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Destination: Jackson, Mississippi

Destination: Jackson, Mississippi

Whether you are passing through or planning a long weekend, the city of Jackson, Mississippi, can accommodate you and your aircraft quite nicely. 

Jackson, Mississippi, has been deemed the “City with Soul,” and I would agree with that. Yet Jackson is more than a great spot for Mississippi blues music; more significant than a locus in the Civil Rights movement; more than just a place to stop in search of authentic soul food. This state capital is currently benefiting from a massive improvement project to transform its downtown. 

If you haven’t visited in a while (or ever), you need to know that Jackson offers several compelling reasons to stop for an overnight or a long weekend. 

Airport information

Piper Flyer Association member and area pilot Felton Watkins was kind enough to share some details about four of the airports around Jackson. 

Hawkins Field Airport (KHKS)

“Hawkins was established during World War II as a training base,” explained Watkins. “The facility was utilized by both American and Danish aviation training forces. A small Danish Air Force cemetery is located just east of the field where those who lost their lives while training at Hawkins are buried.” 

“Hawkins remains one of the major hubs for General Aviation in the area, providing fuel, training and aircraft maintenance support,” Watkins said. The two 150-foot-wide runways are 5,300 and 3,400 feet long, respectively. Airport operations are almost evenly split between military, transient and local GA. 

Hawkins Jet Center, an independent FBO, is open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends. Full-service Avgas was $5.49/gallon when I checked in late September. The Jet Center is just 10 minutes from downtown Jackson, has a courtesy car and can arrange for a shuttle to hotels.

Alternates to Hawkins can be found in Madison, Mississippi, at Bruce Campbell Field (9 nm away); John Bell Williams Airport (10 nm away); and Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International (8 nm away).

 

Bruce Campbell Field (KMBO)

“Campbell Field, located just north of Jackson, is fast becoming the center for General Aviation in Jackson,” Watkins reported. “The field provides training, aircraft rental and maintenance support.” 

Campbell, too, is super GA-friendly with virtually no military traffic. The fuel price at Campbell was $4.97 per gallon for full-service Avgas as of Sept. 26, 2018. The single asphalt runway is 4,400 feet long.

Madison Air Center serves the field. “The people running the FBO are always friendly and willing to help you with any needs,” said Watkins. “There is a wing of the Commemorative Air Force located on the field, and they always have something going on at their hangar.” 

John Bell Williams Airport (KJVW)

J.B. Williams Airport is west of Jackson, near the Natchez Trace Parkway. “Williams was also a World War II training field,” said Watkins. In the early 1940s, it served as an auxiliary field for Jackson Army Air Base (now Hawkins Field).

Today, this public airport is owned and managed by Hinds Community College. Williams serves GA almost exclusively, with 98 percent of its average of 126 daily aircraft operations credited to local or transient GA. 

Runway 12/30 is just shy of 5,500 feet long. A courtesy car is available, too, but if you’re depending on it, calling ahead is always a good idea. Self-serve Avgas is just $4.25 per gallon—no full-service option—and is available 24 hours with a credit card.

Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport (KJAN)

Jackson-Evers International is utilized mainly by commercial airlines and military aircraft, according to Felton Watkins. The National Guard has a C-17 unit located at this facility. 

“General Aviation aircraft avoid the Jackson-Evers airport because of high fees,” Watkins explained. “The last time I flew into [KJAN] was on a Saturday with great flying weather. We were conducting an Angel Flight and were the only General Aviation aircraft on the ramp.”

What to see and where to eat

As the largest city in the state, Jackson, Mississippi, has a lot going on. “Jackson has numerous outstanding restaurants and museums that are worth a visit,” said Watkins. 

Within the Jackson metro area, you can visit a children’s museum, a natural science museum, an art museum, the state capitol and governor’s mansion, the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame…truly, too much to list here.

I have selected just a few of the attractions in Jackson and arranged the information in pairs, with a place to go and a place (or two) to eat. 

Eudora Welty House; Manship Kitchen 

If you appreciate Southern writers and literary fiction like I do, the Eudora Welty House is a must. I’m currently in the middle of “The Optimist’s Daughter,” Welty’s 1972 novel, and can understand why it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. An acclaimed photographer as well, Welty was a lifelong resident of Jackson and lived at the family home at 1119 Pinehurst St. until her death in 2001. 

Guided tours of Welty’s home in the Belhaven neighborhood are offered for a small fee Tuesday through Friday and on the second Saturday of every month at designated times. Reservations are recommended. 

If you’re just dropping in, the exhibits at the Education Center located next door to the home can be seen weekdays during business hours at no charge. Currently, selected letters are on display—over 15,000 pieces of correspondence were in Welty’s home—and include notes to friends around the world expressing her fondness for her hometown.

After your tour, the Manship Wood Fired Kitchen off North State Street might be a good place to stop for a bite to eat. The restaurant has indoor and (some) outdoor dining, with Mediterranean dishes (Greek-style chicken) and classic Southern food (fried okra) on the menu. The Manship opens at 11 a.m. Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner. Brunch is available on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., as the restaurant is closed on Sunday.

The Manship Wood Fired Kitchen has a menu that features classic Southern items, like shrimp, with a Mediterranean twist.
Puliter-prize-winning author Eudora Welty lived the majority of her life at 1119 Pinehurst St. in Jackson. Welty bequeathed the home to the State of Mississippi and it is now a National Historic Landmark.
Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum; Bully’s Restaurant, Brent’s Drugs

The Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum in the Eastover neighborhood of Jackson is like you’d expect it to be, with something extra: a nod to agplanes. 

In addition to exhibits like “Small Town Mississippi” and information about Mississippi’s lumber production at the turn of the 20th century, the museum also houses the National Agricultural Aviation Museum. 

In this 5,000-square-foot space, you can view a Stearman A75 biplane with a 450 hp engine, a 1946 Piper J-3 Cub converted to a “Cutback Cub,” along with a Piper PA-25 Pawnee and a Grumman Ag Cat.

If you get hungry, one restaurant that gets rave reviews is Bully’s in the Fondren neighborhood west of I-55. At Bully’s, soul food (like oxtails) and plate lunches (like barbecue and fried chicken) can be enjoyed Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Plus, they have peach cobbler! 

If you’d prefer a milkshake and a burger, consider a stop at Brent’s Drugs, just off North State Street in the Mid North District. This old-fashioned soda fountain has been in operation since the 1940s. 

Several other popular restaurants near Brent’s include Walker’s Drive-In (upscale and “locavore”-friendly) and the Pig & Pint (great barbecue, with a beer list that’s beyond extensive).

Brent’s, a diner and soda fountain, has been a part of the Fondren neighborhood since 1946
The Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum includes an important component of agriculture in the American South: aviation. Visitors can see four agplanes inside at the National Agricultural Aviation Museum.
Many people consider Bully’s to have the best soul food in town. The Bully family opened the restaurant in 1982.
Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, Museum of Mississippi History; Iron Horse Grill, Hal and Mal’s 

If you can make the time, the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum deserves your full attention. The struggles of the civil rights era are arranged in eight different galleries for visitors. It’s an immersive experience that isn’t always comfortable to see.

The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday afternoons from 1 to 5 p.m. Adult admission is $8; $6 for seniors age 60-plus. Youth admission (ages 4–18) is $5 and children 3 and under are admitted for free. 

The Museum of Mississippi History, which shares a lobby with the civil rights museum, tells the stories of Mississippians from 13,000 B.C. to today. Museum-goers will see artifacts from the slave trade, learn about the boll weevil and see how Hurricane Katrina affected Mississippi, plus much more.

Dual admission (both museums) is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $7 for youth. Both the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and the Museum of Mississippi History open their doors for free on the third Saturday of every month. The museums are located on North Street near the Eudora Welty Library and Old Capitol Inn.

West of the museums, on Pearl Street, you’ll find the Iron Horse Grill. The site of this restaurant began as the Armour Smokehouse in the early 1900s, experienced two fires, and was eventually abandoned. Biloxi shrimp fajitas, redfish tacos, the Iron Horse burger… all are prepared on a charcoal grill. The restaurant is open every day of the week at 11 a.m. (10:30 a.m. on Sundays).

Another spot, Hal and Mal’s, is just south of the museums on Commerce Street. Hal and Mal’s offers a great menu with soup, salads, sandwiches and seafood. It’s a favorite venue for local live music, with blues—the Central Mississippi Blues Society hosts a weekly event—along with jazz, singer-songwriters and country artists frequently on the bill. 

Planning your trip

Staying downtown in Jackson can be a great choice, as many of the hotels are new. The nine-story Westin Jackson is the most recent addition (it was completed in 2017), and three other hotels—a Hilton, a Marriott and the Old Capitol Inn boutique hotel—offer plenty of rooms within a few blocks of core downtown attractions. These four, and at least 10 other hotels, are within 7 miles of Hawkins Field. 

Downtown Jackson is currently benefiting from a massive improvement project, as developers are investing millions of dollars in revitalizing the city.

I’d suggest scheduling a long weekend for Thursday to Saturday, with a Sunday departure. The City with Soul has many things to enjoy—but several of them are not accessible on Sundays or Mondays. 

Jackson is ready for you 

November can be a great time to visit Jackson, Mississippi. The average high is 68 F and autumn is typically dry. 

Spring is another great time, according to Felton Watkins. “Do not miss the St. Paddy’s Day parade!” he told me. (Hal’s St. Paddy’s Parade and Festival will take place March 23, 2019. —Ed.) 

Hal’s St. Paddy’s Parade and Festival is a Jackson tradition. “Mississippi’s green Mardi Gras” is scheduled for March 23, 2019.

Seems to me that whatever time of year you visit, Jackson, Mississippi, will be ready for you.

Sources: Downtown-jackson.com, VisitJackson.com, Wikipedia.com.

Heather Skumatz is production coordinator for Piper Flyer. Send questions or comments to .

RESOURCES >>>>>

PILOT INFORMATION
Bruce Campbell Field Airport (KMBO)
Hawkins Field Airport (KHKS)
Hawkins Jet Center
Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport (KJAN)
John Bell Williams Airport (KJVW)
VISITOR INFORMATION
Visit Jackson
ATTRACTIONS
Eudora Welty House and Garden
Mississippi Agriculture & Forestry Museum
Mississippi Civil Rights Museum
Museum of Mississippi History
DINING
Brent’s Drugs
Bully’s Restaurant
Hal and Mal’s 
The Iron Horse Grill
The Manship Wood Fired Kitchen

 

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Destination: Storied Savannah

Destination: Storied Savannah

A walkabout in a historic Georgia city.

Georgia was the last of the original Thirteen Colonies— and Savannah was its first city. The colony of Georgia had been created in 1732 as a “buffer state” to protect South Carolina from the Spanish in Florida.

It’s believed the city, founded by James Oglethorpe, was so named after the river. The Savannah River runs to the north-northeast of Savannah, while the Little Black River just northeast of that comprises the border with South Carolina. 

 

Like New Orleans, Charleston and other southern coastal towns, Savannah has been swamped by the waters more than once. Today, five canals and several pumping stations keep the city from flooding. Fortunately, due to its location in the Georgia Bight, it’s at a lower risk of hurricanes than other cities on the Atlantic.

It’s humid in Savannah, and though it rains a fair amount from June to September, it rarely snows—and in recent history, even freezing temperatures are rare. Overall, the temperatures tend to be cooler and more moderate than inland areas of Georgia. 

Pilots will find good treatment at a few of the GA airports just over the border in South Carolina. (See “Lowcountry Alternates” by Michael Leighton on page 57. —Ed.) Regardless of how you arrive, a trip to Savannah is a trip worth taking. 

I was surprised to find that the population of the city proper is just 145,000. For such a modestly-sized town, it has a lot to offer visitors. Savannah is old, beautiful, and in my experience, lives up to the hype.

 

Architecture and the arts

James Oglethorpe designed Savannah in a grid system. Shady public squares were interspersed at regular intervals between blocks, and of the original 24 squares in the layout, 22 greenspaces remain intact today.

 

Many significant buildings remain intact, too. As a result of the efforts begun by the Savannah Historic Foundation in the 1950s, Savannah’s Historic District is one of the largest in the United States. 

 

With so much ornate architecture and ironwork, iconic fountains and statues, cobblestone and Spanish moss, it’s little wonder that Savannah was voted one of the 10 Most Beautiful Places in America by USA Weekend.

 

Though Savannah escaped destruction during Gen. Sherman’s “March to the Sea,” it suffered through two major fires in 1796 and 1820, the rise and fall of the cotton industry, and the Great Depression. With such a long and arduous history, Savannah is reputed to be America’s most haunted city. 

 

Capitalizing on this, various companies offer ghost tours, nighttime ghost “walks” and cemetery tours. Organized tours to view the architecture and historic buildings in the daylight hours abound, and are available via trolley or on foot.

 

I took a walking tour of Savannah’s Historic District that focused on some of the major landmarks and various architectural styles. Our guide had a master’s degree in architecture from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), and loved his adopted city.

Some know Savannah best through “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” by John Berendt. This novel still holds the record for the longest best-selling book on the New York Times’ list (216 weeks). Anyone who recalls this story, or the 1997 movie of the same name, might recall the iconic “Bird Girl” statue. 

After the book became so popular, this privately-owned grave monument was relocated from Bonaventure Cemetery to the Telfair Museum of Art, and later to the nearby Jepson Center for the Arts. 

As you’ve probably gathered, the arts are pretty big in Savannah. Savannah College of Art and Design has over 40 programs in both contemporary (branded entertainment, design for sustainability) and traditional disciplines (art history, sculpture). 

The Culinary Institute of Savannah at Savannah Technical College also has a large presence in the city, and is one of the top culinary programs in the nation. In addition to three teaching kitchens, Chef Jean Vendeville and his students created Bistro Savoir—a nonprofit that offers seasonal sales of pastries and breads. Proceeds from the sales help to fund a scholarship/exchange program in France.

Museums, shopping and more

Some things I enjoyed in Savannah included a brief visit to the River Street Market Place, an open-air shopping area with various flea market-type sellers and food vendors. The market opens every day at 10 a.m., and even if you don’t purchase anything, it’s nice to stroll along the river and watch the activity at the market as well as on the water in this port city.

Strolling is something I did a lot of while in Savannah. The city is set up to wander around in, so treks to City Market’s boutiques, antique shops, galleries and gift shops can be easily accomplished if you make sure to take time to get off your feet here and there. With so many sun-dappled squares full of benches, building in rest time is a breeze.

 

One must for any newcomer is a visit to Savannah’s Candy Kitchen. This old-fashioned confectionery has the world’s most delicious pecan pralines (truly) as well as divinity, saltwater taffy, gophers (a.k.a. turtles), fudge, caramels and truffles. I visited. Daily. (I also tried to bring a box of pralines home to Wisconsin, but my husband and I ate them all by the time we got to Louisville, Ky.)

Military history buffs have no shortage of learning opportunities anywhere in the South. Savannah-area attractions include Fort Pulaski and Old Fort Jackson. The Webb Military Museum, a newer museum featuring a single private collection, gets great reviews online. 

Another must is the Pin Point Heritage Museum. This museum is inside a former oyster and crab packing house. The self-sustained Gullah/Geechee community on the marsh near the Moon River was isolated for nearly 100 years; this museum’s mission is to preserve the creole language, farming and fishing traditions of this unique African-American Lowcountry culture.

Dining 

There are so many options for good food in Savannah. Here are a few of my recommendations.

For a casual meal, I’d try Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room for fried chicken, sweet potato soufflé and other Southern specialties—provided you can get a seat. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations, doesn’t take credit cards and is usually very busy.

Debi’s Restaurant’s is another down-home place—and it’s the diner where Jenny worked in “Forrest Gump.” This no-frills family restaurant serves good sandwiches and breakfast all day. It’s only open 7:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., though, so don’t plan to eat here for dinner.

There are several choices for fine dining in Savannah. One of these, 700 Drayton, is located at the Mansion on Forsyth Park. This upscale restaurant has some eclectic choices, but you can get breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner along with a nice selection of wines. The main dining area is beautifully decorated.

The menu at Sapphire Grill is set to showcase local seafood, but also offers fowl (duck and chicken), lamb, pork and beef. This multi-story establishment is located on Congress Street—quite near a little place you might have heard of: The Lady and Sons. (You’ll know you’re close when you see the line waiting to get in the door for Paula Deen’s Southern Buffet.)

Accommodations 

Savannah has all major hotel chains, along with vacation rentals, inns, boutique hotels and more. I recommend you begin your search for lodging at VisitSavannah.com. The site is nicely arranged so you can narrow your search by “pet friendly,” “family friendly”—and yes, even “haunted.”

We stayed at the East Bay Inn, located on the corner of E. Bay Street and Lincoln. It’s a smaller hotel (28 rooms) in a nice location—a short walk across Emmet Park brought us to River Street and the many waterfront sights, shops and eateries. A walk in the other direction takes you into the central part of the city and on down to the Victorian District.

 

Current rates at the East Bay Inn are quite reasonable on weekdays ($129 to $161), but weekend rates are significantly higher ($259 to $279). During peak times (late March through June, and again from September through November), rates average $188 on weekdays and $299 on weekends.

Tybee Island

A trip to Savannah really isn’t complete until you take the drive east to Tybee Island. From downtown Savannah, it’s a simple 20- to 30-minute drive east on the Islands Expressway/I-80, past Cockspur Island and Fort Pulaski to Tybee Island. 

This island has been a retreat for the people of Savannah (called “Savannahians,” in case you were wondering) since the Civil War. In many ways, Tybee is a typical seaside village, with ramshackle seaside shops, a large public beach, a couple of larger hotels, and some quirky year-round residents. 

Though there are some very good eateries on Tybee—like A.J.’s Dockside—in our experience the shrimp po’boy sandwiches from out-of-the-way roadside stands were even better. Fresh seafood and public fishing are both in abundance here. 

 

Besides surfing, sunbathing and swimming, families might enjoy a trek through Fort Pulaski National Monument. This “Third System” military fort cost around $1 million when it was constructed in 1847. With 11-foot-thick walls, Fort Pulaski was supposedly impregnable—but it fell in 1862 under bombardment from James rifled cannons. 

There are at least a dozen hotels, inns and cottage complexes on Tybee Island—enough options to suit anyone who wants to spend some serious “Tybee time.” In my experience, though, accommodations can be a little hit-and-miss. If you plan to stay here, I suggest that you visit the location in person before committing.

Savannah and the entire Lowcountry of Georgia and South Carolina are rich with stories, and my time in the area felt too short. I’d love to go back. Til then, I guess I’ll have my pralines shipped from River Street straight to my door. 

 

Heather Skumatz is managing editor for Piper Flyer. Send questions or comments to .

Sources: VisitSavannah.com, Wikipedia.org

RESOURCES >>>>>

Visitor information

Savannah Chamber’s downtown map
Tybee Visitor Center
Visit Savannah

Tours, museums and monuments

Architectural Tours of Savannah
Fort Pulaski National Monument
Jepson Center for the Arts
Old Fort Jackson National Historic Site
Pin Point Heritage Museum
Telfair Museums
The Webb Military Museum

Shopping and gifts

River Street Market Place
Savannah’s Candy Kitchen
Savannah City Market

Dining

AJ’s Dockside 
Debi’s Restaurant
Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room
Sapphire Grill
700 Drayton Restaurant
The Lady and Sons 

Accommodations

East Bay Inn
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Destination Sanibel: Shell City, USA

Destination Sanibel: Shell City, USA

Florida is filled with fun, bright, beachy places—but there is nowhere quite like Sanibel Island on the state’s Gulf Coast.

Sanibel Island might be small, but it packs a lot into its 17 square miles. With 15 miles of beaches teeming with seashells, a rich history involving pirates, and lanais on every dwelling, it’s as “Florida” as Florida gets.

Thousands of years ago, Sanibel Island was a single island with neighboring Captiva. It was settled by the Calusa, Native Americans whose territory included the southwest coast of Florida. 

The city of Sanibel was established in 1974, a full 10 years after the Sanibel Causeway linked the island to the mainland. Before 1963, travel to Sanibel and Captiva was typically by ferry; most of the commerce on Sanibel is on the eastern side of the island. 

Despite the amazing amount of development, there are no airstrips on Sanibel or Captiva Islands. There are two private fields on nearby Pine Island; in addition, Southwest Florida International (KRSW) in Fort Myers offers all major services, but only 10 percent of the flights are transient GA.

So how is a pilot going to get here? I asked someone in the know. 

Southwestern Florida’s GA scene

The “real GA airport in the area,” according to Floridian David Hipschman —who some readers will recall used to write regularly for this magazine—is Page Field (KFMY) just to the northwest of KRSW’s Class C airspace. 

Located on the mainland between the Caloosahatchee River and I-75, just a few miles south of Fort Myers proper, KFMY has been in operation since 1940. It has acted as the GA reliever airport since the early 1980s when KRSW was certified for operation.

Base Ops, the FBO on Page Field, has an excellent reputation online at sources like Airnav.com. The terminal is practically brand-new (finished in 2011) and the list of amenities offered by Base Ops is long. Normal business hours are 7 am to 11 pm.

Ramp fees are modest: just $10/night—and they’ll even waive a few nights if you make a fuel purchase. Prices as of Dec. 8, 2016 were 3.87/gal for 100LL, with $3.37/gal listed for the self-serve pump off Runway 31. 

If you happen to fly in on a Friday, you’ll find that Base Ops offers a free hot dog and soda lunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for “Hot Dog Friday.” 

Hipschman also mentioned these nearby alternates: La Belle Municipal (X14) 19 nm east; Punta Gorda (KPGD) 19 nm northwest; and Immokalee Regional (KIMM) 24 nm southeast.

Ground transportation

After landing at KFMY in Fort Myers, it’s a quick trip over to Sanibel in a rental car. Vehicles can easily hop on the causeway and be on Sanibel from the mainland of Florida in a matter of minutes—if traffic is light. Round-trip fee from the Florida mainland to Sanibel and/or Captiva Islands via the causeway is six dollars.

Anyone who has ever been on Florida’s sometimes very slow-moving streets during peak times already knows to be prepared for backups; and they can occur on the three-mile long causeway—and on the island, too. 

Many travelers park their vehicles at their earliest opportunity and use other modes of transportation on Sanibel; scooters and bicycles, mainly. Be alert for lots of “wanderers”—in cars, in carts, on foot and on two wheels—as well as four-legged wildlife “wanderers.”

With more than 2,000 acres of freshwater wetlands, an alligator sighting is likely. If you’re not familiar with alligator safety, make sure you review Florida state laws—feeding or harassing alligators is prohibited—and obey all posted signs.

 

Things to do on and around Sanibel Bicycling

A bike, scooter or Segway rental from Billy’s is the way to go (unless you brought your bike with you!) for traversing Sanibel’s 17 miles of bike paths. At $20 a day for a multi-speed bike, and nine bucks for a boogie board, you can be having fun on the beach all day on the cheap.

Street-legal golf carts from Cart Rentals is another great way to tour the island in the open air, but this mode of transport is considerably more spendy at $150 a day. 

 

Shelling 

Sanibel has more than 10 miles of beach frontage on the Gulf of Mexico and shellers can expect to find cockle shells, various conch, lightning whelks, tulip shells and bivalves like coquinas shells. The white-with-brown polka dots Junonia is rare enough that finders will get their photo in The Islander, the community newspaper.

Serious shellers head to the beach in the early morning for the best selection, but in my experience, any time of day can yield some wonderful shells. Live shells—those that contain any inhabitant, whether it appears to be living or not—are not allowed to be collected by mandate of the State of Florida. 

 

Fishing

Fishers of all abilities get excited about the prospect of year-round fishing in Florida. 

Fishing from the beach or pier in state waters commonly yields tarpon, snook, redfish, tarpon and sea trout. If you don’t already have your salt water and/or fresh water license, you can acquire one from one of numerous outlets on the island. Fly fishing, charter boats for offshore waters and other guided trips are also available if you’re on the hunt for that big grouper. 

 

Beaches

The Causeway Beaches are excellent for fishing. Parking is free, dogs are allowed (on leashes) and there are restrooms and picnic tables. However, no open fires or alcoholic beverages are permitted. 

On the east side of Sanibel is the Lighthouse Beach. It, too, is a popular fishing spot, with a T-shaped fishing pier. Parking fees are good for 24 hours, with no fees for bikes.

Mid-island parks include Tarpon Beach and Gulfside City Park, both excellent for swimming and picnicking. 

Our family’s favorite was Bowman’s Beach, on the “up island” segment just off Sanibel-Captiva Road. It’s less busy, breezy and just plain relaxing there.

Attractions Sanibel and Captiva Island Visitor’s Center

Sure, you can drop by and see them on the Causeway Road, but you can likely get all of your “work” done online and by phone before your voyage. The website for the Sanibel and Captiva Island Visitor’s Center is easy to navigate and stuffed—to the gills, if I may—with useful information for incoming visitors.

Dolphin watching

Eco tours, like the one offered by Sanibel Dolphin Tours, can be a great way for a family to experience the marine wildlife. A two-hour private tour for six passengers costs $250, and can allow for lots of great “photo ops” in addition to unforgettable memories for kids—and their parents, too.

 

 

Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge 

More than 6,000 acres of mangroves, swamps, flats and marshes—and, of course beaches—comprise the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Almost half of the refuge is a national Wilderness Area. Visitors can drive, but may also walk, bike or kayak through the refuge. Admission is a dollar each for bikers and walkers, and five dollars per vehicle.

Something to take note of is that the popular five-mile driving route, Wildlife Drive, is closed on Fridays to allow the native species—over 245 species of birds call the Refuge home—much-needed solace.  

Kayaking through the mangroves is incredible, and I highly recommend it, even if paddling isn’t your thing. (It’s not mine, either.) I was a bit hesitant to be out in the big wide open Gulf of Mexico (okay, really the Tarpon Bay, but it’s still the great sea!) until we settled into the smaller waters of the Commodore Creek. 

Then, instead of feeling miniscule and adrift out in the bay, you’re kayaking underneath a canopy of mangroves along a gorgeous dappled route, with shore birds above and all around, with their piercing eyes, spindly legs and grand wings; jumbled roots lining both sides of the water and Spanish moss close enough to brush you on the shoulders. 

Other noteworthy spots The lighthouse

On the far eastern edge of Sanibel sits the Sanibel Lighthouse. Its real name, Hipschman explained to me, is Point Ybel Light, and it was named for the sandy point of dangerous shoal water it marks. The lighthouse is the island’s oldest structure and was first lit in 1885. Point Ybel Light was restored in 2013, and is not open to the public—but the beach is.

 

Grocery stores (yes, really!)

Jerry’s Foods has a few locations: Edina, Eden Prairie and Woodbury, Minn.—and Sanibel, Fla. (I think I know which location I’d prefer to be stationed at in January.) Prices at Jerry’s may be higher than average, but the convenience of not having to go the mainland when you’re on Island Time cannot be quantified. Plus, Jerry’s is the only grocery store I’ve ever been that has a live parrot as its greeter.

Meanwhile, Bailey’s General Store is a tourist attraction in its own right that regularly gets top marks in visitors’ reviews on the web. With a bakery, deli, coffee shop, hot prepared foods, books, a hardware store, and a full supermarket as well, Hipschman told me that Bailey’s is reason enough for him to visit Sanibel.

National Shell Museum 

Before you hit the beach with your pail and scoop, the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum asks you to stop in; they’re open every day from 10 am to 5 pm. 

Its collections rival the Smithsonian, and the staff can offer guidance on where and when to look for shells. There is lots of programming going on, including beach walks guided by the marine biologists who work at the museum. Fees are modest at $13 for adults, $9 for kids ages 12 to 17; $6 for kids ages five to 11; and free for those ages four and younger.

 

Shopping

Shopping is abundant on Sanibel, with gift shops, galleries, boutiques and more tucked in between the greenspaces. You’ll be able to get any souvenirs and mementos you need. But the real treasures are to be found in the sights and sounds on the beaches and shoreline.

After I returned home I discovered that Anne Morrow Lindbergh was so inspired by Sanibel and Captiva that she wrote a series of essays that became “Gift from the Sea.” The book was published in 1955.

Restaurants

You’ll find some good variety for dining choices. The Sanibel Café is a popular family restaurant that offers American fare and seafood, and The Island Cow has a similar family-casual ambiance along with outdoor dining. 

The Green Flash Restaurant has gourmet food and waterfront seating, and is located on Captiva. The Bubble Room Restaurant, also on Captiva, offers diners a fun atmosphere with eclectic décor and cleverly named entrees (“Anything Grows,” “Errol Fin”).

Newer restaurants on Sanibel include Sweet Melissa’s, which has dishes made from locally-sourced items, and Sanibel Sprout offers visitors an organic and vegan menu. 

In addition to many others, you will find ethnic restaurants here, too: Shima Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar, Bleu Rendez-Vous French Bistro and Cantina Captiva (Mexican and Southwestern).

Lodging

Whatever you might seek for accommodations, Sanibel has it ready for you. From larger resorts and hotel complexes, to condo rentals, to smaller inns, to campgrounds, you have options. 

During our stay we found a nice, clean two-bed, two-bath condo on short notice without too much difficulty. 

And of the dozens of options for lodging on Sanibel and Captiva, many (23, by my search) show they are pet-friendly.

Tied to the sea 

Elevation on Sanibel averages just four feet above sea level, and you’ll feel that everywhere you go you’re only a step away from the water’s edge. Everything here is tied to the sea, and marine wildlife of all kinds are embedded with the local human population. For a Midwesterner, it was like stepping into an alternate universe.

Despite a touristy feel on first blush, there are many things to like about Sanibel Island. Give it a chance; I think you’ll find more than one thing on this island that makes it well worth the flight.

Heather Skumatz is managing editor for Piper Flyer. Send questions or comments to .

Sources: Wikipedia.org, Sanibel-Captiva Chamber of Commerce, Gopher Enterprises of Sanibel and Captiva Corp.

RESOURCES >>>>>

Pilot and visitor information
Base Operations at Page Field
Sanibel-Captiva Chamber of Commerce
Sanibel and Captiva Islands Visitor’s Center
Vacation rentals
Billy’s Rentals
Cart Rentals
Gopher Enterprises 
Activities and attractions
Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum
 
J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge
 
Sanibel Dolphin Tours
Sanibel Lighthouse
Tarpon Bay Explorers
Read more...
Oregon Coast: Choose Your Adventure

Oregon Coast: Choose Your Adventure

 

Fall is the best time of the year on the coast, and you have plenty of airports to pick from. 

Welcome to the (Oregon) coast. 

First things first: if you want to try to blend in, even as a temporary interloper, it’s “the coast.” Yes, I know, elsewhere you may take trips to the beach, to the shore, to the oceanside, to the waterfront… but here in Oregon, it’s not any of these, or anything other than simply the coast. 

The Oregon coast is 363 miles long, bordered to the north by the mouth of the mighty Columbia River, where Lewis and Clark first sighted the Pacific Ocean in November 1805. At the southernmost end of the coast, you’ll find the redwood forests of northern California. In between is some of the most beautiful, wild shoreline in the Lower 48, with attractions and outdoor-centric activities to appeal to just about everyone. 

Perhaps you’ll build a sandcastle, fly a kite and take a hike through the dunes, or maybe you’re after no activities at all. The Oregon coast is a great place to grab a well-loved book, a warm cup of cider and a blanket next to a roaring fire. 

A drive to the coast from Oregon’s inland population centers of Portland, Salem or Eugene takes around 90 minutes. Two-lane highways wind slowly up through Douglas fir forests, then over low Coast Range mountain passes before following sparkling rivers down to the sea. 

For those of us who are blessed with the gift of flight, our airplanes can spirit us to the ocean’s edge in 30 minutes or less. From any of the inland cities, it’s only around 50 nm to the Pacific as the Piper flies.

When you begin your descent toward the ocean, you’ll have your choice of 15 airports, evenly spaced along the coast. Your pick will no doubt be guided by your aircraft, your skill, your intended ground destination and the weather. 

It’s time to choose your adventure.

Pacific City: Weekend getaway

Despite its name, Pacific City isn’t a big place. Around 1,000 people call the town home year-round. Pacific City used to be a quiet backwater with a small fishing fleet and a few dairy farms. Things have changed in the past two decades; it’s now a trendy destination in the summer tourist season and the beach can get quite busy (by Oregon standards). 

Fly in to Pacific City in March or November, and you’d never suspect all that hubbub. You might well have the place to yourself.

Activities and amenities at Pacific City are centered around Cape Kiwanda and its signature offshore sea stack, Chief Kiawanda Rock. (Not a typo; the cape and the rock have different spellings.) Chief Kiawanda Rock is hard to miss from the air and even harder to miss from the ground. 

To get to Cape Kiwanda from the airport, walk a few blocks to the west toward the sound of the waves, turn right and stroll up the beach. It’s about a 20-minute walk over the sand to the cape. 

The first thing you’ll notice when you arrive is the funny-looking boats on the beach and the boat trailers backed into the surf. The Pacific City dory boat fleet launches directly off the beach to chase salmon, tuna and rockfish just a few miles offshore. You can charter a boat from one of several operators; to arrange a charter, ask the captains at the beach a day or two before you want to fish. (See Resources for a brief video showing how a dory boat is launched. —Ed.)

Cape Kiwanda is a protected natural area and marine life fills the tidepools. The rocks and pools just to the north of the boat launch give children and adults alike up-close views of sea stars, anemones and crabs. 

Feeling up for a workout? Grab a kayak from Nestucca Adventures and head off into the winding Nestucca Bay estuary. Birdwatching is especially good in the fall. 

If conditions are right, surfers play in the beach break just south of Cape Kiwanda or the point break to the north. Information, rentals and lessons are available from Moment Surf Company. 

If you see surfers here, you’ll notice they wear wetsuits—the Pacific Ocean is cold year-round. Peak water temperatures in the summer rarely exceed 60 F. 

Strong waves, cold water and lack of lifeguards make swimming here (and anywhere else on the Oregon coast) a poor and possibly dangerous idea. Wading is fine, but keep your eye toward the ocean. Occasional large waves have surprised many a beachgoer.

After you’ve explored the beach at
Pacific City, there’s no need to head elsewhere for lunch or dinner. Grab a cold Northwest IPA, a glass of wine—or an iced tea, if you’re flying out soon—and watch the people and boats come and go from a comfortable perch at Pelican Brewing’s beachfront taproom. 

Meridian Restaurant & Bar, just to the north of Pelican, offers upscale dining with locally sourced ingredients and a fantastic view. You’ll want reservations during the high season and on holidays.

Lodging books up quickly, as there are only a few boutique hotels and inns in Pacific City. Airbnb options are usually a better bet on short notice, and if you’re lucky, you may be able to snag one of the units adjacent to the airport.

As for Pacific City State Airport (KPFC), it’s a handful. The runway is a mere 1,860 feet long by 30 feet wide, and there are several buildings and trees near the runway. The runway is at only 5 feet msl and is adjacent to the Nestucca River. The runway occasionally floods. Heed the FAA Chart Supplement’s suggestion to call the Oregon Department of Aviation at 503-378-4880 before using KPFC, especially during the winter. 

Make sure your aircraft and personal skills are suited for operations here. Though the airport is challenging, it also serves to keep the crowds down; I have only once seen the six transient tiedowns full. Other than tiedowns, there aren’t any aviation services at KPFC.

The nearest fuel is at Tillamook (KTMK), which also makes a good alternate. KTMK has longer and wider runways, AWOS-3 weather reporting and a GPS approach with 750-1 minimums. Since it’s inland about 6 miles, Tillamook usually has calmer winds than Pacific City and other airports nearer to the beach. You can rent a car at Tillamook and make the 30-minute drive to Pacific City. If you’re there already, it’s tempting to take a quick detour and stop by the Tillamook Air Museum’s huge blimp hangar, or the Tillamook Creamery for a free tasting and tour.

The Cape Kiwanda area on a busy summer afternoon.
Sunset surf session at Pacific City.
The smiles are worth the challenge of landing at Pacific City.
Newport: Family-friendly fun

Roughly halfway down the Oregon coast, the bustling town of Newport sits on the north shore of Yaquina (pronounced “Ya-kee-nah”) Bay. 

Newport has been an escape for Oregon families since the early 1900s; the Nye Beach historic district was, and is, especially popular. Visitors can browse through art galleries, antique shops or simply just sip a cup of coffee with brunch (the best on the coast) at the Nye Beach Café. The sounds of the ocean are never far away. I’ve always found Nye Beach to be a comfortable, quiet area to stay the night; there are numerous lodging options here and throughout town.

The Bayfront District has a decidedly different feel (and occasionally, an unusual smell). Yaquina Bay is home to Oregon’s second-largest commercial fishing fleet and the Bayfront is very much a working waterfront. The fishing fleet processes most of its catch here, much to the delight of the hundreds of sea lions that inhabit the Bayfront docks. 

The sea lions are easily seen and photographed at the docks next to Mariner Square on Southwest Bay Blvd. If you’re having trouble finding them, just listen for their barks.

You could choose to battle these 1,000-pound pinnipeds for fish scraps, but it’s a safer bet to go to one of several fish markets nearby. I like Fish Peddler’s Market; they have fresh-off-the-boat seafood for cooking at home, and also do an excellent grab-and-go fish ‘n chips. 

Mo’s Seafood and Chowder is an Oregon institution and was a staple of my childhood trips to the coast. There are now several locations on the coast and the original location is in Newport. However, I think there’s better seafood at Local Ocean Seafoods. Beer hounds love Rogue Ales and Spirits’ three Newport locations. 

Newport’s premier attraction is, perhaps unsurprisingly, ocean-oriented. Oregon Coast Aquarium is open daily, both summer and winter. Its mission is “to create unique and engaging experiences that connect you to the Oregon coast and inspire ocean conservation.” 

The museum grounds cover several acres. You can easily spend a full afternoon visiting all the exhibits. My favorite is the Passages of the Deep exhibit, where visitors pass through a series of underwater walkways covering the three different ecosystems (reef, shelf, offshore) present in the nearby Pacific Ocean. For intrepid younger explorers, you can even book an overnight stay in the exhibit. To be honest, I’m not sure how well I’d sleep while surrounded by sharks.

For offseason travelers, the Newport Seafood and Wine Festival features hundreds of Northwest wines and seafood offerings from up and down the coast. The 2019 festival is February 21–24. 

Newport offers some of the most accessible whale-watching on the Oregon coast. Gray whales migrate along the coast in the early winter and again in the late spring. Several charter operators run whale-watching tours from the Bayfront District. A two-hour family-friendly “Sea Life” cruise with Marine Discovery Tours costs $42 for adults and $28 for children. 

For the do-it-yourselfer, drive just a few miles north to Agate Beach and Yaquina Head Lighthouse. You don’t have to climb the lighthouse to spot whales, but you certainly can if you’ve arranged a tour in advance. 

Newport Municipal Airport (KONP) is about 3 miles south of the Bayfront District. The airport is one of the best on the Oregon coast, with two good runways (the larger of the two measures 5,398 feet by 100 feet). KONP has several instrument approaches; two VOR approaches, a VOR-A approach, two GPS approaches and an ILS approach. The ILS and GPS approaches to Runway 16 have minimums of 250-3/4. 

Fuel is competitively priced at $5.00/gal for self-serve 100LL and $3.90/gal for full-service Jet A. The City of Newport runs the FBO and offers a courtesy vehicle during business hours (maximum two hours). For longer stays, you’ll need to call a cab or rent a car. Tiedowns are always available. If you show up on a Saturday in the summer, there’s a free barbecue at noon to welcome visiting pilots! 

A tiny crab found in a tidepool.
The Tillamook Air Museum is housed in a World War II-era blimp hangar, the largest clear-span wooden structure in the world.
Herb-crusted halibut with English peas, rhubarb, turnip, fiddlehead and asparagus.
The brave can spend a night and sleep with sharks in the Oregon Coast Aquarium’s Passages of the Deep exhibit.
Manzanita/Nehalem Bay: “Roughing it”

Nehalem Bay State Airport (3S7) is a treasure for visiting pilots. Touch down, then taxi off the paved runway and onto the grass. Pull into the clearly-marked tiedown area and shut down. Unpack and pitch your tent in one of the several campsites nestled in the trees, just a few hundred yards from the beach. You’re home for the night at Nehalem Bay.

The Oregon Department of Aviation and Oregon State Parks have made six fly-in camping spots available exclusively for the aviating public. In Oregon, standard campsites at state parks are by reservation only and are often booked several months in advance. That’s not the case at Nehalem Bay’s fly-in campground. The sites are first-come, first-served and are seldom full, even on the busiest summer weekends, though you might want to come in on Thursday to guarantee a spot. 

Camping is $11 per night, per plane. That gets you access to the park facilities, including water and hot showers. For a few bucks, you can pick up a bundle of firewood from the camp host. During the summer, rangers present nightly interpretive programs about local history and wildlife at the park’s amphitheater. Pack an inflatable kayak and you can launch it right off the end of the runway to explore the bay.

The beach is about a 10-minute walk to the west through the trees; those with more energy can hike to the Nehalem Bay Jetty, a 5-mile roundtrip from the campground. Walking a mile to the north will have you in downtown Manzanita. To get to town you can also take the scenic route, via the beach.

Nehalem Bay is a straightforward small airport (the runway is 2,350 feet by 50 feet) when conditions are benign. You’ll fly your downwind over the ocean, turn base and cross over the sand spit, and then turn north on final. Final puts you over Nehalem Bay; the runway threshold is only a few feet from the water. 

Here’s the catch: when it gets windy, Nehalem Bay will bite you. There’s high terrain to the north of the airport, and on summer afternoons, strong winds can spill over and cause all sorts of unpleasantness at the surface at Nehalem Bay. Be ready to go around and/or divert if the conditions exceed your comfort level. 

Nehalem Bay has no aviation services, but Tillamook (17 nm to the south) has fuel and can serve as a diversion.

Whale-watching tours leave daily from Newport’s waterfront during the summer and fall.
Nehalem Bay is tucked into the trees, just a short walk from the ocean.
Planning your flight

You’ll want to keep an eye out for forest fire TFRs in the summer and fall. Fire TFRs often affect routes to and from the inland population hubs. Smoke can also affect in-flight visibility.

All but one of the airports along the Oregon coast are non-towered. Fourteen coastal airports share three radio frequencies: 122.7, 122.8 and 122.9. Make sure you’re on the right frequency and announce your position as well as the relevant airport. En route, I like to monitor 122.9; it’s an unofficial frequency for low-level traffic along the beach. 

Several MOAs overlie the Oregon coast and nearshore waters. I have never seen military traffic in any of these MOAs, but you should nonetheless check notams for current status.

Many of the rocks, islands and reefs near the coast are part of the U.S. National Wildlife Refuge system. These refuges are marked on VFR sectional charts. Pilots are requested to maintain a minimum of 2,000 agl above these refuges. Low flights that disturb wildlife are a violation. 

Flying over the beach and out over the water is part of the adventure and allure of flying along the coast. Prudent pilots will maintain an altitude that allows for a safe emergency landing ashore should an unexpected loss of power occur. Beaches are usually the best option for forced landings. 

Much of the land along the coast is rocky or tree-covered. Still, land is likely a better bet than an offshore ditching in the ice-cold Pacific. For extended routes over water (as found on IFR T-route T257), you will want to bring a life raft, life vests and an extremely reliable engine (or better yet, bring a twin). 

Weather considerations

You’ve probably heard it rains a lot in Oregon—you’ve heard right. It certainly does rain, in the winter and spring. The rainy season typically extends from mid-October until mid-April. Moisture-laden storm systems roll ashore every few days and drop their cargo as they ascend the slope of the Coast Range.

Even during prolonged stormy periods, the skies will often clear up long enough for a VFR flight as bands of clouds and rain pass through. Winter winds are usually more problematic than visibility and ceilings. Icing is a concern, especially when colder systems descend from the Gulf of Alaska bringing the freezing level close to the surface. 

For as much as it rains in the winter, it doesn’t rain much at all in the summer. However, the best weather on the Oregon coast is not during the height of the summer tourist season (June–August). Summertime is fog time and wind time. Coastal fog can appear in the blink of an eye. I’ve had to hasten a departure more than a few times as the fog bank approached the airport. 

Summer surface winds are nearly always out of the north and can approach 40 knots in the afternoons and early evenings. Schedule your flights to arrive and depart early in the day and winds are usually a nonissue.

In my opinion, fall is the time to go. But if you pick your days (or bring your instrument rating), there’s great flying to be had year-round.

September is the warmest month of the year along the Oregon coast. There’s usually very little wind; the fog machine slows down and there is less traffic both in the air and on the beach. 

Fall brings warmer air temperatures and clear skies. 
VFR or IFR?

You can certainly travel the coast VFR in a VFR-only airplane—I do, quite often—but you’ll run the risk of having to divert or cancel more often than if you hold an instrument rating and fly an all-weather aircraft. 

An instrument ticket will help you get to the coast—even if you’re unable to get in to your VFR-only airport of choice, you can land elsewhere, rent a car and drive the rest of the way. That’s a big deal if you’ve got a weeklong non-refundable hotel reservation. 

Four of the coast airports have GPS approaches, and three have ILS approaches. Though these approaches won’t be of much help in winter high winds, they will certainly assist in punching through the pesky summertime 600-foot-agl marine layer.

From a smiles-per-mile perspective, do everything you can to make your flight on a clear day. You want your passengers’ noses to be pressed against the side windows, watching the ocean for whales and the treetops for bald eagles. It’s not nearly as fun to stare at the inside of a cloud.

Each one of Oregon’s 15 coastal airports has its own story and set of things to see and do nearby. Load up your family and friends, start your engine and point your trusty bird toward the ocean and all the Oregon coast has to offer. I look forward to seeing you there!

Though you can land under VFR, will you be able to leave?

Scott Kinney is a self-described aviation geek (#avgeek), private pilot and instructor (CFI-Sport, AGI). He is associate editor for Piper Flyer. Scott and his partner Julia are based in Eugene, Oregon. They are often found buzzing around the western U.S. in their vintage airplane. Send questions or comments to .


RESOURCES >>>>>

PILOT AND AIRPORT INFORMATION
Pacific City, Nehalem Bay and
other state-owned airports
https://www.oregon.gov/aviation/Pages/State-of-Oregon-Airports.aspx

Newport Municipal Airport FBO
newportoregon.gov/dept/onp

VISITOR INFORMATION
Oregon Coast Visitors Association
visittheoregoncoast.com

Travel Oregon
traveloregon.com

PACIFIC CITY
Dory launch at Pacific City
youtu.be/Al5H_r4EZvw

Meridian Restaurant & Bar
headlandslodge.com/dining/meridian

Moment Surf Company
momentsurfco.com

Nestucca Adventures LLC
nestuccaadventures.com

Pelican Brewing Company
pelicanbrewing.com

Tillamook Air Museum
tillamookair.com

Tillamook Creamery
tillamook.com

NEHALEM BAY
Nehalem Bay State Park
oregonstateparks.org/index.cfm?do=parkPage.dsp_parkPage&parkId=142

NEWPORT
Local Ocean Seafoods
localocean.net

Marine Discovery Tours
marinediscoverytours.com

Mo’s Seafood and Chowder
moschowder.com

Newport Seafood and Wine Festival
seafoodandwine.com

Nye Beach Café
nyebeachcafe.wordpress.com

Oregon Coast Aquarium
aquarium.org

Rogue Ales and Spirits
rogue.com/meeting-halls

Yaquina Head Lighthouse
blm.gov/learn/interpretive-centers/yaquina

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