Mar 28, 2022 - Things to Do

Travel writer Cathy Salustri's favorite Florida destinations

Photo illustration of a binocular view with Cathy Salustri in it.

Photo Illustration: Axios Visuals. Photo: Cathy Salustri

Cathy Salustri knows Florida like few others.

For her master's thesis under her advisor, the great Gary Mormino, Salustri logged almost 5,000 miles retracing driving tours from the WPA Federal Writer's Project Guide in search of Florida's forgotten destinations, which became a travel book called "Backroads of Paradise."

  • She's been a freelance writer here for years, and during the pandemic Salustri bought Gulfport's weekly newspaper The Gabber. She also writes a Florida newsletter.

So we asked Salustri, "What is your favorite Florida …"

Stroll: I love the alleys in Gulfport. You learn so much about a community by what it doesn't show to the rest of the world

Hike: This is like asking me to pick a favorite cheese. ... I love to hike around Lake Dixie at Lake Louisa State Park, because even though the park removed most of the citrus trees because of greening, there's still a wild sour orange tree there, and even though it's probably not legal, I'll grab some oranges for a pie or sour orange margaritas.

Body of water: Florida Bay. Especially on a boat. Bonus points if I catch my dinner on that boat.

Beach: It's a dead heat between St. George Island State Park and Grayton Beach State Park. People call it "sugar sand" but that's not right; it's more like Bisquick – soft and powdery.

Municipal park: Fort De Soto. I'm thankful every day that Pinellas County had the foresight to make those five keys into a park.

Outdoor dining spot: Kayaking on a river. I learned long ago to make a veggie burger, wrap it in foil, and when I'm ready to eat, put it on my bow for the sun to reheat it. Elsewhere: Lazy Days in Islamorada. It has a fish market downstairs and a little beach.

Piece of gear: The Seek app. As an undergrad way back when, I had a great professor, Dr. Jerry Smith, who taught "Identifying Florida Biota" – he could name any tree, lichen, or animal in Florida. Having this app with me is like having him in my pocket.

Sweet spot: It's more of a sweet experience. I call it the Oolite Slide, and it starts the moment I turn onto US 41 just north of Collier Seminole State Park.

  • As I drive, civilization falls away and the world shows its wild side as I slide off the edge of North America. It lasts all the way to the peak of the Card Sound Bridge, where I disappear into the limestone world of the Florida Keys.

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