Florida’s iconic road trip: from Fort Lauderdale to Key West
Our trip to Florida was a much wanted and longtime desired vocation. We packed light (you won’t need much clothing in July!), covered up with sunscreen, and headed to the Alligator Land.
Shortly after stepping out from the airport the heat wave welcomed us in Fort Lauderdale. July is most definitely not the best time to visit, but it didn’t lower our excitement.
The first day of our trip we drove from Fort Lauderdale to Miami, it was only an hour drive. First thing to mention is the TOLL roads, there is no escape from it. Depending on the duration of your trip you might want to buy the Sun Pass to save some money. We were not aware of it, so I got billed later. So make sure you always do a little research before your travels to not encounter little difficult situations like this.
Miami surprised us with the complete absence of parking. It explains why most of the locals drive scooters or bicycles. We stayed in the Miami Beach area; which is close to the touristic part of the city. I’d say the main attraction there was Lincoln Lane, a long street with countless numbers of restaurants, shops and bars. But it was a little pricy and a tourist oriented area. The next day we explored the Downtown area, beaches, waterfront, and Gator Park. The best part of the city is the long strip of gorgeous white sandy beaches. Other than that, I felt that the popularity of Miami is overrated. We left under the impression that the city attracts all kinds of party goers, excessive amount of rich young people, and plenty of expensive cars. If you are not into this kind of crowd you won’t be impressed just like we were. Also, get your Spanish language up if you want to communicate freely. You will hardly hear any English spoken (from our experience).
Now we were on our way to the Keys! The entire drive is only about 4 hours, depending on traffic, it could take longer. We didn’t hit any traffic; however we did make frequent stops for sightseeing. Our first stop was the Gator Farm in Key Largo. It was worth the stop as we had never seen a farm of Alligators before (this isn’t an inhumane farm that kills them for leather, just a tourist attraction). It was certainly one of Florida’s most unique attractions. Alligators all sizes, colors and ages are there sun bathing only few feet away from your face. Also they will let you hold and pet a baby Alligator!
The next big stop was Islamorada Key – the fishing capital of the World, all kinds of fishing sports, tours, and attractions. We didn’t participate in any activities except feeding the fish. All over Islamorada you can find “fish feeding” stations where, for few dollars, you can buy a small bag of fish and feed the big fish; which are typically about 3-5 feet long. Also the sea food here is phenomenal! I usually don’t mention the food in my blogs, simply because I don’t care about it enough, but not this one! If you like fish platters and sea food, you won’t be disappointed.
Marathon Key is widely known for the Turtle Hospital. This nonprofit organization is there for rehabilitating sea turtles, educating the public, and realizing awareness of the dangers turtles are faced with from people. Great place to visit if your heart goes to the environmental and its many problems. You will be able to see all kinds of sick and healthy turtles, and learn about these species. Read more here http://www.turtlehospital.org/ .
Right after the Marathon and passing the Seven Mile Bridge you will be entering the Lower Keys.
One of the most popular parks in that area is Bahia Honda State Park. It is a beautiful area with plenty of space for camping, RVs, and picnics. Magnificent views of turquoise shallow waters will make you say “wow”. We spent a few hours enjoying the warm “Caribbean like” ocean.
Your drive on Overseas Highway (the one and only road connecting the main land with the islands) certainly will not be monotone or boring. There are plenty of roadside restaurants, fresh juice stands and coffee shops along the side as well as a great number of easily accessible beaches and parks.
Key West, the most southern point of U.S.A., located only 100 miles away from Cuba. It is a tiny but very popular island. In comparison with the other Keys, it holds the most history and tourist attractions. One of the world known museums, the Ernest Hemingway house-museum, is located here. A Big portion of the visitors’ attention takes to the Museum of Robert The Doll. The horror-story-worthy legend tells about the woody doll who is blamed in many terrible life events that happened with people who owned the doll. You can read more on their web site http://www.kwahs.org/exhibitions/online-exhibitions/robert-the-doll/. Most of the tours are offered in the night time to enhance the effect.
Key West is an absolutely charming island with fabulous ocean views and beautiful architecture covered in flowers and plants. The main street is Duval which contains shops, cozy bars, and restaurants. While here, make sure to spend at least one evening watching the sun setting down at the Sunset Pier. With plenty of outside seating and live music you will find yourself enjoying this quite peaceful moment of the islander life.
Key West is known for all kinds of water activities such as snorkeling, catamarans, kayaking, paddle boarding, fishing, and anything else you can imagine. However, this is not the place to enjoy the beach. I did not expect this, so I was been slightly disappointed. You see all these gorgeous waters and it is hard to resist the temptation to rush in it. Here is the catch: there is no good access to it! Beaches are either very rocky (and you cannot walk there!) or it has the swamp looking shore line. For me it was the biggest drawback of the Florida Keys. We did manage to find beach access on Boca Chica Key, but it is very tiny and water there is shallow. But keep in mind that you will have to have military affiliation to access this “best” beach.
Sunset Pier, Key West
I found it unique and cute how many Chiclets were walking around on the streets of Key West. Birds were certainly comfortable with humans and even cars around them. Hens were all over: crossing the street, sitting on the bench, and even taking a stroll on the pier. But my favorite part of this “chicken Kingdom” was to see these birds walking around in the restaurants as they were working or living there!
On the way back to the main land we spent a day in Fort Lauderdale and I cannot express how much we liked this town. Located in the northern outskirt of Miami and spreading along the coast. Fort Lauderdale is an absolutely beautiful place. Make sure to plan to spend here at least a day. You can explore downtown, take a water taxi, enjoy wonderful beaches or relax in many of city’s cafes.
As wonderful as Florida was I would not visit it again during the summer time. Generally, one week is enough to visit everything from Fort Lauderdale to Key West due to the short driving distance. Plenty of beaches are free but less advertised. Make sure to check the map before you pay the park fees (entrance fees vary from $5 to $15). Also do research about Orlando and other cities as Florida does have more to offer. Enjoy your trip!
Ernest Hemingway museum, Key West, FL
Boca Chica Key