While we lived in Gainesville, FL I heard of a fun idea that we decided to give a try. Because of the shape of FL, you can watch a sunrise on the east coast and a sunset on the west coast in one day. RC and I made our plans and told the kids that there was one rule: no asking questions about the plans of the trip. They were simply encouraged to keep paying attention to what was going on around them, and there would be no need to ask about what we were doing next because eventually they would know. RC made a trip soundtrack and we were ready to go.
We drove to Ormond Beach the night before and stayed in a hotel. Ormond Beach is just a little north of Daytona Beach and much quieter. Tip: if it says that sunrise is at 7:15am, to truly see the sun rise you will need to get there about an hour before. It was already getting light by the time we got there. There were lots of clouds so we didn’t get to see the sun much, but it was such a neat feeling being at the beach at the break of day. There were only a few others on the beach with us so we got to really enjoy the sights and sounds.
Then we went back to the hotel, where we ate breakfast and got ready for the rest of our day. We headed south on I-95 and then took exit 261B and headed west on Highway 92 (W. International Speedway Blvd). We drove through Tiger Bay State Forest and into Deland where we turned south onto Highway 17 just for a hot second until it met up with Highway 44.
We headed west on Highway 44 until we reached the edge of Eustice where we took Orange Dr. straight toward Lake Eustice. We turned south onto N. Bay St. for one block, then we turned west onto Lakeshore Dr. so we could drive right along the edge of Lake Eustice. Lakeshore Dr. eventually met up with Highway 441 where we continued west.
Near Leesburg we turned off Highway 441 back onto Highway 44. I can’t remember what we did for lunch this trip so it must not have been that impressive, but I think we ate somewhere in Leesburg.
Continuing west, we hit Wildwood and stopped at Traditions Antique Mall which has over 30,000 sq feet and over 100 vendors. They had some really cool stuff, including an awesome writing desk that we just couldn’t fit in the van with all of us. To cheer ourselves up we went across the street to Russell Stover Candies and bought a few treats. Go Pokes!
We continued west on Highway 44 until we met up with Highway 98 where we headed south because we were wanting to see the manatees in Homosassa. We arrived at Homosassa Springs State Park late enough in the afternoon that admission was free. We hadn’t planned this, but it felt truly serendipitous.
The state park has a small native wildlife zoo that not only has manatees (which are surprisingly huge), but also red wolves, Florida panthers, black bears, bobcats, a rhino, and much more all along a boardwalk making the path very easy to navigate and there being no fear of missing seeing any of the animals.
We had about 1.5 hours to see everything which was just enough time. As the park closed we headed back north on Highway 98 and then west on Highway 24 to end our day on the west coast to watch the sun set at Cedar Key. We ate a wonderful dinner at Steamers Clam Bar and Grill and grabbed our final picture of the day just as the sun went down.
We drove home to Gainesville happy and very tired. This was a really neat weekend trip that we still talk about.
Have you ever tried the sunrise/sunset day in Florida? What route did you take and what attractions did you see?