Southwest Florida’s Hidden Gems
Today we welcome guest blogger and FBA’s own Board Secretary, Patty Huff
On the last Sunday in July, my husband Steve and I drove 20 miles from Everglades City to Collier Seminole State Park with our bicycles; we paid the $5 entrance fee so we could park securely. It was the closest place from Everglades City to begin our bike trip to Marco Island along San Marco Road/CR92 – a 7-mile two-lane highway with no shoulders. Cars passed us with plenty of room; and all drivers, except one, were very courteous (there’s always one in every crowd). As we crossed over the Goodland Bridge, we considered cycling through the small historic fishing village of Goodland but decided to first explore Key Marco just a mile ahead.
Key Marco, now a gated community, was settled by the Native Americans and is home to some of the oldest burial grounds along the eastern coast of the United States, dating back 5000 years; the famous Key Marco cat and other artifacts were found on the island. In 1877, John Foley Horr established a pineapple plantation and lived there with his family until 1920. He served as a U.S. Marshall under President McKinley and President Roosevelt during this time. As the plantation prospered, families moved to the island and a school was built. Horr eventually sold the island for $10,000 in 1923 and moved to Ohio. What remains of his home is now an historic site; this was one of the reasons we decided to cycle the island. We thoroughly enjoyed riding 5 miles through the rolling hills (Yes, hills! The highest point is 43 ft above sea level which is rare in South Florida). There are many lavish homes on the island, but this time of year we saw more Gopher turtles than residents.
Returning to San Marco Road, we continued to the first stoplight and turned left to bike along South Barfield; a dead-end street through a quiet neighborhood this time of year, so it was a pleasure to ride. We then returned to the little community of Goodland – look for the wildlife mural just under the bridge – the center of town is located just a mile off San Marco Road. You’ll bike along a separated bike path and pass by a condo development and the Safe Harbor Marina on your right.
When you reach the popular Stan’s Idle Hour Bar and Restaurant, bear right on 892, then left on Pear Tree Avenue – just a few blocks on your left is Collier County’s Mar-good Regional Park which has an interesting history. It was originally a fish camp and resort built by two retired circus performers, Reckless Rex Johnson and his wife Reckless Ruby who offered one and two-bedroom cottages completely furnished. The recreation hall, erected during WWII, was used by the military. The building also served as a local movie theater and entertainment hall; now it is a museum housing the original movie projector as well as artifacts from a time gone by. Other amenities now include a kayak/canoe launch, picnic tables, water fountain, gazebo, playground and pedestrian walk-way. In addition to Stan’s, there are several other restaurants in Goodland: Little Bar, the Crabby Lady and Paradise Found. Hours and days open may vary so just bike around; you can’t miss them!
After our tour of Marco, we cycled back to Collier Seminole State Park (https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/collier-seminole-state-park) which is the site of the last existing Bay City Walking Dredge, built in 1924, and used to build the Tamiami Trail Highway (US 41) through the Everglades and Big Cypress Swamp. This section of US 41links Tampa and Miami and opened southwest Florida to travelers. Barron Gift Collier originally created the park to preserve the royal palms, and later the park was donated to the county to serve as a memorial to Barron Collier and to those who fought on both sides of the Seminole Wars.
Interesting history and cycling through south Florida! Come see for yourself!
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