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Manatee Rescue after Hurricane Hermine leaves them stranded on a golf course!

Florida is home to an estimated 6,250 manatees. They’re also known as “sea cows”. You can learn more about manatees or become a supporter by adopting a manatee through the Save The Manatee Club.
If you have time during your visit to the area, visit the manatees at Homosassa Springs.

The video below is worth watching. If you didn’t think manatees just hung the moon before, you will now! (Note: This story was from 2016.)
Seven manatees were stranded on a golf course in Crystal River, one of which was a baby. These guys aren’t small, so moving even a baby is a huge undertaking.
>> Manatees trapped by hurricane Hermine

So A Sand Dollar Walks Into A (Sand) Bar

In late summer 2016 we were swimming off Treasure Island’s beach near The Shack and we came across a colossal bed of sand dollars.  Or, as I was later to learn, an urban dwelling of sand dollars that may have stretched for miles (yes miles!) across the sandy ocean floor.
sand dollar treasure island splashy ventures

​I’ve had a lot of encounters with sand dollars over the years, but this was the first time I had encountered such a huge variety of sand dollar sizes.  Some were half the size of my hand while others were barely as large as the nail on my pinky finger.

This led to a burning desire to know more about how sand dollars live and reproduce.  And that led to putting together this blog post with links to several places where you can learn even more fun facts!

Sand Dollar Basics:

  1. Sand dollars are echinoderms and closely related to sea stars, sea urchins and sea cucumbers
  2. They are found in the low intertidal zone to as deep as 30 feet and there are many species living around the world.  Other names in other countries include sea cookie and sand cake.
  3. When sand dollars are found on the beach they are most often already deceased and what you are looking at is their exoskeleton, also called a “test”.
  4. The shape of a sand dollar makes them excellent at burrowing in the sand.  The butt end stays above the sand’s surface to catch food.
  5. Live sand dollars look very different from their “tests” and they are often green, purple, blue or black with tiny spines and tiny tube feet that they use to get the food to their mouths.
  6. Sand dollars mainly reproduce by spawning, but they can also clone themselves by breaking off pieces if they think it is necessary.  Females release eggs and males release sperm into the water during the spring, which is one reason you find so many sand dollars living together.  (It helps with dating and reproduction…)
  7. Male and female sand dollars are indistinguishable.  (And even they don’t really need to know.)
  8. Sand dollars have a surprising number of predators, including sea gulls, starfish, crabs, otters, snails and octopi.  I’d add beachgoers to the list, but I wouldn’t know where to rank them.
  9. I find them absolutely adorable.


This photo is of a live sand dollar.  You can see the little appendages all around the exterior edges and edges of each opening.  There can be color variations on this muddy brown color.  I’ve seen greens and purples and reds that look as though they’ve been smeared on the top.

Important point here:

This is a live animal, not a trinket.  If you want to take home a remembrance from your visit, go to The Florida Shell Shop.

Sand Dollars you find in the shell shops have been treated (sometimes with a glue-based mixture) to strengthen the structure and help stop it from breaking.  If you take a live animal home, not only will you kill it but you will likely discard it before arriving home anyway due to messiness and smell, or it will break en route.

For Further Reading About Sand Dollars

Facts about Sand Dollars – MarineLife.com

What Animals Eat Sand Dollars? cuteness.com

Ocean Wild Things – 7 Swinging Sand Dollar Facts

Reference.com

Pinellas Farmers Markets

A more thorough post on the area’s Farmers Markets is forthcoming, but for now here is a snapshot of local farmers markets.  You’ll find everything from creative breads to veggies and fruits to jewelry and seafood.
Some markets are only seasonal, while others operate year-round.  Please make a note of the dates and times. But with all these to choose from, one of them is bound to fit in your schedule.

Options for Getting Around in Gulfport Florida Without a Car!

Sometimes, you just don’t want a car. Maybe you’re planning on enjoying a night out without having to find your way around or worrying about having a glass of wine with dinner.  Other times you’re appalled by how much they want for a rental car.  Or perhaps your SO is playing a round of GOLF somewhere (yes THAT four-letter word) and you want to go to the beach.

No matter. We have transportation options for you.

Gulfport’s Get Go

Complementary transport within the Gulfport area

Gulfport’s Get Go is complimentary transportation available to anyone from any point within Gulfport to any other point in Gulfport.

Available from 10 am to 10 pm, seven days per week.  Funding is made possible in part through donations and a matching grant from the Gulfport Multipurpose Senior Center Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization.

Ongoing funding is provided by local business sponsorships and private donations.

Stylin’ wheels

Lyft & Uber

I could give you a link here but it’s really better if you just download the app. If you haven’t done that already more than likely you’ll be eligible for some credits for free rides! And with the app you can get estimated costs if you enter both your pickup point and destination when you’re looking.

The Bus – PSTA & Suncoast Beach Trolley

Check out this Google Transit Trip Planner to help you find your route number, stop and estimated time to your destination.  So cool!

A special transportation network called the Suncoast Beach Trolley is a portion of PSTA that runs only from St Pete Beach to Downtown Clearwater.  Checkout the schedule here.

2019 Update: A better solution: The Transit App.

If you want to feel as though your head is about to explode, try reading the PSTA bus route map. If you lived here, perhaps it would be worth the effort to figure it out.  If you’re not a local, your vacation will be over before you’ve figured out your route.

Thankfully there’s a solution that you should probably have your phone anyway, and that’s the Transit app.  This app from Heaven lets you plan your trip and includes real-time data for accuracy.

And better yet? This app doesn’t just work here – it works in 175 cities around the globe.  From Austin to Anchorage. Nicaragua to New Zealand.  Iceland to Italy.  Download it now.

Coast Bike Share

Coast Bike Share (coastbikeshare.com) is the Official bike share of St Pete.  They have an app, you can gift rides or join a monthly plan that allows so many minutes per day of riding.  

Bikes can generally be found along Central Avenue and the USF area.

What’s the Fuss About Smoked Fish Spread?

Smoked Fish Spread

I love fish spread.  And I want you to love it, too.

Now that my motives are clear, I hope you’ll read on for “Splashy Ventures’ guide to Fish Spread” – my extensively researched (and taste-tested) manifesto for fully enjoying this Florida favorite.

Below you’ll find a dash of history, a restaurant and retail “hit list” for the best places to get fish spread and recipes for making your own.  (If you’ve crafted a winner, there’s even a list of contests to show off your masterpiece – or sample everyone else’s.)

Let’s dive in!

Where & When Did Fish Spread Start?

The popular history of smoke fish spread starts with Ted Peters.  While it’s unclear whether Ted Peters was the first local to turn smoked fish into a spread/dip, he’s certainly one of its earliest (and most important) aficionados.

Ted was a bit of a visionary.  After WWII. he took the fish-smoking process from out of sight in the backwoods and backyard to “out in front,” where he bet the smoking process would catch both the eyes and noses of passersby.  He was right – and smoked fish fast became a thing.

Ted’s original fish smoking location opened in the late 1940’s.  By 1951, the current Ted Peter’s Famous Smoked Fish restaurant was up and running, and neither smoked fish nor Ted Peters ever looked back.

The Peters family business really was a true family affair.  “Mom” created the German potato salad recipe and baked pies.  Ellen Peters created the fish spread recipe.  And five generations later, and the same family is synonymous with fish spread.  It’s an endeavor that is near and dear to all involved – and you can definitely taste their dedication.

Visit their website for a more complete history, media mentions (like Diners Drive-ins and Dives!) and short videos on the fish smoking process.

ted peters smoked fish

The Smoked Fish Spread of Today

Today, smoked fish spread (or dip) can be found on many a Florida restaurant menu, and is made from fish types ranging from mullet to amberjack to mahi-mahi to kingfish. Generally, the oilier the fish, the better. This is because the oil in the fish helps it withstand the lengthy smoking process without drying out.

Fish spread often features celery, scallions and mayonnaise and is always accompanied by crackers (Saltines, Club, or both). Favorite toppings—if any—include jalapeños, bell pepper, capers, or relish.

One of the many pleasures of fish spread is sampling your way through the many different versions our restaurants have on offer. Most commonly, fish spread is served as an appetizer—the perfect introduction to authentic Floridian dining.

Toppings—if any—include jalapeños, bell pepper, capers, or relish. One of the many pleasures of fish spread is sampling your way through the many different versions our restaurants have on offer.

For a more detailed dive into the smoked fish experience, check out this awesome post from Authentic Florida and Visit Sarasota.

If I’ve kept your attention this long, your next question is bound to be:

Where Can I Eat Smoked Fish Spread?

The fish spread at all the restaurants below is worth sampling! We’ve grouped the restaurants by town so you’ll have a handy list when you’re out and about.

Quite a few of these spots are in our 3 Day Dining Guide to Gulfport, so check out that post too.

Gulfport

O’Maddy’s
Sal’s Fresh Smoked Fish Spread

Neptune Grill
Smoked Fish Spread

Backfin Blue
Fish Spread

St Pete Beach /
Pass-A-Grille

Sea Critters Cafe
Smoked Fish Dip (good to know: parking is limited)

Rick’s Reef Restaurant & Patio Bar
Smoked Fish Spread

Bongo Beach Bar & Grille
Smoked Fish Dip

Jimmy B’s Beach Bar at the Beachcomber Resort
Smoked Fish Spread

St Petersburg /
South Pasadena

Mid Peninsula Seafood
Homemade Fish Spread

Treasure Island

Middle Grounds Grill
Smoked Fish Spread

Where Can I Buy Smoked Fish Spread?​

Once you’ve tried fish spread in a restaurant, you’re likely to want to have some on hand at home for lunch or late-night snacks.

Of course, you can always order fish spread to-go from the above restaurants. But sometimes you want to really load up. If that’s the case, try these suppliers:

Offshore Seafood Co

Fish spread is important enough to this family-owned business that it has dedicated a webpage to it. Created in 2012, the Offshore Seafood take on the spread is wild caught mahi-mahi smoked over real hickory wood logs, blended with top-of-the-line ingredients and sold to local restaurants, distributors, and directly to consumers.

And not to worry – if you get hooked, they can ship to you overnight!

Mid Peninsula Seafood

The fish is smoked on the premises and there are three varieties to choose from! Amberjack plain, Amberjack with jalapeno and Salmon.

Publix

If you’re hitting the local supermarket, pick up Smilin’ Bob’s Original Smoked Fish Dip or Smilin’ Bob’s All-Natural Smoked Fish Dip (both from the Key West Smoked Fish Co.) A family owned business with fish spread made right in the Keys. Read their story here and find out why Bob is smilin’.

Gulf Coast Seafood

It used to be that this well-respected business sold only to restaurants, stores, and resorts—not directly to consumers. But luckily, there’s now a storefront at 4921 9th Ave S in Gulfport where you can stock up. As Gulf Coast Seafood likes to say, you can’t get any closer to fresh unless you pull it out of the water yourself!

Ted Peters

Buy smoked fish spread by the half pint, pint or quart from the guy who made it famous. (Good to know: the business is cash only.)

How to Make Your Own Fish Spread

The logical next step in your “fish spread evolution” is to make it at home. For that, you’ll need some fresh smoked fish (see Ted Peters, Gulf Coast Seafood or Mid Peninsula Seafood above) and a great recipe.

Here are some of our at-home favorites. We’ve tasted them all, and we stand by ‘em!

Smoked Mullet Dip from Authentic Florida and Caroline Chambliss

Smoked Fish Dip from Allrecipes

Smoked Fish Dip from Food Network

Last but not least, here’s a lengthy mouth-watering collection of recipes from Salt Strong. (Warning: don’t view it on an empty stomach!)

Where Can I Compete with My Fish Spread (or Taste Local Recipes)?

And finally, if after all this you love fish spread as much as I do, there’s only one thing left to do. Enter a fish spread contest! Or at least attend one and taste test your way through local favorites.

Old Salt Foundation Fish Spread Contest

It would be well worth 5 minutes of your time to read about the Old Salt Fishing Foundation and learn about the foundation’s mission as well as where the name “Old Salt” comes from. Hint: it is not a reference to salty old fisherman.

The Old Salt Fish Spread Contest will be in its 9th year in November 2018. Registration is $10 per entry and qualifies you for both Judges and Peoples Choice Awards.  Additional rules can be found on the contest website.

I can’t think of a better way to get your fish spread game on. And to those who decide to enter the contest, may the fish spread force be with you.

Happy feasting!

The perils of buying bottled water

Waste caused by bottled water is a huge problem and growing. We try to do our part with our rentals and eliminate as much waste as much as possible. One huge component of our landfills and oceans are plastic water bottles. See the story about the GPGB – That’s the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” here. It’s horrifying that this problem and this particular accumulation has its own acronym!!!

If you do buy them, please recycle. For Gulfport rentals, if your house has a rectangular blue bin, you may place plastic bottles in there and they will be recycled. Do not place them in the green bin. If there is no blue plastic bin in the trash area at your rental home, you can take them to the recycling center located at the 49th Street Neighborhood Center at 1617 49th St S in Gulfport.

For Treasure Island rentals, please take them to Rosselli Park, Isle of Capri, located at Capri Circle S at Second St SE, Treasure Island.

We can make a difference!

Beth

St Petersburg Drinking Water

How far is it from Gulfport to the resorts on St Pete Beach?

St Pete Beach has resorts all the way from Pass-A-Grille to the southern tip of Treasure Island. Most of these are along Gulf Blvd.

It is 3.7 miles from most of our rentals in Gulfport, to the center of St Pete Beach and Upham Beach near Corey Ave. PCI and Tradewinds are just south of that. In light traffic that should take you about 10 minutes. In heavier traffic such as peak time on holidays, it will take about twice that.