The new look of BeachHunter.net

The new look of BeachHunter.net

I’ve been working hard to make BeachHunter.net more user-friendly with better drop-down menu navigation and more consistent design throughout. It is still a work in progress.

I’ve also tried to make it more visually appealing.

Since BeachHunter first went online in 2005, more than three million people have visited the site while planning their beach vacation. I try to provide accurate information that isn’t colored with tourist-bait hyperbole.

BeachHunter.net now has photograph enhanced beach index pages divided into the following categories:

Southwest Florida Beaches – from Anna Maria Island to Marco Island.

Tampa Bay Area Beaches – from Caladesi Island to Egmont Key.

Florida Atlantic Ocean Beaches – assorted beaches from Hollywood Beach to Saint Augustine Beach.

Florida Panhandle Beaches – panhandle beaches I’ve visited.

Florida Keys Beaches – all the beaches in the Florida Keys.

Snorkeling Beaches in Florida – best beaches for snorkeling from shore.

Beaches Closest to Orlando – best beaches within two hours of Orlando and Disney.

Florida Camping Beaches – beach camping is more difficult than you might think in Florida. Here’s how to camp as close to the beach as possible.

Below is an example of my photograph-enhanced index pages, which automatically adjust to the size of your browser window or mobile device:

4-18-2014 10-23-02 AM

And be sure to check out my completely redesigned web pages about jellyfish found on Florida beaches.

Feedback is welcome.

 

{ 0 comments }

Drones: Coming to a Beach Near You

by BeachHunter on April 8, 2014

FOX 13 News

It was only a matter of time before this issue came up.  A local news channel recently did a short story on a confrontation on the beach regarding the flying of a drone with a camera on Treasure Island Beach. Video above. (If the video above doesn’t display properly, here’s a link to the video).

Some people are having a hard time coming to grips with the idea that we are recorded by video and still cameras everywhere we go now. Even at the beach. It doesn’t give me warm fuzzies either.

Most hotels and beachfront restaurants have either security cameras or live web cameras.

Are cameras on drones an even bigger invasion of privacy? And do we have an expectation of privacy when we are in public?

I definitely don’t want my neighbor’s drones flying over my backyard filming me at the BBQ grill.

On the other hand, one of our neighbors has security cameras outside their house which also takes in a view of many of their neighbors’ homes as well as the public street. A couple of weeks ago the cameras resulted in some pretty good images of some burglars and their getaway car.

Personally, my biggest concern about drones flying overhead is not any invasion of my privacy, but rather that what goes up must come down. How long will it be before someone is seriously injured or killed by an out-of-control drone?

I get what the guy with the drone is saying, but I’m not sure I agree that a remote controlled mobile camera is the same as a stationary web cam at a hotel, or a person standing on the beach with a camera.

Actually, drones have been flying overhead taking our picture for decades. They are called satellites and they make Google Maps possible and accessible to anyone. And, there is no doubt in my mind that what we see on Google Maps is just a tiny taste of what the government/industry “partnership”  is using to record what we are all up to.

So, what do you think? Do we need drone-free public beaches and parks?

Just for fun, here’s a beautiful video from Tahiti captured by a personal drone:

{ 1 comment }

Tips for Avoiding Crime on Florida Beaches

by BeachHunter on March 16, 2014

3-16-2014 3-00-24 PM

Most Florida islands and beaches are very low crime areas. Some have nearly zero crime. I’ve always felt safer at the beach than in any other location. Still, property theft, inappropriate behavior and physical violence can happen at the beach, so you need to know how to avoid it.

Property Theft

Most crime at the beach involves theft of property. Thieves know that beach visitors leave valuable items in their vehicles: cameras, wallets, items they’ve purchased while on vacation, etc. They also know that people leave valuables on their beach towel while they go swimming. Property theft crimes happen on most beaches from time to time and are fairly easy to guard against. Lock valuables out of sight in your car trunk and don’t leave anything on your beach towel that you would not be willing to lose.

Keep your hotel room locked. That means being sure the first floor windows are locked as well. I’m always amazed at how many first floor rooms I rent where all the windows are unlocked when I check in. Don’t leave your valuables laying around in your hotel room when you leave. Pack them away, out of sight.

3-16-2014 3-04-38 PM

Physical Violence at the Beach

Youthful crowds + alcohol = fights.  And youthful crowds + gang activity = violence. This is nothing new, but a lot of folks think life is so laid-back at the beach that riots and crowd violence don’t happen. Large beach crowds near dense urban areas can lead to large fights that involve hundreds of people. Panama City Beach, Daytona Beach, Clearwater Beach, Ft. Lauderdale Beach and South Beach Miami all have the ingredients conducive to out-of-control crowds. This can get even worse during Spring Break.

Recently fights broke out simultaneously at Ft. Lauderdale Beach at Las Olas and on Miami’s South Beach. Hundreds of people were involved and heavy police involvement was required to break up the fights and arrest the instigators. See the video below shot by a cell phone.

Some people blame this sort of mayhem on social media, but a quick internet search turned up Ft. Lauderdale Beach brawl stories from as far back as  1973

Both Clearwater Beach and Panama City Beach have alcohol fueled beach brawls from time to time during Spring Break.

One of the worst beach riots happened in Daytona Beach back in 1956. Today’s militarized law enforcement is equipped to deal with unruly crowds, but things can still boil out-of-control very quickly and can involve hundreds of people.

You don’t want to be at the beach in these kinds of crowds. If you want to spend Spring Break at the beach, pick a more laid-back beach town like Cocoa Beach, Siesta Key, or Saint Pete Beach.  I’d recommend avoiding holiday weekends at any of the problem beaches.

Small beach towns are not without sporadic problems. One of the smallest and most relaxed beach towns anywhere in Florida, Bradenton Beach, suffered for years from holiday weekend gang violence at Coquina Public Beach which came to a head with a gang-related shooting on the beach on Easter Weekend 2007 even in the presence of heavy law enforcement. Unlike some of the larger towns which might just accept this a part of being overcrowded and overdeveloped, Bradenton Beach and Manatee County met the problem head-on and completely reconfigured the beach access infrastructure at Coquina Beach to discourage gang-style “cruising” in the parking areas. Today my reliable sources tell me the problem has been eliminated. However, you still won’t find me there on holiday weekends.

Sex Crimes at the Beach

Women should never walk alone on the beach after dark and should generally avoid being alone on remote beaches or parking areas at any time of day. Violent sex crimes are not common on Florida beaches, but they do occur. And so as not to alarm visitors, they are not well publicized.

I am not familiar with the goings-on at all of the beaches in Florida, but I do keep fairly close tabs on west central and southwest Florida beaches. Most encounters on the beach that might be construed as sexual are nothing more than a person minding their own business and being discreetly nude on a quiet part of the beach. Other times people may be seen soliciting sexual encounters on the beach or exposing themselves in a lewd manner.

The best way to avoid encountering nude people on the beach is to learn which beaches attract nudists. Canaveral National Seashore’s Apollo Beach and Playalinda Beach, Miami’s Haulover Beach, the remote reaches of Sanibel’s Bowman’s Beach are typical examples where nudity may be encountered. Haulover Beach is the only beach where public nudity is legal.

Simply being nude on the beach is not a crime (though it is a misdemeanor), but lewd and nude is a crime. Some beaches have developed a reputation for attracting gay males trying to hook up with other gay males. Caspersen Beach in Venice, Bunche Beach in Ft. Myers, and Sarasota’s North Lido Beach come to mind as gay hook up areas. Authorities generally make an ongoing effort to discourage this behavior.

Safest Beaches

The safest beaches are the ones most difficult to get to. The Palm Island group with Don Pedro and Little Gasparilla Island is probably one of the safest. Longboat Key, Siesta Key, Marco Island, Destin, Seaside, Flagler, Indialantic, Melbourne–beaches that tend not to attract huge crowds of young people fueled with a mix of alcohol and hormones–are also beaches with a low chance of encountering crime.

Use common sense, stay alert and be aware that everyone in Florida is not here on vacation.

Crowd at Manasota Beach.

This is a friendly family crowd at Manasota Beach. No crime danger here.

More Tips to Avoid Crime and Stay Safe at the Beach

  • When you arrive at the beach, parking may be scarce and you may have to park in the far reaches of the lot. If you are staying for sunset you may find yourself returning to your car after dark and have to walk through a dark and deserted parking lot to reach your car. Try to anticipate this situation and move your car closer to the beach or closer to the lighted beach facilities when the crowd thins and before it gets too dark.
  • Always make note of where exactly on the beach you are located, in case you need to call for help. Most beaches have some type of system for referring to your geographic location either by street number markings near a boardwalk or by numbered or colored lifeguard towers or by a sign indicating the beach access name or number. Before going out onto the beach, take a moment to stop and read all the “warning” signs located near the beach trail.
  • You can feel comfortable on crowded beaches where there is a good mix of young people, families and seniors, even when the crowd is very heavy. Think twice about a beach scene where 90 percent of people on the beach are under 30 and are drinking alcohol. Especially if there are a lot of them.
  • Most major public beaches have a visible law-enforcement presence. If you are concerned, locate yourself near a lifeguard tower or near law enforcement. Daytona Beach, Clearwater Beach and Siesta Key Public Beach, as examples that quickly come to mind, all have very active and visible law enforcement personnel on the beach and they do a very good job of keeping things civil.
  • If you are on a beach where driving is permitted, be sure you and your children stay well clear of the marked driving lanes. Regrettably, someone gets run over almost every year on the beach and sometimes it’s the beach patrol that runs them over.

 

{ 0 comments }

Yoga With Elin on Venice Beach: Website Critique

by BeachHunter on February 12, 2014

2-12-2014 8-44-01 PM

If you go to Venice Beach, Florida any morning around 8 am you’ll find a large group of people doing yoga right out on the beach. In the sand. On their yoga mats.

Now, I’ve seen yoga on the beach plenty of times, but this was the largest group I’d ever seen. Of course free things do attract a lot of people, and these classes were free. I turned to the internet to find out more about free yoga on Venice Beach, Florida.

Elin’s website: yogawithelin.us

Elin Larsen has an excellent website that tells you pretty much everything you need to know to enjoy her free yoga class offerings and what to bring with you. Her phone number is front and center and her schedule of free classes is easy to see. Lots of people prefer to just pick up the phone rather than to hunt around on a website for information.

Elin establishes her credibility right at the top of her website by saying that she’s been teaching yoga for 35 years and that she is Certified to teach yoga. She also has easily understood explanations of what yoga is and what it can do for you and gives you a feel for her yoga teaching philosophy. Don’t expect a competitive pose-fest. This is yoga that anyone can do.

After looking around Elin’s website you’ll learn that she also offers other yoga classes which are not free. She also sells yoga DVD’s for those days when you just don’t feel like leaving the house, or for when you want to have a few friends over to have a private yoga session. Like all business owners, Elin likes to stay in touch with her customers and prospects, so she offers a newsletter signup form on her website.

Elin has a “store” on her website where she offers her yoga instructional DVD’s for sale. It looks professional and appears to be simple to use.

2-12-2014 8-47-42 PM

At first I had a hard time figuring out what was on the DVD’s since there appeared to be no product description. Then after clicking around and using a few extra brain cells I discovered that I could click on the link that displays the DVD’s as a “list.” That brought up the product descriptions:

2-12-2014 8-48-38 PM

Another nice touch on the Elin’s yoga-on-Venice-Beach website is the photo gallery and videos. She has several
YouTube videos that show you exactly what to expect and provides some excellent photos of her class activities.

She also has links to another beach activity she promotes: Stand Up Paddleboarding. But that’s another website for another time.

Is there anything Elin could do to improve her website. The only thing I’d like to see is a better description of exactly WHERE the free classes are.  Not everyone knows where the Venice Beach Pavilion is. Just a short description with directions and a Google map embedded on the bottom of the home page would be very helpful.

I’m also left wondering what the prospects are for a person with some mobility limitations. Could they participate in some way? I believe Venice beach has special beach wheelchairs available. Some information on that would no doubt be appreciated by some folks. Of course you can always call Elin and ask. Her phone number is right there on the website.

Great job Elin! Very well done website.

I’d love to hear comments from anyone else. Have you been to any of Elin’s free classes?

Note: This is NOT a paid review or ad. It is entirely independent.

About my website critiques.

{ 0 comments }

New Feature on BlogTheBeach.com: Beach Website Critiques

by BeachHunter on February 12, 2014

David McRee on Anclote Key, Florida.

Your humble blogger, David McRee, on Anclote Key.

A lot of folks have a look around my website and blog and think I spend all my time at the beach. I wish.

I actually spend quite a bit of time on the computer, writing and editing photos and video, and researching. I’ve spent quite a bit of time working on my own websites and I’ve learned a thing or two about what people look for when they visit a website.

I’ve decided to try a new feature here on BlogTheBeach.com.

I’m going to pick an interesting website every week (beach or Florida related) and I’m going to point out the things I think are good about it as well as ways I think it could be better. And I’m hoping you, dear reader, will throw in your two cents as well and we can all learn something in the process.

This will all be done in the spirit of helpfulness, not to trash anyone’s website. Lord knows mine are far from perfect.

So, be on the lookout for my first “critique.”

And if it’s your website I’ve picked, feel free to respond, or even to link to the review and share it with your audience. I’d love to hear from you.

{ 0 comments }

Vibrio Vulnificus Infections in Florida: Are You in Danger?

October 10, 2013

Subject: Dangerous saltwater bacteria called Vibrio Vulnificus Why am I talking about this now? Because there have been a significant number of news stories reporting a few deaths in Florida from Vibrio infections. Unfortunately many of the reports seem to be leaving out or de-emphasizing important facts, creating a scare. What is Vibrio Vulnificus? Vibrio [...]

Read the full article →

Hoot’s Library

September 11, 2013

There was this guy named “Hoot”and he had this little shack on the back of his house under a mango tree where he kept all his books. After Hoot died, the new owner left everything the way it was and invited the island to make it their library. It doesn’t have a door. There’s no [...]

Read the full article →

Florida Gulf Beaches Access Guide: A Look Inside the Book

September 10, 2013

Here’s a 12 minute tour of the inside of my new Florida Gulf Beaches Access Guide. It’s a safe tour and you’re guaranteed not to end up stuck on Gilligan’s Island.

Read the full article →

A Cover Story: My New Gulf Beach Access Guide

September 9, 2013

How My New Book Cover Was Created One of the most important parts of a successful book is the cover. There’s just no way around it. So I knew this time I’d have to have my book cover professionally designed. Luckily, my son Nathan is a graphic designer who managed to make it through 4 [...]

Read the full article →

Pictures of Little Gasparilla Island, Florida

August 27, 2013

Here are some photos from our vacation on Little Gasparilla Island, Florida. For more information about the island, click here.

Read the full article →