Marineland

Raise your hand if you watched or remember Flipper. How about a young Lloyd Bridges in Sea Hunt?  OK, who’s seen “Creature from the Black Lagoon”? These Hollywood shows have something in common and if you were lucky like little Rusty and family to have visited Marineland, FL in the 1960s you’d know the scoop. Here’s a link to a brief description.

Jack, Russ and Chris pose for Mom- 1967

Jack, Russ and Chris pose for Mom- 1967

Marineland was built in 1937 right on the edge of a wide Daytona Beach-style beach about 12 miles south of St Augustine proper on A1A. The facility/attraction was built prior to anyone else establishing a town there, so the town and the place are both named Marineland.  It was one of Florida’s first marine mammal parks, billing itself as “the world’s first oceanarium”.

Marineland and beach near high tide- way more impressive at low

Marineland and beach near high tide- way more impressive at low

In 2004 the Georgia Aquarium purchased Marineland, updating it, as well as creating practically a brand new marina across the street. The marina opened in Aug 2011 and we’d pass each time wondering if a stop was in order…. One of these times. Reading the 50+ excellent reviews in ActiveCaptain clearly showed that yes, we should stop. At $1/ft and free laundry this tiny marina, complete with on-site eco kayak tours (Ripple Effect), Marineland across the street and a nature preserve next door could not be ignored. Knowing catamaran space is often at a premium, we called ahead on Good Friday once we’d said farewell to Vero Beach. Yes, they’d have the perfect spot for us on Monday night; our first dock in five months. Wow.

First though, 180nm lay ahead and we split that up over 4 days so we could stop at our new fave neighborhood market in Melbourne Beach on Friday and arrive at the marina early Monday afternoon. Pleasant Easter weekend weather brought out plenty of local boaters including water pests (PWCs) in Daytona Beach ICW.  We seem to be among the few vessels heading north; still rather early for many, but May 3rd needs to find us back in Deep River.

Locals find a sunny spot in the lee of trees on a large ICW spoil island

Locals find a sunny spot in the lee of trees on a large ICW spoil island

Eric and Chris are two terrific dockmasters who, along with other helpful staff, also operate RippleEffect eco kayak tours.  We did have a perfect spot; the west wind blowing us right on for an easy landing. A 24 slip marina, with the right crew, can offer personal, attentive service and that’s what we got. The kayak tour guys get to do what they love and even though we didn’t sign up, we could see and hear all the happy faces and comments at the end of the tour.

Kayakers receive instructions before heading out.

Kayakers receive instructions before heading out.

We managed to cram in a balanced mix of work and fun over our day and a half stay. Water and a dock means Ms Ortolan gets a bath, complete with scrubbing and an interior cockpit wash down. Free laundry means, do all you can. Hard to overdo things with only one washer and dryer though.

Ortolan sits snug and clean at the dock

Ortolan sits snug and clean at the dock

On one side of the marina sits the University of Florida’s research bldgs with a shallow pond regular peeps use to ooh and ah over the inhabitants. Although we strolled over to Marineland, paying to see dolphins jump just didn’t make sense, not when we could see them swimming and feeding right next to our boat in the open basin.

In 6 inches of clear water a good close-up is a cinch.

In 6 inches of clear water a good close-up is a cinch.

A nature preserve borders the marina on its south side (the ICW forms the western border) and in typical Florida style it was lovely, well-marked and easy walking.

Info sign along River to Sea Trail

Info sign along River to Sea Trail

Native American shell mound

Native American shell mound

Would love to have stayed longer, but wanted to catch good weather for a few days visit to St Augustine, where we heard Captain Rusty Nail and Missy might be hangin’ out. 🙂

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