THE KEYS! What a wonderful place to relax and enjoy some time with your feet in the sand. We spent 90% of our time with our faces in snorkel masks and our mouths stuffed with delicious foods! (Not at the same time). Here are some of our favorite stops in the Keys!
Both of these state parks are wonderful spots to stop and take a dip in the ocean, snorkel, hike, or sunbathe (whichever suits your fancy). We took time out of our drive to stop at both of these state parks and, despite water clarity not being great, took to the waters to snorkel (we were two of three people in the waters at Bahai Honda). At John Pennekamp we came upon a well disguised sting ray in the sand and seaweed, and Danielle even saw a slippery lobster among the mangrove knees in the water! Make sure to walk the nature trail at John Pennekamp State Park, it will take you through one of the only tropical forests in the United States and you end up in an old key lime orchard. Just keep an eye out for the poisonwood trees especially if it’s raining! They produce an oil that is a skin irritant that causes a burning sensation if it touches your skin and for once we didn’t find this out the hard way.
Mmmmm. We found the Key Lime Pie factory on Key Largo. Of course we had to stop in. We got ourselves a piece of key lime pie and some key lime meringues. They all were delicious to say the least. It was all Danielle could do to stop me from stuffing all of the meringues in my face over the next few days. This was our first experience with Key Lime pie and it left us wondering why we had deprived ourselves of such a delicious treat for so many years!
There was a businessman (Richter Clyde Perkey) trying to build up a resort community and sell the lots on sugarloaf key who wanted to do something about the mosquito population in the area. He had heard of a successful bat tower in Texas that had effectively curbed the mosquito population there. He built his tower, moved in some bats and within a week all of the bats had left. By the 80’s it had become a local landmark (and is now on the National Register of Historic Places) and the community restored it finding a large beehive inside.
If you plan to visit Key West make sure you are driving a small car (whoops), want to ride a bike, or take the bus into Key West. There is a ferry service and flights. We found this out by trying to look up where we could park our 23 foot motorhome and found out that the city of Key West has an ordinance against vehicles over 20 ft. long or 7ft wide parking on city streets and no lots on the key accommodated oversized vehicles (boo..). If we did this over again, we would find a campsite either on Key West (which is so expensive at about $100 a night) or spend the night very close to a bus stop. The public transportation of Key West charges $4 a day for transportation which would have been so great if the nearest bus stop wasn’t 3 miles away. So, what did we decide to do? Park at Baby’s Coffee (SO GOOD!) for a quick coffee and rode our bikes from there into Key West (a 15 mile ride). While in town we mostly ate and drank our way about, wandering by Earnest Hemingway’s house and Tennessee William’s as well.
Conch Fritters, need we say more. Bo’s is a little off the main tourist drag of Duval Street, but the hike over was more than worth it when you get yourself a third dozen (or more) conch fritters and an ice cold beer. The eclectic décor and delicious food make this a must stop if you’re ever in Key West. This was probably our favorite stop in Key West.
This is not some special out of the way place, but if you make it to Key West, you might as well spend a couple minutes to get over to the marker of the Southernmost Point in the continental US and take a picture for future generations. We heard that people line up early to get a picture, but luckily for us, it was pouring rain, so there was a very short line (we still got completely soaked).
We didn’t get to do this because we didn’t find out about it until we left, but there are plaques all over the city with a phone number to call to get an audio tour of the historical sights of Key West. It sounds awesome and if we’re ever in the area again, we’re definitely taking the tour!
All in all, the Keys are a wonderful place for people who love being outside. The weather was wonderful, the water was warm, and the views were incredible. Key West is a great place to walk around (even in the rain), eat and drink yourself into having a relaxed day. There are also chickens everywhere which are apparently “city property” and we had fun watching all of the little chicks scurry about.