Porter Airlines now flies to Orlando Melbourne International Airport, Florida - where kayaking and oceanfront adventures await.
Did you know that the trick to not spooking a pelican is to calmly talk to it... almost like it's a dog? I'm not entirely sure this information is completely accurate, but it worked for me as my kayak glided towards a mooring post in the lagoon of Indian River, part of Florida's Sebastian Inlet State Park.
The pelican - much larger and broader than I had imagined while on land - showed no signs of abandoning his perch as the boat drifted closer but he did fuss about nervously. "Good pelican" I purred. "Who's a good bird? You are. Yes you are. You're a good bird and you have very handsome feathers". The cooing and coaxing worked; the pelican settled down and relaxed, and I breathed a sigh of relief that I another travel day had passed free from animal attacks.
Kayaking in Sebastian Inlet State Park is easy and accessible - and filled with wildlife.
My peaceful pelican drive by came towards the end of an absolutely wonderful morning of mostly gentle paddling. Together with my friend Becky, our tandem kayak followed the guide along the edge of the park's mangrove trees. We saw gorgeous white herons, osprey, cormorants, mullet fish, and rumor has it that a nearby kayak even spotted a small shark! But for me, nothing could compare to the pelican... nothing, that is, save for the dolphins.
I wish I had a photo to share of the beautiful dolphins who gracefully arched out of the water just enough to show us their elegant fins but their agility and speed far outstripped my own camera abilities. They were nothing short of magnificent. And I wasn't the only one who thought so. My group felt a mix of absolute awe and reverence combined with child-like glee. We couldn't help squealing every time we saw them! It was wonderful to be sharing their environment.
For those of you who may remember my past anti-adventurist moments with kayaks, I'm happy to report that the eco-tour program run by BG's Surfside Grill and Adventures is friendly and welcoming even for the most inexperienced of paddlers. There's a choice between solo and tandem kayaks (as well as stand up paddle boards) and the inlet is home to calm and gentle waters. Towards the end of our 90 minute tour we experienced an increase in wind that really made us sweat for the last 15 minutes or so but it wasn't anything that we couldn't handle without a little groaning - and our efforts were rewarded with a manatee sighting!
Even if dolphins couldn't tempt you to kayak, Sebastian Inlet State Park is still a fantastic destination for anyone visiting South-East Florida, including Disney and Orlando. It really is a beautiful spot of peaceful wilderness and offers everything from hiking to camping to snorkeling.
Porter flies direct to Orlando Melbourne International Airport - in 3 hours!
In my opinion, the proximity to Sebastian Inlet State Park is the best reason to stay in nearby Melbourne as your home base, but it's not the only reason. Porter Airlines now offers seasonal direct flights between Toronto and Orlando Melbourne International Airport. I was lucky enough to get a preview of this service. It was amazing to go from the crisp autumn air of southern Ontario to the warm, balmy breezes of Florida in just three hours. And I know that when the cold winter weather arrives, Canadians will be clamoring to make this commute.
Long time readers of TurnipseedTravel know that I'm passionate about value, the travel experiences that give you great bang for your buck and enrich your memories. And Porter is the very definition of great value. Their staff are renowned for their friendliness (they're Canadian, after all!) Porter offers complimentary lounges in many airports, with hot and cold drinks and light snacks to accompany the newspapers and comfy chairs. And once in the sky, a free snack and beverage service is offered. Yep. FREE!
You'll be offered a choice of snacks, perhaps apple chips, banana bread, or cookies on one flight, roasted almonds, root vegetable chips, or cookies on the next. There's always an option, sometimes two, for people who follow vegan and/or gluten free diets. And Canadian craft beer and Canadian wine is served in a real glass! (Yep, that's free too). I've never seen a grumpy passenger when I fly Porter. Of course, I'm sure the wine might have a LITTLE something to do with it, but I think it's also because the passengers are made to feel so very welcome.
MLB airport is small, friendly... and furry.
That warm welcome continues in Orlando Melbourne International Airport - better known by it's airport code name MLB (think "Major League Beaches"). It's one of the smallest international airports I've used but its petit size has a lot going for it. The airport is finishing up a significant renovation which will also make it the first in the United States to be compliant with the latest customs regulations. Airport customs has been designed to serve 400 passengers in an hour - which in real numbers means a 67 passenger flight can clear customs in about 22 minutes. That's a pretty good record for an eager Canadian who can't wait to hit the beach.
However, I'd happily stand in line all day just to say hello to Kuma the airport dog! Kuma is a 10 year old pup and is one of the first in the world to be a specially trained airport dog, bringing stress relief and relaxation to passengers. Kuma isn't phased at all by loud airplane engines or the bustle of passengers darting around for their gate and she always has a wonderful doggy grin on her face. Kuma: You're a VERY good dog!
Best hotel near Orlando Melbourne International Airport
While in Melbourne, I stayed at the Radisson Suite Hotel Oceanfront. The hotel is just 8 miles from the airport.... and less than 8 steps from the Atlantic Ocean. All rooms have an oceanfront view and it's one of the best I've ever experienced. Your view will be totally unencumbered - something I appreciate as I've seen so many properties who have really stretched the definition of "oceanfront" and "oceanview". Rest assured, when you stay here, nothing will obscure the sights and sounds of the ocean - and nothing puts me to sleep like the sound of crashing waves!
Speaking of sleep... the Radisson Suite Hotel Oceanfront features adjustable, Select Comfort mattresses. For those unfamiliar, this brand allows you to adjust the firmness and softness of your mattress. But you have to know about it first! When I went to flop into bed, I nearly bounced back off the mattress! (Yep, you should be picturing a cartoon of me going "sprong"!) Apparently the person who used the room before me preferred their mattress as firm possible.
This funny moment aside, I always, always say that the most important thing about any accommodations is whether or not you had a good sleep and I slept like a log in this hotel. Maybe firm mattresses will be my preference going forward?
(PS: Want to read more reviews about the Radisson Suite Hotel Oceanfront? You can find them here!)
Look out pelicans - I'll be back!
Now that I'm a pelican whisperer, I'll be more eager than ever to take a break from winter weather and head back to Melbourne for a repeat visit. Knowing that I'm just an easy commute away from waves and wildlife is all the encouragement I need!
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My trip to Florida was facilitated by Porter Airlines, MLB Airport, the local tourist authority, and others and I thank them all for their support. All research, writing, and opinions are my own.
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