#LoveFL Stories

    VISIT FLORIDA wants to share your #LoveFL stories.

    The beach where your toddler touched the ocean.

    That day you met a manatee.

    The roller coaster drop when you found religion.

    Be funny. Be sweet. Be honest. And please be brief: 100 words. or less Please include a photo to complement your story.

    We’ll publish the most compelling entries here. Tell us your #LoveFL story today.


    Happiness is Just a Short Trip to the Beach

    Florida has been home since I was 18. I met my husband here, created a family and made St. Petersburg our home. The through-line to my whole story was the beautiful white sand beaches we’re so lucky to have on the west coast. When my family would visit, when friends would come, or on a random weekend, you would find us there. My fondest memory is taking my daughter to the beach for the first time at Anna Maria Island with my mom and mother-in-law. For us, happiness is just a short trip to the beach.  

    – Dulani Porter


    Arrival

    Hours strapped in next to your loud older brother on the car ride echo a lifetime trying to stake out territory in back seats, strollers, and conversations. But finally, we're here, in a place built for us. Outside, hours of parades, pageantry, and curiosities are waiting to be explored. But first, a quiet friend patiently kneels to your level, looks you in the eyes and smiles. You're welcome to laugh, play, and say whatever you'd like. You're both just over the moon that you’ve arrived.

    – Stacy Hilton


    A Dream of the Dry Tortugas

    Dry Tortugas National Park, one of the most secluded, is accessible only by boat or airplane. It is the place I have been dreaming of for years. The turquoise water, the abundant marine life, the historic Fort Jefferson, and the perfect weather make the trip worthy and unforgettable.

    – Yang Han


    Unplugging on Don Pedro Island

    After years of traveling from Cleveland to Florida to visit me, my parents Fred and Linda had done most of the touristy stuff – from museums to hang gliding. So when they came to celebrate my daughter Norah’s second birthday, we opted for low-key. We rented a house on secluded Don Pedro Island, where we ate breakfast on the porch, collected shells, and stayed up late playing board games. No agenda, no bedtime. To us Ohio natives, the gentle Gulf of Mexico waves, salty air, and sugary white sand felt like a warm hug that embraced our entire family.

    – Dalia Colon


    Delray Beach State of Mind

    As a New York City transplant, most of my days are spent power-walking from A to B on routes sprinkled with daily surprises. Living in close quarters with eight million people causes magic and chaos. A consistent source of happiness for me is visiting home: Delray Beach, Fla. The village by the sea where I was born and raised always rejuvenates my soul. A spectacular sunrise, a beautiful beach, a day of great fishing turned tuna dinner, and a night out on Atlantic Avenue with cold drinks, delicious food, and close friends. Any season, any day, Delray is there for me.

    - Chloë Evans-Cross


    Generations of Memories, One Shovel of Sand at a Time

    When my father pulled that 30-year-old shovel out of the trunk, I wept. I grew up on the Gulf coast of Florida; the Panhandle beaches were our playground. My dad dug holes bigger than my body and excavated massive moats surrounding pitiful sandcastles. Now I had my own family. We lived in Atlanta. And we were visiting for the first time. As my parents, now grandparents, unloaded the car, there for the first time in decades and without discussion was the shovel. I was delighted. I was humbled. I knew what was in store for my daughter.

    – Dani DeStafney


    A Visit to Destin Becomes a Lifetime in Florida

    Our college gang from Mississippi reached our Destin campground at dusk. We wrestled our tent upright just before a downpour. The tent leaked, turning food to soup. And six hungry, hot and sweaty bodies in a dark, damp tent wasn’t the picnic we’d envisioned. But next morning, we hit the beach. The bottle-green waves boomed to shore like timpani drums. And the sand? It squeaked with every footfall, was brilliant as ground glass, reflecting the sun so efficiently I got sunburn – under my chin. I’ve lived in The Sunshine State ever since.

    – Phillip Ward


    Robert is Here, and So Am I

    The tropical heat of South Florida hits first as I roam the open-air market Robert is Here in Homestead. Next is the heady aroma of mangoes. I thank the weather gods for the steam because that makes the fruit grow lush and heavy on nearby trees. And that’s why I am here. For 60 years, Robert Moehling has sold fruit at this spot and for about 20 I have driven hours from my home to bring back Valencia Prides, Keitts, Florida Reds, Malikkas and, if I am lucky, silky sweet Edwards. Summer isn’t summer without a trip to Robert is Here and a freshly made mango-coconut milkshake to go with the bounty.

    – Janet K. Keeler


    Sailing to Contentment

    I was at peace. The clear blue sky was glorious, a gentle wind filled the sails, pushing the boat silently through the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and the sensation reminded me of a bird gliding on a breeze. We were just off the coast of Marco Island on a beautiful March day, and my wife and I were taking our girls sailing on a catamaran for the first time. It warmed my heart when I looked over and saw my daughter Sasha enjoying herself, hair blowing in the wind, without a care in the world. Now she loves sailing as much as I do.

    – Darron Silva


    Joy Unleashed on St. George

    St. George Island, in the Florida Panhandle, is a reverie of white sand, glass-green ocean, and southern sky. We have walked there often without saying a word, lost in the perfect white noise. But not this trip. Our daughter Olivia was home from two years abroad in the Peace Corps and our rescue boxer was seeing an ocean for the first time. When Indy’s paws touched sand, she sprang like Winnie the Pooh’s pal Tigger. Off they ran: Indy barking and biting the waves; Olivia hanging on for the ride and laughing at the thrill of it all.

    – Kevin McGeever


    Waiting for Mr. Watson

    On the worn plank veranda behind Ted Smallwood’s store, looking across Chokoloskee Bay and the stipple of mangrove islets that explain why they call the southwest coast of Florida the Ten Thousand Islands, I waited for Mr. Watson. Chokoloskee islanders studied this same watery vista that day in 1910, clutching rifles, clustered around this very trading post in ominous expectation of Bloody Ed Watson. (The sugar cane magnate and suspected serial killer was the most infamous of outlaws and outcasts who found refuge in the lawless reaches of the Everglades.) Lost in history, I joined the ghosts of those vigilantes at Smallwood’s, straining to hear Watson’s skiff motoring through Rabbit Key Pass, to his appointment with frontier justice.

    – Fred Grimm


    St. Augustine, Family Playground

    St. Augustine Beach was my playground. Now it belongs to my kids. And my boys take full advantage of its freedom. Living in Saint Augustine means weeknight beach strolls and jumping from off-duty lifeguard stands. It means watching a rehabilitated sea turtle be released back to its ocean home. And making drip castles that get renovated by each day’s changing tide... Crashing waves, a fresh sea breeze, surfing, bike riding… and bathing-suit-approved restaurants serving tasty fish tacos! It’s where everyone wants to vacation - and we get to live it!

    – Janice Jones


    Flight of Fancy at St. Marks

    It was love at first sight. I’m a veteran birder, but nothing has made my heart thump like seeing my first vermilion flycatcher at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. I was taking my new “big girl camera” out for a spin one crisp winter day when the light was clear and perfect, and there he was in the viewfinder - a compact bundle of the most vivid red feathers I’d ever seen. Every winter since, he -- or one of his progeny -- is there, bold and glowing like an airborne ember as he skims the water hunting tiny insects. One day I came back from a hike out on the dikes to find him perched on the spare tire of my Toyota RAV-4, feathers ruffled and pecking at his rival in the back window’s reflection. He cocked a bright black eye at me and waited until I unlocked the driver’s door to fly off.

    - Kati Schardl

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    We’ll publish the most compelling entries here. Tell us your #LoveFL story today.

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