Sunday, December 16, 2012

Pancakes and Paddleboats

When two fun places come together, it’s a win-win situation. The Old Spanish Sugar Mill Restaurant sits inside the De LeonSprings State Park in De Leon Springs, Florida. The park is named after the Spaniard, Juan Ponce de Leon, who explored Florida in the 16th century – and who is said to have discovered the Fountain of Youth. The park area eventually became a plantation that grew, among other plants, sugar cane. All that remains of the sugar mill is a chimney. A small on-site museum expands on the location’s history all the way back to 8,000 when Native Americans roamed the area.

Today’s visitor comes to the park for outdoor recreation, like picnicking and bird watching. Birders have reported seeing 212 species of birds. Many come for the lively water activities of swimming, paddleboating, canoeing and kayaking. Canoeists and kayakers may follow the springs into the Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge where they will find 18,000 acres of lakes, creeks and marshes.

But the draw for many people is the unique and cool experience at the Old Spanish Sugar Mill Restaurant. Most of us have cooked our own breakfast and we have paid to have our breakfast cooked for us, but few have paid to cook their own breakfasts. At this eatery, diners cook their own all-you-can-eat pancakes or eggs right at their table with a griddle in the middle. You may choose apple or banana slices, applesauce, pecans or chocolate chips to sprinkle on the flapjacks and the wait staff serves a variety of breakfast meats.  

De Leon Springs is west of Daytona Beach. On weekends, it’s advisable to arrive early, because the parking lot fills up quickly, thus turning away subsequent automobiles.

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