The red and black ship cuts through the waters of Matanzas Bay, its sails waving in the wind. On deck, members of a pirate crew call one another by names such as Oly Mackarel, Jaybird, Anastasia, Clipper, and Dirty James as they cavort between bow and stern, dazzling their audiences. Their ship, the Black Raven, was designed as a floating live performance theater—and accommodates more than 120 passengers as a crew of performers in full buccaneer dress produce interactive and dynamic plays in the spotlight. The actors work the crowd with a variety of rehearsed but unscripted skits, geared toward audiences of all ages, and may change their performance to engage specific audience members.
A mountaintop gazebo rises above a labyrinth of emerald corridors, offering sweeping, ocean views to mini golfers who conquer Fiesta Falls Miniature Golf's course. The 18-hole circuit takes players past eight waterfalls, through shadowy caves, and around a 65-foot Spanish galleon that has been enjoying a golf-centric retirement since the Age of Imperialism. During the daytime, trees and rocky outcroppings block out the sun’s rays, which are supplanted by towering light fixtures after sunset to allow for nighttime play. Fiesta Falls’s concessions dishes out soft-serve ice cream, milk shakes, and other desserts to help guests ice their elbow after a particularly strenuous round.
For more than two decades, the non-profit organization Haven Horse Ranch has been using its 26-acre property and team of horses to help youngsters learn life disciplines through riding. The ranch hosts three- and five-day camps, clinics, and trail rides, and has special experience working with children who suffer from mental and physical challenges. Lessons center around the tenets of Western riding, horsemanship, or training, while fun drills such as barrel racing, horse soccer, and speed games help students practice agility without needing to dump ice water on a sleeping bull.
A piece of Spain separated from Europe and landed in Florida. Nestled in Saint Augustine’s historic district and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the majestic Villa Zorayda contains architectural features that mirror those found in the Alhambra palace in Granada, Spain. Audio tours lead visitors through this restored Spanish villa’s halls and airy inner courtyard, pointing out hundreds of antiquities such as Arabic arches, glazed ceramics, bronze statues, and ancient charcoal burners. When not welcoming tours, the historic building and grounds also host weddings and private parties.
The goal of the knowledgeable guides at White Ibis Tours is to get you out on the water, no matter the season. Their signature pontoon tours and kayak trips are designed to highlight the area?s unique ecology and sites, including the Bridge of Lions, the Castillo de San Marcos, and Shell Mound Bluff. For those who wish to map out their own journeys, the business rents sit-on-top and sit-inside kayaks in both tandem and single models.
David Slemp still can’t wait to get in the water. He began his swimming career at age 5 and landed an 11-year stint as a Marine Rescue–certified ocean-rescue guard. The seasoned watersportsman teamed up with Eddie Toy—a chemical oceanographer who has been surfing for more than 30 years—to help others discover the joys of aquatic adventure while getting fit. They teach guests every water-safety and paddleboarding trick they know, from basic standup-paddleboarding techniques to how to SUP surf at local beaches or in a vacationing-neighbor’s pool. The duo also helps guests pump up their strength, balance, and flexibility during paddleboard yoga, which employs yoga postures and core-strengthening fitness exercises. Monthly full-moon paddle events give guests a chance to take in moonlit skies and calm waters as they quietly skim the surface. On every outing, David and Eddie teach their students to obey the rules of the beach, including maintaining a safe distance from experienced surfers, along with interpreting wind, tides, and surf conditions before hitting the waves.