The Florida Keys is an archipelago of over 1,700 islands connected by a series of bridges, including the southernmost part of the continental US.
A trip to the keys is synonymous with day drinking and beach lazing – but if you’re feeling more active there is so much to see and do! Here is my idea of the perfect weekend in paradise:
Robbies Marina, 77522 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, FL 33036
Pull in and you’ll find a whole little world including a restaurant, bar, market, kayak/boat rentals, fish, and snorkeling.
I wasn’t looking for any of that at the moment, my sole purpose was to feed the tarpon. It’s $1 to watch out on the dock and $3 for a bucket of your own fish. A group of over 100 fish visit the marina looking for some easy pickins’. These fish are believed to weigh up to 300lbs, they are massive!
On the dock you can timidly toss a fish to the beasts, or hold it a few inches above the water and make um leap for it!
The latter is a huge adrenaline rush, and somehow the wide mouthed fish weighing more than I do myself did not clamp on to my fingers and take me into the depths….I couldn’t help but scream with excitement every time I lured one out of the water. Beware of the pelicans while you’re having fun. They hurt if they grab a hold of your hand trying to get the fish!
Hit the Beach
+Anne’s Beach, Overseas Hwy Mile Marker 73.5 Islamorada, FL 33036
You won’t find long stretches of sand here, but you can find your own little enclave off the boardwalk if you’re willing to take a look. This is a scenic beach with shallow waters that stretch for a long way. It may not be the typical beach, but it’s gorgeous, and free to walk around.
+Bahia Honda State Park, 36850 Overseas Hwy, Big Pine Key, FL 33043
Popularly touted as the best beach in the Keys, I was curious to check out this park. You will have to pay admission, but I think it is worth it if you plan on staying a few hours. There are a few short walks you can take before hitting the sand, start with an old section of the Bahia Honda Bridge. You will be treated to a tremendous vista.
On the other side of the park is the Silver Palm Nature Trail, more off the beaten path and only .2 mile. Learn about the flora in the area including sea lavender and silver palm.
From here you can head out to the beach and if you’d like keep walking to find some seclusion – the water is blissfully clear and gorgeous.
You can really get some mileage in, it is a long beach plenty of room for laying out and nice for swimming. It is a natural beach and the shore has a lot of seaweed – but it is for the benefit of the seabirds so I didn’t mind a bit.
National Key Deer Refuge, 179 Key Deer Blvd. Big Pine Key, FL 33043
Could there be anything cuter than a MINI-deer? No, I really don’t think there is. The lower Florida Keys is home to an endemic species, the key deer, and it is positively adorable. At one point they were nearly extinct with a population of only 25, and although they are still endangered today populations are on the rise possibly up to 800. You first stop should be to the Visitors Center, address above located in a shopping center. Here you can get a map of the refuge and some tips on where best to see the deer.
Our first stop was to the Blue Hole, a short paved trail to an observation platform where we saw two gators, a balancing turtle act,
and most exciting of all – the key deer!
This is a full sized adult even though it looks like a fawn, they are usually 30 inches tall and weigh 55lbs as adults…swoon!
Other places to spot deer:
There are two other hiking trails to try spotting the deer: Mannillo Trail a short out and back trail and Watson Trail a 2/3 mile loop trail. Since we had already seen them, we decided to skip them – so let me know how they are if you go! Also, the deer are more commonly seen around the roads at dusk. Do not speed on Big Pine Key, where the deer live for their safety and your wallet, you will get a ticket!
Sugarloaf Key Bat Tower, 4 Bat Tower Rd, Upper Sugarloaf Key, FL 33042
A quick roadside attraction, on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1929 to help control mosquitoes, however it didn’t work because the bats flew away never to return.
Just a quick stop, but a cool bit of history. Also – on this quiet back road we spotted an osprey with the fresh catch of the day.
I’m thinking that was it’s nest on top of the tower. You never know what you may encounter!
The reason I booked my AIRBNB was for the specific perk of the two complimentary kayaks. There are plenty of places to rent if you don’t have the same deal going on, but really it is so nice to explore the shallow turquoise waters of the keys by paddling.
We saw so many birds – including the white variation of the Great Blue Heron, and some really interesting sea creatures along the way.
Key West –
Baby’s Coffee, 3180 US-1, Key West, FL 33040
Having left at the crack of dawn from Hollywood, FL – we were despondent by mid-afternoon, but had so much more to see! This wonderful local establishment revived our entire existence with their excellent iced coffee and local biscotti. If you need to fuel up, this is the place!
The happening spot on Key West, lined with shops, bars, restaurants, and great people watching. We walked up and down checking out the scene, but it was a lot to handle for low-key peeps. Our favorite place on the street? The walking dead pinball machine at Angelina’s Pizzeria [208 Duval St, Key West, FL 33040]!
I loved spotting the funky cars that post up around the area as well.
Southernmost Point, Whitehead St & South St, Key West, FL 33040
Another quick roadside spot, unless there’s a line, and totally free.
Spot a Key West Gypsy Chicken
Hogfish Bar and Grill, 6810 Front St, Stock Island, FL 33040
I loved this place because it was casual, on the water, and faaar away (yet so close!) from the hubbub of the rest of Key West. It has a much more local feel, and the hogfish sandwich is stellar.
Other local specialties including conch fritters, gulf pink shrimp, and a traditional key lime pie were solid.
B.O.’s Fish Wagon, 801 Caroline St Key West, FL 33040
Cool dive-y vibe going on, live band, this is a great casual place to grab dinner.
Killer fish tacos, hand-cut fries, yummy beans.
A real winner in my books!
Pro tip: There IS free parking on Key West! Find a spot at the Court House [302 Fleming St, Key West, FL 33040] after 6pm on weekdays and all weekend. There are plenty of spots near St. Mary’s Church [1010 Windsor Ln, Key West, FL 33040] for all day – any day parking.
Day two: Dry Tortugas National Park
A day trip to this NP is pricey, but absolutely worth it to experience one of the most beautiful places in the world oozing with history. Look out for the full trip account tomorrow!