The Retirees in south east USA – Daytona Beach to Ponce De Leon Inlet

Having travelled north to St Augustine, the following day we travelled south to Ponce De Leon Inlet. Driving the length of the island was unremarkable. Resorts and beach house accommodation lined the route. It was not until arriving at Ponce De Leon Inlet that the scenery changed to some beach type scrub with roads winding through it. Despite being the highest lighthouse in Florida the lighthouse was not visible due to the other structures obscuring it. As it hove into view, we were impressed with the lighthouse and the facilities preserved around it.

The Ponce de Leon Inlet Light is a lighthouse and museum located at Ponce de León Inlet in Central Florida. At 175 feet (53 m) in height, it is the tallest lighthouse in the state and one of the tallest in the United States (the Cape Hatteras Light in North Carolina is taller at 207 feet (63 m)). It is located between St. Augustine Light and Cape Canaveral Light. Restored by the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse Preservation Association, the lighthouse became a National Historic Landmark in 1998.

Completed in 1887 and located on the north side of the inlet, then named Mosquito Inlet, the tower was completed and the lamp, which could be seen 17 nautical miles; 32 kilometres (20 mi) away, lit in 1887.

The original lamp burned kerosene; in 1909 it was replaced with an incandescent oil vapour lamp. In 1924 a generator was installed to provide electricity in the keepers’ dwellings and to pump water, replacing an old windmill pump. The lighthouse beacon was electrified in 1933 with a 500-watt lamp. The first order Fresnel lens was replaced with a third order rotating Fresnel lens at the same time.

In 1927 the name of Mosquito Inlet was changed to Ponce de Leon Inlet. The lighthouse was transferred from the abolished Lighthouse Service to the United States Coast Guard in 1939, which would oversee it for the next three decades. In 1970, the Coast Guard abandoned the old light station and established a new beacon at New Smyrna Beach. The abandoned property was then deeded to the Town of Ponce Inlet. At the urging of concerned citizens, the Town of Ponce Inlet accepted the Light Station property from the Coast Guard in 1972, and the Lighthouse Preservation Association was formed to manage the museum.

My Achilles was still painful for walking so we did not venture to the top but we did visit all of the outbuildings and the remnants of “boat people” boats and rafts that made the journey from Cuba. The buildings included the Light Keepers house , the assistant Light Keepers residence , a modern administration building and a museum of the various types of lamp used in the lighthouse.

Just as we are looking for a comfortable placed to dine we found that the local Mustang car collectors were having their local meet across the road sponsored by the Lions Club of Ponce Inlet. Just beyond was Hidden Treasures with its miniature light house and its water side bar and grill. Just the thing for lunch. Great lunch and the bar was handy too. The restaurant has picturesque views of the waterways and its bird life – in this case Pelicans and a lone hawk.

The Retirees in the South East USA – Lakeridge Vineyards

I almost forgot about our visit to Lakeridge Vineyards. Whilst editing my photos I came across a few snaps of reminder. I did not enjoy the wine which probably explains my forgetfulness. However we must take the good with the not-so-good.

Kerry had done some research and found this winery. It’s website stated “Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards opened its doors in February 1989 in Clermont, Florida and sits on a 127-acre estate in gently rolling countryside some 25 miles west of downtown Orlando. This area was once the center of the State’s grape industry. After years of phenomenal growth, Lakeridge ranks as Florida’s largest premium winery, and remains a pioneer in the development of premium and sparkling wines from the native Muscadine grape varieties Noble, Carlos and Welder, as well as Vinifera varieties to include Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon. This excited us to visit the “birth place of the American wine industry” as claimed on it’s website.

We travelled to the winery in our Ford Taurus with Kerry at the wheel. Spotting what I as navigator thought was the turn to the vineyard, Kerry took us down to the “cell door”. We had come to the local goal (jail for any American’s reading this blog). Backing out and going 500m further down the highway we came to our destination.

The cellar is in a Spanish style with vineyards spreading over the hills behind it. It looked quite impressive. So we entered to sample the wares.

We joined the winery tour which was bit different. We first of all watched a 10 minute video on the creation of the winery then took a tour through the vat room out to a rear deck and then back through the wine storage room (not in casks by the way) and then through the gift shop to the tasting bar. Now I had never had Muscadine varietal wine previously and quite frankly I found it unpalatable. Although disappointed with the wine, I was taken by a San Sebastian Lighthouse – a fortified wine in a bottle resembling a lighthouse. I am yet to sample the wine but the lighthouse looks pretty good on the bar at home.

We ended the visit with a picnic. Our neighbours in the vineyard picnic area were celebrating something with cake and sparkling wine (dread the thought of sparkling Muscadine and sugary cake ekk). They had far too much cake so we were offered a slice each but passed on the wine.

I have tried a number of Californian wines none of which used Muscadine grape and found the wine in some respects comparable to our own Aussie wines but the Florida wines must be an acquired taste.

The Retirees in the South East USA – St Augustine

Daytona Beach is on an island. Most of the coast of Florida is sheltered by fringing islands providing protected waterways for leisure boating. Although our accommodation was directly on the beach there seemed little local activity around the beach apart from the abundant pelicans circling around. On our 2nd day in Daytona we visited St Augustine claimed to be the earliest settlement by Europeans in the USA (1520 AD). The Spanish occupied the locale and built a fort to combat the privateers and buccaneers of the other European countries trying to steal the wealth the Spanish stole from the locals. The old town changed hands to the French and back to the Spanish and then the British burnt it to the ground then it was rebuilt then the Americans purchased it from Spain. The old town does contain historical remnants as the photos below show.

The old town has been retained but a new town has grown up around it prospering from tourism. We took the local version of the hop on hop off bus and saw a bit of both sides. The tour included passing by the St Augustine winery and the distillery, the harbour and Flager College formerly a fantastic hotel for the rich and famous created by Mr Flager.

The big draw card is the old fort which we visited of course. It reminded me of Fort St George in Invernes Scotland – star shaped. They have a lot of educational material and historical artefacts, re-enactment of the firing of the canon and shows demonstrating the operation of muskets and flintlock rifles. I was amazed at the time it took to prepare and fire the cannon – it must have been close to five minutes before they were ready to fire. The same with the rifles. the musket is fired by igniting gun powder using a burning cord and the flintlock struck flint against a hammer to create a spark – sometimes!

The day ended in Scarlet O’Hara’s pub where surrounded by posters for the movie “Gone with the Wind” we had a few drinks and some local foods. More atmosphere than culinary excellence. It had been an excellent day at St Augustine and the day ended with a walk on the beach with some of the feathered locals and having drinks with some of the other persons (some Aussies also) around the pool.