North of Tampa was the charming fishing village of Tarpon Springs and Homosassa State Park. South of Tampa was the deSoto National Historic Site and the Ringling museum in Sarasota. (photo by dpursoo, Wikimedia commons)
Tarpon Springs is both a historic and a current tourist destination. Dodecanese Avenue in the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks District is reminiscent of a Greek fishing village.
In the 1880s Greek sponge fisherman were attracted to the area to harvest the sponges of the Gulf of Mexico.
A boat tour through the bayous out to the Gulf of Mexico allowed us to view charming homes along the channels.
Central Florida is riddled with state parks and has the most natural fresh water springs anywhere in the world.
At Homosassa Springs, we watched the keepers feed lettuce to the resident manatees.
Homosassa Springs also had a collection of tropical birds, alligators and other fauna of the region.
Florida's natural areas are a combination of cypress forest, scrub pine, and shallow ponds and slow-moving rivers providing habitat for 100 species including foxes, skunks, otters and armadillos.
De Soto National Memorial, 5 miles west of Bradenton, commemorates the 1539 landing of Hernando de Soto and the first extensive organized exploration by Europeans of the southern US.
The Ringling family (of circus fame) were major developers and contributers to the city of Sarasota.
The John and Mabel Ringling Museum of Art was established in 1927 as the Ringlings' legacy. It contains 10,000 paintings, drawings and sculptures.
The Ringling Museum of the Circus documents circus history with displays including parade wagons, wardrobe, props, and these miniature scenes.
The Ca d'Zan mansion was the waterfront home of the Ringlings and the center of Sarasota's cultural life.