Cathy Salustri knows Florida like few others.
For his master’s thesis Under the guidance of his advisor, the great Gary Mormino, Salustri traveled nearly 5,000 miles retracing the WPA Federal Writer’s Project Guide’s drive-thru tours of Florida’s forgotten destinations, which became a travel book titled “Backroads of Paradise”.
- She’s been a freelance writer here for years, and during the pandemic Salustri bought the Gulfport weekly, The Gabber. She also writes a newsletter in Florida.
So we asked Salustri, “What is your favorite Florida…”
To stroll: I love the back streets of Gulfport. You learn so much about a community by what it doesn’t show to the rest of the world
Raise: It’s like asking me to choose a favorite cheese. …I love hiking around Dixie Lake at Lake Louisa State Park because even though the park has removed most of the citrus trees due to greening, there is still a wild sour orange tree there. , and even though it’s probably not legal, I’ll take oranges for pie or sour orange margaritas.
Body of water: Florida Bay. Especially on a boat. Bonus points if I take my dinner on this boat.
Beach: It’s tied between St. George Island State Park and Grayton Beach State Park. People call it “sugar sand” but it’s not true; it’s more like Bisquick – soft and powdery.
City park: Fort DeSoto. I am grateful every day that Pinellas County had the foresight to turn these five keys into a park.
Outdoor dining area: Kayaking on a river. I learned a long time ago how to make a veggie burger, wrap it in foil, and when I’m ready to eat, put it on my bow for the sun to warm it up. Elsewhere: Lazy Days in Islamorada. There is a fish market downstairs and a small beach.
Equipment piece: The search app. As an undergrad at the time, I had a great teacher, Dr. Jerry Smith, who taught “Identifying Florida Biota” – he could name any tree, lichen, or animal in Florida. Having this app with me is like having it in my pocket.
Ideal zone: It’s more of a soft experience. I call it the Oolite slide, and it starts just as I turn onto US 41 just north of Collier Seminole State Park.
- While I’m driving, civilization crumbles and the world shows its wild side as I slip to the edge of North America. It lasts until the top of the Card Sound Bridge, where I disappear into the limestone world of the Florida Keys.