St. Johns' Getaway

St. Johns' Getaway
A brilliant sunrise pierces a fog bank over the St. Johns River. (David A. Brown photo)

Unexpected enchantments await in Florida's West Volusia County

DELAND, Fla. -- Admittedly, I wasn’t expecting this from a recent trip to Northeast Florida’s West Volusia County, but it was kind of like getting to know the quieter of two siblings – the one whose charm and talent live in the shadow of a more exuberant, outgoing personality.

Nothing at all wrong with that high-profile sibling; it’s just that their naturally engaging traits tend to get more attention – often at the inadvertent cost of overshadowing a lesser-known, yet equally gifted individual.

However, when given the chance to shine, that other child may absolutely knock your socks off with abundant personality rich with engaging charisma.

That’s the impression I got from a February visit to an absolutely gorgeous stretch of Florida’s St. John’s River situated in West Volusia. I joined a handful of fellow scribes to fish with some of the top regional crappie tournament pros and the folks who make the equipment that keeps them competitive.



Click image to see photos of St. Johns
St. Johns’ Getaway



The St. Johns – the state's only north-flowing river – offers lots of great crappie habitat, along with some spectacular natural scenery along its 310-mile range from the St. John’s Marsh origin to its Atlantic exit at Jacksonville's Mayport Inlet. We worked well upriver from the coastal end, with our headquarters at Hontoon Landing in the tranquil town of DeLand.


Now, they say that confession is good for the soul, so I must confess that I have long equated Volusia County with Atlantic beaches – principally, world-renowned Daytona. Went there a lot in my youth and never thought twice about the area’s inland offerings.

Given the fact that I shot a lot of the images in my book, Sportsman’s Best: Surf Fishing (http://www.floridasportsman.com/2014/01/15/sportsmans-best-surf-fishing/), in the Daytona area, and given the fact that I hold many fond memories of high school adventures on this famous stretch of sand, I certainly understand the Daytona dominance.

But – but, Volusia County has much more to offer and my visit to the west side piqued an interest that’ll certainly bring me back.


Between fishing trips, I enjoyed the relaxed, waterfront ambiance of spacious accommodations at Hontoon Landing Resort (www.hontoon.com) – right across the river from Hontoon Landing State Park. Sunrises and sunsets over the water were breathtaking.

And talk about wildlife galore – manatees, heron, ospreys, eagles, turtles, otters and gators – lots of gators. If you’re envisioning those little ankle biters that they let you hold at various reptile parks, think again. I’m a lifelong Floridian whose seen plenty of alligators and I spotted a couple of straight-up Sunshine State swamp dragons that had me shaking on the bow.

When good fortune brings me back to West Volusia County, I’ll spend a little more time checking out some of the area’s outdoor accents such as:


  • DeLeon Springs State Park (DeLeon Springs) – Swimming in a natural spring pool and breakfast at the Old Spanish Sugar Mill Griddle house where guests flip their own pancakes on personal griddle tables.

  • Skydive DeLand (DeLand) – Free falling nearly 14,000 at 120 mph won’t make my wife very happy with me, but I think it sounds cool.

  • Reptile Discovery Center (DeLand) – Venomous reptiles – another thing my wife doesn’t want me messing with, so I’ll just watch the pros handle those snakes and lizards (many of which pose little danger to humans). The ones with fangs are “milked” of their venom, as this facility houses the Medtoxin Venom Laboratories, which collect venom to ship worldwide for anti-venom production.

  • Green Springs Park (Enterprise) – Dazzling emerald waters in one of Florida’s few remaining green sulfur springs.

  • Hontoon Island State Park (West of DeLand) – Native American shell mounds, nature trails and lots of wildlife.

  • Deep Creek Stables (Deleon Springs) – Horseback riding through Lake George State Forest, buggy rides, skeet shooting, hayrides and cozy cabins.

  • River Quest (St. Johns River) – Kind of like a treasure hunt on the water with clues and coordinates leading to special places and stories.

For information on West Volusia County attractions and accommodations, visit www.visitwestvolusia.com.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

Recommended for You

How does one go about getting rid of chiggers and treating chigger bites? Your first line of defense is insect repellent with DEET to keep chiggers at bay. But when you do get a few chigger bites, use Chigarid to treat them. Hunting How-To

How to Treat Chigger Bites

Lynn Burkhead

How does one go about getting rid of chiggers and treating chigger bites? Your first line of...

Our picks for stuffable protection against any weather.

Field Tested: Lightweight Raingear

David Draper - May 30, 2019

Our picks for stuffable protection against any weather.

It must be time for summer fishing because records are falling everywhere. Records

State Records Reported in Maryland, Michigan

G&F Online Staff - May 23, 2019

It must be time for summer fishing because records are falling everywhere.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Berkley

Berkley's Surge Shad

Major League Fishing pro Scott Suggs has relied on the Berkley Surge Shad lure concept for years, using similar designs to capture MLF titles and a $1 million dollar FLW Forrest Cup win. With new features in the Surge Shad, Suggs tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead that even he can find success out on the water!

Abu Garcia Virtual Rod with Bluetooth

Abu Garcia Virtual Rod with Bluetooth

Pure Fishing's Andrew Wheeler tells Outdoor Sportsman Group writer Lynn Burkhead all about the brand new Abu Garcia Virtual rod that integrates Bluetooth technology through a free ANGLR smartphone app.

BPT Points Champ Edwin Evers Talks New Berkley Baits

BPT Points Champ Edwin Evers Talks New Berkley Baits

After making the switch to Berkley products heading into the inaugural BPT season, Edwin Evers tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead why Berkley baits played such a key role in his recent angling success.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Celebrate with great food for your backyard BBQ or picnic with these outdoor recipes. Wild Game

10 Recipes for Your Outdoor BBQ

Game & Fish Online Staff

Celebrate with great food for your backyard BBQ or picnic with these outdoor recipes.

Unless you live in Antarctica, the only continent they aren't known to inhabit, there is a species Catfish

10 Biggest Catfish World Records of All Time

Jack Vitek - December 08, 2014

Unless you live in Antarctica, the only continent they aren't known to inhabit, there is a...

You can catch bluegill faster with these strategies. Panfish

Find and Fish Bluegill Beds Efficiently

Terry Madewell - May 22, 2019

You can catch bluegill faster with these strategies.

See More Stories

More News

‘Great Red Snapper Count' includes angler incentives to report tagged fish. News

Gulf Red Snapper Could Be Worth $500 Each

G&F Online Staff - June 05, 2019

‘Great Red Snapper Count' includes angler incentives to report tagged fish.

A pair of giant bass caught in shallow water on back-to-back days in early March is a great sign spring fishing has arrived. Bass

Back-to-Back East Texas Lunkers Prove Spring Is Near

Lynn Burkhead - March 18, 2019

A pair of giant bass caught in shallow water on back-to-back days in early March is a great...

2019 edition, now available, commemorates ethical sport and productive science. News

IGFA ‘World Record Game Fishes' Celebrates 80 Years

Jack Vitek - July 15, 2019

2019 edition, now available, commemorates ethical sport and productive science.

See More News

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.