Kayak­ing Hell’s Bay

Sunday Mail - Travel/Escape - - UNITED STATES -

rubs off on we mere mor­tals who chase them around, hop­ing to spot them strolling Lin­coln Rd or sip­ping a drink at the Shore Club’s Skybar (1901 Collins Ave). Lose your­self in the swoon­ing crowd, be­cause as you search out celebri­ties and hang in their hot spots, you start feel­ing like one your­self. There is no wilder­ness in Amer­ica quite like the Ev­er­glades. Good old Glades boys – who once lived in what is now one of Amer­ica’s most beau­ti­ful na­tional parks – dubbed one stretch of wa­ter ‘‘Hell’s Bay’’. Why? The wa­ter­way, part of a com­pli­cated cap­il­lary net­work of Glades streams, was ‘‘hell to get into, hell to get out of’’. But it’s also heav­enly once in­side, shaded by a tun­nel of veg­e­ta­tion that cools you while wa­ter runs past your pad­dles. For­get fear­some ti­tles; kayak­ing Hell’s Bay is one of the most ro­man­tic ex­ploratory ex­pe­ri­ences in South Florida (nps.gov/ever). weather, ga­tors or he­donism, what fol­lows are some favourites from the “Only in Florida’’ cat­e­gory.

This road­side at­trac­tion is ded­i­cated to track­ing down south­east­ern Amer­ica’s ver­sion of Big­foot, the epony­mous Skunk Ape (a large go­rilla-man who sup­pos­edly stinks). You may not see a Skunk Ape but you will see a corny gift shop and, in the back, a rep­tile-and-bird zoo run by a true Florida ec­cen­tric, the sort of guy who wraps al­bino pythons around his neck for fun.

There is no greater tem­ple to all that is weird and wacky about South Florida. The leg­end: a Lat­vian gets snubbed at the al­tar. Comes to the US. Moves to Florida. Hand carves, un­seen, in the dead of night, a mon­u­ment to un­re­quited love: a rock com­pound that in­cludes a “throne room”, a sun dial, a stone stock­ade (his in­tended’s “time­out area”) and a re­volv­ing boul­der gate that en­gi­neers to this day, can­not ex­plain.

More than a boat launch, Rob­bie’s is a lo­cal flea mar­ket, tacky tourist shop (all the shells you ever wanted), sea pen for tar­pons (enor­mous mon­ster fish) and jump-off for fish­ing ex­pe­di­tions, all wrapped into one drift­wood­laced com­pound.

This charm­ingly ec­cen­tric mu­seum re­ally re­flects the quirks of the Keys – a col­lec­tion of div­ing para­pher­na­lia from around the world. The hall of div­ing hel­mets from around the world is par­tic­u­larly im­pres­sive (see skunkape.info; coral­ca­tle.com; rob­bies.com).


JUST NAT­U­RAL: (from far left) Sun­bathers on Miami Beach; kayak­ing in the Ev­er­glades; and yel­low­tail ce­viche dish at Water­bar Restau­rant, South Beach. Lonely Planet Images

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