Tag Archives: Ponte Vedra Beach

GTM Environmental Education Center has the Right Stuff

View inside GTM Educational Center
View inside GTM Educational Center

Walk into the Guana Tolomato Matanzas Environmental Education Center and be greeted by a giant North Atlantic Right Whale.  That is, one hanging Calder style from the soaring atrium ceiling. Heads turn skyward to see the full-size mammal, her newborn calf, a dolphin, Hammerhead shark  and Giant Manta Ray.  The facility houses displays of coastal and estuarine ecosystems and the natural history of Northeast Florida.

While vacationing with my family at South Ponte Vedra Beach (a week known as Camp Lander),  I took one of my grand-daughters to the GTM Education Center.  Caroline is only three, but she loved the place.

The employee at the desk handed Caroline a clip board with a page of marine life drawings.  She was to go on a scavenger hunt to find and match the animals to the pictures.  We were instructed to look up, down and all around, as well as open specimen display cases in drawers.

Caroline took about ten minutes to locate all the sea creatures- a perfect time span for little ones.  She then proudly returned her form and was given a prize– a coloring book and book mark. She was delighted and returned home to tell the other family members.

Later, my 5 and 7-year-old grandchildren paid a visit to the center with their parents. Their activity was a little more demanding, but still age-appropriate. They loved the giant shark’s teeth display as they’d been finding smaller ones on the beach every day.

As a rainy day activity, this place has the right stuff at a bargain price.

Admission is only $2 for adults and $1 for children ages 10-17.  Those under 10 are free.
Hours are 9 am to 4 pm, except closed on Florida state holidays.

Location is south of Jacksonville,  off State Road A1A, 8 miles north of Vilano Beach and just a short drive from St. Augustine.

Guana Tolomato Matanzas (GTM) Environmental Education Center

505 Guana River Road
Ponte Vedra Beach, FL  32082
904 823 4500

Camp Lander ~ A Family Vacation in Florida

Camp Lander Kids
Camp Lander Kids

Flights from Boston, Philadelphia and Baltimore brought my grown children and grandchildren to Jacksonville for  family holidays Florida style. Cars were rented and driven to nearby Ponte Vedra Beach for the start of week-long Camp Lander: my ambitious plan to unite the group.

But, what happens when you move fourteen people into one house—including two one-year-olds and a three, five and seven year-old?

More squabbles and tears than I had anticipated. Oh yes, lots of fun, too.

Thankfully, the Sunshine State blessed us with clear skies most of the week. We applied countless layers of sunscreen as kids frolicked in the ocean, built and rebuilt sandcastles and chased after beach balls. Hunting for sharks’ teeth became a favorite activity with Poppa Jay setting the record of 47 in one day.  Giggles, hugs and irresistible smiles of delight beamed from the youthful faces.

The kitchen acted as the hub of activity where an amazing quantity of cooking and eating took place. Not surprisingly, we drank more than a few beers and bottles of wine. Thankfully only two trips to the Urgent Care clinic were needed for ear infections.

Camp Lander came to a close with the celebration of Independence Day, the Fourth of July. The family created their own brilliant flashes of light like the dancing fireworks in the sky. They burst on the scene, boomed and sparkled, faded and then dispersed leaving behind stillness and memories.