Day 2 - Myakka & Drumdown Sunday 8th June 2014 Well, you would imagine that following an exhausting 25 hour day travelling, finishing off with some powerful cocktails, we would sleep well.... I had a bit of a broken night, waking at 2:00am and again at 4:00. We are both wide awake at 5:00 and make a coffee, which we take outside onto the front deck. It's a lovely temperature, well into the 70s, and we enjoy the peace and quiet (broken by the sound of crickets and occasional rustling in the bushes). Having performed two essential tasks (coffee, and updating Facebook!) we wander over to the beach shortly after 6:00 and stroll along the sand as the sky gradually gets lighter, with sunrise at about 6:40. The pelicans, egrets and skimmers are all busy catching breakfast. Amanda finds a perfect sanddollar: We time the walk so that we are back in the village just before 7:00 and make our way to our breakfast venue. On previous visits I have always eaten at the iconic Broken Egg, but sadly they closed down at the end of 2013 when the directors retired. A couple of spin-offs have subsequently been opened by former staff members, but the reviews are mixed. The best reviews seem to be for the Village Cafe http://www.villagecafeonsiesta.com right in the centre of the 'strip'. We are the first customers and take a table on the patio (basically a section of screened off sidewalk) and are warmly welcomed by the server. We both order orange juice, but decline coffee as we had some earlier at the cottage. Amanda chooses Siesta Key Benedict with home fries, I go for 2 poached eggs, bacon and home fries. Service is laid back, but we're not in a rush. The food is lovely, and we leave $30 to cover the $26 check. It's 7:35 as we wander back to the cottage for showers. The plan today is to visit the Myakka River State Park a few miles inland. http://www.floridastateparks.org/myakkariver/ I have been before and enjoyed it enormously. Any description I give will not be better than that on the official website, so please pardon my shameless plagiarising: "One of the oldest and largest state parks, Myakka protects one of the state´s most diverse natural areas. The Myakka River, designated as a Florida Wild and Scenic River, flows through 58 square miles of wetlands,prairies, hammocks, and pinelands. Visitors can enjoy wildlife viewing from a boardwalk that stretches out over the Upper Myakka Lake, then take to the treetops with a stroll along the canopy walkway. The park´s river and two lakes provide ample opportunities for boating, freshwater fishing, canoeing, and kayaking; a boat ramp provides access to Upper Myakka Lake. Hikers can explore trails that cross large expanses of rare Florida dry prairie. Scenic lake tours are offered daily on the world´s two largest airboats." We set off east from the island at 8:10, and arrive at the park entrance just before 9:00am. A proper park ranger requests the very modest sum of $6 for entry (car and any number of occupants) and we head onto the stunning drive towards the Lake. The trees (swamp oak, the ones with the feathery beards hanging down, and a wide variety of palms) line the road, often meeting overhead to give the effect of driving down a verdant tunnel. It's a couple of miles to the main Lake parking area, which has the airboat dock, the former ticket office and shop, now a cafe, and an impressive, relatively new building on stilts that includes a large gift shop, restrooms and offices. We book in for the 10:00am airboat tour, at a cost of $12 each, and are asked to be on the dock by no later than 9:45. The lady ranger who takes our money advises us that a short, 5 minute walk along a path leading into the trees will take us to a fishing platform where several large alligators have been seen in recent days. We follow her directions and walk along a sandy path to the railed, wooden platform at the lakeside. And lo and behold, a very (to us!) large gator is cruising towards us! Thankfully we are elevated several feet above the water! From a previous trip I recall the slightly alarming statistic that for each inch between an alligator's eyes and his snout, he (or she) will have a foot of body length behind!! This fella, or lady, looks to have a foot long snout/eye thing going on, indicative of being 11-12 feet in length! We take photos and stroll back to the dock, rest rooming and having a swift browse of the gift shop along the way. A few people are already in line under the covered waiting area, so we join them at 9:40. Within a few minutes more people arrive and it looks like the tour will be full (they usually are). The ranger on duty takes our ride tokens and allows everyone to board. We take the very front row on the prow of the boat, in front of the wheelhouse. A few latecomers, a family group of Mexicans delay us setting off for a few minutes. The pilot/guide gives a safety talk and, having to compete with the last boarders to be heard, gently but firmly devises everyone that this is a narrated tour, and would all guests please be quiet when he is speaking. He is ignored, by the Mexicans, makes a slightly less subtle request for good behaviour and sets off, shortly after 10:00 am.