HIGH ON FLORIDA'S 'LOW SEASON'
By Barb Hansen
The Florida tourist high season is January through April. So, I suppose that makes the spring, summer and fall months our “low” season.
Well, I love the low season.
“Real Florida,” as our state tourism officials call it, really comes alive in those months and that’s when we locals take the time to enjoy our state, too.
Here at Southwest Florida Yachts the pace of work and life in general is a tad more relaxed. Vic and I can finally push our desk chairs back and plan a cruise for ourselves instead of just arranging charters and yacht classes for others.
Cruising is as good as it gets. Just as the automotive traffic softens on I-75, so does marine traffic soften on the Gulf ICW behind our famous outer islands like Captiva, Sanibel, Useppa, Cayo Costa, and Gasparilla.
Bridge tender language still goes pretty much by the book but this mate hears a friendliness in their voices that I don’t detect during the wait-your-turn season. At the little dock at Cabbage Key there is always a slip for a boat and a table for two.
Dockmasters actually sound happy when we radio them and ask for a slip. At this time of the year we can find an empty lounge chair to lounge by the pool at 'Tween Waters Inn.
Everybody’s metabolism slows down a notch in the summer. We walk a bit slower, talk a bit slower, watch the clouds build and look forward to that afternoon storm and the cool air that follows. Then we watch the sun go down. The breezes off the water blow cool even in the warmest months and the Margaritas are always cold. No worries, mon.
Florida’s wildlife has its own high season and it seems to kick in just about the time so many tourists go home.
Tarpon -- bow to the king -- migrate along the Gulf beaches toward Boca Grande Pass in huge numbers May through July. So do Florida’s tarpon anglers. Snook find their way along the mangrove roots from the upper rivers and bays back to the Gulf passes. Local flats anglers stay right with them. Florida’s low season mornings are picture perfect for jumping tarpon and plugging for snook.
Migratory birds that have wintered in Mexico and Central America fly across the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico and make landfall here, hungrily biting all the new berries, buds, seeds and insects they can get their beaks on. Florida birders (you can recognize them by their expensive binoculars) hover around mulberry, fig and sea grape trees and yell out to their comrades-in-optics. “Hey, here’s a female Rose Breasted Grosbeak with red juice all down her chest.” The yelling starts in late April and continues well into the summer. Come September and October, we see the birds again as they rest up and feed up for that long flight back to their wintering grounds. And, with those first cold fronts of the fall, south Florida welcomes back its own migrating snowbirds such as loons and white pelicans from Canada.
I like showing off our lovely part of Florida to visitors during the low season and I’ve always thought it way too sad that so many fail to come here at a time of the year when Florida really shines.
I don’t know what the tourism officials are saying but it seems to me that each year more northern visitors are choosing to come to Southwest Florida in spring and summer.
Lower rates are inviting, I’m sure, but I’m happy for them because they will get to experience the Florida that we year-round Floridians enjoy.