who enjoy the arts, each year, Bayfield hosts a variety of summer art and literary festivals, drawing visitors from far and wide, and has well earned the self-proclaimed title “One of Ontario’s Prettiest Towns”. If you’re looking for a good book to read, you really must stop and browse at Bayfield’s The Village Bookshop!

 

Goderich Boardwalk

Goderich Boardwalk

 

Just thirty minutes north of Bayfield is the thriving town of Goderich, Ontario, whose town centre roundabout was all but destroyed approximately three years ago during a devastating tornado that touched down and practically wiped the town off the map. Driving around Goderich now, you’ll see everything has been lovingly restored, while the town “square” that was completely levelled, is now bigger and better than ever. Again, nestled along the shores of Lake Huron, Goderich plays host to ships of every make and size, from pleasure craft to large fishing barges, and an extensive boardwalk that stretches for miles along the lakeshore.

 

Bluewater Bridge

Bluewater Bridge

Whether for a day trip or longer stay, Ontario’s West Coast has so much to offer and is well worth the drive. Grand Bend, Ontario is located just forty-five minutes from either London or Sarnia, Ontario, and the Bluewater Customs Bridge that spans the river between Sarnia, Ontario and Port Huron, Michigan. It’s also an easy approximately two hour drive from Toronto, Ontario, so is a must-visit for anyone who loves sun, sand, cottaging, camping, shopping, great food, and good family fun!

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