The Everglades

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A view of the Everglades from the boardwalk at Kirby Storter Roadside Park

The Everglades is a 1.5 million acre swath of wetlands in Southern Florida. There are two main highways that cut through the preserve – the Tamiami (Tampa to Miami) and I-75 (Alligator Alley). Tamiami is generally considered the more touristic way to see the sites, as there are several stops with walking paths along the way. It’s easy to see alligators most times of year and there are tons of bird species as well. My favorite walking path was at the Kirby Storter Roadside Park as it was a bit quieter and more secluded than the other areas. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, there are also extended walking trails for longer camping trips.

The little town of Ochopee is a nice stop along the way if you’re doing a road trip. You can see the smallest post office in the United States and grab lunch at Joanie’s Blue Crab, a divey local joint with lots of fried seafood on offer.

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Hiking Enchanted Rock

A tree growing from the top of Enchanted Rock

A tree growing from the top of Enchanted Rock

My final day of my mini Texas road trip I headed out to Enchanted Rock, a giant granite dome near Fredricksburg. It was a bit of a further drive from Austin than I had anticipated, but the countryside was lovely and the destination completely worth it.

The hike reminded me a bit of Uluru, though geologically speaking the structures aren’t alike.  There were lots of geckos and lizards darting around, tons of desert flora to admire and an indigenous history stretching back thousands of years. I hiked to the top of the rock, then around the base to get a full view.

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The Coast Walk at Royal National Park

The iconic wedding cake rock on the coast walk in Royal National Park

The iconic wedding cake rock on the coast walk in Royal National Park

The very last stop on my ten month trip through Australia was, finally, Sydney and the surrounding area. I met up with an old travel friend and he insisted we go on the Coast Walk in Royal National Park, which is just south of Sydney. We didn’t have time (or energy, frankly) to do the entire 26k trek, but we did about a third of it. There are gorgeous cliffs, a huge variety of plant and animal life, and swimming holes along the way.

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Hiking the Organ Pipes at Mt. Wellington

The view of the Organ Pipes on Mt. Wellington near Hobart, Tasmania

The view of the Organ Pipes on Mt. Wellington near Hobart, Tasmania

Just a short drive from Hobart’s CBD is Mt. Wellington, which, like most of Tasmania, is filled with short walking tracks. I did the 3 hour Organ Pipes loop, which is fairly steep and rocky but worth the trek for the views of Hobart and the surroundings. Despite being so close to the city, the area was mostly empty on a Tuesday afternoon save for a French family and a British couple.

The walk is filled with beautiful flowers and sneaky skinks. I also saw a pretty cool black and red spider and some interesting birds. The actual Organ Pipes, which are columns of dolerite, are magnificent, though you need rock climbing gear to get really close to them.

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Lake St. Clair and Mt. Field National Park

A view from the shore of Lake St. Clair in Tasmania

A view from the shore of Lake St. Clair in Tasmania

Following my experiences at Cradle Mountain I was excited to take in more of the national parks of Tasmania. Luckily, Lake St. Clair and Mt. Field are just south of the mountain and the drive is puntuated by the lovely mining towns of Rosebery, Zeehan, Strahan and Queenstown.

Lake St. Clair is Australia’s deepest lake and Mt. Field National Park is the oldest national park in Tassie. Both parks have several walking trails – as do most in Tasmania – and of course there are loads of waterfalls and species of wildlife to take in.

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Cradle Mountain

Cradle Mountain viewed from the Dove Lake walking circuit

Cradle Mountain viewed from the Dove Lake walking circuit

Cradle Mountain and the surrounding national park is widely considered the crown jewel of Tasmania, and for good reason. There’s absolutely gorgeous scenery, easily accessible wildlife, and walking trails for all levels of fitness.

I spent two days at the park and did two major walking tracks: the circuit around Dove Lake and a more strenuous trek up to Marion’s Lookout. There was an option to climb to the summit of Cradle Mountain, but I was running out of time (and energy).

I saw a wombat in the wild for the first time, and the charming creature became my favorite Australian animal. He was entirely oblivious to the people around him and was just interested in scratching his butt. That’s a life philosophy I can get behind. I also saw an echidna and some Tasmanian devils at a sanctuary close to the entrance of the park.

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Cataract Gorge and Tamar Island

A black snake on Tamar Island

A black snake on Tamar Island

I got to Launceston in time for Festivale, where I got to sample local wines and watch some great street performers and musical acts. I hadn’t heard of the event in advance, so it was a nice surprise and a welcome break from the hiking and sightseeing I’d been doing.

Upon leaving Tasmania’s second largest city I stopped by two local natural wonders – the Cataract Gorge and Tamar Island. Like everywhere else in Tasmania, the sights are well set up for visitors with clear and safe walking tracks loaded with wildlife. There is also a lot of historical elements to these sights and you can learn about the lives of early Tasmanian settlers.

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