Kayaking at JBs Fish Camp, New Smyrna Beach, Florida

The tagline on the t-shirt I bought from JBs Fish Camp was "Experience the real Florida". I assume they mean Disneyworld isn't the real Florida. To each their own. I like rides, I like kayaking, so I can go either way. But for this trip, there were no mice in sight, though we did see other wildlife.

The owners of The Black Dolphin Inn had recommended JBs, so we drove to our rental with the soaked, non-functional fob (funny story) to the southern end of A1A. A ramshackle collection of buildings next to the water awaited us. I liked the feel of the place. It gave me the impression of a guy who did his own thing, running a kayak rental / restaurant / gift shop instead of sitting in front of a computer screen all day. And as I do the latter, I often envy those who do the former.

Renting kayaks was easy. With just a bit of paperwork to make sure your next of kin doesn't sue them if you're eaten by a whale, we were taken to the beach where our kayaks were ready and waiting for our watery excursion. I bought the optional waterproof bag. I had a bad experience once already on this trip with salt water and electronics - no need to chance another.

With cell phone secured, we shoved off with a map of the intercostal waterway and a sunny sky. The clear sky lasted all day, but the map lasted less than a minute. And neither did the dryness of my shirt. The storage area behind my seat wasn't meant to keep things dry, just keep them inside the kayak. Lesson learned. Thus, the new t-shirt I mentioned above.

The first area of interest on the soggy map was the manatee pool. It was easy to find because of the ten or so other kayakers manatee-stalking. Most moved along and we got to spend some quality time with four manatees. They were pretty relaxed, and I didn't take it personally when one of them nudged my kayak. AFAIK, they're not the evil man-eating kind of manatees we have in Michigan.

Past the manatees, we paddled around the mangrove islands and enjoyed a quiet morning on the water, broken only by the boats that sped by. It was nice of the handful that slowed down when they got near us - a few thought it was a competition to see how high they could make the waves. Dolphins were the other big wildlife we spotted. But only the fins. But I'd move fast too if propellers were getting close to slicing me up.

It was an awesome way to spend a sunny morning, kayaking on the Intercostal. Beaches are fun (we visited one right after JBs, actually), but a break to get a little semi-solitude really hits the spot sometimes. But man cannot live on kayaking alone, and JBs has a restaurant to fill that gullet emptied by all the paddling. Indoor and outdoor seating is available, but boy, do I love me some outdoor seating (as the kids say), to the patio we went.

We got a great picnic table by the docks, and watched the boats pulled in from a morning on the water to continue their drinking on dry land. Another wave of envy hit me - these people get to be on the water pretty much whenever they want. I love Michigan, and will never live anywhere else, but there are years I don't swim at all because I'm not a fan of swimming in cold water. That wasn't a problem in Florida.

But back to the food. I went with a boring old (but very tasty) fish and fries option. The missus went for the enormous seafood platter, filled with mostly recognizable seafood items, complete with a bucket in which to place the shelly detritus after hammering and pulling them apart.

So after you've finished cruising on the water, whether in a boat, kayak, or paddle board, stay for lunch and drinks right next to the water. And maybe pick up a non-mouse themed t-shirt while you're at it.