Explore Florida, the Sunshine State
Sofia and I can’t get enough of Florida. Every step of the way is full of amazing discoveries. We tiptoed past the alligators in Everglades Park, splashed through sunny beaches with our new friend Miguel and were astronauts for a day at the Kennedy Space Center.
You won’t believe it, but we aren’t done with Florida yet! The southernmost point of the USA is in Key West. It’s a lively fishing town on one of the 1700 Florida islands that dot the Gulf of Mexico. (Look at your map in the journal.) The islands are called the Florida Keys after the Spanish word cayo, which translates to “island” but really sounds like “key.” It’s a good thing Miguel taught us some Spanish!
“Let’s go island-hopping,” said Sofia, sticking the sunscreen in her bag.
Spanning more than 100 miles, very few of those islands are actually populated. Because bridges and causeways connect only 43 of them, we decided to travel by kayak. This way we could see more unique animals and sparkling fish.
The Florida Keys have a living coral reef that thrives along the coastline. Corals of all colors and shapes live under the water. That’s right – they’re actually living marine animals. They feed on seaweed and little fish. We strapped on our masks and went snorkeling in Key Largo, an island world-famous for diving. Inspecting shipwrecks and chasing cute fish, I was itching to touch the coral.
“No, please don’t! They are very delicate. You can hurt them!” said a young man. His name was Alvarez. He was snorkeling next to us.
Alvarez told us that he was a hurricane hunter. He also said that Florida is the state in the USA most susceptible to hurricanes, which occur when huge tropical winds attack the land from the water. His job is to fly through the hurricanes in airplanes to collect weather information. Alvarez told us a lot about hurricanes. Check out the Activity section below to see what we learned and to create your own windy beast.
After our chat, Alvarez kayaked with us to Marathon, the town in the middle of the Florida Keys. It’s separated from other islands by the Seven Mile Bridge, which has been featured in many movies.
Kayaking back to Key West, we saw a Key deer. It’s an endangered animal that lives only here in the Florida Keys. We didn’t know deer lived in the Keys. It was such a neat surprise!
We couldn’t visit Florida and miss writer Ernest Hemingway’s house. Remember the program Sam watched about famous Floridians? Hemingway was born in Illinois but he spent a lot of time in Florida. Aside from writing, he loved traveling (just like we do!), fishing and six-toed cats! Oh yeah, you’ve heard it right. There’s a breed of cats that has six toes instead of the usual five. We got to play with 50 cats in Hemingway’s house, which is now a museum. Imagine that! Sofia was so excited!
You might not believe that there’s still more to explore in Florida, but we’ll prove you wrong. Scroll down to our Favorites and Photos to continue the adventure!
Sam and Sofia
Beach: Venice Beach
Venice Beach is famous for sharks’ teeth. You can find them in the water and sand. Sharks are always shedding teeth and growing new ones.
Building: Portofino Records Building
It looks like a LEGO castle, but it’s a store! Along Ocean Drive in Miami, there are many candy-colored houses and hotels built in Art Deco style.
Animal: Soft-Shell Turtle
Turtles are supposed to be slow, but the Florida soft-shell is one of the fastest turtles on land and in the sea. Its funny nose helps it sniff out food.
Beach: South Beach
South Beach in Miami is a busy place. You can swim, stroll, roller-blade and take pictures of the cheerful lifeguard towers. Their bright colors are so much fun!
Building: The Lightener Museum
The Lightener was built in 1887 as a hotel, but today it’s a museum. I wish I could stay at the Lightener – it makes you feel like you’ve gone back in time.
We saw these graceful birds in Flamingo Gardens in Everglades Park. To conserve body heat, they often stand on one leg.