Offbeat & Extraordinary: 5 Unforgettable Florida Tours
By Jodi Mailander Farrell
Sweet Pete’s Candy Factory Tour, Jacksonville
Fulfill your Willy Wonka fantasies with a Factory Tour of this gourmet chocolate and candy maker, which sells over 1,000 different types of candies. Featured on the CNBC hit reality series, “The Profit,” owner Peter Behringer and his handcrafted candies work out of the historic Seminole Club, a 1903 two-story downtown structure that served as Jacksonville’s social club, hosting visitors such as Presidents Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy. The 23,000-square-foot renovated space, at 400 N. Hogan St., became Sweet Pete’s headquarters in 2014, making it one of the largest candy shops in the United States. The confectionary emporium has a functioning factory, interactive gallery, two large retail areas, a restaurant and bar, rooftop patio and dessert bar. The 30-minute candy mansion tour for all ages goes behind the scenes, with visits to the packaging room and caramel wrapping machine, concluding with a decadent, custom-made chocolate bar. Info: 855-SWT-PETE, sweetpetescandy.com.
Bioluminescence Kayak Tour, Titusville
Dinoflagellate Bioluminescent plankton light up the waters of the Indian River Lagoon by night, glowing neon as you paddle through the canals and kayak trails of this unique estuary. The light show on Florida’s Space Coast, home to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, appears from mid-May through early October. Outfitter A Day Away kayak tours leads two-hour bioluminescent night tours inside Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, the most biodiverse lagoon ecosystem in the Northern hemisphere and home to more than 10,000 species of plants and animals. Info: 321-268-2655, adayawaykayaktours.com.
NautiLimo Boat Tour, Islamorada
A water-worthy Cadillac stretch-limousine, the NautiLimo tours the waters of the Florida Keys. Docked at the Lorelei Restaurant and Bar, the pink Cadillac is the creation of Joe Fox, a former electronics engineer who built the 21-foot-long cruiser on top of a 19-foot Carolina Skiff hull. The limo, which carries up to six passengers and goes up to 20 miles per hour, is powered by a 100-horsepower Yamaha engine and has required safety equipment on board. It tours the Florida Bay, including Upper and Lower Matecumbe Key, historical Lignum Vitae Key and Indian Key. Daytime tours also can include a trip to Robbie’s marina to feed the tarpon, snorkeling or swimming spots, and an eight-mile ride along the bayside of U.S. 1, which passes by the working marina that appears in the popular Netflix series, “Bloodline.” Info: 305-942-3793, nautilimo.com.
Backstage at the Ballet Tours, Sarasota
Look in on the Sarasota Ballet dancers in their morning class and witness the craftsmanship that goes into creating their exquisite costumes and tutus as part of this guided, behind-the-scenes tour at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts on select Tuesday and Thursday mornings. The 1½-hour tours are free, but require advance registration. Founded in 1990, the Sarasota Ballet employs 56 dancers from around the world. With Royal Ballet dancer Iain Webb as director since 2007, the company has achieved international recognition, especially for its many productions of the ballets of Sir Frederick Ashton. Info: 941-228-9899, www.sarasotaballet.org.
Paranormal Pub Crawl, St. Augustine
A ghost tour like no other, the two-hour Paranormal Public Crawl explores the town’s most notorious haunted taverns, offering “spirits with the spirits.” Along with pub lore over a pint of ale, a pub scout and ghost hunting guide teaches you how to use paranormal equipment at four haunted sites, where tour guests enjoy drinks while learning the true gruesome history of the city’s lesser-known dark side. Take a lantern-lit stroll through St. Augustine’s hallowed streets, investigate unexplained phenomena and hear chilling tales from beyond as you decide what’s true and merely legend. Not a believer? You’ll still learn interesting facts about the Ancient City’s past while having a frightfully fun time. Info: 904-829-1122, www.ghosttoursofstaugustine.net.