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Road Trip through Florida

Initially we had only intended on staying a few days in Miami and then head back down to Central America (our RTW ticket made more sense to fly a longer distance eg Ecuador to Miami than Ecuador to Guatemala City and meant that we could check out Miami). However on our cruise in the Galapagos Islands, we met some lovely people from Palatka, Florida – Sally, Joff and Bob who invited us to stay with them. They wanted to show us ‘Real America‘. So we hired a car from Miami and headed north to Orlando for a few days and then onto Palatka.

The drive from Miami to Orlando took about 3 hours, although we headed South first to check Florida Keys. We didnt get to all the keys but we could see why it was such a popular holiday destination. Back on the road to Orlando we knew we had well and truly arrived when we turned onto International Drive and were greeted by huge fun park signs, novelty restaurants, massive shopping outlets and fast food chains.

International drive in Orlando is where all the family fun and entertainment lives.

International drive in Orlando is where all the family fun and entertainment lives.

While you could spend a week in Orlando visiting Disneyworld, Seaworld, Wet n Wild and Universal Studios (to name the main attractions), we decided to spend one full day at Seaworld, another at the Kennedy Space Centre (a 1.5hr drive from Orlando) and a day by the pool (which was a nice bonus in our hotel).

Great pool weather in Florida as it almost always sunny and warm.

The weather in Florida is almost always sunny and warm.

Seaworld  is so much fun. Most of the hotels arrange a free shuttle and they get you there just as the gates open and bring you back to your hotel when the gates close. Apart from seeing plenty of marine life, there are some really brilliant shows that keep you entertained every hour throughout the day and the rides were crazy.

The Orca show, called Believe, at Shamu Stadium was absolutely awesome.

The Orca show, called Believe, at Shamu Stadium was absolutely awesome.

The Kennedy Space Centre also requires a full day to allow you to see everything. There is a free tour bus that takes guests around the entire space centre – a hop-on-hop-off service so that you can spend as little or as much time checking out incredible scenery: the launch pads, the sheer size and complexity of a space rocket, stories of the various Apollo teams, the International Space Station and the confined living conditions of astronauts in space. Additionally there are two IMAX films that are shown several times throughout the day – Hubble, narrated by Leonardo Dicaprio and Walking on the Moon, narrated by Tom Hanks. Even if you don’t go to the Kennedy Space Centre, these two documentaries are fabulous and give you a real appreciation for the amazing feats that have taken place in Space.

The Flag on this building is the size of a Basketball Court. One star on the flag is 6 feet high.

The Flag on this building is the size of a Basketball Court. One star on the flag is 6 feet high.

At this point, we must add that we were initially not that interested in Space and weren’t quite sure if the Kennedy Space Centre would be ‘our thing’ but we highly recommend this experience as it has changed our view of what go on OUT THERE……

After a few days, we jumped back in our car and made our way to Palatka –  about 2.5hrs north of Orlando and a short drive from the stunning town of St Augustine.

The Oldest Wood School House in USA. St Augustine is great to visit if you love old townships.

The Oldest Wood School House in USA. St Augustine is great to visit if you love old townships.

We arrived at Sally and Joffs and for the next 3 days were shown ‘Real America’. This included eating American Hotdogs, Hush Puppies, Alligator Tales, Key Lime Pie and lunch at the oldest diner in Florida. They were also keen to show us ‘The Outback‘ – a chain Restaurant based on Australia. So the decor is all kangaroos, didgeridoos and cans of Fosters. Their signature dish is called ‘The Bloomin Onion’ (pic below), something that we definitely don’t have at home – a deep fried onion.

A 'Bloomin' Onion is apparently an Aussie savoury delight.

A 'Bloomin' Onion is apparently an Aussie savoury delight.

In addition to trying real American food, we drove to St Augustine, a beautiful and historic town of Florida – definitely worth spending a day there. We visited an elementary school in Palatka and spoke with the Grade 2 class about Australia and what its like to live there and thanks to Joff we checked out numerous RV’s and got all his advice on the best type we should hire when we hit the US roads following our travels through Central America. We finished our fabulous stay with some drinks, music and line dancing at their local Moose Club.

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