We left on our honeymoon the very next morning. Nine days and 2600 miles later, we had visited 11 sites between Ft. Myers, Florida and Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, representing 400 years of American history.
Our first point of interest was the Edison & Ford Winter Estates. I once visited this park with my parents in 1989, and this is one rare instance where I can say "Gee, I remember it being bigger as a kid." The botanicals were just as impressive, but the museum feels like straight out of 1980. I got to use a 90-year-old light switch, though!
We next spent a day at the Kennedy Space Center. At first, it was disappointingly kid-oriented, and we were looking for more high-caliber exhibits. After the guided tour, we checked out the Apollo Center, a hall dedicated to the lunar program, and showcasing a Saturn V rocket! Definitely worth it, and also the Rocket Garden at the main complex. The guided tour was nothing special, but we got to hear interesting stories from our Brazilian-German guide.
The next day we visited the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, which bills itself as America’s oldest city. The Castillo was built by the Spanish in the late 17th Century, and used until 1900. This fort is really impressive, but not as good of condition as the fort at San Juan harbor. We also visited nearby Ft. Matanzas (Spanish for Slaughters. By the time we got there, inclement weather had cancelled the ferry trips, but we took a walk on the nature trail and encountered an obstinate tortoise. We also briefly stopped at Ft. Caroline, and it took us 10 minutes to realize that the fort’s design of cannon arrangement was completely stupid!
The next day, on isolated Cumberland Island, was the best single day of the trip. We spent seven hours among the like oaks and spanish moss, walked along the hard-packed beach, and met a whole menagerie of wildlife: wild horses, lizards, armadillos, caterpillars, cardinals, fiddler crabs, oystereaters, and more! It was very relaxing to be alone with nature, to be immersed in a climate not found anywhere near home.
We stayed behind near St. Mary’s one more day simply to get a pin from the Cumberland Island gift shop (I collect lapel pins of places I go, since 1989). After that we continued north along the coast to Ft. Frederica. The fort is more like a settlement than the Spanish outposts farther south. Frederica in it’s hayday was a thriving colony of 400, until the British army relocated its soldiers to the mainland. The park presents the history of the former village as an archaeological work in progress. Streets and foundations are marked, staked out, and a few are uncovered. We then dorve north to Ft. Pulaski, but got there just in time to see the gates close! Shucks!
We spent the next day in Charleston, at Ft. Moultrie, the site of colonial heroism in 1776, CSA defiance in 1862, and Naval coast vigilance in 1943. Moultrie is presented as a walk through 170 years of coastal defense history, with various segments of the fort preserved in different time periods. This visit was very well worth it, and we recommend this site to any military history buff. We then spent some time at the Charles Pinckney estate. The grounds had a nature trail, and the house actually dates to 20 years after Pinckney, but the impressive thing about this place was the museum itself. Rarely is a museum this honest, informative, and engrossing as this one! We were very pleased to stop at this small park, and also recommend it. Surpise! The Hunley is on display in Charleston now! We’ll definitely come back for that!
Our last day took us to North Carolina’s outer banks, to a site where history was made a little over a century ago, by two mechanics from Ohio. The museum exhibit pales in comparison to the Air & Space Museum in DC, but the Famous Firsts of Aviation shrine was neat. The best part are the grounds. The stately 1932 monument dominates the park, but there is much to discover on these grounds. We had a blast, despite the bitter weather. We even stopped at a little tiki bar just down the road for lunch, Mama Kwan’s!
It was great to get out and travel again. The honeymoon was the longest time away from home for me since July of 2004. I can’t wait for my next exciting trip!