When Sandra Bermudez, 45, moved with her family from New York in the summer, she wanted to find special ways to discover South Florida and do things they haven’t done in Manhattan.
Paddling through the Coral Gables Waterway was the perfect opportunity for Bermudez, her husband and their 6-year-old daughter Lucinda to explore the city.
“We had an amazing experience and learned more about the [Coral Gables] canal and the history behind it,” said Michael Sellinger, 46, Bermudez’s husband. “We had a family of three manatees swimming underneath our canoe. It was such a great surprise.”
The New York family participated in the EcoAdventures program facilitated by Metro Dade Parks, which offers recreational outdoor excursions designed to fit all canoeing ability and skill levels, in partnership with the Coral Gables Museum.
Visitors start the experience with a 30-minute tour at an exhibition.
“Creating the Dream,” which is currently displayed in four rooms at the museum, showcases George E. Merrick and his vision for Coral Gables.
This exhibition shows a time travel back to 1920s when Merrick had the vision of a city that would reassemble the “castles in Spain” he admired so much, even though he had never traveled to Spain.
Caroline Parker, the director of programs at the Coral Gables Museum, said the exhibition has a strong connection with the canoe tour.
“The 40 mile waterfront around Coral Gables was built by Merrick to connect the hotels and homes to the bayside and Tahiti Beach throughout the city of Coral Gables,” Parker said.
At the exhibition, the participants also learn about the history of Coral Gables before boarding the canoes and heading out on the water.
They are likely to encounter a variety of animals, such as manatee calves, Egyptian geese, warblers and iguanas.
“Kids really enjoy the Coral Gables Museum. They get to see the two sides of the story and really like the nature aspect,” said Leonardo Villar, recreation leader at Miami-Dade EcoAdventures.
Canoe tours, offered at the end of each month, last two hours and cover 10 miles through the city’s historical landmarks, incorporating the history and nature of the Coral Gables Waterway.
“This type of outdoor activities have helped people learn more about the history of Coral Gables and experience part of the city in a way that not everyone has,” said Christine Rupp, director of the Coral Gables Museum. “The canoe tours have become very popular in the Coral Gables community.”
These trips usually consist of 10 participants, two people per canoe.
Byron Applegate, 62, and Penny Hitchcock, 61, a couple from Coral Gables, are supporters of the Coral Gables Museum and the activities it offers.
When Hitchcock saw the canoe tour advertised, she didn’t hesitate in making a reservation for them to attend the next tour.
“To be prepared for the future, it is important to know the past,” Applegate said.
If you go
The next canoe tour begins with the Coral Gables Museum exhibition, ‘Creating the Dream: George E. Merrick and His Vision for Coral Gables’ at 9 a.m. on Dec. 28, at 285 Aragon Ave. The tour costs $40.
For more information and reservations, visit www.coralgablesmuseum.org