America,  Florida,  TDM,  Travel Journal,  USA

Wild dolphins in Naples, The Ringling, Siesta Key Beach, Dali Museum (USA) – Road trip in Florida #2

If you didn’t, read the 1st part of the roadtrip here


  • Day 4: Departure from our hotel in Homestead. Boat tour to Everglades. Visit of Naples, Sanibel Island and Captiva Island. Night at Fort Myers
  • Day 5: Visit of the Ringling museum. Siesta Key Beach & Lido Key Beach. Night in Sarasota
  • Day 6: Visit the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg. Night in Orlando.

Part 1: Travel Diary Part
2: Practical Tips

Part 1: Travel Diary

As I told you, this roadtrip is under the sign of the miracle so we will have many surprises on the road.

Day 4

After 3 days in the Keys, we came back to Kendall to spend one night (to save money because the hotels here are cheaper than in the Keys). I had planned a 1/2 day near Flamingo to visit the Everglades but I had to give up this idea because of the distance.

I didn’t know that on the way to Naples, we would pass 3 agencies offering boat tours in Everglades. So after a short reflection, we decide to take an airboat tour at Everglades Safari Park.

Everglades Safari Park

We have already been to Everglades (one day tour from Miami in a touristic place) but in exchange we saw 4 alligators in their natural environment.

Here, the place seems to us much wilder, the airboats open like in the movies, but in the end we did not see any alligator. I was lucky, being on the right side of the boat, to see a huge turtle in the water.

However, we are very happy to have seen this side of the Everglades, unlike the straight canals in the other place. When you think that Miami looked like this a few centuries ago.

The tour costs $28/person. The boats leave regularly, it isn’t necessary to book in advance. You can pay a little less through Groupon.

We find a Japanese/Thai/Vietnamese restaurant on the way. I’m too happy to eat a balanced meal because since the beginning of the road trip, we go from fast food to fast food… and fast food. I couldn’t take it anymore!

Naples Pier

Naples isn’t only in Italy, but also in Florida. I was very hesitant to go there, but two people recommended it to me, and reading this description on Google :

The pier of Naples, first built in 1888, is the symbol of the city. People come here mainly to fish and watch dolphins

After reading this, we went DIRECT. The parking lot near the pier is huge, paying but economical ($1.5 per hour). Having a busy schedule, we don’t plan to swim there but just visit the pier. On Twitter, people say they saw dolphins 7 days ago near the pier. There are a lot of birds here thanks to the presence of plankton, fishes in abundance..

We go to the end of the pier and JB sees… a dolphin! Wild, and very big. Overexcited, I try to follow him (he hangs around the pier because it is here that there are the most fish) before he disappears. A few minutes later, it’s not one dolphin but 2 that we see: probably a mother and a little one, but from far away. You will see on Instagram the 1st dolphin seen :

This isn’t the first time I have seen a wild dolphin, I have seen some in Australia and New Zealand but I have paid each time. It’s really an exceptional experience, which put the stars in my eyes, especially since we were not expecting anything. A little later, we saw a white ray. We have only been there for an hour and have seen many wonders.

We continue on our way and we realize the richness of this city. The villas along the sea are enormous and very very beautiful. I ask JB why we hadn’t chosen to stay a month in Naples, and he answers that he had looked but couldn’t find Airbnb at an affordable price, and that we would have had to rent a car to get around, unlike Miami Beach.

Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park

This park is very well rated on Google Maps and seems to be frequented by locals. Entrance costs 6$/vehicle and we park at the farthest parking lot, according to the online advice. Indeed, this part of the beach is very wild, with lots of birds again. But we saw two racoons, a huge turtle… just stay perfectly still and the animals are waiting for everything to be quiet to get out/cross the road. It looks like someone has stuck a GPS on the back of the turtle.

The waves are much too strong today (swimming isn’t allowed), too bad because the sand is very white.

Sanibel Island

We take again the road towards Sanibel Island. There is only one – nice – bridge to go there, and we have to pay a toll (6$/vehicle round trip).

People come here for the shelling i.e. find the most beautiful shells on the beach. Coming on the spot, I understand why it’s only that : there is a lot of seaweed and it doesn’t smell good at all 🙁 not great to swim.

I take the opportunity to fly my drone while JB takes a quick nap on the beach. In the distance, about ten tourists are busy looking for shells.

photo taken by the drone

Captiva Island

Captiva Island has less shells, but at the place where there is a bridge between Sanibel island and Captiva Island, there are a lot of shells if you are interested (you should not swim on the other hand because of the current).

We go to Captiva Island just out of curiosity but have to drive for a good ten minutes without seeing a single parking lot. The sea front seems to be privatized: we drive on a small road: on the left the beach with mini doors quite symbolic to signal the prohibition of access, on the right: hotels, villas and luxury houses follow one another. We finally manage to find the way to reach a very peaceful public beach.

Unconditional Surrender Statue

This statue is one of the 3 statues created by John Seward Johnson II and based on the famous photo by Victor Jorgensen. The statue is so large that we cannot see the face of the young woman either. We saw her by chance in a car. Type “Unconditional Surrender Sarasota” to find the exact location on Google Maps.

It is already time to leave. We take again the road and spend the night in the city next door: Fort Myers.

Since the portions served in the United States are huge, I usually have lunch at the restaurant around 1pm and only eat a few fruits in the evening.

Day 5

The Ringling

It is a complex of several museums, a dream villa… all once owned by Mr. and Mrs. Ringling, who were the heads of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circusempire

Barnum, maybe that means something to you, doesn’t it? Especially if you’ve watched the movie The Greatest Showman, which tells the story of his circus creation and the best show on the planet. When he died, no one was up to the task of taking over the reins, and that’s when the Ringling brothers stepped in and bought the circus.

The circus contributed enormously to the economy of the city of Sarasota. The Ringling’s built their magnificent villa called Ca’ d’Zan, the tangible proof of the American dream. Because of the recession, and heavily in debt, upon John Ringling’s death, everything was handed over to the state of Florida. In 1967, the circus was resold, and in 2017 its last show took place.

Ringling Circuses have left their mark on generations of Americans, which is why they continue to travel to Sarasota to visit this museum complex.

There are 3 museums on site: the art museum (works of the Renaissance, this museum was opened at the time of the Ringling), the circus museum (closed for work at the moment) and The Circus Museums’ Tibbals Learning Center. A $25 ticket allows us to visit all of these.

But it is only The Circus Museums’ Tibbals Learning Center that interests us. Since we can admire a miniature model of the circus as it was in the 1920s. This model was donated by the author, Mr. Howard C. Tibbals, an enthusiast who used millions of photos to recreate the glory of the old Ringling Circus in miniature. Of course, as he was the one who made the miniature, he renamed the circus in : The Howard Bros. Circus 😀

A film at the entrance quickly shows the colossal work behind this masterpiece. The artist explains for example that inside the “ticket office” truck (pictured below), there is a miniature machine to count coins, mini tickets, mini coins… but that it is inside so nobody will see/know it; but that he will be happy with the perfection of his work

The details are impressive. Thanks to this miniature, one realizes not only the effort involved in running a circus of such a size (1800 employees, moving from one town to another almost every day, 15,000 spectators inside the big circus, exotic animals to feed and move by train…), but it is also a slot machine… and then a financial abyss. No circus could ensure such a functioning nowadays. If we take at least 1 hour to admire the miniature, imagine the original!

The arrival of a circus is considered an annual event in the city, schools close, life stops, and everyone goes out into the street to watch the circus promotion parade.

The rest of the museum shows the old advertising posters as well as photos of famous artists. Upstairs, the history of the American circus is explained and we see a gentleman – a volunteer – still working on the miniatures.

Ca’d naz

It is the former dream villa of the Ringling family, inspired by the Ca’ d’Oro Palace in Venice. We have to take a golf cart (driven and provided free of charge by the museum) to get there, crossing the enormous garden. The view from this villa moves me very much. It is the culmination of the American dream, but also the end of an era, since after having reached dazzling success and wealth (13th fortune of the USA in 1925), finally it is the debt that caught them.

You can visit the EWC for $10 without a guide, and from $20 with a volunteer guide. We didn’t go inside, too pressed for time.

Within the large garden are small gardens like this one: Secret Garden, whose composition has been carefully studied to provide the plants & flowers necessary for a complete cycle of a butterfly. You can also visit the Rose Garden but in August there were no roses.

Waffle House

After this incredible but also very moving visit, we stop at Waffle House, a chain of restaurants, to taste their waffle. Nothing is transcendental but the service is so impeccable that we feel we have eaten too well.

Siesta Key Beach

In spite of the threatening clouds, we continue the road to Siesta Key Beach, voted the most beautiful beach in the United States in… I don’t remember what year. The sand is indeed perfect: white and fine as it should be, stretching for miles. It’s perfect for families, and it’s very clean. Unfortunately, there are too many people, even during the week.

We were able to fly our drone to admire the expanse of the sandy beach.

Lido Key Beach

The locals indicate us another beach, much less frequented: Lido Key Beach. The sand is a little less good than Siesta Key, but there is an atmosphere there, so calm, so zen..

If you want to have more pictures about these incredible days, check out our vlog on YouTube :

First motel in the United States

Tonight is the first time we sleep in a motel. The images of the horror movie “murder with a chainsaw” come back to my mind. I’m in “PARANO” mode, “we’re all going to die” and start checking every nook and cranny. Here you are shown how to check if there are hidden cameras and so on.

Day 6

Salvador Dali Museum

It is the museum with the largest collection dedicated to the artist. The collection was assembled by A. Reynolds Morse, an industrialist, and his wife Eleanor Morse.

The museum remains small and expensive (25$/person) but the interactive room isn’t bad at all: by downloading an app, and scanning the work, interesting details start moving on the screen.

I’m sorry, I’m not much of a museum, so I won’t be able to appreciate the works at their true value.

Because of the download of the museum app, my battery runs out fast and I just end up with an iPhone that doesn’t turn on anymore – and a camera. Nice! JB is on-ne-know-where. I desperately ask at the reception desk for a cable to charge the phone. The lady calls someone who calls someone – and after 10 minutes, someone finally offers me to plug in my phone, until I have 6% battery power to call JB. Rhalala

Our 6th day of travel will be super light, we drive non-stop to Orlando (2h30 from there). We have dinner in a Disney hotel where JB’s cousin is doing his internship, it’s funny to be here 🙂 And then sleep because tomorrow, we are going to spend a long day at Disney Hollywood Studios.

This article is part of our road trip to Florida. Read the next episode here

Part 2: Practical Tips


  • Count 35$/meal for two people
  • Everglades Safari Park: $28/person
  • Naples Pier: parking right across the street, $1.5/hour, card payment accepted. Free shower on site
  • 6$/vehicle round trip to cross the bridge leading to Sanibel Island
  • Entries :
    • The Ringling: 25$/person: access to the 3 museums. The garden and the outside of the villa can be visited free of charge. Free parking in front of the complex
    • Dali Museum : 25$/person, with mandatory parking at 10$
  • Our hotel in Fort Myers: Comfort Inn & Suites Airport ( Booking link ) $84.35 per double room

This article is part of our series of Road Trip in FloridaYou can find all other travel books here:

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