For those of us fortunate enough to have visited the Florida Keys, no description of their beauty is necessary. For anyone who has not seen the Keys, get ready for a slice of tropical paradise that is closer than you think.
Natural splendor, gorgeous beaches, laid-back people, reasonable prices; these are all unchanging standards of the Florida Keys and there is no better way to explore this region of the Southeastern United States than by car.
Your journey begins in Homestead, which is a last stop for snacks or some fuel for about thirty miles. From Homestead, you will travel through a portion of the Everglades and eventually onto an earthen causeway that offers great views of the marshland and wildlife- perhaps even an alligator sighting. An MCRT Insider Tip: Be ready for a bit of congestion and construction traffic depending on the day and time you travel through this area. No matter though, you are in no hurry.
Before you realize it, the sign for Key Largo looms
In the near distance and you have reached the start of paradise. Key Largo is a quaint island with many amenities. If diving is your favorite hobby, then you have come to the right place. You have a variety of diving options and gear is usually available for rent if you do not have your own. Key Largo is home to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, which was designated the United State’s first underwater park.
Getting back on the road, you will travel through the rest of Key Largo and eventually come to the Islamorada Village of Islands. If fresh seafood is your thing, stop in at any roadside restaurant and indulge in some delicious and reasonable priced Key’s cuisine. If you are in the mood to try something new and different, order some conch fritters for an appetizer.
In addition to great food, Islamorada also offers excellent sport fishing charters, which are relatively cheap if you have enough people to bring down the cost. This is a great way to enjoy the open water while also catching your dinner. An alternative would be exploring Islamorada’s creative and eclectic stores for some shopping or window gazing.
While there are plenty of fun things to do in the Florida Keys, you cannot escape the pull of the beach. Many of the Keys offer public access to those interested. Keep an eye out though as some of the pulls-offs are easily missed. In addition to these areas, you can always enjoy the beach at any of the numerous state and local parks throughout the Keys for a nominal entry fee.
The Beautiful Water
Clear, blue-green water on both the Atlantic and Gulf sides beckons you to enter. A diverse variety of tropical marine life is visible, sometimes within inches of you. It is as if you were swimming in your own gigantic fish tank! A snorkeling set purchased along the way will provide hours of excitement and entertainment to your trip. When finished, relax on the sand with a cold beverage and a good book.
Continuing on you will travel through the town of Marathon, one of the more developed Keys and a good place to buy some groceries or necessities. At the end of Marathon is one of the Key’s many marvels: The Seven Mile Bridge. There are two spans of this mammoth, the Old Seven Mile Bridge and the New Seven Mile Bridge. The only thing you will see is open water or possibly a glimpse of a giant ray or reef shark if you are lucky. At the southern end of the Bridge is Bahia Honda State Park; a great place that offers affordable snorkeling trips to the spectacular and very popular National Marine Sanctuary, Looe Key Reef.
You Finally Arrive
Finally, if you think getting to Key West is the end of your journey you are mistaken. Duval Street, Mallory Square, Ernest Hemingway’s house and favorite bar, Sloppy Joe’s; these are only a few of the seemingly endless list of activities awaiting you in Key West. Although there are numerous lodging accommodations along the way, staying in Key West allows you to be in the middle of the action. Every major draw of the Keys is available to you in this tropical paradise. Do not forget to catch a sunrise over the Atlantic or a sunset over the Gulf. Whether you stayed up all night or are just waking up, you will not be disappointed with either
So go, embrace one of the most beautiful places in the world on a road trip. No matter what time of the year you go, we guarantee it will be the trip of a lifetime. Paradise awaits you.
By: Gordon Alford