SURFIN' SAFARI: SEBASTIAN INLET
The Beach Boys may have been thinking about Baja when they penned that 1962 classic, but here in Florida we have our own great place to camp, fish and surf. Sebastian Inlet State Park is one of the best places to catch snook, redfish and Spanish mackerel on the Atlantic Coast. With more than 3 miles of beach and one of the most consistent surf breaks in Florida, Sebastian Inlet's "First Peak" draws its share of wave riders. Monster Hole, which is actually a shoal a little farther out, is another internationally known surf spot. But there is more to do here than just surf and catch fish. The McLarty Treasure Museum tells the story of the ill-fated Spanish treasure fleet of 1715. The Sebastian Fishing Museum is a great place to learn about the area's rich fishing history. Visitors can also canoe and kayak the Indian River Lagoon or stroll down the mile-long Hammock Trail. Bring a picnic lunch and set up at one of the waterfront pavilions. Bring a tent and spend the night along State Road A1A, about 15 miles south of Melbourne Beach.
ANIMAL OF THE WEEK: GATOR GROWL
Play nine holes on any Florida golf course and you're bound to see at least two or three of the state's more than 1 million alligators. Any body of water — pond, lake or river — is a potential home to these large reptiles. But the American alligator, a.k.a. Alligator mississippiensis, doesn't deserve its fearsome reputation. Most run when confronted by humans. Still, there's a certain degree of comfort and safety to be had when viewing alligators from a car or boat. To see big gators, head south to Everglades National Park. Book a seat on the Shark Valley tram tour and you'll come across dozens of gators in the canals along each side of the road. If you're in a rush, swing by the Big Cypress National Preserve's Oasis Visitors Center off the Tamiami Trail in Ochopee. There's usually a few dozen big gators lounging around the pond out front. This unincorporated community in Collier County is also known for its tiny post office and a large population of skunk apes, but good luck getting a glimpse of the latter. Sarasota's Myakka River State Park is another notorious gator hangout. There's a narrow two-lane bridge about a mile from the ranger station that crosses the Myakka River. Swing by around lunch time and you'll see some of the fattest, laziest gators in the Sunshine State. But remember — don't toss last night's marshmallows. Feeding alligators is against the law.
GREAT GEAR: BIC BOARDS
Bic, famous for its pens, also makes great paddle boards. They're nearly indestructible, a good thing when you're paddling around oyster bars, and can be "tricked out" for fishing. Suitable models start at $999. Visit bicsup.com.