Lighthouses, Windmills and Castles, Oh My – Travel Lodging With a Twist, Part I

Years ago, our family took a trip to jolly old England. We were looking for something different to do and somewhere different to stay. We landed at a unique lighthouse in a corner of southern Wales. It was the experience of the trip. Where in the world can you see beautiful water views, admire collectibles and walk to a pub via a freshly used cow path? Well, as it turns out, in quite a few places.

The trip planner, a trusty book on bed and breakfast inns around the British Isles, led us to the West Usk Lighthouse situated on the Bristol Channel, near Newport, Gwent, Wales. Designed by Scottish architect James Walker and built in 1821, the lighthouse features a central stone spiral staircase above a former collecting well, now a wishing well. We all had beautiful wedge-shaped rooms with water views. At one time, the lighthouse sat on an island where the Severn and the Usk run to the sea, but since then land has been reclaimed and now the lighthouse sits by the Channel instead.

The West Usk Lighthouse offers unique features such as a flotation tank, a chauffeured Rolls Royce, rooftop hot tub and BBQ facilities, an infrared sauna and various well-being therapies. There is also a Mongolian yurt, an eco-friendly living space, available for meetings and conferences. After being decommissioned in 1922, the lighthouse became privately owned but fell into disrepair and remained so until purchased in 1987 by Frank and Danielle Sheahan. Its unique and cozy style is a must see. Just remember: if you want hot water, you’ll have to pull the cord.

Lighthouse accommodations are featured in many areas of the world. From Maine to Washington and Lake Erie to Marathon, unique and historic inns are peppered throughout the United States. The Big Sable Lighthouse in Michigan will give you a two-week stint as a keeper. Volunteers can sign up to be the keeper of the light and go through orientation to learn their duties. The Whitefish Point Light Station is the oldest operational lighthouse on the far-east end of Lake Superior. The wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald lies 15 miles northwest of Whitefish Point along with over 200 other shipwrecks out of the 550 known to be at the bottom of Lake Superior.

There are over 50 historic and replica lighthouses and bed and breakfast inns with keeper cottage accommodations in the U.S. alone. Other areas where lighthouses offer a unique visiting experience are Canada, Scotland, the Caribbean, South America, Australia, the UK, New Zealand and Europe. Almost everywhere in the world, there are lighthouses to stay in or tour.

The Lighthouse of Bengtskar at the entrance of the Gulf of Finland has a rich history spanning 100 years. The lighthouse was completed in 1906 after its design was unveiled at the 1900 Paris World Exhibition by architect Florentin Granholm. The unique granite structure boasts breathtaking sea views from the top of the 252-step spiral staircase. After the Soviet attacks of 1941, the lighthouse fell into disrepair and in 1968, the special petrol lamp was extinguished in favor of automated, unmanned operations. After years of repair, the lighthouse was reopened in 1995 and features a lecture hall, chapel, cafeteria and post office on the lower floor. The former upper level living quarters offer conference rooms and accommodations for 24. The Lighthouse at Bengtskar hosts 10,000 tourists per year to see the archipelago’s most famous feature.

Southwest of Istria’s southernmost cape is the islet of Porer situated in the Adriatic Sea, just kilometers away from the mainland town of Premantura. The Porer lighthouse was built in 1833 on this 80 meter cliff surrounded by strong currents and warm and cool water layers. The area is rich in fish and attracts divers from all over the world due to the surrounding area’s historic shipwrecks. Other spots of interest near Porer include the dinosaur tracks of the islet of Fenoliga, the beautiful bays of Unije and the nature site of Kamenjak where there are over 500 species of flora including endangered endemic orchids. The year-round accommodations of Porer are two apartments: one with two double rooms with a kitchen and shower facilities and another with one double room, one bunk bed, a kitchen and shower facilities. The islet takes about a minute to walk but make sure you stay long enough to enjoy one of Porer’s beautiful sunsets.

On the southwest coast of England just six miles north of Land’s End is Pendeen Lighthouse. This operational landmark was built in 1900 and was automated in 1994. This includes the foghorn which sounds when mists move in to the area. Guests are forewarned to bring their earplugs when visiting Pendeen. The lighthouse and cottages overlook the turbulent waters but are separated from the cliffs by a four-foot wall. Accommodations are for four guests with two bedrooms and one bath, a sitting room, kitchen with dining area, hall and washer and dryer. Guests can stick close to home, visit the nearby beaches or drive the scenic, narrow roads of the southwest coast.

Built as a replica of the Thomas Point Lighthouse on the Chesapeake Bay, Katie’s Light is a one of a kind experience on Florida’s east coast jewel, Amelia Island. The 3-bedroom, 2 ½ bath facility features a 360 degree deck with wood floors and ceilings throughout. Relax in the downstairs kitchen, dining and entertainment level then take the spiral staircase up to two well-appointed bedrooms for waterfront views. The deck extends over the beaches of Amelia Island and is a romantic place to view sunsets.

Whether your vacation takes you around the world or just out your back door, consider the possibilities of a lighthouse stay. And if lighthouses are too much for you to “sea” opportunities abound in some of the world’s oldest windmills and castles. Stay tuned for part two where we nestle into historic windmills from England to Denmark and back again.

Quick Day Trips from Jacksonville, Florida

Having lived in Jacksonville most of my life, I can remember a time when the speed limits on the roads were not as high as they are now. It seemed it always took forever to get somewhere when on vacation, even via the interstate. Fortunately, the turn of the century brings more technology to the road trip, and anybody in the Jacksonville area looking for a quick getaway will be happy to know that the city is not so large that you can’t go anywhere for a day.

So if you have a weekend free and are looking for a change of scenery, a day trip around North or Central Florida provides the fun and relaxation you want. You won’t have to spend too much time in the car, and there is always something to look forward to, coming and going. Here are just a few suggestions for your itineraries:

St. Augustine: Depending on where you are in Jacksonville, you’re looking at a minimum of forty-five minutes to an hour to get to the nation’s oldest city. Here you can tour the historic Castillo de San Marcos, which guarded this part of the new world from sea-faring invaders, then enjoy a stroll through the historical district and enjoy the eclectic shops, boutiques and restaurants. The secluded beach areas also provide serenity that stays with you on the trip home.

Gainesville: Contrary to popular belief, there’s more to this town than the Florida Gators. Gainesville’s historic downtown offers a great opportunity for leisurely lunches and antiques browsing. Nature lovers can take in the lush Kanapaha Botanical Gardens or Marjorie Kinnan Rawling State Park for an intimate nature walk. Depending on where you are in Jacksonville, getting to Gainesville may take a mere one to one and a half hours on I-75.

Amelia Island: For the adventurer, Amelia Island is the perfect North Florida getaway. Kayaking, nature walks, fishing, and exploration of historic Fort Clinch are just a few of the activities that await you here. Afterwards you can enjoy some of the best seafood on the east coast as you watch the sun set over the Atlantic Ocean. Amelia Island is less than two hours from most parts of Jacksonville, and some parts are so compact you may not need your car for most of the day.

Nature and history, fine dining and romantic scenery are yours for the price of a short drive from Jacksonville. Take a weekend and enjoy a neighboring town for a refreshing and exciting mini-vacation.

Best-Known Places for Family Vacationers in Florida

Located in the Southeastern United States, the Sunshine State of Florida is indeed a favorite destination for family vacationers from across the globe. With the many beautiful spots it contained, you cannot dare to miss visiting the place. Evident of this verity are the stunning beaches surrounding the state, particularly the ones on Gulf and Atlantic coasts. Talking about spending family vacation in Florida, the first common thought you may come up with is visiting Orlando. But beyond that, there are still a lot of best-known spots for family vacationers await in Florida.

Below are the best-known places in the entire state of Florida, which acquire the most number of family visits anytime of the year.

  • Amelia Island: Located in Northeast Florida, the Amelia Island is a famed destination of family vacationers visiting Florida. The island is surrounded by lovely beaches and a quaint town to explore. Also waiting is the historic fort filled with actors playing period roles. It has all the perfect spots to spend quality vacation with families and friends, especially on holidays.
  • Central Florida: This is now where Orlando comes in. Among the many cities in Florida, Orlando irrefutably appears to be the most famous destination in terms of family vacations. The place is promising more fun offers to family vacationers including Disney World extras — fireworks, live shows, water parks and theme parks. Apart from the famous Disney World, Orlando also has other major family-friendly spots like the Discovery Cove.
  • Space Coast: Still located near Orlando at exactly 45 minutes east, Florida’s Space Coast is regarded as a 72 miles of shore with cute towns like Cocoa and beautiful beaches. It also contains the famous Kennedy Space Center. Eco-tours such as the saltwater estuaries, marshes and 250 sq. miles of wildlife refuges are also available in the coast to explore.
  • Club Med Sandpiper Bay: Accessible by a two-hour flight from Miami or Orlando, Club Med Sandpiper Bay is an all inclusive resort in the US, perfectly designed for family vacationers with kids. The place contains family and kid friendly-atmosphere with outstanding programs for kids and Baby Club Med. Other exciting activities you can do at Club Med Sandpiper Bay include trapeze, sailing, inline skating and golf.
  • Orlando Resorts: Enormous resorts are surrounding Orlando awaiting family vacationers to offer excellent accommodation while having fun with the nearby attraction sites. Ranging from Value to Luxury, a total of 22 themed Disney World resorts bestow a superb set of extras per se the Universal Orlando, with two theme parks and popular rides. More hotels, resorts and vacation houses surround these fun places all designed to offer comfort to every guest.

Aside from Orlando resorts, family vacationers visiting Orlando and other cities inside Florida, usually opt to stay in vacation homes, where they are provided with inclusive services, facilities and ambiance, similar to that of a real abode.

Florida Getaways: The Top 10 Weekend Retreats

Florida is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the U.S. In fact, the state gets approximately 80 million visitors a year. But what if you only have a few days to getaway? Just because your time is limited doesn’t mean that there aren’t a great selection of options. Luckily for you, Florida boasts a diverse selection of weekend destinations. Whether you are looking for luxury resorts, family fun or a romantic weekend, Florida has options for almost every lifestyle and budget.

Disney World

Of course, one of the most famous places to visit in Florida is Disney World, and the Magic Kingdom Park is a good place to start! It’s the original Disney theme park where kids (and adults) can re-live their favorite Disney stories. Packed with creative discovery experiences, Disney meets technology in Epcot’s Future World and the World Showcase is all about the culture of 11 different countries. At Disney World, enchanting entertainment and beloved Disney characters combine with technological innovation and international culture to create an unforgettable getaway.

NASA

Worlds apart from Disney’s theme parks but just a short drive away, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is known as the gateway to exploring, discovering and understanding our universe and has served as the departure gate for every American manned mission. At the Visitor Complex, Floridians have the opportunity to tour NASA’s launch and landing facilities… and they can even meet a NASA Astronaut.

The Everglades

Another one-of-a-kind Florida retreat is Everglades National Park. The largest subtropical wilderness in the U.S., the park boasts rare and endangered species in a unique ecosystem. From Ranger-led activities to environmental education programs, there’s something for everyone at Everglades National Park.

Florida Keys

The Florida Keys are gems strung along a necklace called the Overseas Highway. This archipelago stretches for 100 miles from Biscayne Bay to Key West. This southernmost city in the Continental United States has long been a Mecca for writers and artists; it’s where Tennessee Williams spent the final years of his life and John James Audubon painted tropical birds. Also, Ernest Hemingway wrote a number of novels here. Florida residents looking for something different will certainly find it in the Keys.

Daytona Beach

Motor sports in Daytona Beach got its start on the hard-packed beaches, so it’s no surprise that it allows cars on its 23-mile-long beach. And every year, race fans come by the thousands to watch fast cars and their famous drivers lap the track in the Daytona 500. It’s not only the richest stock car event in the country but also the most unforgettable… some say it’s like Mardi Gras, New Year’s Eve and the Kentucky Derby rolled into one so it’s no wonder that Florida residents want to join in the party.

Amelia Island

On the northeastern corner of the state sits Amelia Island, a barrier beach that shelters the mainland from hurricanes. The island’s only town, Fernandina Beach, is a charming fish and shrimp seaport and its 19th-century buildings comprise a leafy, 50-block historical district of cafes, shops and inns. Amelia Island is a quaint retreat from everyday life… perfect for a weekend escape.

Sarasota – Florida’s Cultural Coast

Located 50 miles south of Tampa, Sarasota is referred to as the “Cultural Coast of Florida.” It’s rich art scene rivals those of much larger cities around the United States. This culturally rich city on the Gulf of Mexico has dozens of independent theaters and performing arts halls. In addition, Sarasota’s repertoire of cultural venues also includes more than 30 art galleries, opera, symphony, ballet, museums, and a thriving visual performing arts scene. For sun lovers, there are also world-class beaches. Sarasota’s Siesta Key Beach is ranked as the second best beach in the United States by Dr Beach.

Miami Beach

Known world-wide as one of the top travel destinations, Miami Beach has it all for those who are looking to enjoy some fun in the sun. You can leave your dress shirt and tie at home, because in Miami Beach, it is all about enjoying the near-perfect weather. However, don’t think that the fun stops when the sun goes down, because that is when things start to heat up. Cocktails flow and tan bodies unite in some of the top night clubs in the United States. It is not unusual to rub elbows with celebrities, models and the affluent if you are lucky enough to get in the doors of some of the top venues like LIV at the Fontainebleau, Cameo, Bed or Mynt. You can also shop till you drop. Miami is known for its fabulous shopping!

Apalachicola

Another of Florida’s hidden gems is Apalachicola. Visitors to this river town can imagine what it must have been like in the 1830s when Apalachicola rivaled New Orleans as the most prosperous port on the Gulf of Mexico. The wealth of those times financed a district of estates and several of those mansions have become inns which makes the town a popular getaway for couples. Apalachicola’s maritime history is brought to life through hands-on museums and a 19th-century sloop in which you can go for a sail… a particular thrill when dolphins escort the ship.

Key Largo

Located in Key Largo is one of the most unusual and exclusive resorts in the world: Jules’ Undersea Lodge. Surrounded by millions of gallons of water, Jules’ Lodge is more select than most hotels: admittance is based not on credit rating but on swimming ability. Named for science fiction writer Jules Verne, it is the world’s first undersea hotel and a night here just may be the ultimate getaway.

As you can see, there are a lot of reasons why Florida draws more than 80 million visitors a year. There are so many wonderful things to do in the Sunshine State. Just remember to bring your sun screen!

Islander Club Condos on Longboat Key

As a haven of pure bliss and tranquility Longboat Key forms barrier the island alongside an 11 mile shoreline of unblemished white beaches hurdled by an azure ocean. Around 8 000 people has made this beautiful island their permanent abode. Seasonal owners escape the hectic city life and stress and come and rejuvenate here for their holiday breakaways. Prospect investors in the popular Sarasota real estate market are enticed by the average pleasant temperature of 73 degrees to flee from icy cold temperatures elsewhere and experience the warmth of not only the temperature but also diverse attractions in this lively community. Options are abundant for participation in hiking, cycling, and running, snorkeling, fishing, swimming and kayaking.

For the residents who want to proof their sporty adeptness vast opportunities are available on island and off shore at prominent distinguished courses like the PGA courses and the Longboat Key course for golf enthusiasts and the USTP tennis courts on the mainland for a challenging game of tennis. A measly distance away is the exclusive and renowned St. Armand’s Circle where Longboat Key residents can experience shopping in miscellanea of stylish boutiques, welcoming sidewalks and elite restaurants.

On the southern tip of Longboat Key is the prestigious Islander Club that offers tranquil island living on the beach in one of the 133 stylish and modern residences. The address of Island Club is 2295 & 2301 Gulf Mexico Drive and the complex were built in 1970 in proper Florida fashion. Prominent of the exterior of the architecture of Island Club is the two gleaming high rises rimmed by the glistening white beach and blue ocean. Residents have the opportunity to make use of a diverse range of amenities and can relax in the junior Olympic swimming pool, the modern fitness center, a billiard room, social room and library equipped with the convenience of a private kitchen. They can daringly spread their wings a little further and to find themselves amidst numerous attractions in downtown Sarasota.

The Islander Club offers prospect real estate buyers of popular beachfront residences the opportunity of investing in a condominium at realistic prices of around $400,000 to soaring prices as high as $1,2 million. Exclusive to Islander Club residents is the owner to owner rental program that is an extreme convenience for owners to accommodate additional visitors and to rent an extra condo for the duration of their stay. The condominiums are spaciously designed with floor plans of 1,180 to 2,470 square foot plans with extending terraces strolling onto the panoramic beach.

Eating and dining out will satisfy the taste of any resident with the superb selection of venues to choose from like Harry’s Continental Kitchens, Blanche Maison, The Chart House, the Wine Cellar, Plaza Steakhouse and the Waterfront Grill.

Investing in a condominium in The Islander Club with its wide open intra coastal views, stunning sunsets dawning over the mighty ocean is assured to warrant a lifestyle of bliss.