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The Travel Insider Podcast

A Brand new travel podcast series

Hosted by Bec Miles, editor of Charitable Traveller Magazine, Charitable Travel’s Travel Insider Podcast will let you in on Travel’s best-kept secrets, hidden gems, and unforgettable experiences. 

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Join us on another 30-minute holiday, this time to Daytona Beach! We’ll hear from the general manager of Rose Villa Restaurant, Patrick Sullivan, and the director of communications at Daytona Beach, Andrew Booth as they talk about their beloved home town. Listen now to learn about the fascinating history, sporting heritage, and nature spots in Daytona – as well as some top tips for places to eat! 

Rebecca Miles: Hello, and welcome to Charitable Travel’s Travel Insider Podcast. My name’s Rebecca Miles, and I’m a travel journalist and the host of this podcast series that’s otherwise known as TIPs.

Today, we aim to not just give you lots of great travel tips, but we also want to transport you from wherever you are right now, perhaps you’re walking through the park or maybe you’re squashed into a crowded commuter train, to a place that will inspire you. Today we’re traveling to Daytona Beach on Florida’s Atlantic Coast, just under an hour’s drive northeast of Orlando and an hour south of historic St. Augustine, Daytona is one of the closest beaches to Orlando.

Yet the first thing that most likely comes to mind for Daytona is fast cars. The Daytona International Speedway is a huge deal here but explore beyond the track and you’ll find a lively city with 23 miles of white sand beaches at its heart. Loved by residents and visitors alike, the waterfront, its boardwalk, and all the possible activities are a natural focal point from which to explore the city’s science, arts, and foodie scenes. And at the heart of that foodie scene is Rose Villa restaurant. Built in the late 1800s, the ornate building plays homage to much of Daytona’s history and is currently successfully run by Patrick Sullivan, born and bred in Daytona, and one of the guests on today’s podcast.

Joining Pat is Andrew Booth, director of Communications at Daytona Beach. Andrew’s office is on the Halifax River that runs just behind the beach, so he’s in the ideal spot to share lots of local knowledge. So, let’s hand things over to the pair of them to tell us more about what we should include on a visit Daytona on our next holiday stateside.

Well, thanks so much for joining us, pat and Andrew now, Andrew, let’s turn to you first. Can you set the scene for us? You’re in downtown Daytona, aren’t you? What’s on your doorstep, please?

Andrew Booth: Yeah, that’s correct. The Daytona Beach CVB (Convention and Visitor’s Bureau) offices are located here in downtown Daytona Beach, off of the Halifax River, the inter coastal waterway and Beach Street.

So, there’s a lot of great places to visit for visitors who come to the area right around our offices. Right across the street from my office is the Jackie Robertson ballpark and statue. It’s the home to the Daytona Tortugas, the class A minor league baseball affiliate for the Cincinnati Reds.

But historically, Jackie Robinson Ballpark is the site of Jackie Robinson’s first professional baseball game back in 1946. Also located here off of Beach Street is the Halifax Historical Museum. Great music, great dining spots, a riverfront Esplanade, which is a mile of Intercoastal Waterway Park, it’s a premier gathering space, a botanical garden right here in the heart of Daytona Beach. And it’s got comfortable beaches, swings, all overlooking the Halifax River. It’s a dog park agility course and, it’s just a great place to visit and relax. The north end of the park is open, the south end will open later this year.

So that’s kind of the area around my offices and of course, just across the Halifax River is where the Atlantic Ocean and the beaches are located at.

Rebecca: Now, this 23 mile stretch of beach that you’ve got sounds absolutely incredible. How do visitors and residents make the most of it?

Andrew: The one thing that the beaches here in Daytona Beach have is accessibility. We have designated on beach parking zones as well as, convenient coastal parking areas. So, it’s easy to get to the beach and to enjoy it.

We have, 500 feet wide expansive shorelines at low tide, so plenty of space to enjoy the beach, to relax, to just sit in the chair and enjoy the sun. Or if you want to be more active, you can go paddle boarding, fishing, surfing, jet skiing, there’s just a number of activities you can do on the beach. The beaches really are our top attraction here in Daytona.

Rebecca: It’s just that, that I can’t get over how wide it is. That sounds in incredible. And I guess then as well, there must be so many different sections. If you do want to be more active, there’s space to do that. If you do just want to chill out, you’ve got space for everything, is that right?

Andrew: Yeah, that’s correct. Probably more in the center of Daytona Beach is where you’ll find more people traffic, but, down by the sea or Ormond Beach or Daytona Beach shores, you’ll find more elbow room for sure. And what makes our beaches unique too is that the sand is hard packed into the ground. So, it’s great for walking or running. And again, that’s why we’re able to have cars on the beach as well. That’s kind of what makes the, the beach so unique. And to kind of go back to that expansive shoreline, that 500 feet at low tide. There’s just lots of room to do things.

Rebecca: Now you mentioned having cars on the beach. What does that entail?

Andrew: Oh, we have, I think it’s around 11, out of the 23 miles. It’s about 11 or 12 miles that you’re able to drive on the beach or park on the beach. So, it depends on what your fancy is. But again, we also have these parks that are scattered along A1A where you can just park your car there and that’s free of charge and you can just walk out to the beach and all those parks also have like, grilling tables and you’re able to take, showers there as well. So, just a lot of resources there.

Rebecca: Fantastic. Um, pat, how about you? So, you are at Rose Villa in Ormand Beach. What’s, describe to us, what’s your neighbourhood like?

Patrick Sullivan: Well, Bec, thank you very much for having us today. The wide beaches here in Ormond is what gave Ormond Beach the name, the birthplace of speed.

Back at the turn of the last century, cars from all over the world would come here to the sands of Ormond Beach to do land speed records. In 1935, they moved to Utah, but one of England’s namesakes, Sir Malcolm Campbell broke the land speed record here in Ormond Beach eight times over that 25-year period. In the Bluebird, which was a 12-cylinder powered roll hose engine, fiberglass bodied car assembled in England.

Here at the Rose Villa in Ormond and all around the Ormond Beach area, we become known for our culinary experiences. There’s 12 restaurants in the walkable area, close to the Intercoastal waterway here in Ormond from sushi to steak to fine dining Steakhouses to like, here we are at the Rose Villas Southern Fine Dining. To the Ormond Garage, which has many, many different types of, they have craft beer there as well. Frida’s, which is Mexican, 63 Sovereign, 31 Supper Club, Orman Garage, Kona and Grind. So there’s numerous restaurants here and all unique, no national chains here.

Bec: Oh brilliant, so if you’re into your food, basically base yourself in Ormond Beach

Pat: Yeah, we are foody centric here and you can have the sea fair, there’s plenty of fresh seafood dining restaurants here in the Ormond Beach area, going all the way down to Ponce Inlet which is one of my favourite spots to drive down to.

Its home to the second tallest lighthouse in the United States and has about five or six different eateries right on the water. Andrew can probably expand on that a little bit more. It’s a little bit out of my neighbourhood, about 30 minutes south of here in Ormond Beach. Ormond Beach is located 10 minutes north of Daytona.

Bec: Okay, brilliant. All right, so Rose Villa, there is one of Daytona’s most historical buildings. Where else should people visit to learn more about Daytona’s roots?

Pat: Well, Daytona, the website for daytonabeach.com has great history about, the history of Daytona and Ormond in the entire area.
Ormond Beach was, at the turn of the last century, people weren’t going to South Florida as much. It was widely undeveloped. Ormond Beach was one of the last stopping points for some of the richest people in the United States. The Rockefellers, the Flaglers. Thomas Edison settled here for quite some time and many more like that. Henry Ford spent a lot of time here for the Ford Motor Company. So, Ormond Beach has some great history. Maybe Andrew could expand on where to find that information.

Bec: Oh, sure. I just mean as well though, if people are visiting and, on the ground, is it possible to take in like a walking tour or something like that? Which of the. and which of the sort of which are the sights that everyone must see?

Pat: Oh, oh geez. Here in Ormond Beach, we have the Casements was with John Rockefeller’s Winter Home. John Rockefeller at the time was the richest man in the world. He owned the standard oil company, and his winter estate is here right in Ormond.

The Three Chimneys, which is where molasses was distilled prior to prohibition. And much of the rum going into the United States was coming from right here in Florida.

Bec: Oh, I see, you’ve always been a bit, naughty, have you?

Pat: [Laughing] That’s the area. Yeah. We do have a reputation for that.

Bec: Sorry, you were going to say about down in Ponce Inlet and the lake down there.

Pat: Yeah, that’s, that’s one of my favourite spots because it’s so unique to Florida. It’s a small fishing village and if friends, if family wants to go down and take a fishing charter out of Ponce Inlet to go deep sea fishing, parasailing, like Andrew was saying earlier, kayaking, everything’s available that’s in Daytona on the southern end of the barrier island, which is Ponce Inlet.

Just a great day trip for anybody that’s visiting to the area, even anywhere in central Florida. Daytona’s only an hour away from anywhere.

Bec: Oh, that’s, yeah, that’s really useful to know actually, because it’s always handy to, it feels like Florida’s huge, but actually when you say about, when you say only an hour from, say Orlando or somewhere like that, that’s handy. Thank you. So, Andrew? Turning to you, the International Speedway is obviously a big deal in Daytona. Is it worth a visit, even if you’re not that big, a car racing fan?

Andrew: Oh, yeah, absolutely, Daytona National Speedway is a must visit if you come to this destination. You do not want to go home and tell your friends and family that you came to Daytona Beach, and you did not see the Speedway.

So, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a race fan or not. It’s a facility that you’re just not going to find anywhere else in the world. It’s 31 degrees on the high banks. It’s a 2.5-mile tri-oval. It seats over a 100,000 people. It also has a 3.56-mile road course.

It hosts several events throughout the year, beginning in January with the Rolex 24 at Daytona Sports Car Race, the DAYTONA 500 in February. It’s got motorcycle races, a summer stock car race, hosts Go-Kart races in December.

Bec: Oh wow.

Andrew: And they also have other events such as concerts and other different types of convention and gatherings. But throughout the year they host daily track tours. So even if you come to Daytona Beach and there’s not an event going on at the Speedway, you can still see the facility by taking a daily track tour. And the track tour ends at the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, which has a plethora of displays.

And the Speedway is also home to the DAYTONA 500 winning car every year. And that car is lead directly from victory lane to the Motorsport Hall of Fame Museum area, and the guests can see the actual winning DAYTONA 500 car. And that’s changed out every year. So, a lot to see and do at the Speedway.

And then right across the street from the Speedway is ONE DAYTONA, and that is a dining and entertainment complex. Lot of great restaurants, movie theatre, the Daytona, which is a Marriott signature hotel. So a lot to see and do over there as well. When you come to the Speedway area.

Bec: And is it, um, fairly easy to get tickets for events that are happening there, or do they tend to get booked up quite far in advance if visitors know when they’re going to be in Daytona.

Andrew: Well, it’s certainly great to, I certainly encourage visitors to make their plans early, but tickets are, they’re accessible. The DAYTONA 500 does traditionally sell out, the last year or two, it’s been selling out about a month ahead of time. But again, I encourage you to make your plans early as well as to secure hotels and accommodations and those kinds of things as well.

But it’s definitely a phenomenal experience. The DAYTONA 500. It was one of those sporting events that you have to see in person. It’s complete with a flyover and the pre-race ceremonies, two-and-a-half-mile race. The action is nonstop.

Bec: Yeah, definitely. That sounds incredible. There was one thing I just wanted to backtrack on a bit. You mentioned about Jackie Robinson ballpark, excuse my ignorance, I’m not a huge baseball fan, but, so for anyone else as well, can you tell us about Jackie Robinson? Because I feel like. Clearly a legend, I’d like to know a bit more about why.

Andrew: Yes, he broke the colour barrier in baseball, and he was the first African American that played in a professional baseball. And that happened right here at Jackie Robinson Ballpark. There is a museum onsite here at the ballpark, and they do daily tours there as well as a statue. It’s a very, he’s a very significant historical figure in this country, and we’re very fortunate to have him make that history right here in Daytona Beach.

It’s a, it’s a beautiful ballpark. I’s not like a 5, 6,000 seat stadium. I think it holds about 1,500, 1,600. It’s got a lot of charm, a lot of unique atmosphere to it. And it’s certainly, even if there’s not a baseball game going on, you certainly want to stop by there and see that ballpark. It’s in a very unique setting too. It’s, it’s right on the banks of the Halifax River and the Intercoastal there. So, a very unique place and something you’d like to see if you’re down the downtown Daytona Beach area.

Bec: Oh, fabulous. Thank you. That’s much clearer. So, Andrew, as we’re learning, the city is about more than cars though, isn’t it? What about the other activities that people can do?

Andrew: Well, we kind of, Pat mentioned it a little bit earlier, which is the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse, and I really would encourage guests to not miss that. It is the tallest lighthouse in Florida. As Pat mentioned, it’s 175 feet tall and it’s 203 steps to the top of that lighthouse. It really is one of the areas hidden gems, and from that view, a atop that lighthouse, the Atlantic Ocean is just stunning. There are other, a couple other little spots there around the lighthouse to hit and great restaurants down there.

The other area, other thing that I would suggest visitors to do when they’re visiting Daytona Beach area is that we have 70 miles of hiking and biking here in the area. A great place to go to is just a little bit north of Ormond Beach and that’s Tomoka State Park where you can go canoeing, you can walk the trails, ride the bikes, and there’s some great things to see there inside of State Park. So that’s another thing I would encourage just throughout the entire destination here in Volusia County, a lot of hiking and biking available.

Bec: Oh, fabulous. I had no idea. And how about the arts and the sciences? What about the cultural side of Daytona Andrew?

Andrew: Oh, yeah. We’ve, we’ve got a great cultural side here in Daytona. It really begins with a Museum of Arts and Sciences. It’s a Smithsonian affiliated museum. It’s Central Florida’s primary art, science and history museum. It’s a 100,00sq. ft facility that sits on 90 acres here in Daytona Beach. 30,000 objects inside the museum. The finest collections of American art in the Southeast, the sub-Saharan African artifacts, Chinese art, and the largest and most comprehensive collection of decorative arts here in the south.

Another unique thing about the museum is it’s got a massive Coca-Cola artifact and museum display of collection of there as well. We’ve got great Cuban. paintings, they have a lot of art talks, and there’s also a planetarium within the Museum of Arts and Sciences. And right next door to the Museum of Arts and Sciences is the Cici & Hyatt Brown Museum of Art. It’s the largest collection of Florida art. And over in Ormond Beach there is the Ormond Memorial Art Museum in Gardens. Another place to see beautiful art. I mentioned earlier too, here in the downtown Daytona Beach area, the Halifax Historical Museum. That’s a great destination to find out more about the history of Daytona Beach, its origins, and where we’re at now.

Bec: Oh, fabulous. You mentioned Coca-Cola. Is there a local connection then with that huge company?

Andrew: Yes. The Root family, which is local, they had a strong involvement in Coca-Cola and a lot of those artifacts are from their collection.

Bec: Pat, let’s come back to you. As general manager at Rose Villa Restaurant, you must have your nose to the ground when it comes to eating and drinking in Daytona. You touched on your local neighbourhood, but where else is there that’s brilliant and people and visitors must check out.

Pat: Sure Bec, one of my favourite restaurants in Florida is located in downtown Daytona Beach, and that’s the Cellar restaurant and that was Warren Harding’s, former home. Warren Harding was our 29th president, and he lived there, prior to becoming president, in the winters, with his wife and his in-laws. Now the restaurant is one of the best, like I said, in Florida, it’s great Italian food. It’s located. What would describe as the cellar, you actually walk down to getting into it.

And Chef Sam Moggio is one of the best chefs in Central Florida as well. As well as my chef, chef Sylvia Herrera. There’s a new spot and one of my favourite spots here in this area, going down to New Smyrna Beach. It was a great day of walking and dining and eating, and that’s the Avenue. It’s a new restaurant, three stories overlooking the, you can see both the river and the beach from the Avenue, and that’s located on Flagler Avenue. Down in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, which is about 20 minutes south of here. So all these restaurants, oh, another one of my favourites by the way, is Martinis Chophouse, and that’s on South Ridgewood, just south of the core tourist area here in here in Daytona. It’s organic fine dining. Some wonderful spots here, here in the Daytona Beach area and along the beach side in your core tourist area. There’s some wonderful local and national chains all serving the, what Florida’s known for the all the fish and the shrimp and scallops, all the local fresh seafood. So you certainly can find that anywhere. One of the best steakhouses in the area is located inside of our largest hotel, which is the Hilton Daytona Beach, Ocean Walk. And Hyde Park has some of the best steaks in central Florida. So, and that’s also dining al Fresco if you so choose right along the sea line coastline.

Bec: Oh, gorgeous. I can just imagine like lovely summer’s evenings, looking over all this water and just had such a brilliant pick of food. Tell us about, as well, the menu at Rose Villa though, and also, I want to hear more about the building there as well. From the pictures it looks gorgeous.

Pat: Yeah. Yeah. Well, the Rose Villa can be located at rosevillaormondbeach.com. We have a great gallery on there, but the house was built in 1901 by Henry Flagler. So many of your listeners maybe that have visited the area before, have heard the Flagler name. He was an initial investor in the standard oil company with John Rockefeller making them both the richest guys in the country at the time.

Flagler was not a big fan of the oil business, and he used the proceeds from his business to build a railroad here along Florida’s coastline and along the way, built hotels. One of them was here in Ormond Beach, the Ormond Hotel, which he basically he built this house in 1901, he had that opening at the same time, so he was going back and forth.

The Rose was a 10 room guest house for Mr. Flagler. And it had such a cool life, history. A lot of the drivers that broke the land speed record here in Ormond stayed here. And then in 2006, well, Mr. Flagler passed in 1913 and part of it became a boarding house for about the next 75 years.

Then Bill Jones, a local businessman, bought it in 2006 and turned in what it is today, which is one of Central Florida’s best dining restaurants. We just had a visitor from a popular TV show here in here in the United States, Guy Fieri has a show called Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, pretty unique character.

And he visited the restaurant a few weeks ago and fell in love with the Bouillabaisse and the pork chop. Those were his two favourite things.

Bec: Oh, nice.

Pat: Chef Herrera graduated from the Culinary Institute of America. And you wouldn’t think that a seaside tourist town like, like Ormond Beach. Would be known for its bouillabaisse, but he fell in love with it.

So no, we, we have southern fried chicken, the best fried chicken I’ve ever had, the best pork chop I’ve ever had. A couple great steaks. It’s just a really cool atmosphere. It’s very unlike anything. It’s a Victorian style building. 32 patterns of wallpaper, two bars, one being a whisky and bourbon bar, and a lot of great Irish whiskey as well.

And it’s one of the best bourbon collections in central Florida, so it’s a must for any bourbon aficionados coming from the UK. And then downstairs, as I mentioned before, we have the Bluebird Bar, which is a full bar. Dedicated to Sir Malcolm Campbell and the Bluebird and all the drivers that drove in that you’ll see pictures of three of four drivers that did pass driving it along with Sir Malcolm Campbell.

Bec: Oh, fabulous. Brilliant. Now Andrew, one of the things that caught my eye was the self-guided tours of the city that visitors can do. Can you tell me some more about those please?

Andrew: Absolutely. We created something called the Ultimate Daytona Beach Trail Guide, and it’s a guide to the most beloved car, craft, and culture themed attractions, iconic places, photo worthy spots all here in the destination. So those trails include hiking and biking. We talked about those 70 miles of hiking and biking trails here. Craft and artisan spirits, motorsports, iconic sites, African American history such as the Jackie Robinson ballpark, and the statute we talked about. Murals. We have a lot of street art all throughout the destination, and then statues and monuments, so they have a trail for each of those categories.

And those trails really are, it’s really just a collection of theme tours that help guide the visitor through the area. And the many cultural, historical, natural attractions, the great places for food and spirits, it really is just served as a kind of a way to find those different spots. It’s self-guided. You don’t have to do them all. It’s really just a way to find kind of, make your plans and decide what you want to do.

Bec: And are they downloadable from your website or where do people find them?

Andrew: Yeah, absolutely. That’s on daytonabeach.com and if you go to ‘things to do’ and click on ‘trails’, you’ll find all the different trails there that you can explore.

Bec: Oh, brilliant. Sounds like a great introduction. So, we’ve touched on it a little bit, but I want to go into a bit more detail. Daytona’s location. You know, Pat mentioned it’s an hour from many places, but Andrew, it sounds like it’s a great base to explore the rest of Florida. Where else should people see and do if they’re staying in Daytona for their holidays.

Andrew: Absolutely. Daytona Beach can kind of be like your base camp just a little bit south of Daytona Beach. About an hour south is the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral area. And of course, that’s where the America Space Program got its start back in the 1960s, and it’s still having active launches today. You might be fortunate if you visit this area, it’s not uncommon to see a launch. At any time during the day, you might be lucky enough to get something at night. Those things are just stunning to watch. Just about an hour west of Daytona Beach is Orlando. That’s where we have Orlando International Airport.

So that’s a great airport to fly into. And you can take Interstate 4 East to Daytona Beach. Interstate 4 connects here in Daytona Beach with Interstate 95, which runs north and south. And of course, there’s great attractions in the Orlando area such as Walt Disney World, SeaWorld, and Universal Studios.

So those are all the things you can do in Orlando. Now, just north of Daytona Beach, about 45 minutes to an hour is St. Augustine, one of the oldest towns in the United States. And of course, they’ve got a several different forts there and a lot of great Spanish history and some great restaurant and dining there.

So Daytona Beach can be a great place where you can make a lot of day trips throughout Florida during your visit.

Bec: That sounds perfect. Yes, definitely. Well, lastly, Pat, let’s just turn to you, Let’s say one of your oldest friends was visiting, how would you spend your ideal day in Daytona Beach with them?

Pat: Well, that’s a great question, and let’s go back to the boozing that I seem to be doing all the time. One of my favourite spots here is the Ocean Deck. So picking up a good buddy, I’d probably hit the Ocean Deck, which is located just south of the pier, here in the core area of Daytona Beach. And then after that, maybe, depending on the weather, round of golf at one of the wonderful golf courses here in the greater Daytona Beach area.

And then to top the night off, if I wasn’t going to the Rose Villa for dinner, I’d certainly be going to Hyde Park for a seaside steak dinner with one of my best mates.

Bec: Mm-hmm. Sounds good. Andrew, how about you? How would you spend your dream day?

Andrew: If I had a visitor who was joining me here today in Daytona Beach, I would probably kick off by going to the beach to see the sunrise. Probably grab a quick breakfast at Donny’s Donuts. That’s a great gourmet donut establishment that we have both in Ormond Beach, Smyrna Beach, and at ONE DAYTONA near the racetrack.

And speaking of Daytona, I would probably take them on a track tour of the Speedway because I want to make sure that they see one of the America’s greatest racetracks. And of course, I would make sure that we see the Motorsports Hall of Fame and that’s where they’ll find the Bluebird 5. I forgot to mention earlier, the Bluebird 5, Malcolm Campbell’s great land speed vehicle, maybe catch the archives, which is also, um, across the street, it’s a great site for NASCAR memorabilia. After the track tour would probably try to cash a Museum of Arts and Scientists on our way down to Ponce Inlet, where we would see the lighthouse and kind of wrap up our day and probably have a nice seafood dinner somewhere along the way there in Ponce Inlet. That’s probably what I would do during the day.

Bec: They both sound like pretty nice days, to be honest. Well, thank you so much, both of you for joining us today. It’s been brilliant to hear more about Daytona Beach.

Andrew: My pleasure. Thanks for having us.

Pat: Thanks, Bec.

Bec: To find out more and book your next holiday to Daytona Beach, visit charitable.travel/daytona-beach and for more info on Daytona Beach. Visit daytonabeach.com. Follow them on social media. And to learn more about Rose Villa Restaurant, go to rosevillaormondbeach.com.

Take a 30-minute holiday and Visit Lauderdale, Florida in this episode of Charitable Travel’s TIPs! Join us as we speak to Tracy Vaughan and Paul Mason of Broward County Tourist board, for an insider’s guide to the region and all it has to offer. Home to a diverse, welcoming community and more than 300 miles of canals, as well as a stunning stretch of beach, Greater Fort Lauderdale is well-loved for its active outdoors lifestyle, enjoyed with a hint of luxury – and of course the Everglades!

Rebecca Miles: Hello and welcome to Charitable Travel’s Travel Insider Podcast. My name’s Rebecca Miles, and I’m a travel journalist and the host of this podcast series that’s otherwise known as TIPs. Today we aim to not just give you lots of great travel tips, but we also want to transport you from wherever you are right now.

Perhaps you’re walking through the park, or maybe you’re squashed into a crowded commuter train, transport you to a place that will inspire you. Today we’re traveling to Greater Fort Lauderdale, a city on Florida’s, southeast Atlantic coast, and the county of Broward.

Easily accessible with its own international airport, Greater Fort Lauderdale is 45 minutes north of Miami. and an hour south of West Palm Beach and has great train links with the rest of Florida. Home to a diverse, welcoming community and more than 300 miles of canals, as well as a stunning stretch of beach, Greater Fort Lauderdale is well loved for its active outdoors lifestyle, enjoyed with a hint of luxury. But also, within Broward County is the Everglades, covering two thirds of the region.

So where else could you be enjoying some glamorous al fresco dining downtown one minute, and up close and personal with all the gators, birds and wildlife in the everglade the next. Joining me to share the secrets of Greater Fort Lauderdale and Broward County are Paul Mason and Tracy Vaughan from the Broward County Tourist Board.

So, let’s hand things over to the pair of them to tell us more about what we should do on a visit to Fort Lauderdale on our next holiday stateside.

So, thanks so much for joining us, Paul and Tracy. Tracy let’s start with you. Can you set the scene for us? Tell us about your downtown location and what’s on your doorstep, please.

Tracy Vaughan: Absolutely. Yes, I am here in downtown Fort Lauderdale and just steps away from our main street called Las Olas, which translates into the waves and is known as our street that takes you from the beach to our entertainment and restaurant district. Along Las Olas, you’re going to find lots of restaurants, some interesting shopping cause it’s all local restaurants and stores that are there.

So, it’s beautiful area, certainly for our visitors to experience. And behind Las Olas, is actually the new river which is has a wonderful river walk. It’s such a beautiful area to go to and on the new river you’re going to find the water taxi, which actually is the first stop of our water taxi.

And if you think about our water taxi, think about your hop on, hop off bus, but instead of having buses, we have boats. It’s a great way to experience our whole area. Actually, you can pick up the water taxi right there along the new river and it can take you out to the beach area, both south of our county and north of our county as well. And what’s so wonderful about it’s, you’re kind of getting a behind the scenes view of where people live because along the way, as you’re on the new river, you get to the intercoastal, but there’s waterways all along there as well, we have over three new miles of waterways and you’re going to see beautiful homes, the beautiful yachts. Quite amazing, quite a great experience to have and such a good way just to get around and experience all of our entire county essentially. So that’s kind of an overview of what we can see from here in, in downtown.

Rebecca Miles: That’s fabulous. So those canals sound incredible. Do you say there’s 300 miles of them?

Tracy Vaughan: Yes, 300 miles of canals. So, it’s quite spectacular. Like when you fly in you can kind of see how all these canals connect all the way out west. I mean, we’re big county and quite frankly in the western side of our county is everglade. But, these canals, they do travel back into the western side of our, our counties, and I should mention that, you know, we’re the yachting capital of the world, and you’ll go by these homes and you’ll see these beautiful boats and yachts behind the homes, but Bec, you’ll see that throughout because we are connected by these, these waterways. And we’re also known as the NIC of America. With all those waterways, we’re certainly known for our water.

Rebecca Miles: Amazing. So, people just get around by boat much more than they do buy a car or on land?

Tracy Vaughan: Well, I mean, it’s certainly an option. It’s certainly an option for a lot of folks here.

It’s, you know, you live here, and you’ll want to have a boat some form of, it doesn’t have to be big yacht, can be a little power boat, a paddleboard. There’s lots of ways to get around. I mean, quite frankly, I’m a big fan of getting around on the waterways and a kayak.

Rebecca Miles: Oh, wonderful. So if you’re visiting it’s easy to rent something to get on the water on?

Tracy Vaughan: Absolutely. Lots of options for being able to rent kayaks, jet skis as well. You can take a tour where you’re going around on a jet ski, so it’s quite interesting. So, lots of ways to, to experience our waterways, absolutely.

Rebecca Miles: Gorgeous. Paul let’s turn to you for a moment. I’d like you to tell me a bit more about the coast, please. You’re, you know, you’re right up against that Atlantic Ocean. You’ve got eight beach villages, is that right?

Paul Mason: We actually have 31 beach towns and inland communities that down along the Atlantic Ocean, and of course Intercoastal waterways. But yes, there are eight main actual beach communities. You can go from Deerfield, which is our furthest, most northern part of the beach, all the way down to Hallandale, which is our southern part of Broward County and the Greater Fort Lauderdale region each have their own very distinct vibe to them as well as lots of activities that you can do in each one.

To give you a couple of examples, Hillsborough, it’s just three miles long, in terms of length and 900 feet wide, that’s all it is. It’s nestled between the Intercoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean, and one of the things that we love most about Hillsborough is its historic lighthouse. You could take a tour and you could actually see during, from March through October, sea turtles nesting.

That’s the, the great thing about Hillsborough as well is it’s, it’s very quiet. It’s a very calm, relaxed, relaxed community. Pompano, I was just there on Monday, got to walk around the pier. The name Pompano was named after the Pompano fish and the actual pier is shaped like a fish. And divers especially love Pompano as well, you can actually literally go diving and see 18 shipwrecks, including the SS Copenhagen, which ran aground in 25 feet of water in 1900. You also walk literally just a hundred yards off the beach and see beautiful coral reef as well.

Rebecca Miles: Fantastic. You don’t expect to find Coral Reef on that sort of coast. That’s brilliant.

Paul Mason: Well, and actually we’re very, very fortunate with that. We’re, I mean, literally one of the questions that I know we’re going to talk about later on is, is our water sports and sports in general, and that’s what makes us such a unique sporting destination is all of the different types of water activities we have, as Tracy mentioned earlier, as well as other sports activities.

Even our communities like Lauderdale by the Sea, it’s got that old Florida vibe. You’re not going to see a lot of high rises in, in Lauderdale by the sea. It’s, it’s the older hotels that make up what the old Florida used to be that are still very, very much in existence and thriving right on the beach.

Then of course we have Fort Lauderdale, which is the heart of the greater Fort Lauderdale region. It’s known for our, our swanky restaurants and shops, and of course some very beautiful hotels, which of course dot the coastline as well.

And then of course Dania Beach, which I actually really enjoy because it’s very quiet, it’s really known for its solitude – terrific restaurants as well. And then last but not least, I’d love to talk about Hollywood, which is also known for its walkable path, or what we call the broadwalk here, not the boardwalk, so you have to make sure you use that R in there. And it’s a great mix of 30 architecture modern hotels; Margaritaville and the Costa, as well as restaurants like Gigi’s. And one of my favourites La tub, which is a, it’s a hamburger joint, right on the intercostal.

Rebecca Miles: Oh fabulous, Margaritaville sounds fabulous.

Paul Mason: It is! It’s right on the Boardwalk, Jimmy Buffet and of course, Margaritaville, the song, that’s where it comes from – they have a variety of restaurants on property, and it’s literally right in the centre of the Broadwalk in Hollywood beach.

Rebecca Miles: lush. Fabulous. And now I understand you as well love your sports memorabilia and history. Why is Greater Fort Lauderdale such a good place to be for sports fans?

Paul Mason: Well, one of the things that Tracy had mentioned, and I alluded to it as well, a few minutes earlier, is that it’s, it’s water sports, water sports, and water sports for the most part. I mean, if you want to go fishing, we are the place to go fishing. It’s a fisherman’s paradise here you can hook Pompano, as we talked about earlier, mackerel, Jackson and even sometimes shark. You can do that off of our piers and our waterways or out in the ocean on a yacht if you’d like.

One of the things that’s near and dear to Tracy’s heart is cycling and of course skating. We have so many trails and areas that you can cycle on. It is one of the things that we are known for. And incidentally, we were voted among the top 10 places to skate by rollerblading here in Greater Fort Lauderdale. There is other, some great scenic bicycle routes as well, which Tracy also talk about if she would like the Hollywood Broadwalk is one of them. The Fort Lauderdale Beach Boulevard, Elmar Drive in Lauderdale by the Sea, and Rio Vista as well.

And other things that we’re known for, which we’re very, very excited about is our champions that play here. We have the Florida Panthers, which play at Florida Live. It’s a HL hockey team and we did very well last year. That’s located right out in Sawgrass Mills. I’m off of Sunrise, another one of our communities as well, and very close to the Everglades. So, we have a professional hockey team here.

We also have the Miami Dolphins now. Yes, they are in Miami Dade, but it’s literally touching us right on Broward County. And of course, a lot of our fans will stay in Fort Lauderdale and our region and go to one of the games as well.

We also have the soccer team, it’s the Inter Miami Club, and the biggest part is Formula One, which we have a lot of the teams that come here to perform at Formula One and compete. They actually started this past year in May, and they’ll be with us for another nine years.

Rebecca Miles: Oh, fabulous and there’ll be a great buzz when they’re in town then.

Paul Mason: Oh, it’s amazing. And, and one of the two other things I also want to mention about our sporting too, and Tracy already talked about it a little bit, but we of course, are known as the yachting capital of the world.

It’s all about our yachts and the 300 miles of waterway. And as she said, we are the Venice of America and the yachting capital of the world. So, you can do a lot of sporting off of that as well. Jet skis throughout our intercoastal and our waterway, as well as the ocean.

And last but not least, I would be remiss in my duties if I didn’t speak about our golfing. We have some of the best championship golf courses here and we regularly host the PGA, the USGA and the FSGA events.

Rebecca Miles: Wow, lots going on. So, for visitors arriving in Fort Lauderdale, where’s best for them to find out about the all the cycle paths, the walking paths, the, where should they head to?

Paul Mason: Well, you can go to our, our website, visit lauderdale.com, which of course will mention a lot of this as well. And, Tracy, did you want to talk about that as well?

Tracy Vaughan: Yeah absolutely, the website, visitlauderdale.com is the place to go to learn about all that we have. So, and it’s recently been revamped and it’s great. It’s very user friendly and so cool.

Rebecca Miles: Excellent. We’ll check it out. Tracy, Fort Lauderdale, Greater Fort Lauderdale is a huge cruise destination as well, isn’t it? Not just for sort of visiting yachts, but also visiting cruise ships. What can visitors expect when they arrive by ship?

Tracy Vaughan: Well, we are in fact a big cruise destination here and people come in, fly in here or drive in.

Most of our international travellers obviously are flying in and it’s so convenient. Our airport and our port are side by side. So, when you fly in, you actually can see the ships. We’re the third largest port in the world actually. We’re not only a cruise port, but a, a cargo port as well.

So, it’s big business here, needless to say, on both ends. But, yes, and so we, but we aren’t just such a great destination itself, so it’s wonderful for our travellers to come in and make themselves, plenty of time to arrive here and do a pre and a post-cruise stay. We highly encourage that, our port is right in the heart of Fort Lauderdale, very close to our beach.

One of our main roads that leads to the port is 17th Street and along 17th Street there’s plenty of hotels there. Quick, easy access to the port, and most of those hotels are going to provide you transportation to the port. But you’re also just very close too, I mentioned downtown Fort Lauderdale, you’re, you’re literally a 15-minute drive into downtown, to the beach and there’s lots of properties that are right along the beach.

So, it’s just a great opportunity for people as they’re coming into cruise to certainly take some time here and post-cruise trips. A lot of times we’ve suggested our, our travellers that are taking their crew, you know, keep that shopping option until you get back because we have Sawgrass mills, one of the largest outlet malls in the country.

And you know, it’s just great like, then you just come here and you actually, you know, spend a little bit, few more days and you go and, and, and shop before you leave. And we see a lot of people doing that. We are so pleased to have our port here. It’s such a wonderful port. We have eight different cruise lines that are currently, that cruise out of there. And we’re getting a new one starting in. Disney is moving service to here. So, we’re very excited about that. They’re going into Terminal four and it’s being renovated now to certainly look like the Disney brand. So, we’re very, very excited about that.

We’ve recently had Princess Cruises and have announced their largest ship ever. The Sun Princess is going to be sailing out Port Everglades in the fall of 2024. So just lots of exciting things happening here. In 2023, the Ascent Celebrity, which is an Edge class ship, will be spending its inaugural season operating out of Greater Fort Lauderdale.

Wow. Okay. Yeah,

Rebecca Miles: Wow, okay! Definitely plenty to get out on the water. Then also what I, what I’m loving about the sound of the place is the, this understated luxury. Tracy, how does that play out on a day-to-day basis for visitors?

Tracy Vaughan: Yeah, you know, it’s very interesting here. I think we just traditionally have not been known as that luxury destination. We have destination to the north of us and to the south of us that maybe have more of that reputation, but we certainly have it here and it’s, we consider it to be a casual luxury. And the fact that we are the yachting capital of the world. I mean, it tells you, you know, there’s yachts here which certainly resonates luxury, but it’s really understated.

But there’s so many activities and things to do here that have that feel of, of that luxury. I mean, we have our Broward Centre for Performing Arts where you can go and see Broadway shows and opera and ballet and, and concerts, and that’s right along that new river that I was talking about earlier in downtown.

What’s so cool about it is people actually arrive to the centre in their boats or in their yachts, which you might want to call them.

It’s in our little entertainment district and close by, is also the NSU Art Museum. Beautiful, beautiful museum. It’s so wonderful, and the Museum of Discovery and Sciences in that area as well. But you really get this sense of this opportunities to, to enjoy our arts and our culture, that it’s just really understated and it’s all very accessible. I think sometimes you go into these areas that are kind of known for the luxury and, and you may be intimidated to some degree, but here you just, it really is casual and it’s comfortable. But there are opportunities, obviously, you know, for some fine dining, rooftop dining, al fresco dining. So, it’s all here, but it’s kind of understated and, and we love it for that reason because we like to think, you know, we’re everyone under the sun we welcome everyone. We want everyone to feel comfortable here and find your place here. And we really feel like we do that. We do it well.

Rebecca Miles: That’s good to hear. Where in particular do you like to go for dinner? Where do you seek out?

Tracy Vaughan: I, it’s interesting because, I’m very fortunate where I live, I have things right around me that I can literally walk to and I love anything where I can sit outside and that al fresco dining, and so much of that is near body or water, whether it’s the intercoastal, the waterways, or actually, you know, Beachside. So, I’m a big fan of having that opportunity. So, I have a place near me that’s called Shooters. That’s right on the, intracoastal you can get there by water taxi. So, it’s very, very cool and in that little district, that little area where it is, there’s lots of little places that, you know, little local restaurants that you can go there, but then you can walk out the door and there’s options to go hear some entertainment and so forth.

So, but there’s lots of these places all over. It’s hard, it’s hard to nail that one down. And as I mentioned earlier, there’s lots of restaurant, all of our communities do, and I think what’s really interesting here, because we are such a diverse community, the options for different types of food is incredible.

Whatever you’re looking for, you’ll find it here and throughout the county – and I love that, you know, small places that run by locals cooking with where, you know, wherever they may have come from. So, lots of different ethnic food here that’s just absolutely incredible. And again, it’s almost like that understated. It’s not like showing off, it’s just this is real.

Rebecca Miles: That sounds great. So, it’s just sort of naturally inclusive, naturally. Everyone’s welcome.

Tracy Vaughan: Yes. Absolutely.

Rebecca Miles: Paul. Now, you’re so close to the Everglades, aren’t you, in Fort Lauderdale. How do you recommend seeing the best of that delicate ecosystem?

Paul Mason: Now one of the great things about, our region and I think we’ve alluded to it as well a little bit earlier, is that literally you can be in saltwater and then 20 minutes later you can be in freshwater with the Everglades. That’s how close it is.

So, the best way to see the Everglades and, and, and one of the things, it’s, it’s one of my favourite parts of living here in Fort Lauderdale. My family just came down a few weeks ago and one of the things that we did right away, the first thing they wanted to see were the Everglades and, and how do we get around the Everglades?

We took them on an airboat ride. Now that’s just one part of the Everglades. But again, one of the reasons why the Everglades are so popular and why we want people to go on experiences you’ll never see anything like it, it is an ecosystem unlike anywhere else in the world, the wildlife you will see in the wilderness, wilderness you won’t find anywhere else in the United States.

So, it is a must when you are here. So, as you know, we are the gateway to the Everglades. We have several parks that do provide services such as airboat rides, and you have a chance to see some of that wildlife and wilderness that we spoke. Possibly seeing alligators and Florida Panthers, which for lot of Florida panthers are, that is their natural home right in the Everglades.

We also, you know, work with companies such as Everglades Holiday Park, and Sawgrass Recreation Park, where you can get around and enjoy those airboat rides, a seminal village, a live alligator show, and reptiles and birds of prey exhibits. You can also do camping and boating and fishing in the Everglades as well.

So that’s something to also keep in mind. There are private tours and that kind of adventures that are also available, so lots of ways to get around. One of the things that I prefer though, I would always recommend to anyone that is coming to our region to definitely do an airboat ride, to feel the air in your face as you’re, as you’re moving through the waterways. It’s just amazing, you know, but you make sure you have to bring your earplugs, and if you don’t have them, they’ll provide them for you. But that’s an experience like nothing else. They, they talk about the history of the Everglades and, and how the ecosystem actually works. So, it’s not just about, you know, adventure and, adventure touring and all of that. It’s also a bit of education as well.

Rebecca Miles: That’s cool because it is, as you say, it’s such a unique place, isn’t it? It’s unlike anywhere else.

Paul Mason: Yeah, unlike anywhere else in the world. Or in the United States at least!

Rebecca Miles: Not bad, now you’ve spoken previously about that hard to put your finger on feeling of Greater Fort Lauderdale. Can you try and describe what it is for you about the various communities that make the place so vibrant?

Paul Mason: It’s funny, when we spoke about this earlier prior to the interview, it’s that the vibes are so different everywhere. It’s so hard to put your finger on just one vibe. And honestly, that’s why we are really everyone under the sun. That’s what we’re all about here. You’ll see it in all of our information. Everyone under the sun.

We welcome visitors from all over the world, not just domestically here in the States, or not just Europe and England, but everywhere. Everywhere in the world. One of the great things about our region is how many multicultural residents we have. We have over 180 languages that are spoken right here. So, if you think about that, that vibe and it’s, it’s amazing. So just that alone and all of the cultures that are here, that live here, work here and thrive here. That in itself is a vibe that can offer, you know, anything that anyone could possibly want right here in our region.

So whatever culture, whatever, creed, origin, ethnicity, and how you identify yourself, you’ll find here as well. One of the other great things too about our vibe is our LGBTQ plus presence. We are the capital of LGBTQ Plus community here in Florida. And hundreds of LGBTWQ+ owned and operated hospitality businesses including hotels, bars, clubs, and restaurants in our, our own, CVB here, we do have someone that represents this community and represents it all over the world. We have an incredible pride event here, that happens once a year, annually. So again, we’re very, very open to everyone under the sun, and that vibe carries through every community that we have.

Not just in our culture and in the languages that we all speak and the different backgrounds that all have here, but also in the types of beach communities that we have. Some are more relaxed; some are more vibrant and exciting. With a little bit of a nightlife, you have a great restaurant presence, as Tracy mentioned earlier, as well as a luxury presence, which in the past we weren’t really known for, but now we are.

So, you, you have those different vibes – if you want sports and yachting we have that vibe too. So tough to put it on just one, put my finger on one point of it. It’s literally 180 different types of vibes in the language that we speak, and over 140 cultures that live here. So, think about that as a vibe and that’s how much we have.

Rebecca Miles: That’s brilliant. It’s great to hear how important that is to you as well. It’s really makes it sound so welcome. It’s brilliant.

Paul Mason: You know, you just said you have the water sports, the beaches, the Everglades, a cosmopolitan lifestyle with luxury, professional sports and world class shopping all in one place. It is everyone under the sun.

Rebecca Miles: Now, Tracy, tell me about these tiki boats please. They have a special place in Fort Lauderdale’s history, don’t they?

Tracy Vaughan: They do. They’re so interesting. So, we do have these tiki boats. They look like a tiki, interesting story behind it – a couple here. The gentleman was retiring, and his wife was like, I want a tiki in the backyard.

And they happened to live in of these waterways and, and he thought about it, and he was an engineer when he thought about it, he thought, well this is going to take up too much space in the yard so I’m going to put in the waterway and so he did. And its coastguard approved anything with, you know, any water or vehicle would need to be. And so, you know, they decided to put a motor on it, and he said, you know what? This, we can go, when I talked about the Al Fresco dining, well we can 15th Street Fisheries, on our tiki, and cruising along their, in these other boats and yachts. And people are like, wait a minute, where did you get that? What is it? Yes. What, what is this? And so, he was encouraged because people were like, well, we want one. Well, he had, you know, built this himself. So, he did that. He started building them and selling them, and it became a franchise. And they’re actually all over the country now. Different cities around the country with waterways and rivers. You find these tiki boats there. But it’s such a cool way to experience here.

Six people. It’s got, it’s a little bar. Just as you would imagine to have in your backyard – a little bar with, with the bar stools, it’s the bring your own whatever beverage and snacks that you might want, you bring those with you. Six people. You go out for a couple of hours; you decide where you want to go. It’s just such a fun way – So if you got a group of friends or you’re here with your family and you just want to create your own bespoke experience of being on our waterway. It’s such a fun way to do it.

They did tell me that this fun story, they have a client that’s a regular, that has a group of girlfriends, and he literally picks them up at her home takes them to, I mentioned shooters earlier, takes them to shooters with a happy hour and that’s their whole thing. They, they bring their own and then they Uber home, but it’s like a regular, you know, girls get together once a month and this is what they do, and it’s like, how fun is that? I mean, it’s just such a unique, and you just create your own experience. So, we highly encourage it. They’ll pick you up where you like along the waterway, but they do have a, a regular pickup in downtown as well.

Rebecca Miles: Oh, fabulous. Yeah, that sounds just, as you say, perfect fun, what a unique experience. So, lastly Paul, if one of your oldest friends was visiting, how would you spend your ideal day together in Greater Fort Lauderdale? Where would you go? What would you do? Where would you, what would you eat? What would you want to see?

Paul Mason: It’s, it’s, it’s an interesting question because I think everyone has different types of friends… It depends on the friends. I, have friends of mine that would be very happy going shooters as said earlier and just sitting there all day and enjoying themselves,

Rebecca Miles: I meant more for a shake, showcase this, it’s more about what’s available… beyond shooters!

Paul Mason: Exactly, But you know, the typical time that we have with friends that come to visit us, and of course, Things that I could definitely tell you I’m a north easterner, but when I moved here, I found a whole bunch of new friends I never knew I had from the Northeast that wanted to come down and, you know, spend time in the area, which is really, it’s fantastic.

I think one of the main parts of a day would be literally showing them the beaches and enjoying that part of it. I know that my friends, one of my best friends from home came down with his wife and family and we took him to Hollywood, and we walked on the, on the broadwalk and had a great time, and later on in the morning we went to the beach after we had breakfast and just enjoyed the beach atmosphere.

Later on in that day, and one of the things that I highly recommend is strolling around Las Olas and enjoying that. You can have a, a great bite to eat as, as Tracy had mentioned earlier around Las Olas, whether it be for lunch… And then of course there are some great shops, which of course, people love to shop, at least that’s what I’m told by my wife and family, such a cliché, sorry!

Tracy did mention that as well, you know, if it’s a rainy day here, you can go up to Sawgrass Mills Mall, which is the second largest attraction here in Florida. So, you know, and just walk around and, and enjoy the mall and, some of their higher end stores as well as the, the regular stores that you’ll find anywhere – but here they’re outlets.

So, at the end of the day, my favourite thing to do is just that I love the beach. I love giving a chance to go out in the water. Taking, you know, a, a boat on, on the in Intercoastal and going up and down and seeing those beautiful million-dollar homes and, and all of the beautiful hotels that that thought both the in Intercoastal as well as the ocean.

So that is something that I enjoy doing as an ideal day. And then of course, at night, finishing up with something that I love called the Ale Trail, which I kind of alluded to I think a little bit earlier, where we actually have an ale trail where you can take a look at the map and, and follow it and we actually are, are getting quite well known for our craft beer and micro-breweries here.

So, you can enjoy that and have a card and make sure that you, you get notified or, notice for your stop at that bar. And then last but not least, and Tracy, I would be remiss if I didn’t ring up Jackson’s for ice cream at the end of the day. Jackson’s is in Dania Beach and it’s, right off of Route One. It’s, I believe established in 1956, and it’s known for its incredible ice cream, which is all made right there on premise. It is a huge, huge tourist destination as well as locals love it. Great menu. And of course, the scenery, it’s like old Americana with license plates and things hanging from the ceiling and the walls.

So, it’s, it’s a lot of fun. And if you, you know, are with, with friends that have come into town, I highly recommend that, especially if they have kids.

Rebecca Miles: Oh yeah. And who doesn’t live a bit of ice cream.

Paul Mason: Oh my God. It’s, it’s the best. And, and quite honestly, you know, for an ideal Day, beach, a little bit of water sports and finish it off with a nice restaurant and some ice cream at.

Rebecca Miles: Perfect. Tracy, how about you? How would you spend your Dream Day in greater Fort Lauderdale?

Tracy Vaughan: Well, Paul alluded earlier that, biking is very important to me. I’m a cyclist and regularly, most days I get up early and take a ride. Along our scenic highway, A1A that hugs, hugs the Atlantic Ocean so that I can see the sunrise.

And I’ve been doing this for quite some time here and I never tire of it every day it’s different. I caught it this morning. It’s just amazing. I love it and it’s just such a great way to start your day. And I was thinking about it when I was riding this morning that it’s amazing to me too how many mornings I can get up and do it. I don’t go out when it’s raining and storming! But it’s the motivation that gets me up in the morning, see the sunrise.

But I was thinking about it. You can do it almost every single day. I mean it, you know, we do get rain obviously. That’s why it’s so beautiful here in green and beautiful. We have over 3,000 hours of, of sunshine every year here. And so, I feel so fortunate because we are an outdoor destination year-round.

And so that’s how my day starts and if I was spending all day with a friend and hope they’d want to bike with me and go catch that sunrise.

Rebecca Miles: What time do you typically need to be up to catch the sunrise then?

Tracy Vaughan: Well, right now it, you know, it varies. Right now, the sun’s rising a little after 7:00 AM. So, I go out, I typically go out a little bit after six and so it just depends what time I’m catching at because, you know, earlier, it was rising of six 30 and so forth, so I make a six o’clock. So, I’m either catching it on the front end or the back end of my ride, but I’m catching it for sure.

Rebecca Miles: Where’d you head to after seeing the sun?

Tracy Vaughan: Well, you know, the thing about, you know, if it’s on the weekend, and Paul mentioned this earlier, but, you know, you got to go jump in some salt water , and unfortunately right here, close to where I live, Lauderdale by the sea, it, it does have shore diving, but I go snorkelling and I would go, it’s about a hundred metres off and you, you come to the first reef.

So, it’s easy, you know, if you love to snorkel and be in the water and can do that. It’s just such a refreshing way – a great way to start the day, right? And you know, I got to fuel up and so forth. And there’s a great little restaurant called The Alchemist. It’s over in Maynard that Paul mentioned earlier, which is what Maynard is known as our LGBTQ community.

But it’s such a wonderful community with so many wonderful places to eat. But the Alchemist is known as a kind of a great place to go for that morning coffee. And they have some wonderful breakfast, and brunch type foods are definitely going to fuel up and go there. And I am just a big, you know, I love the outdoors and I love the flora here.

And so, I would want to take my friends out to Flamingo Gardens of just such a unique place. They have over 3,000 species of plants and trees. And they had the largest collection of Florida wildlife as well. So, it’s just such a great experience and it’s just a way just to kind of chill out and, and just be amongst nature, but you’re still right here in this community and it’s just a cool way to spend an afternoon leisurely.

And what’s really too, because I live here, there’s a lot of interesting nurseries out there. And I just like to go and walk through the nursery – I would drag somebody with me and buy some plants. I’m about that, but yeah. You know, like just wrapping up the day, I mentioned earlier the alfresco dining and, and some really cool areas.

Pompano Beach. Paul touched on that as well, but it’s just a great, there’s that pier there, there’s several restaurants that are right on the beach, and there’s some little, there’s some little shops in there as well, so it’s just a great place just to take a walk about. And then have a nice dinner and you can go have dinner at one of the restaurants and then have an after-dinner… There’s a little new rooftop bar there that opened up the last six months in one of our hotels. And again, it’s overlooking the ocean. It’s high up that you can now look to the west and see the sunset. It’s, it’s actually a true, a Hilton, so it’s, that hotel just opened up about six months ago. So, it’s, it’s the rooftop bar that sits on top of that, that hotel. It’s very, very, very cool. And it’s a large space too, so quite interesting, and sometimes they have music there. So, it’s just a great to close out, fun, relaxing, kind of day.

Rebecca Miles: So, from sunrise to sunset for you.

Tracy Vaughan: Absolutely.

Rebecca Miles: Oh, fabulous. Well, thank you both Paul and Tracy so much for joining me today. It’s been great talking.

Paul Mason: Oh, thank you very much.

Tracy Vaughan: Thank you.

Rebecca Miles: To find out more and book your next holiday to Greater Fort Lauderdale, visit charitable.travel. For more information on Greater Fort Lauderdale, visit lauderdale.com and follow them on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter under the handle @VisitLauderdale.

Discover the beautiful Greek islands in this episode, as we speak to Eleni Skarveli, Director of the Greek National Tourism Organisation, Anni Mitropoulou of the Cyclades Preservation Fund and Victoria Turner of the Ionian Environment Foundation. 

Learn about initiatives in place to preserve these beautiful islands so we can enjoy them for years to come, and be inspired by the wonderful natural offering that the islands present to tourists. 

Rebecca Miles: Hello and welcome to Charitable Travel’s Travel Insider podcast. My name’s Rebecca Miles, and I’m a travel journalist and the host of this podcast series that’s otherwise known as TIPs. Today we aim to not just give you lots of great travel tips, but we also want to transport you from wherever you are right now.

Perhaps you’re walking through the park or maybe you’re squashed into a crowded commuter train, to a place that will inspire you. Today we’re travelling to the Greek islands and in particular the Ionian and the Cyclades Islands. The Ionian Islands are to the west of mainland Greece and are where you’ll find among those Corfu, Paxos, Zakynthos and Kefalonia.

The Cyclades are in the Aegean Sea and are under the southeast of mainland Greece. Home to many tiny islands, some of the most well-known are Mykonos, Naxos and Santorini. Idyllic Mediterranean Islands known for their white sandy beaches, warm hospitality, and ancient history, they are justifiably popular holiday destinations.

But behind the beautiful Instagram sunset pictures, there’s another side to the islands that we want to uncover, and that is to talk about all the incredible conservation work that local charities are doing. So joining us today are Annie Mitropoulou from the Cyclades Preservation Fund, and Victoria Turner from the Ionian Environment Foundation, as well as Eleni Skarveli from the Greek National Tourism Organization.

So let’s hand things over to these three and hear more about life on the islands and the conservation efforts that are underway to protect and nourish these islands for future generations.

So thanks so much for joining us, Anni, Victoria, and Eleni. Anni, let’s start with you. Set the scene for us please, tell us where are you based,

Anni Mitropoulou: First of all, thank you for inviting us, Bec, it’s a real pleasure and honour joining this Charitable Travel’s Insider Podcast.

As a representative of the Cyclades Preservation, where am I based? Well, I used to live with family in Athens the capital of Greece, but during the pandemic, we decided to offer ourselves some quality of life, and we moved to the island of  Naxos in the centre of the, of the Cyclades, in the heart of the Aegean sea. So I’m honoured to say that I’m now a real islander, you know, living the real experience of the Cyclades, which is amazing.

I would like to say not only in the summer, but also during autumn, spring and even during the winter. Imagine, we saw snow last year on the mountains! As the CPF is not only me, my colleagues are also based on some of the islands, on on Syros, on Naxos, on Santorini at the moment.

So we’re between Athens and all these beautiful places.

Rebecca Miles: Oh, you lucky thing. Victoria, tell us where are you joining us from and where’s your organization based?

Victoria Turner: Yes, hello. I’m a member of, well, the director of Ionian Environment Foundation, and I’m based in Paxos, which is a very small island, about 10 kilometres long, and about an hours hydrofoil away from Corfu Island.

It’s a beautiful, precious, and picturesque island. My home has been there for about 40 years. It, it’s a, a very romantic story about how that entered into my life. But consequently, to cut a very long story short, I have a home and a lovely, dynamic Greek family there so I’m very much part of that island.

But that said, the Ioninan Environment Foundation represents all of the Ionian islands, and as such, I guess you couldn’t really say it has a single base. We’ve, supported projects in Corfu and Zakynthos, Kefalonia, Lefkada, Ithaca… so you could say we’re based everywhere, but my place of preference because of my personal ties is, has to be Paxos.

Rebecca Miles: Beautiful. Yes. Annie, tell us more about the Cyclades Preservation Fund. What, what do you do?

Anni Mitropoulou: Wow. Yeah. Thank you. We do a lot of nice things. Actually, a lot of friends of mine say that they’re jealous of mine somehow because I have this dream job and I really feel lucky because this, the CPF gives me the opportunity to be in contact with such a beautiful place and such beautiful people.

So what is the Cyclades preservation fund? The CPF is a Greek registered not-for-profit association, which was set up to support sustainable initiatives and promote the preservation of the exceptional, breath-taking, I would say, beauty and the natural value of course of, of the Cyclades Islands.

So what we do is we try to raise funds locally and internationally from both, I would say, people and businesses and other organizations that care and rely on the Cycladic Islands wellbeing and future. And we ensure that these funds are directed appropriately to local effective and sustainable initiatives and organizations which have a measurable impact on land and at sea.

Let me just say that we are members of a global family, which is called The Conservation Collective, which is a global network of local philanthropic funds focused on protecting, preserving, and restoring the natural environment. And from our end, in the five years that we have been operating in the Cyclades, we have invested more than 400,000 euros in more than 65 environmental initiatives and collaboration with more than, I think 40 or more local partners in 20 islands of the Cyclades.

Rebecca Miles:  Wow. So that’s a huge reach you’ve got covering all the islands. Getting involved really in the Grass roots?

Anni Mitropoulou: That’s exactly what we’re doing. We try to be as hands on as possible. We offer capacity and expertise where needed. And actually this is exactly the heart of the CPF. The fact that there are guiding principle is as bottom up as possible.

This bottom up approach that makes us somehow listen to and help the people of the Cyclades islands with initiatives that they themselves are starting because this is exactly what makes a difference. We’re not here to set the agenda, but we are providing support and guidance for conservation projects that the local communities have embraced.

I think this is exactly what makes the CPF different.

Rebecca Miles: Can you give me some examples of those specific projects?

Anni Mitropoulou: Absolutely. As I mentioned, there are more than 60 projects at the moment. So the main focus, I would say goes on, biodiversity and wildlife cause we are so lucky. And so to have such a beautiful and, and, and, and reach, uh, biodiversity, for example.

There are associations and initiatives working for protection and rehabilitation of wild animals. We have, um, sea turtles or dolphins or even this rare Mediterranean, monk seals that I’m sure that our visitors coming to the Atlantic Islands have seen during their sailing trips. We are protecting these animals by providing measures and capacity to the people on the ground to have the means to do so.

We work a lot with schools in the Cyclades. We run a lot of environmental education programs, either they have to do with the plastic use or they have to do with the local flora. We are creating botanical gardens and we are installing composting systems within schools for the new generation to get more familiar with the right waste management.

We are running campaigns to reduce single use plastic, or we’re working a lot with fishermen for them to do their best in order. Protect our seas, for example, by promoting fishing trips where in this case you see the fishermen can fish less. So put less pressure to the fish stocks, but at the same time earn more money.

And what’s the best is that we have super happy visitors experiencing the real, you know, like life of a fisherman and tasting this local fish. You know? Too many examples, I would say, where we target different locals and local groups. Either we, we will be working with, with fishermen or the schools or local entities, or even the women’s associations.

Rebecca Miles: This just sounds win-win for everyone involved. Tell me though, why are the Cyclades so important to you? What drew you them to you? What drew you to them?

Anni Mitropoulou: Yeah, well, apart from the fact that I’m married to an Islander, so the connection is obvious right now, and my family lives there, right? No, seriously, I genuinely believe that in this old saying that nature isn’t just a place to visit, that nature is home. And I think that, especially with the pandemic, but even, even apart from that, you know, like more and more we, we all find ourselves detached from nature. It’s like turning your back on your own elders, you know?

So we miss out on a lot of important life lessons. So I think that I’m privileged to have been reunited with, with nature during these, you know, like five years when I moved to Naxos, and especially the last three years when I moved to Naxos and mainly experiencing everything natural that the Cyclades have to offer.

Thanks to the CPF and the milestones we celebrated on the ground and the people, these local heroes, you know, all these, all these people who struggle, I would say right quietly to make sure that they will preserve their land. The sea of the Cyclades. So I’m really privileged because the Cyclades for me is now important, not only cause of its nature, but also cause of, of the people that I’ve met, all these partners we have, and this beautiful relations of, of trust that we have built all this previous years.

Rebecca Miles: Fabulous. Let’s turn to you Victoria. What does the Ionian Environment Foundation do?

Victoria Turner: Very similar setup to the Cyclades Preservation Fund in that we obviously are, are one of the Conservation Collective foundations. We essentially work very hard to raise funds initially from, from an array of businesses, individuals, philanthropists that care for this environment. And, and then as Anni explained, we, we seek out action groups or scientists, conservationists on the ground at a local level in the Ionia region, who need those funds. They need those funds to, to deliver worthwhile and impactful projects.

And what we aim to do is to allow our funds to really turbocharge those actions into good results and sustainable results. We often also work with, with other NGOs to group support such projects in order to make sure that that the relevant expertise and relevant fields of marine conservation, for example, are as best as they can be.

And we then very often work collaboratively to build a project that is, as I said, as impactful as possible with the main. Being to change mindsets and attitudes, both locally and arguably nationally, if we can never reach policy level about the importance of protecting these really pressure beautiful islands that we all love so much.

So essentially in that respect, I would say that what a lot of what we do is in a capacity building and, and a supporting. Other than just financial injections, we really try to build the best projects possible. It’s a huge part of, of what we do.

Rebecca Miles: And it sounds like there’s a real long term nature to your projects and having that vision to be thinking not just five, 10 years ahead, but way, way into the future. Is that right?

Victoria Turner: Exactly, because often small action groups or concerned environments lists locally will come to us with a problem. They’ll say, this beach is covered in litter. What can we do about it? Or, this farm fish farm is polluting. What can we do about it? We want it to be cleaned. We will always work hard to build a project that thinks about what?

What can we do to address this problem? But what can we do to address the cause? Only then will you really have a long term and an impactful project.

Rebecca Miles: And tell me, um, what attracted you to the Ionian Islands? I want to hear more about this romantic story from 40 years ago…

Victoria Turner: Well, what, what, what attracts anyone to the Ionian islands?

I mean, they are, they have this beautiful dynamic landscape. The mountains, the seed, the olive grows. Kofu and Paxos in particular have a very dramatic coastline. With the Venetian town tumbling down towards the water, it combines a lot of pleasures for the eye and the minds and the soul in my mind, obviously also the charm of the people and the easy-going laid back case of life.

These are all things that attracted me here. But I suppose what kept me here and what keeps me here, and as Anni said, what is such a privilege to be working here with is this deep desire and, and now ability to help protect these incredibly precious landscapes. And also to promote this awareness about, about their fragility, because if they’re lost to overdevelopment or, or overfishing or obliterated by the growing amount of, of waste, for example, who will come.

So it, it really does feel like a privilege to be here and, and be working with these projects during covid, during lockdown, for pretty much the whole of that year. And a bit like Anni said, it was, it was really then that you really reassessed what was important and how precious this environment was because all of a sudden on Paxos, there were no people, there were no planes flying over, there were no tourist boats, and the islands became pristine within a matter of months.

It was, it was really incredible how quickly the environment changed for the better. And I would, I would go on these, these stunning runs along the west coast of Paxos and look out to sea, and it was then that I spotted, a good hundred metres below me, the monk seal swimming. And as Anni said, these are a really endangered species, uh, most of which are found in the Iron Islands now, and part form, part of the projects that we, we work with to, to, to promote their conservation. But it was really that, that triggered me into thinking we have to do all that we can to ensure that this pristine environment is protected.

Because during the high season periods with crowded tourist folks crushing into those caves, they disturb the monk seals and they disappear, or they, they can’t even breed effectively. So a number of things really that, that make me feel excited about this role. And there’s much to do and I’m, and I’m thrilled if we can engage the tourist industry as far as possible with protecting the environment that they come to see.

Rebecca Miles: Eleni – turning to you, it sounds like Greece is really taking the lead on some strong conservation initiatives from improving this sustainability and waste management to wildlife rehabilitation. What’s the thinking behind of all of this?

Eleni Skarveli: Well, I feel very proud for all the initiatives that Anni and Victoria mentioned. And they’re doing an amazing job. I have to say. I also learn along, this is of course an ongoing work, but the most important thing is that we have started as a country, our sustainable journey, and this is what we are doing actually today. We, we want your help to start it out, and it’s of course it’s a great opportunity for Greece to show that we’re not just a sexy girl, you know, just a beautiful sea and sun destination – we’re more than that.

With a safe and sustainable choice for travellers, especially let’s say for the travellers that they’re looking more than just relaxation. They’re, they’re thinking more the choice of, of holidays. And actually Visit Greece are launching a new platform, Sustainable Greece, where we will do exactly that. We will be showcasing all the great sustainable activities that are happen in Greece or there will be happening in the future. And, actually one of those, many of those, they, they’re one of the ones that Anni and Victoria are having in the programs.

But the one that I have to say that I liked most and I find it very funny, is that Pick the Alien Initiative!

Rebecca Miles: Sorry, Pick the Alien?

Eleni Skarveli: Exactly, yes. Well, the girls, they could definitely say more about it. What it comes down to it is that we have a lot of alien fishes coming to the, to, to the Greek sea the last few years.

So we want to educate the people to, to learn about it and, and eat them because they’re edible aliens not, not aliens that we don’t want them. Um, so in order to do that, you have to educate the fishermen. They’re doing an excellent work. And they also do that with a, with a restaurant. So what I like it more is that the tourists themselves can really learn about it and they can be part of that sustainable journey.

Rebecca Miles: That’s really important. That’s something I wanted to talk to you both Anni and Victoria about. Um, Anni, let’s go to you first. How can visitors and holiday makers get involved in the work? Is it possible?

Anni Mitropoulou: Absolutely. Apart from, uh, taking part in the pick the alien campaign with, you know, like their fork, you know, like they can really fight back to these alien marine, alien species, which are not that friendly after all, but they’re tasty, which is fantastic.

As I explained, there are truly many ways that the visitors in our islands can be really supportive and I could say, you know, like that’s every visitor should always keep in mind that there are limited resources. There are, that there is a lot of pressure on the natural resources.

So, of course, number one rule, we try to minimize, of course, ecological footprint, right by, by following simple things. We can refill our water bottles. We don’t buy new plastic bottles. We try to recycle as much as possible. We try to reduce the use of single use plastics. We try to save water to minimize the energy consumption.

I think these are the basic things that each of us should do anyway as a citizens, not only as a visitor to, to a new place, but especially on the islands. Where you understand the pressure. If you do something, it’s going to be a win for all. But apart from this basic and simple advices that one should have in mind all the time, there are more practical ways where people can be really engaged and involved.

And I would say, number one, if you visit a place, try to identify who are the environmental associations, the local players on the ground on that island, and play a role by doing something actively. This can be something very simple like organizing, you know, like clean-up events. You just go and, uh, join a clean-up event, or you may join some efforts that a lot of our partners are doing to maintain and protect the ancient walkways for hiking.

Or you may look for more active partners. In Paxos especially, we have a hospital which is called the Greece Wildlife Protection hospital. Could you even imagine that in that popular island, you can go and really give a hands to a hospital that saves lives and that releases rehabilitated animals around 500 or 600 injured animals, you know, back to their natural environment, how beautiful this can be as an experience for someone. So just to make the long story short, I would say that there are a lot of opportunities. Some of them have been already included in one initiative that the CPF has kicked off, which is called uh, the Green Volunteers. So you can become all green volunteers either in the Cyclades or in the Ionian or elsewhere.

And this means a lot. By becoming a green volunteer, as we say, people may experience new perspectives. They may, they may experience new ways of operating, while engaging in, in mutually beneficial learning exchanges with the hosting communities, people who can discover the deeper environmental problems that exist in an area, in a region, in an island.

And at the same time, our visitors may, may learn more about the history and the unique culture, but if you join and, and experience along with the local community and the local partners we have on the ground, you can really understand how it looks like to be an islander on the Greek islands.

So there are so many things that one could do, either that just supporting even with the financial support, you know, like either to the CPF or directly to one of the local organizations that are working on the ground or make a further. You know, be more hands on, you know, get involved in, in specific activities that are organized either during the summer, but I think even better in the springtime or in the autumn, when the high season is not that, you know, like challenging and crazy!

Rebecca Miles: Yes, definitely. And how about you Victoria? What are the opportunities for holiday makers to make a difference while they’re on holiday?

Victoria Turner: Yeah, many, many things. Like Annie said, the, the main thing that I think visitors can do is just to arrive with a consciousness about what environment they’re coming into.

It’s a different environment to where they’re coming from. It’s an environment that has water shortages. It’s an environment that, that when they’re on a small island, for example, that might struggle with things like waste management. So make sure. That understanding of the context into which you are visiting informs the way that you behave.

Don’t, for example, brush your teeth with a tap running for five minutes. There is not the water on these small islands to cope with that. Don’t insist that you want to sleep with a duvet they so that you have the air conditioning on full just so that you can sleep with a duvet like you do at home, you know, turn it off – it uses vast amounts of energy and sleep with a sheet.

And in addition, small actions, like when you go into bars and cafes, and if they put a plastic bottle on your table, just say to them politely, I don’t want the plastic bottle, thank you. I don’t want the plastic straw. Same in shops. When they give you a plastic bag, just say, I have my own bag thank you.

I, I think that leading by example is a really key thing, you know? Like I said before, changing mindsets and habits and attitudes towards the environment is, is key, and that’s a part that we can all play. This is something I noticed particularly. In addition, I think that tourists can be responsible about the, the holiday company they choose.

You know, look, look at the website and think what is that company doing to invest in or protect the environment that they are essentially making their money from? I think should people be looking for, You know, in this current age, I think that most websites for a holiday company should have some sort of environmental credentials.

And it might be in the form of a blog. It might be in, in the form of a partnership with environmental organization. It would be on their websites, and if it’s not, you could always ask. The responsible of activists and ask, what is your organization doing to protect these environments that we visit? I mean, there’s a sort of slightly self-promotional thing for the Ionian Environment Foundation as we just established a Villa Alliance where we have six, upward of six, quite big villa companies operating in the Ionian Islands that are signing up with us in order to promote and share our projects and explain that the, the fragility of the environment in the I region and, and offer examples of how villas can actually adjust the way that they operate to tread more lightly on the environment.

That’s one example. We offer a toolkit if you like, and information events where we give advice about how to install rated showers to reduce water consumption or how to, uh, you know, separate your waste more effectively or equipment for composting. So all of these things that are obviously important for bigger companies to realize that your clients, your tourists, they want to see these changes are happening. They are discerning environmentally more and more. So I think it’s important for the visitors to, to research before they choose their, their holiday options and make sure that there’s some responsibility there from the organization.

Rebecca Miles: They do choose definitely, and they’re all such relatively simple changes, aren’t they?

Victoria Turner: And you know, it’s nothing too taxing. Exactly, and again, this idea of leading by example and just changing habits that the, the villas for example, if, if the villas are beginning to make these changes and then, you know, you’ve got a whole infrastructure of people working around those villas. You’ve got gardeners and cleaners and housekeepers and people that maintain the pools.

And if they see that these changes are important and are happening and are actually quite straightforward. That they’ll start feeding that down into the local community and, and their domestic homes and their way that they.

Rebecca Miles: So, so important. Definitely. Well, we should sadly start to wrap this up, but before we do, I’d like to ask you all about how you would spend your Dream Day on, in, around the Greek Islands.

We haven’t heard much from you, Eleni, so let’s start with you. Please. You know, say you’ve got a friend visiting or you’ve just got, yeah, you’ve got a rare day to yourself where you have no ties on your time at all, where would you go? What would you do?

Eleni Skarveli: Well my origins are from two small islands in, so I’m an islander myself.

And I think to be honest, that changed you also as a personality. So my choice, it will be definitely swimming . Maybe also sailing. So if I had to spare a day, I will start my sailing trip from Kos Island, which is directly connected, of course, with the most airports in Europe and sail up of course all the beautiful small islands on the way, which is so easy to go. And because the most important thing is that you have distances that they’re no more than one and two hours. So you can definitely do a lot island helping within one day. And even if you don’t like sailing, you will definitely enjoy it in Greece.

Rebecca Miles: What would you be wanting to eat while you’re on this day? We haven’t really touched much on food, which is always such an important part of wherever you visit, where, what would you be eating? What would you be seeking out?

Eleni Skarveli: Well, yeah, home cooking is always, of course, the best. And I know that a lot of people have the, the classic ideas about the, the great, cuisine, like moussaka or maybe the Greek salad or even calamari when we’re talking about seafood.

But for me, I would say, It’s definitely the fresh fish that you can find in, in most of the islands. Now It’s simple, you know, with just a virgin, Greek olive oil and some lemon just, just freshness and a real tomato that it will definitely be the top combination.

Rebecca Miles: Delicious definitely. Um, Victoria, how about you? How would you spend your ideal day in the Greek island

Victoria Turner: Oh, I have so many, uh, varieties of an ideal day. Okay. So I would wake up super early, of course, when it’s still cool and, and before the cicadas start chirping that, that’s a good sort of test as to what’s early in Paxos -have the cicadas started yet? No. Okay, great. It’s still, it’s still early. I would then walk down to the village and go to the bakery when everything is fresh out of the oven and warm and yeah, delicious. I’d buy a spinach pie. These are my favourite with feta and spinach and crunchy pastry.

And I would probably sit in the cafe, because at that time, at around half eight, nine in the morning, it’s, it’s just all the old ladies and the fishermen, the people that are best at gossiping. And I will sit and, and chat with them while I eat my spinach pie and have a fresh orange juice and that’s a lovely way to, to start the day and watch the world go by wee bit.

And then the water, of course, like Eleni said, it’s why would you not want to be in the water? So I’d probably hike over to the West Coast like I said before, it’s just so dramatic and beautiful. There are some cliffs that you can jump from into the. And actually these are, are limestone cliffs and if it’s, if it’s rained, you know, previously, or you can dig deep into the cracks of these cliffs, you can pull out this amazing clay, which you can then smother all over yourself and it, it acts like a natural sun cream and a body mask. And so you then lie on the rocks and let that bake on you until you can’t move or smile and, and you feel frozen like a rock.

And then, I would leap off the cliff into the water and exfoliate it all off in that beautiful, pristine water. And, and then you come out feeling so silky soft and your hair is, is all like, it’s been deeply conditioned and you, you just feel fabulous. So that’s my sort of swim activity. It’s uh, and then in the evening I might sit in one of my favourite tavernas and just, I love sitting in the bustling village squares and watching the world go by maybe with some bouzouki music. And before you know it, it’s three in the morning. It’s just heaven.

Rebecca Miles: And you have made the most of those 24 hours. That’s great. Um, how about you Anni?

Anni Mitropoulou: Yeah, the description by Victoria was magnific, but obviously this is a fit person, right? Just to say about food, anything local in season. I mean, you know, you just get advice from the local people and they know what to recommend. So, either fish or meat or vegetables, and as we said, olive oil and, you know, like it’s, it’s just, you know, there is such a quality and variety of this, uh, greek cuisine and Mediterranean cuisine in general.

So, oh my God. And then, yeah, I mean, like, my personal taste would take me somehow to the mountains. I would prefer to walk around. I would prefer to hike and check out all this beautiful nature, sometimes underestimated because everyone says, oh, it’s rocky here, but it’s, it’s the forest of the Cyclades, all this green that you see. If you imagine how hard it is for this, uh, local flora to survive, you know, or if you can, Take a look at these dry stones, the old dry stones, you know, which are very visible in on all the islands, at least, you know, and you can understand how much effort all these people have put in the past to create all these.

I mean, it’s, it’s a beauty. It’s, iit’s a real museum of, of life and of history, the nature. And of course I would, I would end my day with some sailing, you know, for the sunset. And now here a good opportunity for a new lesson. Please be careful when you are sailing. You know, we need to protect our poon medals, which is this fantastic Mediterranean plant.

We run campaigns in the Cyclades and the Ionian, you know, we try to protect it mainly from anchoring cause there are so many people who, who come to visit our islands and they don’t realize, they don’t know, they don’t have the knowledge. And because of the fact that it’s uncontrolled in these areas, you know, there are no law protecting, uh, at the moment, you know.

We need to be super careful and responsible as visitors. So that’s the last advice from my end, you know, on how we can become so easy, uh, responsible and at the same time as, as visitors. And at the same time, uh, enjoy all this, all this beauty, all this, all this, all this beauty of the nature, either on the land or on the sea.

There are so many things to see and to, and to join.

Rebecca Miles: Definitely, just on that practical note, you’re talking about protecting the protecting the seagrass. Where would, where can people find out information about knowing where to anchor and where not to anchor?

Anni Mitropoulou: Both on our websites, I guess, you know, on the Ionian Environment Foundation website and at the CPF, we’re currently running a campaign, which is called the CPF Alert, where we’re trying to map all the, let’s say seagrass.

And we try to work with port authorities in order for them to start controlling somehow the situation. And, um, we try to raise awareness also to all these keepers and you know, like, uh, owners who don’t know, you know, they really don’t want to hurt the seagrass, but since there is not enough information, we try to create this data for them to make sure that they won’t harm the seagrass when they visit our island.

Brilliant. Ah, thank you. Thank you, Anni. Thank you, Victoria. Thank you, Eleni, for joining us today. It’s been brilliant to talk to you all. To find out more and to book your next holiday to the Greek Islands, visit charitable.travel/greece.

Join us on the Gulf Coast of Florida, in the coastal city of Sarasota. Two and a half hours drive southwest of Orlando, and an hour south of Tampa, its beachy vibe, artsy background, and strong sense of community make it well worth a visit. 
Among the keys lining Sarasota Bay, our host Bec Miles, finds Aaron Virgin, the  CEO of Save Our Seabirds, a wild bird learning centre that’s next door to the Mote Marine Aquarium and provides sanctuary to over 5,000 birds a year. Amongst Save Our Seabirds’ thirty aviaries, visitors can see blue jays, cardinals, songbirds, and herons, plus many more.

Also joining is Muna Abanour, the UK Trade account manager for Sarasota, and a very knowledgeable advocate for the city, a huge fan of its outdoors, lifestyle, and arts & culture scene.

Rebecca Miles: Hello and welcome to Charitable Travel’s Travel Insider Podcast. My name’s Rebecca Miles and I’m a travel journalist and the host of this podcast series that is otherwise known as TIPs.  

Today, we aim to not just give you lots of great travel tips, but also to transport you from wherever you are right now; perhaps you’re walking through the park, or maybe you’re squashed into a crowded commuter train, to a place that will inspire you.  

Today we’re travelling to the Gulf Coast of Florida and the coastal city of Sarasota. Two and a half hours drive southwest of Orlando and an hour south of Tampa. Its beachy vibe, artsy background, and a strong sense of community make it well worth a visit.  

Among the keys lining Sarasota Bay, we find Aaron Virgin, the CEO of Save Our Seabirds, a wild bird learning centre that’s next door to the Mote Marine Aquarium and provides sanctuary to over 5,000 birds a year. Amongst Save Our Seabirds’ thirty aviaries, visitors can see blue jays, cardinals, songbirds, and herons, plus many, many more. 

Also joining us is Muna Abanour, the UK trade account manager for Sarasota, and a very knowledgeable advocate for the city, a huge fan of its’ outdoors, lifestyle, and arts and culture scene. Muna is never short of something to do in Sarasota’s varied neighbourhoods. So let’s hand things over to the pair of them to tell us more about what makes Sarasota so special. 

Thanks so much for joining us, Aaron and Muna. So Aaron, let’s start with you. Can you set the scene for us, please? Tell us about where Save Our Seabirds is based.  

Aaron Virgin: Absolutely. Well, thank you for having me. We’re located in the city of Sarasota, on City Island, and we’re surrounded by the beautiful turquoise waters of Sarasota Bay. Only about a 5-10 minute drive from downtown Sarasota. A hop, skip, and a jump away from the beaches, our world-famous beaches, and, just a beautiful place on the Gulf of Mexico.  

Rebecca Miles: Yeah, sounds pretty good. So what can visitors expect to find when they come to Save Our Seabirds?  

Aaron Virgin: Well, we have a very lush three-acre sanctuary. A lot of native plants, Florida-friendly plants as well. We have over 120 non-releasable birds who came through our facility. We have an avian hospital on site, uh, fully staffed: veterinarian, wildlife rehabilitator, and several support staff. These 120 birds were injured; wing injury, eye injury, leg injury and, um, they will live the rest of their lives out here at our sanctuary, and it serves as a living museum so the public can come in and view the birds up close. We have a lot of amateur photographers that will come and photograph the birds and learn about them, and they learn about the stories and it really assists the public to learn more about birds. 

The importance of birds as indicators of our ecosystem, the health of ourenvironment. It’s a nice collaboration that we are right next to the Mote Marine Aquarium, which you learn a lot about fish and turtles and that sort of thing.

Rebecca Miles: So I guess it gives a really good, it paints a really good picture then of the wider environment. Is that riht?

Aaron Virgin: It really is, a lot of people come to this area to see the wildlife. We are in the tropics down here, so the diversity of wildlife and plants is fantastic. It really gives you that well-rounded experience. I mean, people when they come to Florida and they come to Sarasota, they want to be outside and so our living museum, our three acres is completely outside. We, we don’t have any structures or any buildings that you would go into like a nature centre at the moment, it’s pretty wide open. So it’s a nice open air facility if you will.  

Rebecca Miles: Wow. So these aviaries are just next to the water? 

Aaron Virgin: They are, in fact some of the aviaries are right alongside the bay and the mangroves, so have a nice little buffer. The pelicans and the herons and egrets often encounter other birds, wild birds, in our facility because of the close proximity.  

Rebecca Miles: Oh, wonderful. So I guess you must be quite well known then along this stretch of coast? This is a real hotspot for the sanctuary, is that right?  

Aaron Virgin: Yeah, we really are. And one of the cool things about our facility, there are people who will come, who are just getting into bird watching and we have such a diversity of birds here that it’ll excite them to want to see these birds in the wild. 

Recently I saw a bird. It was the last native bird of Florida, the Mississippi Kite, that I hadn’t seen in the wild, but we had here at our facility. I finally saw it and I thought, I can only imagine when new people come to Save our Seabirds and they see all these birds… like, I had no idea there were this many owls! We have five of the six owls that, that are residents in Florida, and it can be overwhelming, of course if you’re a Harry Potter fan you know all the owls we have!  

So this part of Florida too, we are right on the Atlantic flyaway, even though we’re on the Gulf of Mexico. Birds come along, they fly along there so we’re a magnet for, for seeing birds in migration, within the trees too, in the bushes of our facility, they’ll be passing through. During the summer, we have a lot of birds that come up from south and Central America to stay here and breed and raise their young, And then probably the hottest time, hottest in terms of bird watching, is the winter. That’s when we have all the birds that come down from the north, the true snowbirds if you will, they’ll come here and it becomes, it becomes really crowded, I would say, at some of our popular birding sites, including Save Our Seabirds, because this is the season when everyone’s down here.  

Rebecca Miles: Sounds like you’re in the ideal spot! 

Aaron Virgin:  Couldn’t agree more.  

Rebecca Miles: So, Muna, let’s come to you because Sarasota’s not just about the wildlife visitors, despite the fantastic location we are in, what can visitors expect from the city?  

Muna Abanour: So you are right. Sarasota is known for its award winning beaches, world class visuals, performing arts, and great sense of community. As some people may know, Sarasota’s only an hour away from Tampa and it’s just over two hours away from Orlando, which makes Sarasota the idyllic beach bolt-on to a Florida twin-centre holiday. It has an incredible coastline and has a few  islands like Lido Beach, Long Boat, Key Beach. You’ve got Siesta Key, Venice Beach… there’s so many islands that make up this amazing destination. You know, it’s a destination that offers rich cultural downtown with amazing hotels from all ranges, from luxury to affordable hotels. Even homes on many of the other islands as well, like Siesta Key and Venice Beach as well. 

The great thing about Sarasota is you won’t need a car. It’s accessible by using Sarasota Bay Runner, which is a free trolley service for all guests and visitors. And I’m just going to name a few things that visitors can really utilise when they’re in Sarasota, to make the most of. 

You’ve got, St. Armand’s Circle, which offers plenty of restaurants and boutique shops. You can meet a couple of VIP manatees on a boat tour from Sarasota Bay Bo Shark comes in from Venice beach, and you can explore the world famous John and Mabel Ringling Museum of Art, or you can go inland and reconnect with nature in the Myakka River State Park. And one of my favourites as well, you can go and enjoy and help the community’s favourite spot, which is Sarasota’s Bay Project. It’s a park that allows a public to build a free, welcoming, accessible, and eco-friendly space.  

Rebecca Miles: Oh, fabulous. So it’s a wonderful mix of both the waterfront stuff, but also plenty of downtown activities as well? 

Muna Abanour: Correct. Yeah. 

Rebecca Miles: So that sense of community sounds really strong, can you elaborate some more on sort of how visitors can experience the best of it? 

Muna Abanour: Of course. Sarasota has something for everyone, it really truly speaks to the word community and inclusion. There’s so much that I can talk about, that to name three… Sarasota’s Bay Project is the signature parks and service, where 40 neighbourhoods have come together to build this wider community for visitors and for locals as well. The bay areas are spacious, with an amazing walkway. It’s accessible and wheelchair friendly, so it allows all types of visitors to enjoy the beauty of its trail. You know, customers can take it as fast as they want and they can ride bikes or, hire a segway, or they can take it as chill and as relaxed as they like by hiring a paddleboard or kayaking through the mangrove. 

One of my other favourite places is Bizarre. It’s an indoor market place where over 40 local creators and curators offer award winning eateries, live music, classes… and everything is locally sourced. You know the artists that work there as well, they work day and night to produce their products, so it really does bring in that sense of community. 

My all-time favourite is Rise & Nye’s coffee and ice cream shop. It’s a coffee shop located in the heart of downtown Sarasota and what makes it special, and I would 100% recommend to all visitors travelling to Sarasota, is that it’s a charity project and it’s run by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. So if you know that is a true definition of and action of inclusion, acceptance, and opportunity. If that isn’t then I don’t know what is.

Rebecca Miles: Definitely! Aaron, how does Save Our Seabirds get involved with the local community? Are there regular programs of art projects or cultural events that you work alongside? 

Aaron Virgin: Oh, absolutely. We’re a member of the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County, being that we are a living museum. We do a lot of different programs involving both STEM and STEAM, Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics. So we’re, we’re bringing a lot of problem solving to classrooms. We’re bringing the groups of students here to our facility doing public programming, that sort of thing. Specifically some of the arts groups we’ve done in the past, a collaboration with the Sarasota Opera, where we had arias for the birds. So it was a joint fundraiser that we had that was very successful and, and brought the, the two, um, stakeholders together, right? It was a lot of fun.  

We work regularly with photographers and wood decoy, uh, makers who make birds out of wood decoys. Another, uh, we had a painter at one of our fundraisers that actually painted our flagship bird, the Brown Pelican during the event, and then we auctioned it off. So it was, again, a way to highlight some of the kind of burgeoning artists in our community. It seems like by the month there’s more and more. We’re looking to do some more collaborations with different artists because it’s just natural – the environment here, and the arts community are both very bold.  

There are a lot of organizations that can be found in, in each camp, and as Muna brought up, the Bay Project is doing just that as well. They’ve actually designed, similar to something we’re looking at a, almost like a sculpture slash playground of white ibus. Which is, is kind of a nod to what we’re doing over here because we are right across the bay from it, so that collaboration of intertwining the art and sculpture and playing and youth and the environment is just one of the great things about Sarasota. 

Rebecca Miles: Yeah, that does sound fabulous. So, if visitors want to find out about these sorts of events when they’re actually there in town, where’s the best place to go to?  

Aaron Virgin: The Arts and Cultural Alliance Sarasota County website would be a great place. That’s kind of like a clearing house for all the different events. Of course, saveourseabirds.org, that’s our website. Visit Sarasota County has a great website, has a lot of events on it. SRQ magazine’s another great one. I mean, you can go. You can go on and on. That’s the great thing about this, this community is we are supported by the local media. And the other office holders, uh, the municipal government and all that it’s just fantastic. 

Rebecca Miles: And that’s great, isn’t it? As well as if you are visiting a place like Sarasota and you can actually get involved with these sorts of events, it really makes you feel like you are experiencing the real city rather than just seeing the sort of surface of it.  

Aaron Virgin: Oh absolutely, and post covid, I think one of the things that really came out of everything being stripped down was that you have, our tourism has really picked up, and not just ours. You know, we are the wintering grounds for a lot of folks who are kind of putting their toe in the water trying to figure out, do I want to move to Florida full time? Do I want to do three months? Do I want to do six months? That sort of thing. And what we’re noticing now is this has definitely been one of the busiest summers in recent history. And I think it’s a trend of things that are going to happen that are going to continue. We always had a lot of Europeans visiting here in the summer, but now we’re seeing more people from the north saying to themselves, you know what, I just want a change of atmosphere. It’s hot up north so I want to go down, you know, and see family or, you know, explore all the different opportunities Sarasota has that we’ve been discussing. So, um, I think there is a little change at work 

Rebecca Miles: That’s fab! So, what does the future hold for Save Our Seabirds?  

Aaron Virgin: That’s a great question. Our facility is about 30 years old, meaning a lot of our buildings are wooden structures, and both our aviaries where we have all of our resident birds, our hospital and our offices are in need of, basically capital improvement. So, one of the first things we’re doing is we’re changing out a lot of the wooden structures of the aviaries and going into more of an aluminium steel with a concrete barrier around them, so it’ll be really modern and kind of state-of-the-art type homes for them.  

At the same time, we need a larger hospital. Our intake is increasing by about 15 to 20% a year. And as more people move here or even visiting here, we are having an uptick in calls and birds being brought in. So, we need a bigger facility. So that’s more of in the five-year range, is building something that can also withstand sea level rise, hurricanes – category fours and fives. So, something really solid, almost a bunker! And that will combine our offices in our hospital. And uh, you know, it will be, it’ll be more of an attraction too, to come in, see what’s going on, learn about the type of avian care that we do.  

We are the only ones in southwest Florida are specifically dedicated to helping, injured, native birds to Florida. Other places will do turtles and mammals and that sort of thing, but we are specifically dedicated to that within our own avian veterinarian who has spent her career working strictly with birds. So that’s, that’s the bigger plan. And, uh, the city’s, uh, supporting us on this. Our board is excited about it, and now that we’re moving away from being shut down for 16 months, this is our five-year goal and we’re very excited. 

Rebecca Miles: Oh, brilliant. So Muna, how about in the city itself as well, what are the latest developments and what’s in the future?  

Muna Abanour: So, there’s a lot that’s been happening in Sarasota or in the 941, as they call it. Those that don’t know, 941 is Sarasota’s phone area code so you’ll see that a lot. But yeah, like I was saying, there’s quite a lot that’s been happening. 

Downtown is becoming more and more upscale. That’s a luxury, lively area with new restaurants, opening plenty of art galleries and theatres. Nightlife is amazing in and around downtown or on hotel rooftops. You know, one of the ones that I say that was Westin. Gorgeous, gorgeous views, and amazing rooms as well. You have the opera and an array of new and updated hotels for all types of visitors and talking of hotels, one of the updates is there will be a brand-new hotel opening in 2024, which is the St. Regis Long Boat Key Club Hotel. It’s going to be situated on the coast only minutes away from St. Armand’s Circle and it’s just a perfect luxury getaway for a week, or more.  

I suppose one of the other things which happens on an annual basis is, if you are a massive foodie or just want to show off to your friends on Instagram, one of the other things I would definitely recommend is at the beginning of June is visiting for Savor Sarasota. It’s an annual event where dozens of restaurants feature multicourse lunches and dinners, which are all sourced locally. So going back to that community, everything’s done within the destination. I mean, naturally it doesn’t have to be for June, Sarasota is a destination known for its rich culinary all year round, so definitely visit! I mean, I was sold when I heard food

Rebecca Miles: Completely! Yes… multi-course meals served by lots of local chefs? Yes, please. Thank you very much. How does Sarasota fit into a larger trip to Florida?  

Muna Abanour: Sarasota really is a destination for all types of holidays. Whether you want to escape for a week on a single centre, spend a weekend there, or a luxury beach holiday, or even as a twin or multi-centre.  

We understand customers come to Florida and visit Orlando for a week and most go into the parks, especially with kids and families, but for a trip of just two hours away, I definitely would recommend traveling down to Sarasota for a week or a few days. There’s plenty of types of accommodations that customers can utilise, whether they stay in hotels in downtown, or whether they stay in homes in one of our islands, there really is an accommodation and there’s something for everyone.  

Rebecca Miles: I was going to ask about staying out on the Key. So, it’s possible, is it to actually stay out on the coast? Right on the coast? 

Muna Abanour:  Yeah, definitely. We’ve Longboat Key, which is a wide strip full of all types of hotels. You’ve got the Sandcastle Hotel, which is your lead in all the way up to the resort at Longboat Key Club which has also got its own golf course. And of course, the up-and-coming new hotel that’s going to be opened in 2024 – the St. Regis, as well. If customers were looking for more of a self-catering accommodation, one of our many islands like Siesta Key, has the self-catering condos or villas that they can book themselves into, or even Venice Beach as well. So there really is an accommodation for whatever the need is. 

Rebecca Miles: And you mentioned that there’s plenty of public transport? Other than lots of ferries and things across the water as well.

Muna Abanour: Ferries, it’s definitely an option. You can do boat tours, you can do private boat tour hires as well. Depending if you can drive them if that’s great, and of course you’ve Sarasota Bay Runner as well, that runs from downtown Sarasota through the Keys and the coastline as well. There’s plenty of ways of getting around. Absolutely.  

Rebecca Miles: The city does definitely attract a lot of wildlife fans, particularly bird watchers, but do you find that families want to visit as well? If they are visiting Orlando, they will happily spend, come down here and spend a few days at the beach? 

Muna Abanour: Yeah, definitely. We love Orlando, we love the parks, but I think customers want to wind down and after the hustle and bustle, and take it at their pace and it’s like I said earlier, you really can take Sarasota at your own pace… You can go as fast as you want, you can go as slow as you want.  

If customers want go the opera or have vibrant nightlife, by all means, an upbeat night life. There’s something for that. If customers want to go and walk around a State Park or you know, make use of the Sarasota Bay Park, there is an option for everything. Like Aaron said there’s Save our Seabirds, there’s Mote Marine Aquaroum, there’s a two-hour boat tour, if you just wanted to kick back and relax. So, it is a destination that considers all types of holidays for everyone. 

Rebecca Miles: So lastly, Aaron, last question for you. If one of your oldest friends was visiting, what would you do with them for the day? What would be your dream day in Sarasota? 

Aaron Virgin: Oh, definitely depend on the friend, but I think time outdoors, I mean, Muna brought up a lot of really good points; transportation, the Bay Runner so we would probably start downtown – grab a coffee, maybe walk around a little window shopping. Hop on the Bay Runner which brings us over the over the bay. Cross the Ringling Bridge. Maybe either go to the beach, the beaches are great. I’ll tell you from 07:30 in the morning, I find when I walk for work, there’s really good birding before they get too crowded. Birds are feeding along the rack line. Either hop back on the bay runner or you can hire a little scooter. Electric scooters are now great way to get around the community. And, definitely I got to plug Save our Seabirds, take them to Save our Seabirds and probably go next door to Mote Marine Aquarium. So, you have, basically looking at, you know, sharks at one minute and go next door and look at the owls and hawks, that sort of thing. 

And then I love the idea of having lunch at St. Armands, going back over there, having lunch, and then maybe doing some shopping there. It’s great shopping. And, finding our way back to the, let’s say the marina jack area, which is the city public boat dock, and maybe go out on a sunset cruise and having a little champagne toast. Making the day of it like that makes sense. But there’s like, there’s so many things to do. You can go out and do some fishing, hire a boat, very walkable community as well. So, you could just do one aspect of what I said downtown, or just the beaches. So, so much to do.  

Rebecca Miles: You mentioned, uh, you’d have to get an early start for the best bird watching. How early are we talking?  

Aaron Virgin: I mean, I would get, I would get somewhere a half hour before sunrise because the sky is already lit enough to see you’re not like, stumbling around in the dark. But, yeah, and I’ll tell you that those, the beaches and a lot of the bird spots, that’s the best time because, you know, we do get very crowded down here, at times in the, in the winter, crowded in a good way – it’s a fun crowded. 

Rebecca Miles: What’s your favourite birding spot to go?  

Aaron Virgin: I have a couple near where we are, right on the, the barrier beaches. There’s an area called South Lido Beach, and it’s a county park. It’s just fantastic. The birds that are there are always changing, you know, whether it’s shore birds, seabird, hawks will come in from time to time. And then the other spot is further inland, not quite out towards Myakka, but it’s an area called the celery fields, which is a storm water management area. So, there’s always water out there. And I mean, you can go out there on a good winter day and see over a hundred species if you spent the day, you know, that’s, you’re not going to get any more bang for your buck than that. 

So, I’ll often, you know, bring people out there and do some walks. There’s a great nature centre out there, great partner of ours. We have a lot of the same volunteers and it’s also a thought where we’ll release birds that are, are rehabilitated at our facility, will bring ’em out there. 

And I mean, what a great home – to live amongst, I think it’s close to 120 acres of just open, varied habitat.  

Rebecca Miles: Oh, lucky things. Same to you then Muna. How would you spend your ideal day in Sarasota?  

Muna Abanour: Well, I’d be starting in the art innovation. It’s a luxury autograph hotel in downtown, and there’s this thing that puts a smile on everyone’s face – it comes with a ukulele in each room. So, I’d definitely will be serenading my friend with a little musical. For breakfast, I’ll be heading to my favourite coffee shop, Rise and Nye’s. It’s about a five-minute walk but everyone needs coffee, and then following that make my way to for some exploring! Update the Instagram of course, and kind of make most of you know, the arts and culture in the morning. And then for lunch, I’d head to Bizarre. It’s a great market – you can really just relax and do a bit of shopping. Who doesn’t love a bit of shopping? 

And then probably following that, just to continue on with the relaxation, I’ll probably go towards Sarasota Bay for a two-hour boat cruise and watch some dolphins and manes. And then, I mean, you can’t go to Sarasota and not visit the beach. So, I’ll be heading to Lido Beach just in time to watch the sunset before ending the night with a lovely dinner at Drift Kitchen Bowl, which is one of my favourite restaurants, brand new as well on the eighth floor of Lido Beach Resort as well.  

Rebecca Miles: That sounds absolutely perfect. Thank you so much, both of you, for joining us today. To find out more and book your next holiday to Sarasota, visit www.charitable.travel/sarasota, and if you’ve been inspired by the work Aaron and his team are doing at Save Our Seabirds, visit www.saveourseabirds.org or find them on social media to find out more. 

[ENDS]

Join us as we travel to the town of Enniskillen on Lough Erne in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland in this episode of Charitable Travel’s Travel Insider Podcast series, in partnership with Tourism Ireland.
Lough Erne is the second-largest lake system in Northern Ireland and is rich in history, wildlife and outdoor activities. Among the 150 plus islands of upper and lower Lough Erne, we find Barry Flanagan, owner of Erne Water Taxi. Based in Enniskillen, Barry and his team spend their days helping visitors explore this fascinating landscape from the water, and share stories of the people, castles, traditions, and food that have made this place home over the past 5,000 years!