On the second leg of our Gecko travel adventure, me and my girlfriend, Petra, headed to Florida. It’s home to famous theme parks, sun-drenched beaches, gorgeous scenery, and endless sunny weather – which means everyone gets to wear shorts and t-shirts every day of the year! It’s not called the Sunshine State for nothing you know!
Picking my top things to do in Florida was pretty tough, but here are 5 experiences you should definitely check out.
1. Adrenaline Pumping Amusement Parks
As a pair of thrill-seeking Gecko’s, we couldn’t wait to hit Florida’s famous amusement parks. At the top of my list was Aquatica Waterpark – a place full of glittering pools, rapids and seriously awesome waterslides.
Waterslides don’t get much better than ‘Ihu’s Breakaway Falls’ – a huge drop slide with a series of trap doors that suddenly open and send you plummeting down an 80ft. chute! This ride was incredible! But a word of advice – eat lunch after you give it a go. My pre-ride milkshake and chips suddenly seemed a bad idea while hurtling along at 24ft per second!
The next day, we travelled to EPCOT at the Walt Disney World Resort and headed straight for a ride called ‘Soarin’ Around the World’ – its a virtual hang gliding simulator that whisks you over some of the world’s most famous sites.
We swooped along Sydney Harbour and over the Great Wall of China… it was a total rush and gave us some serious inspiration for our next big trip.
2. Kennedy Space Center
One of the most memorable moments on this trip was visiting the Kennedy Space Centre – a place that’s seriously out of this world! We were given a tour of the launch areas, got up close to a rocket that’s been into space, and then visited the Firing Room Theater to experience the launch of the first ever NASA crewed mission to orbit the moon!
In the afternoon, we got to dock a shuttle in a training simulator then hurtled into space at Shuttle Launch Experience – an eight-and-a-half-minute trip that replicates the feeling of blasting into orbit (spoiler alert: it’s bumpy and seriously awesome).
But the best bit of the day? Meeting a real life astronaut. I started asking all about joining NASA’s space training program, but apparently the exams are really hard and astronauts don’t get many holidays. Clearly not the job for a globe-trotting gecko… Besides, I don’t think Petra would be too happy with me blasting off into space after we’ve just started our adventures together!
3. Sightseeing along the Space Coast
After an unforgettable day at Kennedy Space Centre, we took a short journey south to Cocoa Beach – aka heaven on earth. The beach here is gorgeous, the ocean warm as a bath, and fishing off the 800ft wooden Westgate Cocoa Beach pier is serious fun – but I was here to surf.
You can take lessons at one of the local surf schools – although I have to admit, I was riding the waves like a pro within minutes (Petra was totally impressed). Turns out a gecko’s naturally sticky toepads are really useful for clinging to a surfboard!
After a day on the ocean, we took a mini road trip between the Space Coast’s little towns and historic districts. Places like Titusville, Eau Gallie, and Melbourne are awesome for shopping, sightseeing, eating out, or catching free local events.
If you’re after a blissful few days of sun, sea and sand (who isn’t?), the Space Coast is definitely the ultimate place to come!
4. Airboat Ride in the Everglades
After chilling out along the Space Coast, we headed south looking for adventure. And taking an airboat tour through the Everglades? It’s an adventure I’ll never forget.
We were taken on a high speed ride through mangrove tunnels and old Indian trails, whipping along at 45 mph! Along the way, our captain taught us about the Everglade’s ecosystem and helped us spot some of the creatures here, including dolphins, turtles, and local birdlife.
And then, suddenly, he pointed out an alligator swimming towards us. Everyone, including Petra, was really excited and started taking photos. Me? I was completely terrified and grabbed the captain’s leg. Looking back, it was all a bit embarrassing.
Still, aside from that close encounter with a potentially gecko-eating alligator, I’d happily book this experience all over again.
5. Florida Keys
Our final stop on this epic holiday was the Florida Keys – and what a place to end our journey. Lots of people come here to go diving, especially around John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park – the only living coral reef in the whole country! But me and Petra decided to book a glass bottom boat tour – you still get to see loads of marine life but without getting wet!
The next day, we visited the house of a famous writer called Ernest Hemingway. It’s been turned into a museum featuring original furniture and artefacts, including his old typewriter. The house is also full of cats (I counted 40!), and they’re all related to the ones Hemingway had when he lived there. How cool is that?
Anyway, for anyone that loves architecture, Ernest Hemingway, or just wants to pet lots of his old cats, you have to check this place out.
All in all, Florida ended up being one of the sunniest, prettiest, and most exciting places I’ve ever visited. We’ve just got one more stop on this adventure – we’re heading to much chillier climes in search of the Northern Lights!
Published 17th January 2017