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20 February 2015

Accidental Discoveries {Robinson Preserve, Bradenton, Florida}

While our laid back approach to traveling has kind of backfired on us during our time in Florida, I’ve been reminding myself why we like taking an unplanned approach to things. One of the reasons has to do with the accidental discoveries we’ve made along the way. Places we wouldn’t normally have found if we had sticking to a guide book and ticking off a top 10 list of places to visit in a particular area. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I’ve been to famous places which I’ve read about for years only to find myself slightly underwhelmed or even disappointed that they didn’t live up to expectations. I had that experience on our first day at the Grand Canyon.

That’s why I love places we stumble across accidentally. When you know nothing about them, you have absolutely zero expectations and more times than not, you’ll find yourself delighted at your discovery. That happened to us recently in Bradenton, Florida. After waking up in a Walmart parking lot and destined to spend the next night at the same, we decided to drive around Bradenton in the hopes that we would run across an RV park with a big neon sign with flashing lights saying, “Ellen & Scott! Stop here – we’ve got a spot waiting just for you at the low, low price of $11.95 per night with the strongest free WiFi signal you’ve ever had in your life! And we’ve even got some freshly baked chocolate chip cookies with your names on them!”

Well, we never did see that sign and our tummies were crying out for some lunch, so I looked at the map and saw a tiny park in the north part of Bradenton. We knew nothing about it, other than the fact that it was a park. So, we headed on up and discovered the 487 acre Robinson Preserve and the neighboring botanic gardens. Manatee County must be doing something right because this is a real gem set in the midst of a nice neighborhood. You can explore the coastal park and its mangroves and marshes on your bike, by canoe or kayak or, like we did, with your feet on the 5 miles of trails running through the preserve.

As you walk through the preserve, you can’t help but notice the 40 foot tall observation tower.

Robinson Preserve Observation Tower

I can get a little scared of heights, so I try not to look down as I’m climbing up. Otherwise, I might just turn around and head back down.

Robinson Preserve Observation Tower2

But, if you make it to the top, you get these great views of Tampa Bay.

Robinson Preserve Tampa Bay View

Oh good, a boardwalk! I love boardwalks.

Robinson Preserve Boardwalk

As you’re walking along the coastal trail, you can stop off at a number of viewpoints along the beach. For some reason, this picture reminds me of the beaches in New Zealand. No idea why.

Robinson Preserve Beach

I remember one time when we were sailing in New Zealand and I accidentally dropped a tin can overboard. I watched it float away on to the shore of a nearby island. I still feel guilty about it. I wonder if the person who dropped this beer bottle felt guilty or is one of those types who just doesn’t care.

Robinson Preserve Beer Bottle

There’s a palm tree growing out of the middle of this other tree. Weird.

Robinson Preserve Two Trees

It seems where ever you go for a walk in Florida, there are tons of birds around. No idea what kind this is. Maybe we should learn a thing or two about birds. Right after I learn how to make freshly baked chocolate chip cookies without an oven. There aren’t many things I miss living in our 13’ Scamp travel trailer, but an oven is one of them. And a toaster.

Robinson Preserve Bird

It sure is a pretty and peaceful park.

Robinson Preserve Pier

One of the other things that made Robinson Preserve such a special place was the fact that we managed to find an RV park to stay in after all for a couple of nights. Granted it took a lot of phone calls, but we got the last spot at the very quirky Linger Lodge. More on that some other day.

What about you? Are you more of a planned and organized kind of traveller or do you take more of a laid back approach?

We took joy in our accidental discovery of Robinson Preserve on 3 February 2015. If you want to check it out yourself, you can find it at 1704 99th Street NW in Bradenton.

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27 comments:

  1. Most times it's the those little out of the way places that capture the essence of the area!!..we did that on the Oregon coast..foregoing the usual tourist places ..cannon beach etc..and stayed in a sleepy little seaside town called Port Orford..perfection as far as we were concerned !!

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    1. Completely agree - there are so many great places on the Oregon coast that people rarely see because they're always focused on the usual like Cannon Beach or Newport. Glad you find Port Orford - sounds lovely!

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  2. Birdwatching is surprisingly fun. If you decide to get into it on any level, I highly recommend the Sibley guide.

    Nice pics, by the way. Did you climb any of the lookout towers when you were in California?

    Not sure yet if we're more spontaneous or planned-out in terms of traveling. Most of our vacations involve staying at a hotel or given location and seeing the local sights. It will probably get more random as time goes on, though.

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    1. Thanks for the tip on the Sibley guide - I have been thinking about getting into birdwatching. Would be nice to know what I'm actually looking at. Scott gets all the credit for the pics :-) We didn't really get to any of the lookout towers in California - that I remember anyway, but my memory is shocking. That's where the blog comes in handy - if I don't write it down, I won't remember.

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  3. Robinson preserve is our favorite place to visit. We are fortunate enough to live a few miles away!

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    1. Neat! There were lots of people there when we were there, but seemed like a lot of locals. You're lucky to live in such a beautiful area of the country!

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  4. Yep, I was actually underwhelmed with the Grand Canyon...kinda felt like Clark Grizwald from National Lampoon's Vacation there. And our best vacations were always the unplanned ones. A Thanksgiving Luau on Kaua'i...learning to scuba dive on St. Croix...and even this whole sailing thing started from an unplanned outing in the Florida keys. Definitely the best way to experience a place is just go see what you can find.

    -Mike
    ThisRatSailed

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    1. The Thanksgiving luau sounds really interesting - how did that come about? I actually got more impressed by the Grand Canyon the following days, but I still never felt that sense of awe that they tell you you're supposed to feel.

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  5. I recently found your blog through a fortuitous link on This Rat Sailed (Thanks, Mike!) If you are still in the Bradenton area, check out Emerson Point Park at the mouth of the Manatee River across from Bradenton in Palmetto. We stumbled upon that Park during one of our freeform wanderings. It is walking distance from the home of friends we were visiting.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Nick! I love Mike's blog - glad you're one of his followers!

      Unfortunately, our blog usually lags reality by 2-3 weeks. We've already left the Bradenton area :-( Who knows, we may get back to the area and will definitely check out Emerson Point Park if we do!

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  6. So glad you liked it! This is located at the mouth of the Manatee River off Tampa Bay. We anchor here all the time It is a great spot with excellent holding. We have spent up to a week there watching the world go by.

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    1. Wow - you guys are so lucky to have anchored off of there! Sigh - wish it was us. Just read your latest blog post - looks like the house deal closed. Yeah!!!

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  7. We never were able to travel the unplanned way when we lived in our 40ft DP. You just can't put those machines just anywhere...especially in the southeast. Now that we downsized into our 17ft Casita we are excited about a different way to travel a more spontaneous way. In fact, we are talking seriously about full-timing in our Casita for a few years and do some exploring that we were never able to do before. A little nervous but alot excited!!

    What a beautiful place you all discovered in Robinson Preserve!! Great pics!!

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    1. I think that is so interesting that you downsized from a 40' to a 17' - it seems like more people go the other way. It just seems so much easier with a smaller rig. So many more options about where you can park it. Hope you guys do go full-time (if only for a while) - it is so much fun!

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  8. Since you asked, I'd have to describe myself as a "laid back" traveler. I have an Escape 17B, towed by a RAV4 & have hauled it around the East & US for almost 56,000 miles over the last 4 years. I don't make reservations, except for fiberglass trailer rallies & a few winter warm weather locations. Spent part of last February at Quartzite & the Imperial Dam BLM area dry camping. I keep a journal of my travels at http://lakeshoreimages.com.

    Take care and enjoy your travels!

    Jon

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    1. I find it so much easier when you don't have to make reservations and can just decided on the spur of the moment where you want to stay. It seems like all we do these days in Florida is check to see if we can find a place to stay and make reservations. Thanks for the link - will check out your site!

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  9. I am a total believer in serendipity and finding wonderful things when you least expect it as you did. (and i am scared of height so very brave

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    1. The tower wasn't too bad in terms of height and it had nice sturdy railings so it felt okay. It's when there aren't any railings or they look like they might break if you lean on them, that I start to freak out a little :-)

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  10. Those little gems are the BEST things about traveling! I think it's good to have some plans but leave lots of room for randomness. I laughed at your dream sign, and I hope you finally got your warm chocolate chip cookies :) When I'm desperate, I hit up Subway. Sad, I know, but they're alright! Enjoy the road trip~

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    1. Subway cookies can actually be pretty tasty :-) They used to have a Subway downstairs from the place I worked at in New Zealand and I would often get tempted by their cookies to see me thru the afternoon :-)

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  11. Great post, and perfect for this week's #wkendtravelinspiration! I love the spontaneity, the discovery. I loved it!

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  12. This is so cool! I love accidental discoveries too - the best kind of trips! Sounds like you discovered a real gem there. I agree with you about not littering, but I must admit the bottle looks kind of cool covered in barnacles. Thanks for joining #wkendtravelinspiration - and apologies for my delay in commenting!

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    1. Panther has a way of making everything look better - even litter!

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  13. The bird is an Anhinga, also known as a snake bird because when it swims, its crooked neck sticks out of the water and looks somewhat like a snake. And I highly recommend getting a pair of binoculars and a birding book. My book of choice is the Peterson Guide. They come in Eastern or Western versions. Birding provides hours of cheap entertainment and every type bird has its own unique habits.
    Love Casitas!

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    1. They're fascinating birds to watch! Thanks for the tip on bird books. I really need to learn more about them - they're so interesting!

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  14. Valuable commentary ! BTW if people want a a form , my colleague found a sample document here http://pdf.ac/1xeNKs.

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