Continuing on the Southwest Florida Scenic Flight Tour

In a recent post I shared the beginnings of my private Southwest Florida Scenic Flight Tour. Starting in Punta Gorda, I highlighted the trip down to Sanibel Island and then as we headed back up the coast to Boca Grande.

Matlacha, Florida, Pine Island beyond

Matlacha Island, sitting between Pine Island and the Florida mainland.

Continuing on the rest of the flight took us from the top of Boca Grande and Gasparilla Island up to Manasota Key and Englewood Beach. We then turned inland going over Port Charlotte, spending some time flying around Charlotte Harbor and the heart of Punta Gorda before heading in. The beautiful blue skies and water continued for the rest of the tour.

It’s time to let the photos and their captions tell the rest of the Southwest Florida scenic flight tour story. Well without further ado.

Boca Grande, Gasparilla Island, Florida

Approaching Boca Grande at the top of Gasparilla Island in Florida.

The residential community of Boca Grande is surrounded by the colorful Gulf of Mexico and Gasparilla Sound waters.

Boca Grande Swing Bridge, Placida, Florida

You take the Boca Grande Swing Bridge from Placida and Charlotte County to get to the coast.

Don Pedro Island and State Park, Manasota Key, Englewood Beach in Southwest Florida

Don Pedro Island and State Park, Manasota Key and Englewood Beach straight ahead!

Placida Harbor, Placida, Florida

Rambler Hole and Placida Harbor. Placida, Florida sits off to the left.

Don Pedro Island State Park, Florida

Don Pedro Island State Park in Southwest Florida. That turquoise Gulf of Mexico water!

Gulf of Mexico beaches, Southwest Florida

Zooming in on the beachfront of Don Pedro Island. Amazing the difference in water color between the two sides.

Southwest Florida

Heading inland. Looking back to the south at Boca Grande, Coyo Costa and beyond.

My wife went up separately on a similar tour and snapped this beauty capturing all of Captiva Island amongst the turquoise Gulf of Mexico waters. I had to share it. 🌴☼

Captiva Island, Florida

Bonus shot. Wife captured all of Captiva perfectly on another flight the same day. Sanibel Island sits opposite the bridge and to the south.

South Gulf Cove, Port Charlotte, Florida

Over South Gulf Cove in Port Charlotte. Lots of vacant lots.

Charlotte Harbor, Florida

Just past Port Charlotte and over Charlotte Harbor.

Charlotte Harbor, Florida

Flying high over Charlotte Harbor. What a picturesque day for a flight.

Punta Gorda, Florida

Punta Gorda here we come! You can see the Charlotte Harbor Bridge that takes you over to Port Charlotte.

Laishley Park Municipal Marina, Punta Gorda, Florida

Laishley Park Municipal Marina front-and-center.

Downtown Punta Gorda, Florida

Fun seeing all the places that I have spent time in on the ground. Laishley Crab House is recommended.

Fisherman's Village, Punta Gorda

Fisherman’s Village. Waterfront shopping, outdoor dining and fun awaits on the little blue pier sticking out.

Downtown Punta Gorda, Florida

The heart of Downtown Punta Gorda.

Punta Gorda in Southwest Florida

Punta Gorda and the surrounding area.

I-75 cloverlead interchange in Southwest Florida.

An I-75 Cloverleaf interchange in Southwest Florida. Used to being on this interstate a lot further north.

Punta Gorda, Florida

Looking back at Punta Gorda and the heart of Charlotte County in Florida.

Punta Gorda Airport (PGD), Florida

Punta Gorda Airport here we come!

Upon landing at Punta Gorda Airport we taxied back to the hanger at which time my feet were back touching the ground. Being nervous beforehand, with the hour plus tour now over, I kind of wished I was still back up in the air. Southwest Florida is beautiful.

Selfie from hanger at Punta Gorda Airport, Florida

Back in the hanger at Punta Gorda Airport. I had an amazing flight and Florida experience.

The pilot did a great job showcasing what this part of the state has to offer. Being a small-plane first timer, I was amazed by how much has to take place pre- and post-flight as well as up in the air to keep everything going.

With one small airplane ride now in the books, I hope to see more scenic views this way again soon.

Have you ever been on a scenic flight tour? In Florida?

A True Fort Myers Coffee Experience Awaits at Rebel Coffee Roastery

While back in Southwest Florida recently visiting family, I came to the realization that I had never been to an indie coffee shop in my times down there. Wait how did that happen?! Well my family and I happen to be in Downtown Fort Myers one day and my wife asked if I wanted to stop at a local shop. Right then and there I decided to put an end to the madness and did a Google search for “coffee shops near me”.

A few minutes later we were parking on the red brick of Broadway street right in front of Rebel Coffee Roastery & Tea Lounge. This was the shop that immediately peaked my interest from the search results. “In-house roasted beans” and “roastery” were the key terms.

Rebel Coffee Roastery & Tea Lounge - Downtown Fort Myers

Upon entering the well-designed light blue outside storefront, there lied the roaster and large burlap bags of coffee beans. I knew they meant business.

Rebel Coffee Roastery & Tea Lounge - Ft. Myers, Florida

Rebel Coffee Roastery & Tea Lounge - Ft. Myers, Florida

After looking at the extensive coffee offerings hand-written on the chalk menu, as well as their large bean selection, I went with a pour over. Ethiopian Yirgacheefe was the bean choice. I’m on kick recently of using beans from this Ethiopian region, known to many as the birthplace of coffee.

Rebel Coffee Roastery & Tea Lounge - Ft. Myers, Florida

Rebel Coffee Roastery & Tea Lounge, pour over coffee

Rebel Coffee Roastery & Tea Lounge, pour over coffee

Espresso and handcrafted drinks, lattes, hot and iced coffee all filled up the menu.

Rebel Coffee Roastery & Tea Lounge - Ft. Myers, Florida

Tea is also in their name. Rebel Coffee Roastery & Tea Lounge has 600 loose leaf tea options awaiting.

Rebel Coffee Roastery & Tea Lounge - Ft. Myers, Florida

Rebel Coffee Roastery & Tea Lounge - Ft. Myers, Florida

It was a typical hot and humid Southwest Florida day. Nevertheless, hot coffee is how I roll, especially when at a shop for the first time. My coffee choice definitely didn’t disappoint. My wife ordered a more sensible iced vanilla latte considering the weather ha-ha. She said it was good and very refreshing. Our little one took to some of their pastry offerings. I didn’t experience, but they do offer a full breakfast, lunch and dinner assortment as well.

Rebel Coffee, Fort Myers, Florida, refreshing iced coffee

After hanging out in the expansive shop which opened in late 2016, I took the time to admire the coffee, and outside storefront alongside the brick and palm tree-lined road. What you don’t see is that there is a Starbucks literally right next store off to the right. This shop you could say is being a coffee “rebel”, which is where their idea for the shop name came from.

Rebel Coffee Roastery & Tea Lounge - Ft. Myers, Florida

Rebel Coffee Roastery & Tea Lounge - Ft. Myers, Florida

Downtown Ft. Myers, Florida

The fact that they roast their green coffee beans gourmet-style and very slowly was very refreshing to see. You can tell the great care they take all the way to the pouring of coffee in the cup. The baristas were very knowledgeable and easy to talk to.

Rebel Coffee Roastery & Tea Lounge - Ft. Myers, Florida

Sometimes the best shops I experience are ones I visit unplanned. Rebel Coffee Roastery & Tea Lounge is no exception. Whenever you are in the heart of Downtown Fort Myers and need some fuel or tea, I highly recommend stopping in.

Rebel Coffee Roastery & Tea Lounge - Ft. Myers, Florida

Do you recommend any other independent coffee shops in Fort Myers and Southwest Florida?

Wheels Up, Southwest Florida Scenic Flight Tour

Earlier this month I had the chance to go on a private scenic flight tour of Southwest Florida. This was my first ever flight tour. In fact it was my introduction to flying in a small airplane. I was nervous beforehand and initially upon take off, but my nerves quickly calmed as all the scenic views presented themselves.

Captiva Island and Buck Key Preserve

The car bridge from Sanibel to Captiva Island and Buck Eye Preserve. That blue gulf water!

The tour originated and ended at Punta Gorda Airport (PGD). I checked another airport off the list score! We went up on a recent early April morning to blue skies and light winds. Ideal conditions to be sure. There was a little turbulence over land, but while we were over the gulf, harbor and other large bodies of water, I just sat back and enjoyed the calm ride.

Punta Gorda, Florida

Just after take off the heart of Punta Gorda and Charlotte Harbor lay off in the distance.

Immediately after takeoff you could see the heart of Punta Gorda off in the distance as we turned and began the journey south.

Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park in Punta Gorda, Florida

The marsh, wildlife and beauty of Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park.

Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park in Punta Gorda, Florida

Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park, the third largest Florida state park.

The beginning of the route took us past Burnt Store Harbor. Pine Island, Matlacha and down to Sanibel awaited next. Cape Coral and Ft. Myers sat to the east on the pilot’s side of the plane. I was glad to see Charlotte Harbor, the Gulf of Mexico and countless islands and beaches on mine.

Burnt Store Marina, Southwest Florida

Looking down at the expansive Burnt Store Marina, the biggest marina on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Burnt Store Marina, Southwest Florida

Burnt Store Marina, a boaters paradise between Punta Gorda and Cape Coral.

I’ll let the photos and their captions tell a lot of the story. Well without further ado.

Charlotte Harbor, Florida

Out over the open Charlotte Harbor waters.

Southwest Florida scenic flight tour

Southwest Florida scenic flight tour is what was on the agenda for this day.

Matlacha, Florida, Pine Island beyond

Matlacha Island, sitting between the heart of Pine Island and the Florida mainland.

Matlacha Island, colorful shops and seafood shops.

Hello Matlacha Island and your wonderful seafood eateries and colorful shops.

St. James City in Southwest Florida

St. James City located on the southern end of Pine Island. Random if you are into blue crab, visit Island Crab Company. Take home some that are still moving, as they were captured that day.

Pine Island near Bokeelia, Florida

The top of Pine Island and the town of Bokeelia, the largest island on Florida’s west coast.

Heart of Pine Island, Florida

The middle of Pine Island. Pine Island Sound awaits on the other side.

Cape Coral, Florida

Looking off to the east and a residential heavy part of Cape Coral.

Once we reached Sanibel it was time to make a 180 degree turn and start heading north. We’d now be flying over the Gulf of Mexico alongside the rest of Sanibel, up-to Captiva, Boca Grande and beyond.

Northern part of Sanbiel Island, Florida.

The northern part of Sanibel Island, Bowman’s Beach is below. Flying over the Gulf of Mexico!

Bowman's Beach, Sanibel Island, Florida

Zooming in on Bowman’s Beach. Golf courses, Gulf coast homes and waterways everywhere you look.

Bridge connecting Sanibel Island and Captiva Island

Captiva Island is the furthest north you can get by car in this Southwest Florida island chain.

North Captiva Island and Captiva, Pine Island Sound sits beyond, Florida

Hurricane Charley blew out the bridge between Captiva and North Captiva Island. They never rebuilt.

North Captiva Island, Southwest Florida

You can get to North Captiva Island by boat and plane. See the thin grass strip runway?!

Grassy runway, North Captiva Island, Florida

North Captiva Island. Who wants to land their plane here?!

Cayo Costa Island, Florida along Gulf of Mexico.

The beach and state park of Cayo Costa along the Gulf of Mexico only accessible by charter boat.

Gasparilla Island, Boca Grande, Florida

The southern end of Gasparilla Island State Park, part of Boca Grande. You can reach by car via the Boca Grande Swing Bridge.

Gasparilla Island, Boca Grande, Florida

The heart of Gasparilla Island separated from the Florida mainland by Charlotte Harbor and Pine Island Sound.

It was amazing to see a lot of the same places I’d been to on foot from a different perspective. I loved seeing all the greens and blues of the water and how quickly it transitions from one color to another. The pilot was very thorough both pre-flight and while in the air. It helped put my mind at ease. He pointed out spots of interest with lots of stories to go with along the way.

Aaron, the elATLboy, the Southwest Florida explorer by air.

Hello Everyone! It’s Aaron, the Southwest Florida explorer by air.

Oddly enough I experienced my first helicopter ride in Florida as well. I have found the Sunshine State to not be a bad place to take in the views airborne. ☀☀☀

The trip did not end at Boca Grande. Stay tuned as I will soon do a follow-up post covering the rest of my Southwest Florida scenic flight tour. More views await.

Have you ever been on a scenic flight tour? In Florida?

Chicago’s Sawada Coffee and Its Military Latte

Chicago and its coffee scene has been on the mind a lot lately. Its been a minute since I last experienced. A coffee drink that is near the forefront of my thoughts is the Instagram friendly and visually appealing Military Latte.

Sawada Coffee, Chicago, West Loop, Military Latte

The Military Latte is the creation of Sawada Coffee. I got my first experience of the West Loop neighborhood coffee gem on my most recent personal Chicago coffee crawl.

On an early morning I entered Sawada Coffee off North Green Street. I headed up a darken set of stairs that sat in the back of Hogsalt Hospitality’s Green Street Smoked Meats, for which this coffee shop is a part of. It’s kind of ironic that green is in the name of the restaurant.

Sawada Coffee, Chicago, West Loop

Sawada Coffee, Chicago, West Loop

Sawada Coffee, Chicago, West Loop

Sawada Coffee, Chicago, West Loop

It was a happening West Loop scene as I waited my time to order from the true Americana themed counter. Sawada offers a variety of pour overs, other lattes, chais and espresso drinks. Those things hardly registered with me at the time though as it was going to be the Military Latte all the way.

Sawada Coffee, Chicago, West Loop

Sawada Coffee, Chicago, West Loop

Tea-based latte? Coffee-based latte? How about both. Espresso and matcha working together. Add some vanilla syrup for sweetness, cocoa powder and with the green tea sitting amongst the foam you had a coffee presentation unmatched in the city. Back to the word green it is!

Sawada Coffee, Chicago, West Loop, Military Latte

Sawada Coffee, Chicago, West Loop, Military Latte

Sawada Coffee, Chicago, West Loop, Military Latte

I enjoyed the unique goodness amongst all the twinkling lights hanging from the ceiling in the aesthetically pleasing coffee shop.

Sawada is named after its founder Hiroshi Sawada who also owns five coffee chops in Japan (making note) and is a World Champion Latte artist. I can easily see why. The Military Latte is not all looks though. It has all the substance and the unique flavor one could only want in a latte. I sipped slowly after my photo shoot. No worries I did drink it hot!

Sawada Coffee, Chicago, West Loop

Sawada Coffee, Chicago, West Loop, Military Latte

I look forward to getting back to Sawada Coffee, other favorite spots and exploring more of the Chicago coffee scene again soon. Military Latte cheers to all!

Sawada Coffee, Chicago, West Loop, Military Latte

You can find Sawada Coffee on Instagram.

Which Chicago coffee shops do you have fond memories of and would recommend checking out?

Hiking Battle Mountain off the San Diego Beaten Path

During a visit to San Diego I stayed in Rancho Bernardo on the north end of town and looked for ways to spend some time outdoors, while also venturing off the beaten path.

The Battle Mountain hike I went on checked off both those boxes. You’ll find Battle Mountain just off I-15 with its entrance oddly enough between two houses in a highly residential area. I initially discovered and captured this hill on another walk.

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

I wound up doing this climb just after dawn on an overcast morning.

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

The short 15-20 minute hike was peaceful. It was a little steep and rocky at times but all-in-all not too bad. I noticed a lot of erosion along the way. My legs definitely got a workout. The climb is roughly 800 feet.

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

Once at the top, you will see up-close the 20 foot white cross that has stood since 1966. Battle Mountain got its name from a battle that was held nearby in San Pasqual Valley in the 1800’s. This spot was originally called Mule Hill as soldiers from those battles had to kill mules in order to have food to eat.

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

Expansive panoramic views awaited me at the top. I saw all the residential housing of northern San Diego County, along with Starvation and Iron Mountains, Lake Hodges and more.

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

San Diego California hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

Lake Hodges, San Diego, California

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

The hike, well almost run, down the hill took only a matter of minutes. It was a great morning in the Rancho Bernardo part of San Diego walking/hiking up Battle Mountain and taking in the views. For anyone looking for a quick hike and something off the radar in northern San Diego County, this is your spot.

Tip: For a longer hiking adventure I highly recommend the San Dieguito River Park Trail, in which there is an entrance literally right across the street from Battle Mountain.

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

What other off the radar outdoor spots would you recommend checking out in San Diego?