Turn left at 3rd St East; it brings you to the east side of the town. Here 11th Ave runs along the Gulf coast offering breathtaking view of the Horseshoe Cove. Our friends built a house on the seashore a few years ago. They us invited to visit the place. Needless to say, we gladly accepted the invitation and enjoyed a fantastic weekend.
This is the place, which gave Horseshoe Beach its name. Thousands of horseshoe crabs come ashore several times a year here, mostly in the spring on evening high tides. Shaped like a horseshoe with a long, spike rudder-tail, the horseshoe crab has 8 eyes, seven pairs of legs for shuffling along the bay bottom, and book gills for swimming and breathing oxygen. It is one of the oldest creatures on the Earth. They have made their home on the coast for over 350 million years, long before dinosaurs roamed the earth.
Did you know that the horseshoe crabs are not really crabs at all? Actually they are more closely related to spiders and scorpions than to true crabs. The animal is harmless. In Horseshoe Beach visitors and locals alike have learned to enjoy this natural wonder responsibly.
State Route 351, a long empty road that connects Horseshoe Beach with US98 (22 miles), becomes the Main Street when you reach the tiny town in the neck of the woods. The city limits sign at the cattle-gap says, “Welcome to Horseshoe Beach - Florida's Last Frontier".
The Horseshoe Beach area was settled in the beginning of the 19th century. Today there are approximately 206 full-time residents; and on weekends and holidays the town’s population can increase up to 300. The small town (0.2.sq.mi) is surrounded by a gigantic area of salt marsh, woods and tidal creeks. The town now has a restaurant called on the Main Street the Horseshoe Café, a marina, several rental cabins, and a waterfront park.
From the coast you can see several barrier islands; two of them are private. You can visit a public island by boat. Chances are that you will see the dolphins swimming around you. . It is one of the most remote and quiet areas you can find in Florida. Horseshoe Beach area is a paradise for fishermen - the waters have an abundance of sea trout, red fish, mackerel, grouper, and flounder.
Scallops and shrimp can be found too.
Horseshoe Beach is a great place to spend a weekend. This is not a typical Gulf beach destination. This part of Florida is often called ‘The Natural Coast”. In the area there are acres of salt bays and marshes. The coastline here becomes shallow tidal estuary. Horseshoe Beach is so relaxing that you will probably keep your recreational activities pretty low-key while you are here. Nevertheless, it’s a seaside town with generally placid shallow waters. Boats, both commercial and recreational, have long been a major focus in the fishing community. There is a lovely county park here for the outdoor activities. Barbecue grills and sheltered pavilion makes this place an excellent choice for family fun.
Tampa International airport serves the area with national and international airlines. If you are driving up from Tampa up I75, you have two options for reaching Horseshoe Beach. In Brooksville, you can either follow US98 northwest or take SR50 and then turn north on US19. You enter the part of Florida called the Big Bend. The highway passes Weeki Wachee, Homosassa Springs and Crystal River. Eventually US19 which becomes US98, will bring you to Cross City. Take State Route 351, the road of the infinite wilderness, right to the center of Horseshoe Beach.
Our friends recommended to visit the place. As far as we know, this is the only vineyard in Central Florida. The name “Dakotah” means “friend” in the Lakota Indian language. Max Rittgers established the vineyard in 1985. Today the vineyard is a 12-acre site with over 6,000 grape vines. The grapes grown in Dakotah's vineyard are muscadine. The muscadine is a native Florida grape that was first used for wine-making by the French and early Spanish settlers nearly 100 years before wine was made in California.
In addition to wine and numerous wine accessories, you can buy here jams, jellies and the grape seed oil, known for its health benefits. The roof of the wine cellar serves as a patio, and it offers a vantage point for observing the pond beyond the winery and the bird life.
Great selection, excellent service and friendly environment makes the place “a must” stop on your itinerary.
What to buy: Our Dakotah experience began in the wine-tasting room where wine samples are served daily at the red cedar horseshoe-shaped bar. Our favorite was Carlos - a slightly sweet white wine.
What to pay: Here is the wine list (October 2004):
Dry Chardonnay $12.99
Cabernet Sauvignon $12.99
Cream Sherry $12.99
Muscadine Juice $5.99