Yamaha VX110 Deluxe waverunners zip through the glittering waves of Sarasota Bay, Anna Maria Sound, and the intracoastal waterways. The speedy and maneuverable vessels are ideal for adventurous types, although the expansive rental fleet at H2O Watersportz accommodates boaters who prefer all different paces. Compact CraigCat catamarans allow pairs to recline as they coast over ripples, and pontoon boats that seat up to 14 come equipped with gear such as radios and nautical maps that identify where to find the bay of Kool Aid. For more structured journeys, clients can opt for chartered fishing trips helmed by expert guides or tours of the local waterways, with stops at landmarks such as Egmont Key and dolphin and manatee gathering places.
Imagine for a moment diving into the ocean, resurfacing with not only memories of the sub-aquatic environment, but a full reel of photographs, too. Underwater photography is just one of the many courses offered at Scuba Quest, a family-owned company that has shown students how to safely explore the seas for more than 25 years.
Scuba Quest began as a single shop, but has since spread to six locations across the state of Florida. At each, the company’s NAUI-certified instructors lead refresher courses, beginner classes, and comprehensive certification programs. Rather than climbing into fish tanks while pet-store clerks are on break, Scuba Quest's students can put their new skills to the test in unfamiliar waters during the company’s exotic diving excursions around the globe.
It?s not uncommon to stumble upon fake alligators as you make your way around a mini-golf course. But at Smuggler's Cove's locations, live American alligators snap their jaws in exhibits nestled amid the miniature fairways. With an old-fashioned bamboo pole players can dangle a treat above 20?50 of the predatory alligators, which leap from the water to snatch their treat. Between feeding frenzies, games take place on Smugglers Cove?s 18-hole outdoor courses, where balls roll past rushing waterfalls, into caves, over mountainous terrain, and into a hole in a pirate ship.
Pinebrook/Ironwood’s 3,964-yard executive course challenges every golfer’s stroke and strokes every retina with its beautiful Gulf Coast surroundings. Water borders 16 of the fairways, with 37 bunkers, or 6.4 million years in hourglass time, buffering the well-manicured greens. Budding Ben Hogans can cruise the course in their own golf cart and line up on super-quick Champion Ultra-Dwarf Bermuda grass, which is said to outperform traditional Bermuda for producing a true roll and distorting Mayday signals.
Designed by Ted McAnlis to take advantage of the area’s natural wetlands, the fairways at The Preserve Golf Club are riddled with water hazards and marshy areas. Water comes directly into play on 9 of the course’s holes, and players end up traipsing across 11 bridges as they hit their way from beginning to end. Many stumble at the 3rd hole, whose aim-blocking sabal palms earn it a handicap of 1, or at the course’s signature 17th hole, which drowns balls left and right. The course’s greens are newly recarpeted with ultradwarf bermuda grass, and pines, oaks, and palms line the fairways, their branches grasping at stray balls like nature’s catchers' mitts.
Before tackling the aquatic mischief of the championship course, golfers can take aim at the island target greens of the aqua driving range, where 40 hitting stations let players gear up for the watery course. After facing down the fairways, players select from a deli-style menu at Ryder Cup Grille, which features live music from artists such as Larry Crane, longtime guitarist for John Mellencamp.
Course at a Glance: * 18-hole, par 72 course * Length of 7,000 yards * Course rating of 74 * Slope rating of 141 * Three tee options * See the scorecard
A glance up at the high canopies of TreeUmph! Adventure Course's 14 forested acres yields views of beautiful flora, birds, and... humans. Though the people aren't native to these trees, most of the activities here are set high up in the foliage, giving groups a chance to see what the birds see. Among the attractions, you can speed down the woods' biggest obstacle, the Triumph zip line: a 650-foot cable that starts 60 feet high and descends toward the forest floor. The five age-appropriate elevated courses here complement the low-height Climb-On course with flat, netted walkways, a zip line, and monkey bridges meant to challenge customers with progressively more difficult courses. After completing the first four courses, course-goers can be cleared to ascend to the Summit.
Then there's the most challenging Summit course, which features the park's most demanding obstacles. But these attractions aren't just designed to thrill: they're also designed to challenge, both mentally and physically, and to be entirely environmentally friendly. Aerial platforms are secured by compression rather than bolts, which allows the trees to continue growing unobstructed and roots are protected by winding trails and barriers.