NURTURE NATURE: Paddling Coastal Cleanup
Paddle up! After the long holiday weekend, Tampa Bay Watch plans its annual mid-summer Paddling Coastal Cleanup. Volunteers with canoes and kayaks are needed to clean difficult-to-reach shorelines on Saturday at seven sites around Tampa Bay including Weedon Island Preserve, Fort De Soto Park, Cunningham Key, Skyway Fishing Pier, Coffee Pot Bayou, Palonis Park and Coquina Beach. The work of the post-July 4 cleanup goes a long way toward protecting wildlife from entanglement in fishing lines, not to mention it just makes the place look nicer. Go to tampabaywatch.org to get more information and to register for the event, 9 a.m. to noon Saturday.
SPOTLIGHT: NORTH FLORIDA ISLANDS
Strings of little islands dot the East Coast, among them South Carolina's culturally distinct Gullah-speaking islands and Georgia's Golden Isles, including St. Simon's and Jekyll. In northeast Florida, there's the cluster that belong to the Talbot Islands State Parks, including Amelia Island, Little Talbot Island, Big Talbot Island and Fort George Island. The area has several locales for the history buff, boasting forts from several occupiers; the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, named for an extinct tribe; and even Florida's oldest saloon, the Palace on Amelia Island. Amelia is also known as the Isle of Eight Flags, having been controlled under eight different flags since the French raised a flag on what they called Isle de Mai in 1562.
Once you're done exploring historic areas, get a dose of nature with your history with sites including Amelia Island's Fort Clinch and Fort George Island offering solid opportunities for hiking, fishing from piers or beaches and bicycle trails. Kayaking and paddleboarding tours around the Talbots with Kayak Amelia ( kayakamelia.com) are also a good bet for exploring the marshes and spotting some wildlife. If motorized boats are more your speed, you have your pick of waterways, and river cruises leave from Amelia Island's marina ( ameliarivercruises.com), including ones that glimpse Georgia's nearby Cumberland Island, home to a herd of wild horses.
GEAR: Rain poncho
We are now in the era of afternoon thunderstorms, and once the lightning has passed, the outdoor fun doesn't need to end. A good rain poncho can save the day, and an even better one can save several days. Consider the Charles River Apparel Pacific Poncho, right, ($19-$37 on Amazon), which comes with a storage pouch and features an adjustable hood and snap closures. If you're looking to keep your gear dry as well as yourself, look for a model like the Aircee Poncho Raincoat Cape Cover ($26.99 on Amazon), which has a section on the back to cover your backpack. If you're concerned about looking fashionable rather than like a tent/garbage bag, Ikea's Knalla Poncho is pretty nifty looking and has pockets for a very reasonable $6.99.