For Florida retirees (and others), there are four fabulous reasons to walk and bike on a regular basis in Palm Coast...probably more, actually, but four for sure! Here they are: 1. low tide at the beach, 2. miles of trails, 3. bird, birds, and more wildlife, and 4. the majesty of nature.
- Low tide at the beach: In my mind, there is nothing like it. Generally, the surf is calm, the ebb and flow of the water creates small pools of shells and creatures, surprising things wash up! My dog loves it there and I can walk for miles and miles as the state owns the property up to the high tide line. We pass regular beach walkers and many bikers who use the bikes with the big fat tires. I prefer walking in my Crocs, but many people walk barefoot or with beach shoes. If you get there early in the morning, watch sunrise….remember, our beaches face east! There are usually about half a dozen people ready to watch the sunrise….some just watching, some doing yoga, some sitting quietly and talking. Walking at low tide, I have seen bevies of starfish, some looking stiffly dead and some trying to make their way back to the ocean. Here's a photo of a group of starfish I found one January.
- Miles of Trails: If you want to walk or bike ride elsewhere than the beach, though, know that Flagler County has over 25 miles of trails to discover - with more being added regularly. The City of Palm Coast which offers free downloads of the trail maps also has locations where you can pick up a hardcopy of these maps. Check it out here. In addition, the city recommends three in particular:
- Waterfront Park Loop, 5 miles. One of my personal favorite ones. I walk this almost every morning.
- Graham Swamp Loop, 7.4 miles. Up close and personal with nature. I have done this once and encountered a snake, so I didn't go back....but that's just me! Many mountain bike riders love this.
- Community Center Loop, 3.5 miles. A nice shorter walk/ride for days that are warmer or when you have limited time. Easy parking and access to restrooms.
- There are several websites that help you plan your rides or walks, such as Map My Ride. As you walk or ride, look for signs that say “Great Florida Birding & Wildlife Trail.” Along the way - particularly in the morning, my personal favorite time to walk - you will hear woodpeckers, cardinals, and many other birds that I can’t yet identify! Depending on the trail you take, there are bicycle maintenance stations, rest areas, picnic tables, and playgrounds. And, you get to meet new people as their are "regulars" who frequent the trails and look for that friendly "hello!" My granddaughter loves walking with me because it often means a stop at one of the lovely playgrounds.
- Birds, birds, and more wildlife:I talked a little above about the Great Florida Birding Trail; the website for these trails linked above sites the House Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Tree Swallow, American Goldfinch, and American Robin as birds commonly seen there. I can vouch for the robins....great flocks of them in January (a more delightful sight to my eyes than the January snows of Massachusetts!) and there's an owl my dog and I see routinely studying us from his perch in the canopy early in the morning.
- The majesty of nature: There is not a lot more inspiring to me than dawn over the Intracoastal Waterway - the pinks, blues, yellows and all their varied shadings. A site like Florida Hikes will help a walker or biker rider learn to identify buttonwood trees, dog fennel, and cabbage palm. We get lots of butterflies and Washington Oaks State Park also does butterfly walks and other nature excursions.