If you are one of the millions of people whose current view outside the window is of ice and snow, a break from winter with a few days in Florida probably sounds inviting. Aside from its famous beaches and palm trees, the sunshine state offers visitors many fascinating destinations, including these two unique and mysterious sites.
Coral Castle, Homestead:
Originally named Rock Gate Park, this amazing sculpture garden near Miami was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. It was created by Edward Leedskalnin, a very unique sort of artisan, from over 1,100 tons of coral rock. Between1923 and 1951, Leedskalnin apparently secretly carved dozens of figures during the night: a huge sundial, a water well, furniture – including functioning rocking chairs, a 9-ton gate that opens with the touch of a finger, a two-storey castle tower and more. All of this was built as a monument to Agnes, the fiancée who left a devastated twenty-six year old Edward the night before their wedding day. In 1940, Leedskalnin erected an 8-foot tall, 3-foot wide stone wall around his masterpiece garden.
Stroll amongst the unique carvings and puzzle at how a 5-foot tall, 100-pound man could have carved and placed the huge stones, apparently by himself and without the benefit of modern tools. When asked about it, Leedskalnin – who had only a fourth grade education – replied enigmatically that he understood well the laws of weight and leverage. Theories about how he erected the multi-ton sculptures range from his having procured secret help, to supernatural powers, levitation, and anti-gravity machines.
Coral Castle is open to the public for an admission fee of $15.00 for adults, up somewhat from the 10¢ Leedskalnin charged during the 1940’s, but still quite affordable. There are reduced rates for seniors and children. On the first Saturday of each month, Coral Castle hosts “Psychic Saturday”, when visitors can have their palms read and their fortunes told. (Hopefully you will all be luckier in love than poor Mr. Leedskalnin.) The site can also be reserved for private events such as birthday parties, family reunions and photo shoots.
Castillo de San Marcos, St. Augustine:
Overlooking the St. Augustine waterfront, this Spanish fort completed in 1695 has a long and bloody history of sieges, massacres, starvation and inquisitions. It was even used as a prison for Native Americans after the Civil War. As a result, it is now considered one of the most haunted places in North America. It is said that if you place your ear on any one of the fort’s walls, you can hear screams and the sounds of battle. People have caught unexplained ghostly images on their cameras, and The Travel Channel’s The Ghost Adventures team even filmed an episode here.
Explore the fortress, discover one of the finest displays of colonial cannons in the U.S., view a re-enactment in period dress or an historical weapons demonstration, or relax and picnic on the fort’s green. While the fort is open year-round, bear in mind that it was not built for public touring; only the grounds and first level (including museum rooms, theatre, bookstore and restrooms) are wheelchair accessible. Admission fees are modest: adults pay $7.00; children 15 and under enter for free.
Numerous hotel accommodations are available near both of these sites. All you will need for a marvellous day of exploring besides comfortable shoes is a resilient, lightweight back pack such as ecbc’s Harpoon Daypack, which offers multiple padded, protective compartments for your camera, tablet, laptop and cell phone, and still enough room for beverages, snacks or even that picnic lunch.