On Wednesday morning, we woke up and were overjoyed at the forecast! We somehow missed the rain completely and were treated to a hot & muggy Florida-y day. We drove out to Everglades City Airboat Tours and while we waited, the kids planned what they wanted from the gift shop. We try really hard not to overdo it on souvenirs since we travel quite a bit, but we'd managed to avoid the gift shops since arriving in Florida, and I knew we'd let them get something here. Let me tell you though, I've learned my lesson about visiting the gift shop before an outing... it's a bad idea! The kids only cared about their new souvenirs and not the activity we spent good money on!
When it was finally time for our airboat tour, we loaded into the boat with our guide, Gary. He grew up in the Everglades and started driving an airboat when he was a kid, so I knew we were in good hands! He took us through the mangroves, in the freshwater areas and the saltwater areas, through the backcountry and all. There are sooo many places that offer airboat tours, but we chose Everglades City Airboat Tours for a few reasons: they have really good reviews on Trip Advisor, they have two-way radio headphones so you can actually hear your guide (and talk to each other), and they respect the wildlife.
Gary drove us all over the Everglades, taking the turns at high speeds, which was really fun. Lia was a little scared and didn't like the wind in her face, but she said afterward that she enjoyed the ride. Max and Ava, however, had the time of their lives! Ava shrieked with joy every time our airboat flew around a curve. About halfway through our tour, Gary took us out into a wide-open area. From inside the boat, it looked like the water was deep, but we were all shocked when Gary told us it was three inches deep there!
We didn't see any alligators on our airboat tour, but we saw some adorable ringtail raccoons and a dolphin. We really loved the whole trip! Max even said he gave it five stars and he's pretty hard to impress, really. After our boat ride, we let the kids get a stuffed animal in the gift shop and headed back to the beach.
Beach Days (and Nights)
On our way to Naples, we did that ridiculous thing where you go to three different places to eat so everyone is happy. We don't do it often, but it seemed like the kind of day where everyone should be full and happy, so that's what we did. We ended up at Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, mostly because I had heard that you could actually snorkel there. We arrived to find nice rolling waves and NO rip tides... yay!
We spent the entire afternoon and evening splashing in the waves, building sand castles, and attempting to snorkel, though the water was so murky by late afternoon that you really couldn't see anything at all. The kids were ecstatic that they could swim out "deep" since the ocean was calm that day. I managed to keep them inside the buoys and it was low tide, so we weren't really out that far. But those kids are crazy! They have absolutely no fear in the ocean; and well, I have a healthy amount of fear (ha ha). I think if I let them, they would swim until they couldn't see the shore anymore. Well, Ava would at least. That girl isn't afraid of anything. I'm not afraid of swimming in the ocean near-ish to the shore, but I certainly don't want to meet a shark face-to-face!
So we swam and we swam and we swam some more. We really didn't want to leave and I knew if we loaded the kids up to get dinner that we wouldn't make it back. You only get so many beach days in your life (especially when you live in the Midwest!), so we wanted to make the day last as long as possible and decided to have a little picnic at the beach. Ava & I ran up to the grocery store and returned with a rotisserie chicken, yogurt, and bananas.
After dinner, the kids were right back in the water, swimming. I kept thinking they would get tired, but we eventually had to drag them out of the water right before sunset. I really thought Lia was going to have an epic meltdown when I told her it was time to get out of the water. She gave me her (really adorable) angry Lia face, but complied. We managed to convince them to get dressed so we could watch the sunset together. I may or may not have bribed them with glow bracelets... We had enough time for a quick game of freeze tag before the sun started sinking in the sky and it was time to call it a day!
Total - $2500
Airfare - $1380
Car rental - $160
Food - $240
Hotel - $310
Beach toys - $15
Ponchos & water shoes- $30
Everglades pass - $10
Canoe rental - $20
Antibiotics & Benadryl- $10
Airboat tour & tip - $160
Souvenirs - $20
Beach parking - $30
Remaining funds - $115
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