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It has been many years since I visited the gulf side of south Florida. And I am so happy to be back.

This entire area is a natural shelling region. 

This area was among my first experiences in this state that I have really come to appreciate. But south Florida along this coast really is different and has a lot to offer.

We are staying at the brand new Holiday Inn Express on 5th Avenue south.

It is a property that was under a previous no-name brand until it was taken over a while back and then gutted and rebuilt from the inside.

It is absolutely new with that fresh feeling you get when you step into a new car for the first time.

As is the new style of properties that are trending best these days, wireless is free and a hot and cold breakfast is included.

We landed in Miami last night (Thursday) and checked in about 6:30 pm.

We were hungry and immediately headed over to a seafood restaurant within 5 minutes walking distance from the hotel called The Bonefish Grill.  As a side note there are a number of restaurants very close by in addition to this one.

We knew we were in for a treat when we saw how packed it was and were told we would have to wait 40 minutes…unless we wanted to grab a seat in the bar when one opened up.

Ten minutes later we were seated in the bar area, which for my money was just as nice and comfortable as the dining area.

I had some of the best tasting mussels I could ever have eaten. The sauce was so delicious that after dipping several slices of bread I could have foregone the main course.

I choose the Chilean Sea Bass which was excellent.

The Bang Bang shrimp Rae ordered was good but they were not the big prawns she was hoping for and they were quite heavily breaded.  Good, but not what she was dreaming about.

Today we enjoyed complimentary breakfast at the Holiday Inn and got in the car for a most enjoyable ride to Marco Island.

View of Marco Island shore with guide Shannon Monahan 

We were scheduled for a small catamaran ride to a uninhabited island to pick a few sea shells and enjoy the surroundings.

Our ‘captain’ and guide was a women named Shannon Monahan (that’s not Ukrainian is it). She was an excellent boatsperson and knew her stuff about the area.

The tour and catamaran is operated and owned by the Marriott in Marco Island with whom Shannon is employed.

It really is a quiet and relaxing experience on the water and the shells were as numerous as anyone could want with plastic bags given out by our guide to collect them.

Rae picking shells

The topography on the island was most interesting with shells, sand, and dead trees that, while they were affected by the salt ocean, looked like they had been burned by fire.

Interesting Topography!

We had lunch at a restaurant on the water called The Snook Inn. A full salad bar, a beer, and fresh Grouper for me and huge prawns for her (she finally got what she was craving) and we were back to the Holiday Inn for a rest.

The catamaran experience was good but, while they suggested swim wear, they also said the water could be up to our knees getting on the vessel and getting on and off when going to the island.

If you follow us on this excursion one day, WEAR SWIM WEAR.  It was a lie.

My wallet go wet in my trousers and my papers are still drying as I try to preserve them.

But with that warning you should consider the trip. It was worthwhile.

We likely will not tire of seafood during this trip as we talk about which Naples restaurant we will experience tonight.

I am supposed to golf in the morning if the golf clubs that apparently traveled to another destination as we landed in Florida, arrive on time.

On This Trip:

I wore my Tilley AirFlow hat while Rae wore her Tilley Raffia hat.

I was wearing ExOfficio underwear and Tilley socks which I know because of their moisture wicking qualities will dry very quickly.

Before we left we weighed our luggage to be sure we would not be pay for over poundage with a Balanzza scale.

My luggage is a Victorinox Werks 24 inch piece while Rae showed off her new Travel Pro Magna bag.

See these and more at www.journeystravelgear.com