Wrapping up the Year in Tampa and Onward to Orlando and Ft. Myers
Updated: May 11
We arrived at Winter Quarters Pasco in Lutz, FL, about 15 miles North of Tampa, on December 29th. This was a short, 5 -night stay. The park was adequate, but we really liked the location because it was close to several stores as well as its close proximity to Tarpon Springs.
Winter Quarters Pasco.
We took a day trip to Tarpon Springs, a charming town known for its Greek heritage and sponge diving.
The Sponge Docks are a historic district located in the waterfront area of Tarpon Springs. They are known for the thriving sponge industry that has been a significant part of the area's history for over a century. The shops in this area sell sponges of all shapes and sizes harvested from the Gulf of Mexico.
We were lucky to catch the "Light Up the Bayou" event, an annual tradition in Tarpon Springs, where thousands of Christmas lights illuminated the bayou and created a magical atmosphere. Candles are placed in bags, known as luminaries, that have the names of a loved one or a family name written on them.
Later, we had dinner at a delicious Greek restaurant and enjoyed the warm hospitality of the locals. We had a great day and evening exploring this unique area.
Tarpon Springs lit up at night.
As we quietly welcomed the New Year from the comfort of our RV, we couldn't help but reminisce about the many incredible places we had visited throughout the past year. Our travels had taken us through a multitude of states, including California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Florida. We even had the opportunity to explore beyond the borders of the US, venturing into Mexico and Canada, and even the Caribbean. Throughout our journey, we had the privilege of experiencing the wonders of several National and State Parks, gorgeous beaches on both coasts, majestic mountains and crystal blue lakes, and a range of exciting attractions. From sampling delicious local cuisine to meeting fascinating new people, we were grateful for all that we had encountered on our adventure. With the start of a new year, we are excited to continue exploring and discovering all that this beautiful country has to offer.
On January 2nd, we met up with Ryan in Tampa. We strolled along the scenic River Walk, enjoying the sunshine and the time spent together. We had dinner at one of the local restaurants before going our separate ways. We made a plan to meet up again during our stay at the next park.
After our arrival on January 3rd, we settled into the Orlando RV Park for a 14-night stay. Fortunately, we were placed in the newly developed section of the park which featured spacious, concrete pads for our RV. As one of the largest parks in the Thousand Trails system, we were excited to explore the amenities. We were particularly impressed by the beautiful, new pool complex featuring two large pools and hot tubs. Given the hot weather during our stay, the pools provided a welcome and relaxing oasis where we could unwind and soak up some sun.
Thousand Trails Orlando RV Resort.
There is so much to do in the Orlando area that we kept very busy during our stay. Because we have an annual pass to Disney, and we were so close to the park, we made a few visits. We especially enjoyed a day trip to Lake Enola Park, a public park located in the city of Orlando. The park features a beautiful lake, created from a sink hole, at its center, and is surrounded by a nearly 1 mile walking trail that visitors can use for jogging, walking, or cycling. There are also swan paddleboats for rent and feeders to buy food to feed the resident ducks, geese and swans. It was a perfect day for a walk around the lake.
Walk around Lake Enola.
One night, we met up with Pat's Aunt Carol and Uncle Jay in Tavares, about and hour from the RV park. They are wintering in Umatilla, FL with their 5th wheel RV. We had dinner and a nice visit and made a plan to meet up again when we are back in the area in March. It is so nice this lifestyle allows for us to meet up with family from time to time.
Dinner in Traveres.
We visited the nearby quaint town of Winter Garden, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The downtown area was still decorated with Christmas lights which gave it a warm ambiance. We had some dinner at one of the many restaurants and enjoyed walking around the town with Myah.
Our time spent in Orlando was never boring. With a plethora of activities and fascinating places to explore, there was always something for us to do. However, as quickly as it began, our stay came to a close, and it was time for us to continue our journey to our next destination and our new view.
On January 17th, we arrived at Sunseekers RV Park in N. Ft. Myers for a 12-night stay. Unfortunately, our initial impression of the RV park was underwhelming. The facilities were quite dated and in need of maintenance, and to make matters worse, we were placed on a site close to the highway. The pool and hot tub were closed for repairs, which we were told was due to Hurricane Ian that had hit the area just four months earlier. As we explored the surrounding area, we couldn't help but notice the damage that the hurricane had caused. Blue tarps covered many of the roofs on nearby houses, and several businesses were still closed. As we explored the waterfronts of Punta Gorda's Charlotte Harbor and Centennial Park in Ft. Myers, we were saddened to see several boats capsized or smashed along the rocky shoreline. It was a sobering reminder of the incredible power of nature and the devastating consequences it can bring. The golden sunset was a nice ending to the day.
Charlotte Harbor and Centennial Park.
I had been looking forward to visiting nearby Sanibel Island and Ft. Myers Beach during our stay, however, this area was hardest hit by the hurricane. They were just starting to open back up, but we thought it would be best to wait and go the next time we are in the area.
Before we left the Ft. Myers area, Ryan drove down from Sarasota and met us at Manasota Key for lunch and to celebrate his birthday. We stopped for cookie cake at a nearby park, and let Myah play on a dog-friendly beach called Leach's Key, where she joyfully ran around in the sand and met a few other dogs. We were so grateful to spend more time with Ryan!
Manasota Key and Leach's Beach.
Although we didn't get a chance to see everything we had planned in the Ft. Myers area, we still had a great time. However, given how busy Florida RV parks are during the winter, it was a bit challenging to secure reservations at our Thousand Trails membership parks. As a result, we found it necessary to some times zigzag our way around the state. For now, we're heading back north to the Orlando area, specifically Clermont, before eventually making our way south to the Florida Keys.