Florida Keys - I Force My Vacation Photos on You
February tends to be that horrible time of the year when winter stretches on interminably and the lack of sunlight turns me into a dreary and sad person. Knowing this, we planned a last minute vacation in the Florida Keys. Ironically, it reached near 70 degrees Fahrenheit the week we were away, so... um, that was weird.
Now that my Belly children are older and more easily herded into a small car for long car rides, our trip from Miami to the Keys was fine. We bribed them with plentiful Cuban food and stops to ooh and aah along the ride. I've been in Florida many times before for work and vacations, but mostly to do touristy mainland type things like Disney or Universal.
This was a wonderful trip, with mild warm weather and only one torrential downpour mid week that we used as transit time for a drive to Key West.
We stayed at a small resort in Tavernier, Florida. We meant to stay further south, but being late planners, this is what we ended up with. It turned out to be a blessing since many of the restaurants near us were very small mom & pop operations, and we were generally very close to water and beach activities in Islamorada and Key Largo.
So many goofy Pelicans wherever we went, including at our resort. My little Belly kid renamed the fish cleaning station, the "Pelican Feeding Station." The birds aggressively congregated waiting for scraps whenever a fishing party came to gut and filet their catches.
Hmm, didn't fully realize the murderous rage nature of these birds until I saw this sign at the Laura Quinn Wild Bird Sanctuary, where injured birds are rehabilitated. I'm also liking the Pelican World View. ATTACK! - minded and general misanthropy / misavethropy (??).
I guess many of you in related climates see these animals regularly, but seeing iguanas up close and personal was cool. I saw iguana extermination trucks in the Keys. Are they considered pests?
Water sports is a big activity here. Lacking our own million dollar yacht, we went to Robbie's in Islamorada to do some snorkeling. We considered hiring a private boat to take a on tour for a few hours, but... $$$$. Must save money for Cuban food and makeup. <--- priorities. I haz. While I am a middling but mildly competent swimmer, I have a thing about things on my face and breathing obstructions. Like, I get a full on panic attack where I think I am dying. Within just a few minutes at our first snorkeling drop, I waded back to the ship to hang out with the other losers, I mean 3 year olds dropping oatmeal off the side of the boat to feed the fish.
The second drop was at Alligator Reef Lighthouse (again, near Islamorada), which has now been decommissioned, but the old structure and reef in the area made for some spectacular snorkeling. (So I've been told by my forth grader) The shallow depth of the water, the bright sand bottom, the lighthouse and various sea grasses made viewing the fish and aquatic life quite spectacular. The captain said this is his favorite snorkeling spot. I highly recommend it for those that don't fear death in water, such as me.
Many of the beaches in the Keys are rock and not sand, but the views are incredible either on the ocean side or the gulf side. One of the prettiest was at Bahia Honda, with the old bridge in sight and glorious water with little islands seen from the shore.
Here's some views at Bahia Honda.
Since snorkeling made me feel like imminent death for me, I more enjoyed the kayaking experience at Pennekamp State Park, in Key Largo. While the beach itself was very rocky and with hard packed sand, the water experience was amazing. My husband took the kids snorkeling just right off the beach and saw an old shipwreck (with ancient cannons!). We rented 2-person kayaks on site and kayaked through the mangroves. The water was shallow and crystal clear allowing us to see all sorts of rays and other fish.
Of the various keys and activities we visited. I think my least favorite was Key West. I think with the kids (and not wanting to do the bar life with them. :) ), we were limited in terms of activities. We did see the Ernest Hemingway House and did the tour. Our guide was hilarious and fantastic. And of course, the polydactyl cats were a big hit with my kids.
Since we were in the Keys, we enjoyed Key Lime Pie nearly every day and ate a LOT of Cuban food. Since coming home, I'm re-motivated to cook some at home and will now re-enter Arroz con Pollo & Ropa Vieja back into my menu rotation. Arroz con Pollo for dinner tonight!
We plan to return and I think next time, we will kayak to Indian Key. It is a historic state park, but was once the county seat in the 1800's. Now abandoned (the snorkeling trip captain called it a ghost town), it is accessible only by boat. There's all sorts of neat walking tours of historic buildings we can do there. Here's a neat link to some history and how to get there & things to do.
It was 68 degrees when we left Florida Saturday morning, and 70 degrees when we landed back home! Now it's back to cold again. I see the crocuses are starting to bloom, so I shall snuggle into my thickest sweaters and await Spring to make its entrance.
Have you been to the Florida Keys? What are your favorite places and activities?