TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Two friends, originally from Missouri, are making Florida sand and sun a priority each month with their “Beach of the Month” adventures.
Sue Ackley and Kim Rice didn’t know each other at first when they moved to Florida. Rice’s sister gave Ackley her contact information and told her to reach out to reach out when she first arrived in the state 10 years ago. Ackley said both women had gone through a divorce and decided to pack it up and go live by the beach.
“I originally moved to the Clearwater area, whereas Kim was in Sarasota, so it was spotty getting together the first couple of years due to our distance, work and family commitments,” said Ackley.
Ackley said she and Rice did visit Siesta Key Beach often, until one month, they decided to visit a different beach once a month, for a year.
“It made us commit to seeing each other, and we enjoyed that year so much, we just kept at it, and here we are… still going strong!” Ackley said.
The first year of meet-ups just included the beach, but the trips expanded over the years.
“…with year two becoming ‘A Beach and a Bar’, leading into year three being ‘A Beach, A Bar, and a Bite to Eat’, which led into year four becoming ‘A Beach, A Bar, A Bite to Eat & A Bit of History,’” said Ackley.
She said most of their beaches have been in Florida along the Gulf Coast, but they have visited some of the state’s east coast beaches as well.
The ladies have also visited Greece, Wisconsin, which Ackley said was a funny, frozen adventure, as well as Texas.
They spent one of their monthly trips walking the beach with a Mote Marine Laboratory turtle rescuer on Casey Key at daybreak. Ackley said it was a blast.
The duo said over the years it has sometimes been just the two of them at the beach, but they often have friends and family join them. They have scrapbooks of adventures and post monthly on Facebook to update their followers who Ackley said “love to live vicariously” through them, especially their northern friends and family during the winter months.
Ackley said on the last month of the first year of their beach adventures, Rice had gone through all their photos and made the scrapbooks for them both to document their adventures.
“It was a great surprise and wonderful gift and we have both kept up our scrapbooks to capture the memories of every beach we’ve visited,” Ackley said.
The women enjoyed their 99th beach just before Hurricane Ian ravaged the southwest coast of Florida. They spent their time at Newton Beach Park after traveling to Estero Island to check out the last two locations in Fort Myers Beach they had left to see.
They originally planned to visit Bowditch Beach Park for their 100th beach, but Ackley and Rice’s plans changed with the storm.
Ackley and Rice recently celebrated their 100th beach at Cortez Beach in Manatee County with family and friends joining them from six states.
“Our story is one of friendship, commitment, and taking time to enjoy what we love in life. It’s so easy to make excuses on why NOT to do something, and we have never let that happen to us,” Ackley said.