George English Park

In the 1920 novel The Skylark of Space, the hero, Dick Seaton, accidentally spills a solution containing "element X" onto a copper tub that is surrounded by an energy field from a nearby "whatssittron" particle accelerator. The copper tub goes shooting through the wall and into the sky, and Seaton uses the technology to develop the first jet pack. The Rocketman jet pack that debuted in Fort Lauderdale on April 1 is almost as cool. The Jet-Lev Flyer JF 250 has "a powerful four-stroke engine, an astonishing 250 horsepower, and water nozzle reaction force to achieve stable, controlled flight," according to its makers. In other words, everyday people can now fly 30 feet in the air via a jet pack that is worn like a backpack, powered by two streams of water, and connected by a hose to an engine floating on the water. It's basically the same technology as a Jet-Ski. A "unicycle-style saddle and leg trapeze" assure safety and comfort. Shell out $250 for a "flight experience" or $4,000 for a full day of jetting.

Certainly, more glamorous destinations are within jetting distance, but a perfect escape excludes any trip that involves traffic on I-95 or getting felt up by a TSA agent. So, yay for us, a high-speed ferry to Grand Bahama Island debuted late last year. It's not exactly the Queen Mary, but it does have hardwood floors, a gift shop, and comfy lounge chairs. Regular tickets cost $75 each way, $50 each if you go there and back the same day, and kids under 6 travel free. Through a link from the Bahamas Express website, you can book a hotel stay. Once on the island, play golf, go snorkeling or fishing, shop for a nice straw hat, or swim with dolphins. Or call the tourist board at 242-352-8044 to get hooked up with a native Bahamian who shares your interests and will pal around with you for the day. That's a solid weekend trip for simple people. Sometimes all we need in life is a conch sandwich, a rum runner, and a new stamp in our passports.

Okeeheelee Park

There comes a time every so often when the air-conditioned confines of the office, car, and home begin to feel, well, confining. You don't need to be a nature buff to get a recharge from wandering the two-and-a-half miles of trail in the suburban wilderness of West Palm Beach. Given Florida's topography, it's an easy hike, most of which is shaded by creaky pines. On your walkabout, you might get a peek at a white-tailed deer or a great horned owl. More often than not, you'll come across a gopher tortoise, a threatened species frequently seen waddling at a surprisingly fast clip about the trails. Ever see a turtle running in the woods? It's a trip, man.

You feel like a pro when the lights at Jefferson Park in Hollywood flick on and bathe the soft dirt of the bocce courts in a yellow glow. The crack of one ball crashing off another, the last glimmer of sunset — it's all simply exhilarating. Then your dreams of bocce glory are quickly shattered by the hardened glare of a dozen Italian senior citizens who have been throwing jacks and rolling balls on these courts since the days of yore. They'll critique your technique under their breath, scold you for letting a dog on the dirt, and roll their eyes at the cooler full of empty beer bottles you stashed under the bleachers. The mere presence of this ancient-looking horde rocking tracksuits and loafers is indisputable anthropological proof that these courts are among South Florida's finest.

Everglades Holiday Park
Photo courtesy of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau

Living in South Florida means a steady influx of out-of-state visitors — some invited, most not. They want to do all the crap that has never even crossed your mind, and it all of a sudden becomes your responsibility to entertain these vacationing pests. Kill a day by driving west to Everglades Holiday Park and jumping on one of the futuristic-looking covered fan boats that can go out in rain and protect the pale from the sun's scorch. Yup, it's gimmicky. But you can send visitors home with tales of gator sightings and firsthand knowledge of just how badass the Everglades is. Don't forget the biggest upside: The whirring fans quickly drown out nagging in-laws and the endless banter from those guests who took you up on your drunken Facebook post inviting everyone to come visit.

Biscayne National Park

A well-placed snorkel source suggested hitting the waters off Soldier Key, the 1.66-acre island in Biscayne National Park. But park ranger Gary Bremen warns that "snorkeling off Soldier Key is absolutely not allowed. Soldier Key itself is closed to the public for a variety of reasons," including turtle nesting. That doesn't mean there's not great snorkeling in nearby waters. "Snorkeling in Biscayne National Park, well, it's one of those places nobody thinks of because everyone thinks they have to go to Key Largo or south, and they ignore the 50 smaller islands," Bremen says. Because the reefs are about three miles off the islands, a boat is a must. Don't have one? Take a three-hour, ranger-guided tour — you're in the water for an hour, transportation for two hours — for $45. Two boats leave daily, one at 10 a.m. the other at 1 p.m.

John D. MacArthur Beach State Park

Imagine a pristine shoreline, untouched by bulldozers or condos. The wind rustles sea-grape leaves and palm trees; the surf is thick and wild. This is a place with rough rocks underfoot and glittering seashells dotting the sand. You can snorkel with tropical fish or take a nap in the sand — you'll have plenty of room, considering tourists rarely discover this spot. As the sun sets, walk back along the wooden boardwalk that stretches over the sun-dappled waters of Lake Worth Cove. Wander down a nature trail, rent a kayak, or listen to bluegrass music in the park's amphitheater. Come late on summer nights to find prehistoric sea turtles digging nests; early mornings, hatchlings crawl their way to the shoreline. This place is a rare reminder of the way Florida used to be — quiet and full of wonder.

Pack up the bikes and head west to Shark Valley, where there are no sharks but plenty of sunbathing gators lounging around the 15-mile looping path. It's a nature-filled workout with ample views of pristine sawgrass and loads of migratory birds between January and March. What's that, you say? Pedal-pushing your way past gators and birds is sooooo touristy? Well, there's also a decent chance of spotting one of the much-hyped Burmese pythons that are grabbing national headlines. Park ranger Eric Riordan says five of the suckers were removed from the park in December, including one that was 16 feet long. If that's not motivation to keep pedaling, what is?

To the nongrizzled newbie, bait shops can be a bit intimidating. They're beacons of seafaring manliness where tales and tips are swapped in a vernacular impossible to fake. Rather than wimping out and heading for one of the watered-down Walmarts of fishing (Outdoor World — where you can buy a boat, a snazzy flannel to look the part, and loads of other stuff you'll never need), show some love for local retailers and drop into Angler's Bait & Tackle. The staff is as knowledgeable about the local scene as anyone and willing to share its insider info on nearby hot spots with customers. During a recent visit, one of the managers, Juanito, walked an FOB Midwesterner through all the twists and turns, from how to get a license to what baits work where to the best internet boards. He even recommended that the newcomer test out some gear at Outdoor World, then come back and order it through the shop for a better deal. It's tough not to give preference to the shop after that suggestion.

Wakodahatchee Wetlands

Though it's more a stunning example of the avian diversity residing in our great state, Wakodahatchee also is proof that once in a great while, humans do get it right. What previously sat vacant as 50 acres of "unused utilities land" has been transformed into a manufactured wetlands where the Palm Beach County Water Utilities Department naturally filters a few million gallons of water daily. We know, we know: Florida governmental body engaged in a successful eco-innovation? It's a little hard to believe. But this shit is real, and it's something to behold. More than 140 species of birds have been spotted from the boardwalks throughout the facility, from hard-to-mistake regulars like the great blue heron to rarefied hermits like the least bittern. You don't have to be the progeny of John James Audubon to get a thrill out of the view. Hell, you don't even need to own a set of binoculars. Simply walk in (there's no cost) and you'll immediately be assaulted with a landscape littered with flying, wading, and swimming feathered creatures who are delighting in the fact that, for once, humans didn't mess it up.

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