Travel Florida: Little Treasures in the Sunshine State that fit a college student’s budget

A little too close for comfort, Photo by Lauren AllisonArticle by Beacon senior writer Katie Schnack. Have a tip to add? Let us know at beacon@pba.edu or pbalocal@gmail.com

News flash!  There is more to life then City Place. Yes, the failing economy makes us college students even more broke we were before, but these locations promise tons of fun with out spending tons of cash!  So pack up that minivan, grab your posse, and hit the road.   Here is an inside look at some of Florida’s hot spots!  All within 5 hours of driving from PBA, these places make for an adventuresome weekend!

Close to Home: Peanut Island

Located about 10 minutes north of campus, Peanut Island is an instant vacation.  Rent a kayak and paddle out to the island, or take Captain Joe’s ferry for $10 round trip. Bring a camping tent to stay in the campground for about $30 a night or trek to the west side of the island and camp right on the beach for free. Snorkel gear is a must, because there are several reefs about five feet off shore.  If you catch the tide at the right time, you are sure to see some crazy fish!  Look for manatees  in the bay, or take a tour of John F. Kennedy’s bomb shelter.  Bring some burgers to grill and a bunch of friends, and you have made one amazing weekend.

Cayo Costa State Park

Directly across Florida on the West Coast, this state park is a true island get away. Take a ferry out to the park, and spend the night living like pirates!  Camp site are available for only $18 a night and cabins that sleep six are available for only $30 a night. Visit the Online Florida Park Guide for more information.

Shark Valley- Biking with the Gators

Looking for a thrilling bike ride? Shark Valley, part of the Everglades National Park, is just that!  Bike the 15 mile loop or take a tram tour and be prepared to see alligators. One recent rider saw a six foot alligator being eaten by a ten foot alligator!  Shark Valley is only about 2 hours away from PBA, so it makes a great day trip.  With such an amazing National Park nearby, visiting this is a no-brainer!

Crystal River- Take a Dip with the Manatees

Tucked away in the small town of Crystal River, Florida, is an attraction that cannot be missed!  The Crystal River is a manatee hot spot. Kayak down the clear, beautiful canals and you are sure to see some serious marine wildlife.  Some regular Kayakers claim that they often see 60-100 Manatees at a time!  Be sure to bring your snorkel gear, because swimming with the sea cows is a must. These gentle creatures can get to be about the size of a small car, so swimming with them is quite a thrill!  Check out Kayaks and Beyond for affordable kayak rental options. They have a great launch site and also give you tips as to where the best spots are for spotting manatees.  They even provide complimentary bottled water and power bars!

Sanibel Island: Camping with the Parrots

Sanibel Island is a great place for Florida fun and is only about four hours away  from PBA.  It is one of the best places in the world to go ‘shelling’, and the white sandy beaches are a nice change from the shores of West Palm.  For a cheap trip, camp at Periwinkle Park. It is saturated with retired elderly living in trailers but that only adds to the excitement!  There is a nice corner of the park for camping, at only $35 a night!  It is a prime Sanibel location, within walking distance from several fun tropical restaurants and shops, and a half mile from the beach!  Plus, this campground comes equipped with its own ‘bird sanctuary’.  The huge collection of all sorts of tropical birds and parrots are sure to keep you entertained!  The birds are well trained to speak, and some of the things they say are pretty scandalous and hilarious. So check out this cute little RV resort, and soak up the Sanibel sun!

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