Written by Joy S on 11 Jul, 2011
Key Largo is called the "first of the Florida Keys," because of its northernmost location along the Florida Keys chain. It takes an hour to drive here from Miami, but feels like a different world entirely. There are 2 state parks in Key…Read More
Key Largo is called the "first of the Florida Keys," because of its northernmost location along the Florida Keys chain. It takes an hour to drive here from Miami, but feels like a different world entirely. There are 2 state parks in Key Largo and a national marine sanctuary.John Pennecamp Coral Reef State Park is America's first underseas park. It has been referred to as the "crown jewel of the state park system." There is a visitor's centre which has a refurbished 30,000 gallon aquarium, nature trails, picnic areas and 2 beaches, as well as extensive diving opportunities. Be aware that this place gets extremely busy at weekends. We had to sit in a long queue of traffic just to get into the park.Shell World in Key Largo is a good place to visit with children. Seashells are a great reminder of your holiday in the Keys. You can get your own collection from the beach, but here they have beautiful, rare and fascinating seashells. Children can be hands-on and examine everything from large conch shells to spindly starfish. They sell other elaborate creations made from shells too - everything from necklaces to little shell people.We stayed in Key Largo on our last night on the Florida Keys before we flew out of Miami airport. It is about 3 hours drive from Key West, but only 1 hour's drive to the airport at Miami. It is thus a very convenient place to stay, if you have a time constraint the next day.We chose the Holiday Inn hotel for our last night's accommodation. It is clean, comfortable and a reasonable place to stay - not memorable or quirky but adequate. The location is the main advantage - it is on the marina, so you can walk to a number of bars and restaurants and the marina is a lovely place for an evening stroll.The marina at the Holiday Inn is also home to the original Africa boat, featured in the movie The African Queen, starring Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn. It is on display here free of charge.There are a couple of reasonable restaurants on the marina - we ate our evening meal in one of these, there was live music playing, a great relaxed atmosphere and a lovely view over the marina.We loved strolling around the marina after dinner. There are lots of huge yachts and other impressive boats, the atmosphere is lovely and everyone is relaxed and friendly. It was a beautiful end to our holiday on the Florida Keys.Close
The Florida Keys do not run north to south, but actually go in a southwesterly direction along this single road called US Highway 1 or as it is otherwise known, the Overseas Highway. It is very scenic and is a fantastic drive for families…Read More
The Florida Keys do not run north to south, but actually go in a southwesterly direction along this single road called US Highway 1 or as it is otherwise known, the Overseas Highway. It is very scenic and is a fantastic drive for families with children. The road is an engineering marvel. It was built by Henry Flagler in the 1930's to replace railway lines destroyed by a hurricane in 1935. It is 113 miles long and has 43 bridges, including Marathon's famous 7 Mile Bridge. At sunrise and sunset, the views along the road are beautiful, but at any time of the day it is an extraordinary drive. It is amazing to think that underneath the road is the sea and a coral reef. The views are wonderful - different shades of blue, the water sparkling in the sunshine with th Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Gulf of Mexico and Florida Bay on the other. The tropical marine life bubbles around the reef.You would have to try very hard to get lost on the Overseas Highway. There are only 2 directions - east or west, and all addresses are located by reference to just over 100 numbered posts known as Mile Markers which measure your progress. Our son loved watching out for these and letting us know how far down the Keys we had travelled.While you drive look out for pelicans sitting on the railings and ospreys perched on telephone posts. Also watch out for the tethered US spy blimp known as Fat Albert. It is crammed with electronic spy equipment and keeps a close eye on Castro's Cuba.Other things to watch out for along the road are:Shell World at MM110-89 (Key Largo) - look out for the huge pink seashell - inside this shop they have every manner of shell souvenirs;Theater of the Sea, Islamorada Seafood Company and Robbies Marina - MM88-66 (Islamorada) - Theater of the Sea is a mammal / aquarium, the Seafood Company is a fabulous restaurant with fresh, local seafood in a beautiful outdoor setting on the water, and Robbie's Marina is where you can feed the hungry tarpon;Crane Point and 7 Mile Bridge - MM65-40 (Marathon) - the bridge spans Marathon to Big Pine Key, runs a little under 7 miles and rises to a 65 foot arc. It has had cameo roles in several Hollywood films, including License to Kill;Lovely beaches at MM39 (Bahai-Honda-Key);Key deer along the roadside at MM39-28 (Big Pine Key);And last but definitely not least at the end of the road is the wonderful, different and fantastic island of Key West.Treat the drive along the road as an experience and part of your holiday, not just another car journey. It is a very special drive and a highlight of a trip to the Florida Keys in itself.Close
Big Pine Key has wild life refuges which provide protection for and endangered animals. Any commercialism you will find on the other islands and especially on the Upper Keys, is well and truly left behind here. On Big Pine Key there is an…Read More
Big Pine Key has wild life refuges which provide protection for and endangered animals. Any commercialism you will find on the other islands and especially on the Upper Keys, is well and truly left behind here. On Big Pine Key there is an authentic, back-country atmosphere.As well as having a different atmosphere, Big Pine Key is physically very different to the other islands. The rest of the Upper Keys are made from a former coral reef, while Big Pine Key is made of limestone bedrock. There are lots of hardwood trees and pine trees.The ilsand is also home to 300 tiny Key deer. These are very rare, with white tails and roam the unspoiled tropical wilderness that makes this island unique. The deer are about 30 inches tall. Mornings and evenings are when they are most active, so this is obviously the best time to spot them. If you keep your eyes peeled while driving along the main highway, you will often see them by the roadside.The tiny deer have been made small from thousands of years living on the island. People often mistake them for dogs - they are only knee high. They can also swim easily between islands. They have little fear of man, as shown by their mainland cousins, so will not run away as quickly when humans approach.The speed on the road approaching the National Key Deer Refuge changes from 45 miles per hour to 30 miles per hour, MM29-MM33 - so you know when to look out for the deer.Instead of stopping along a busy section of the highway, it is recommended that you travel to the north end of Key Deer Boulevard or to the east end of Watson Boulevard on No Name Key. This area is part of the National Key Deer Refuge and offers safe viewing.There is (apparently) a deer sanctuary information centre on Big Pine Key. We put the address into our sat nav, and despite driving around the area for about 20 minutes, we failed to find it. Instead the sat nav kept bringing us back to a shopping area and we could not find anything relating to the information centre.Close
Written by Joy S on 07 Jul, 2011
* The average year round temperature is 75 degrees fahrenheit. This is due to the Gulf Stream and the south easterly trade winds. Temperatures rarely vary by more than 15 degrees and there is a constant breeze. December to April is the…Read More
* The average year round temperature is 75 degrees fahrenheit. This is due to the Gulf Stream and the south easterly trade winds. Temperatures rarely vary by more than 15 degrees and there is a constant breeze. December to April is the best time to visit. Summer and autumn can be humid and most hurricanes are in August and September. May to October is the wet season, rain falls apparently most days during this time, usually in the early morning. We visited in June and only saw rain one day for about half an hour. Key West is the driest city in Florida.* Rent a car in Miami for the drive - it takes about 4 hours from Miami to Key West. The exact duration of course, though depends on your location. Do not rush, take pleasure in the wonderful drive down along the islands. I couldn't stop gazing at the blue and green waters of the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. In some places on the road, the ocean and the Gulf are 10 miles apart, but in most places the are just 1-4 miles apart and a lot of the time, must separated only by the road.* Plan sightseeing and meal stops geographically, otherwise you will waste precious time driving unnecessarily. There is only 1 road into and out of the Keys. The street signs are interesting - they are mile markers. This, plus "Bayside" or "Oceanside" are all you will need to find most places. Our son found it a lot of fun once he got the hang of it. Mile marker signs begin near Florida City at MM127 and go down to MM0 which is the Green Parrot Bar - the first and last bar on US1 which is in Key West.* The food is very good, served a lot in funky little shacks. It was always very fresh with a laid back atmosphere everywhere. The shrimp are amazing, we also had crab, conch, mahi mahi (called dolphin here), grouper, snapper, wahoo and yellowtail. Conch is a meaty mollusc served in chowders and fritters. It is a speciality of the Keys. It is actually a protected species here though, so the fritters you are served will be made from conch imported from the Bahamas. I still loved them though!* Be sure to try the Key Lime Pie. This is the birthplace of that delicious dessert - it bears little resemblance to what you get in the rest of the USA, but is so yummy. We particularly loved it "on a stick."* The Keys, despite a lot of people thinking otherwise, are really family friendly. This is such a wonderful place to holiday with children. The accommodation is child friendly and there is so much to keep them amused and entertained.* Crime is not a serious concern at all. We were advised to watch out for pickpockets and purse snatchers - but found nothing at all to worry about. Avoid deserted areas at night though and do not go into public parks at night.* Poisonous and benign snakes are found in Florida and the Keys. Be alert, use caution and always stick to marked trails.* Bring lots of bug spray - I found the mosquitos were ferocious here and had to make sure I was sprayed at all times.Close
A simple journey from Miami, along the wonderful Overseas Highway brings you to the Florida Keys. They are a strip of islands about a hundred miles long, known for fishing, diving but most of all for the town of Key West - legendary for…Read More
A simple journey from Miami, along the wonderful Overseas Highway brings you to the Florida Keys. They are a strip of islands about a hundred miles long, known for fishing, diving but most of all for the town of Key West - legendary for its sunsets and liberal attitude.There are actually 1,700 islands in the archipelago and they extend south and south west of the Florida mainland. The Keys are divided into 3 areas - Upper, Middle and Lower Keys.The islands are like a tropical paradise, and one that you can visit without leaving the USA. There are multi-coloured fish and coral in crystal clear waters, mangroves, lots of wonderful seafood to try, beautiful palm-fringed beaches and lots of interesting sights. An extra bonus is that the temperature rarely dips below 65 degrees Fahrenheit all year round.The limestone and mangrove islands are bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. There is only one road - US highway 1 (also called the Overseas Highway) and driving along this offers one of the most scenic road trips ever. There are views of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic during the whole drive. The colour of the water varies from pale blue to turquoise. Due to offshore reefs, there are minimal waves and the water is mostly calm.There is lots of family friendly accommodation on the different islands and everyone is extremely friendly. Nature, plants, birds, animals and beaches mean children can have a wonderful time here in the great outdoors. Our 7 year old son adored it on the Keys and learned so much during our week here.The Upper Keys - Key Largo to Islamorada are a little cluttered with touristy shops and motels. Apparently Key Largo is becoming more and more a weekend getaway for residents of Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Mostly you can't see the water from the road in this area, however as you go further south, it starts to open up more, and you finally realise you are hopping from one island to another.The finale of the Overseas Highway is Key West. Kooky, laid-back, funky and anything goes - that is Key West. It claims to be the only city in the lower 48 states to never have had a frost. Free spirits have always been attracted to this place, and you can see why. It is actually closer to Cuba than to anywhere else in the United States. There is only one road to Key West, it is not on the way to anywhere else, so you will never be just passing through - you have to want to come here!People flock to Key West to soak up the mellow atmosphere and watch the amazing sunsets. We found we quickly set our clocks to "island time" and instantly felt relaxed and as if time did not matter. Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams both made this place their home.Driving down Highway 1, you really feel like you are leaving Florida and the United States and entering a different world - the world of the Florida Keys. It is part Bahamian and part Caribbean - but also has a vibe and feel all of its own. The farther south you travel, the farther you get from what concerns life on the mainland and the more you seem to relax and get into the holiday mood.Close
Written by reef2020 on 23 Oct, 2000
The Dante Fascell Visitor Center at Biscayne National Park's Convoy Point is truly one of the finest visitor centers in the entire National Park System. Overlooking Biscayne Bay, the center offers a great museum that takes you on journey through the park's four ecosystems: mangrove…Read More
The Dante Fascell Visitor Center at Biscayne National Park's Convoy Point is truly one of the finest visitor centers in the entire National Park System. Overlooking Biscayne Bay, the center offers a great museum that takes you on journey through the park's four ecosystems: mangrove forests, Biscayne Bay, the northern Florida Keys and the living coral reef. Fabulous dioramas, videos, and lots of hands-on opportunities make this a place for the whole family.
In the auditorium, rangers show a variety of films about the park, including a beautifully artistic overview of what the park protects, a look at the contentious battle to create the park in the 1960s, and a glimpse into the impact of 1992's Hurricane Andrew.
Rangers offer talks and short walks daily during the winter, and intermittently the rest of the year. A calendar of special events like concerts, lectures, classes and "Family Fun Fests" is also available - call 305-230-7275 to get details, or go to their website at www.nps.gov/bisc and click on the "Activity Calendar" link. Of course, rangers and volunteers are available to answer questions every day from 8:30 until 5:00. A small bookstore has a great selection of titles for both adults and kids. The concessioner-operated gift shop next door can provide information on boat tours, dive trips and canoe rentals.
The best part about the whole visitor center? The rocking chairs on the front porch. Sit back on a quiet weekday afternoon and allow the gentle breezes blowing off Biscayne Bay caress you to sleep.
Written by Tideone on 07 Mar, 2001
Driving to Key West can be a very fun drive but it can also be a very long drive.
Beware of those who tell you that Key West is just a three hour drive from the Miami airport.
I knew a travel agent, who by the way…Read More
Driving to Key West can be a very fun drive but it can also be a very long drive.
Beware of those who tell you that Key West is just a three hour drive from the Miami airport.
I knew a travel agent, who by the way had never made the drive from Miami to Key West, who booked some clients on a flight out of Miami and told them that it was an easy three hour drive.
When I happened to mention it was a much longer drive than that, she said, “How can it be, the map shows it’s only 150 miles and some of the highway is four lane. They should be able to average at least 50 to 60 miles an hour.”
While it is true, some of the highway is four lane and it is approximately 150 miles (MapQuest.com shows it is 159.2 miles), my travel agent friend did not know about the stretch, the deer zone or the many travel trailers and cars pulling boats that do a lot to slow traffic.
The most important thing to do if you are making the drive from one end of the Keys to the other is allow plenty of time – especially if you are trying to catch a flight out of Miami International and returning a rental car.
The car rental agencies provide maps of the Miami area and many offer directions to the different areas, including Key West.
On a recent trip to the Keys, I took a sightseeing trip to South Beach before heading to Key West.
Instead of following the expressway to the Turnpike from the beach, I decided to go US 1 from Miami to Florida City.
What a mistake!
I found myself sitting in bumper to bumper traffic all the way through Coral Gables.
With the traffic still bumper to bumper, I decided to head back for the Turnpike, where I was able to reach the gateway to the Keys, Florida City, in a matter of minutes.
But my sightseeing detour added several hours to our trip.
So follow my advice and take the Turnpike to Florida City and avoid US 1.
Just outside of Florida City begins the 20 mile ???? known locally as “the stretch.”
While there has been talk of widening this part of US 1 to four lanes, environmentalists and those concerned the widening will just bring more folks to the already overpopulated Keys have banned together against the project.
This 20 mile stretch is probably the most dangerous part of the entire trip to the Keys, with wrecks occurring on an almost daily basis when drivers become impatient and attempt to pass in no passing areas.
Observe the signs and pass only in the passing zones. On our return trip to Miami we were forced to take a detour over Card Sound Road because of an accident on the stretch.
Upon reaching Key Largo, the highway returns to four lane for a short distance before becoming two lane again for almost the entire remainder of the trip to Key West.
Once past Marathon and you have crossed over the seven mile bridge, the Keys become less commercialized and populated, until reaching Key West.
More to Come
Written by zenguy on 13 Jul, 2003
After several days of fun in the ocean, we were all ready for a change of pace. We left the Hawk's Cay resort early for a day of shopping and fun in Key West. We drove down US 1 to the Southwest end of the…Read More
After several days of fun in the ocean, we were all ready for a change of pace. We left the Hawk's Cay resort early for a day of shopping and fun in Key West. We drove down US 1 to the Southwest end of the island where a monument marks the Southern Most Point in the United States. It's easy to find; you just go south until you can go any farther.
After a quick family picture we walked down Duval Street which offers many interesting shops and galleries that you will never find in a mall. Go all the way to Kino Square and check out the Kino's sandal factory. For $8 a pair, you can get a cool pair of handmade leather flip flops that they have made in the same location for decades. We bought a pair for everyone in the family and they quickly become our favorite shoes.
Engage the locals who walk down the street with small exhibits. Our favorite was the "Key West Bird Dog", which was a colorful parrot perched on top of a large dog. Others include snakes, trained cats, and other bizarre sites. Tip a dollar or two and the kids will have a lot of fun.
Food and margaritas will lure you at just about every corner. In the middle of our afternoon, Mother Nature treated us to a sun shower that turned into a bright downpour. Nobody seemed to care much about getting wet. We ended our day on the sunset dock and watched a spectacular display over the water in a serene and interesting setting.
You will definitely enjoy a day of shopping and walking in Key West.
Written by Lisa D. Farash on 23 Jul, 2003
We stayed away from the tourist restaurants and went off the beaten path. We asked locals and walked all over Key West to find places. We also found this place at the Southern Most Point. It is a restored B&B mansion -- for $8, you…Read More
We stayed away from the tourist restaurants and went off the beaten path. We asked locals and walked all over Key West to find places. We also found this place at the Southern Most Point. It is a restored B&B mansion -- for $8, you can tour and take advantage all day at their pool, which overlooks the ocean. It has a full service bar and it feels like you are staying in paradise. We stayed the all day.
Across the street, there's a bar that rents hobie catamarans. This bar overlooks this ocean and you can take your drinks out to the beach. The owner will let you rent a Catamaran for $40-50/hour as long as you know how to sail. He will ask you a lot of questions so be prepared.
Take advantage of the friendly personnel at the Galleon. They will book all your tours and you will get a discount. They will also tell you the best tours.
The parasailing is great. We went to the yellow boats. I can't remember the name. Be sure to tell them that you want to stay up a long time and dipped. We were dipped three times and stayed up for approx. 20 minutes. They will make a CD for you. They will let you view the pictures before you buy them.
You can pick up a walking tour guide. I recommend walking every morning. We did the entire book between 6-9am every morning.
Written by AnaMH on 04 Nov, 2000
Key West has changed over the years. This once low-key island has been thoroughly commercialized. These days you’ll find a modern, franchise-type restaurant smack in the middle of Duval Street and thousands of cruise ship passengers descending on Mallory Square every day. It's definitely not…Read More
Key West has changed over the years. This once low-key island has been thoroughly commercialized. These days you’ll find a modern, franchise-type restaurant smack in the middle of Duval Street and thousands of cruise ship passengers descending on Mallory Square every day. It's definitely not the seedy town Hemingway and his cronies once called their own. The Key West's locals, or 'conchs' (pronounced 'conks') are not very thrilled with what has been done to their city.
The Laid-back Key West of years past still exist, it’s just harder to find. A favorite place to kick back is at the waterfront of both the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. If laid-back is not for you, head to downtown Key West. This is the place to have a great time. Look around and you’ll find restaurants, lively bars, live music, rickshaw rides, and lots of shopping.
Every first time visitor to Key West must take a tour on The Conch Train or the Old Town Trolley. This is the best way to get to know the town. There is plenty to see and do in Key West, so give yourself time to explore and discover this wonderful town.