Real-life Tunnel of Love: Glass-flat waterways wend behind stately homes — Photo courtesy of A.D.Thompson
Central Florida wildlife takes many beautiful forms, from the willowy sandhill crane to its most famous resident, the decidedly less elegant but no less fascinating American alligator. Each of them, along with a thousand other beautiful creatures, enjoy Orlando's many unspoiled rivers, canals and lakes and as fall descends on the region and both humidity and mosquitoes abate, the human element joins them in its ongoing pursuit of becoming one with nature.
As with most things, however, folks often have very different ideas about how to do it. No matter what you land on, remember that you'll be taking advantage of Orlando's off-season, which provides nicer weather and fewer crowds.
Jimmy Buffet may have been raised in Alabama but his mark on Florida and its residents is undeniable. Despite his connection to the seashore, you'll find much of his philosophy alive and well on the river at Wekiva Island, a near-iconic local hangout that's undergone a recent refurbishment. And, like most natural watering holes, attracts a cross-section of "wildlife."
Canoe and kayak rentals, along with "private" riverside cabanas (not to mention an on-site bar/restaurant) keep the place popular. Come fall, a time many jaded locals deem too cold for swimming, crowds abate some and the river is as rife as ever for exploration.
Venetian Canal is among the Winter Park waterways you'll navigate with Peace of Mind Kayak Tours — Photo courtesy of Peace of Mind Kayak Tours
Those more attuned to Sun Salutations than "Son of a Son of a Sailor" can find their paradise via Peace of Mind Kayak Tours, a local outfitter with expertise throughout Central Florida. As autumn descends on the region, tours throughout the Winter Park chain of lakes have paddlers slipping silently through waters that wend beneath towering cypress, one of only a few area trees whose leaves turn burnished and imbue more traditional seasonality to the subtropics. Combination packages begin with sunrise yoga and culminate with quiet lake exploration. Mercifully, this time of year there will be no "no-seeums" to block your path to enlightenment.