A good day trip from the Bonita Springs area is a visit to the Manatee Park just outside of Fort Myers where manatees gather in cold weather at the outfall from the power plant to feed and wait for warmer weather. In a normal year they would be moving on by the last few weeks in March, but this year they were still hanging around and we got to see a few of them on our visit.
We then headed to two of the locks on the Caloosahatchee River that are part of the waterway system that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico through central Florida including Lake Okeechobee. This is a short cut route that is used regularly by both commercial and recreational boaters and maintained by the US Army Corps of engineers. In addition, the area around the locks is also used for recreational purposes including campgrounds. This facet of the facilities was part of the reason for our visit.
As luck would have it, we actually got a closer look at the manatees at the locks then we did at the Manatee Park. There was a cow and offspring in the basin next to one of the locks that allowed us to get with just a few feet on the shoreline.
It turns out that the campgrounds are very nice and afford a great view of the waterway and are well maintained.
We watched several boats transit the locks and could not help but notice that several of the spectators were not going to be deterred by the cool weather and were going to wear their spring break outfits no matter what.
I have fallen a bit behind on the blog due to a struggle with a cold that it looks like I am finally winning. Before moving on, I wanted to mention what a great time we had visiting with our friend George in Miami, which included a visit to where I worked for a year at Norwegian Cruise Lines. It was fun to be back, especially knowing that I would not have to report to work on Monday. After the first of the month I will be able to share why we made the trip to NCL offices, but I leave you with a cliff hanger, so to speak on that trip.
Even though we lived in Miami for a year and have visited George several times since, we have never walked thru the Biltmore Hotel. It has a rather interesting history. One of its claims to fame is that at one time, it had the largest swimming pool in the world.
While wandering some of the back roads along Biscayne Bay, we came across the Deering Estate at Cutler. The 444 acres along the edge of the bay now belongs to the State of Florida and is an historic site and is also used as an environmental and archeological research area.
The estate was created when Charles Deering purchased the Richmond Cottage in 1913 and the first 312 acres to establish a winter residence for his family and to house part of his large art collection. The cottage was the only hotel between Miami and Key West. When the railroad bypassed the busy town of Cutler in favor of Perrine in 1904, Cutler started a rapid decline and the hotel closed in 1915.
Deering was an avid supporter of the fine arts. He started his working life as a cadet at the Naval Academy and served 8 years in the service. He then returned home to work in the family dry good business. He developed most of his wealth after going to work at E.H. Gammon's harvester manufacturing in Illinois. Eventually, he was managing director of several companies merging to form International Harvester.
On the estate today the two main building, Richmond Cottage and the Stone house, have been restored by the state after the destruction caused by hurricane Andrew and provide a view to life there in the early part of the 1900’s. One of the interesting parts of the main stone house is the wine cellar in the basement. It was used during prohibition to store thousands of bottles of wine and alcohol. It was hidden behind a movable book shelf and a bank style vault door. It was shut off after an earlier hurricane and remained locked and forgotten for over forty years until it was rediscovered after hurricane Andrew. Unfortunately, all of the bottles were ruined.
The grounds provide a great view of the bay and a number of opportunities for hiking and enjoying the natural beauty as it might have appeared over hundred years ago.
As an aside, it is also interesting to note that his half brother James, also a dedicated art patron built his mansion Vizcaya closer to Miami along the bay. These two estates remain a big attraction.
After Charles Deering’s death in 1927, the estate remained with the family until it was sold to the state in 1985.
We are spending a few days in Miami, staying at our friend George’s home. As we were planning our trip, we heard from a friend in Cleveland that he was in Miami and would be leaving on the day of our planned arrival. Departing early, we met up with Mark for lunch at our favorite South Beach restaurant before he had to head back into the tail end of the Ohio winter.
It was a great chance to catch up on what is going on and a great lunch on Lincoln Ave, as well. I mentioned to Mark that Anneke would love to have some free stuff from the convention for her office supplies-Mark showed up with a very heavy bag of stuff for her.
After saying farewell to Mark, we strolled the shopping streets and took a short walk on the beach. Upon our return to George’s, Anneke took inventory of her goodies. It was a lot!