"The Florida Keys" Florida Keys by M0B1US
Florida Keys Travel Guide: 251 reviews and 654 photos
Reaching the Florida Keys, US1 is 126 Miles of adventure paradise from the southernmost tip of Florida, right down to it’s terminus at Key West.
The Keys are made up of dozens of islands that form a broad arc in the Caribbean Sea. The Largest islands are linked by the highway, the first big one being Key Largo, which first came to attention in the eponymous 1948 movie starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. It is a mecca of snorkeling, diving and kayaking. It doesn’t look like much from the road, but from the water it looks fantastic.
Next up is Islamorada which is home to some of the World’s most diverse sea life, making for brilliant fishing and diving. This key is home to a good moderately priced seafood restaurant called ‘Squid Row’, which apparently is also regularly patronised by George Bush snr. Though it was the name that attracted us!
After Islamorada is Marathon, home of the graceful Seven Mile Bridge. The Dolphin Research centre is at MM59 on Grassy Key, which is a non-profit organisation where you can swim with the Dolphins – advance reservations are highly recommended! Also at Marathon you can actually fly fighter jets at the local airfield.
A highlight of the Lower Keys is the National Key Deer Refuge on Big Pine Key, also here is the Blue Hole, home to alligators, turtles and wading birds. The best beach on the Keys is Bahia Honda State Park at MM37.
Key West, home of Hemingway and the Conch Republic still manages to exude it’s old World charm despite being inundated with tens of thousands of tourists every day. The attractive Old Town centres on Duval St and the Land’s End Marina. It’s main sights include Mallory Square for sunsets; Hemingway House, which was home to Ernest Hemingway from 1931 to 1940. The Old Town has many attractive guesthouses in relaxed picturesque tree lined streets to stay at before hitting Duval St for a serious night on the town! A good alternative nightspot is Schooner Wharf on the waterfront. Key West is very gay friendly with it’s own Mardi Gras.
The Florida Keys & Key West Visitors Bureau (800-352-5397) is based at 402 Wall St in Key West. The Keys Hotline (800-771-5397) is a multilingual service that also provides information and emergency assistance.
This is the place to come for diving, snorkeling, sailing and wildlife with a whole plethora of places to suit every taste.
If you’re a bookworm, this was the home of Ernest Hemingway for almost a decade and one can pay homage to his residence at 907 Whitehead St for $8. You can also follow his trail by taking a trip down to Sloppy Joe’s Bar and also Captain Tony’s Saloon, which is actually the original Sloppy’s.
Another must while you’re here is to try the Key’s own dessert - Key Lime Pie…!
Who made it first is not known for sure, however if you can find one made to the authentic recipe, you are in for a taste treat! So firstly, beware of green Key Lime Pies because that is only food colouring for those gullible tourists that expect it to be green! Yellow is the colour and the pie is normally a meringue style. A consistently popular venue for tasting the ‘best’ is Manny & Isa’s Restaurant on Islamorada at MM81.6
The best way to truly appreciate the Keys are to drive their length from Florida down to Key West, taking in the Upper, Middle and Lower Keys along the way. Be warned however that it does take a deceptively long time to drive their length, as although only 126 miles in length, much of US1 is single lane and especially in high season, clogged with holidaymakers in all manner of slow moving vehicles, being the only route in or out of the Keys. This in itself should never be a problem as there are plenty of excuses to stop along it’s entire length, however if you’ve made yourself an appointment you cannot be late for – seriously consider leaving Key West with around four hours to clear all the Keys!
On another note of caution, never try speeding unless slipstreaming another car, as police cars line the highway like alligators waiting for prey along the riverbank! There is even at least one ‘dummy’ police car parked along the road – it’s just not worth it and we passed countless cars pulled over by the police!
The other great tip for driving the Keys are the Mile Markers (indicated by green ‘MM’ signs) showing the distances between Key West (MM0) and Florida City on the mainland (MM126) at each mile – these are invaluable for instantly telling the distance to Key West, and easily finding destinations along the highway, as each establishment uses the ‘MM’ as part of it’s advertised address.
Once actually at Key West, your car actually turns into a hindrance along the narrow crowded streets of the Old Town with limited and expensive parking – make sure your accommodation has a space for your car as from now on you’ll want to leave it behind!
Getting around town is simple on foot, as the Old Town is clustered into the north and west and easy to get around. Another excellent mode of travel is by bicycle as the lack of cars makes Key West a very safe town to cycle in.
Another way to travel to Key West is direct by plane, which is expensive and misses out the real joy of driving the Keys. Greyhound also makes it here
- Pros:A real let your hair down kind of place!
- Cons:Gets very crowded, accommodation and parking difficult to find
- In a nutshell:Adventure Paradise!
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