If you are travelling to Miami and want to take one of the coolest drives of you life, consider heading down to the Florida Keys. With Key West actually being closer to Cuba then Miami, it is definitely worth 3.5 hour drive (It is actually 90kms from Cuba, believe it or not) The Keys have been labeled “The Village of Islands” due to the one road (US 1) stretching through the ocean and attaching numerous islands to each other. Be warned though: If you have a fear of bridges, this is NOT the drive for you! I can recall listening to my Ipod and hearing multiple songs during the span of ONE bridge. At one point I looked back and saw NO land, then looked forward to also see NO land. Luckily for me I had faith in the sturdiness of the bridge and continued belting out “Kokamo” by the Beach boys, naturally. This bridge is called The Seven Mile Bridge, and it connects Knights Key in the middle keys to Little Duck Key in the lower keys.
Once you get out of Miami and begin your trip along the overseas highway, your camera won’t get a break for a while. (Charge that battery or you will be sorry!!) Not only the fact you are driving across the ocean is unreal, but also there are SO MANY adorable islands to stop along the way. They each have something different to offer and provide great photo ops! (My favorite!) If you don’t have a car while you are down there, consider renting one at least for the day. It is a long day trip however it is worth it!
The Keys you drive through to get to Key West: KEY LARGO, ISLAMORADA, MARATHON, SUMMERLAND KEY. All of these places have numerous eco parks, dolphin encounters, swimming, diving excursions and museums to check out if you have the time! OR if you are on-the-go like we were-stop at each sign and take a picture for the memory box!
HELLO KEY WEST: Ahhhh, alas you have arrived at your final destination! Take it in, and find somewhere to park so you can explore by foot! The best way to see the island is to walk around-The island is only 4 miles long X 1 mile wide, so slap on some sunscreen and your walking shoes (or some stylish but comfortable sandals, whatever matches your current outfit) A lot of people opt to rent a bike, which is also a great option for site seeing. Head over to Duval Street, which is where the action is! This is the famous street that is also known to be the bar and restaurant district and includes numerous dining options. One of these options include the ORIGINAL Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, so stopping in for a drink is a MUST if you are a first time visitor.
If you are wanting an educational experience (and a break from the scorching sun- I burned to a crisp in May!) visit Ernest Hemingway’s original house, visit the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, the Key West Butterfly Museum, The Nancy Forrester’s Secret Garden or The Key West Botanical Forest and Garden.
If learning isn’t your thing and you want to work on that tan, you will be happy to know that there is no shortage of fishing excursions, beaches <I would recommend Smathers Beach> or water sports. Don’t forget to hit that SPF though- I actually ended up buying a hooded sweater to get a break from the sun! My poor skin had seen happier days.
If you’re a foodie like me, you have TONS of dining options. I obviously needed to try the Key Lime Pie, since this was its homeland. We went to a small shop called Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe. We purchased an original piece of pie and then a chocolate covered key lime pie-on-a-stick (anything covered in chocolate is a must have in my books!) They were both delish- we sat in this adorable (shaded) garden out back, but you have the option to take it to-go and continue your exploring.
While you are out site seeing, take note of the ADORABLE style of houses along the side streets. The wrap around porches, the white shutters and colorful siding-lets just say as soon as I got home I immediately looked up how much it was to purchase one. (The answer is: A LOT. I will only be hoteling -it while in Key West apparently)
If you are looking to grab a bite, have a drink and take in the scene, Schooner Warf Bar has a great atmosphere to let your hair down and relax. If you are into seafood (which unfortunately I am NOT) I hear it is great, although I cannot vouch for it from experience. If you are here for brunch: Blue Heaven is the place to enjoy an island style meal. For fun, check out Captain Tony’s Saloon, which has numerous bras suspended from the ceiling. Although we didn’t eat here, we just stopped in for a photo because it was hilarious (yet unsurprisingly unappetizing). Unfortunately I wore a dress with a built in bra that day, so I could not contribute to the collection.
Are you looking for a fun photo opp? Head over to the lookout point that is the most southern point of continental USA. <And is 90 miles from Cuba> Want a picturesque view of the sunset? Head over to Mallory Square, where the sunsets are applauded nightly.
If you aren’t spending the night and you need to endure the drive back to Miami, get your key-lime-to-go and head back to the car. You have most likely had a long and fun filled day but all things must come to an end. I am sure this will not be your last trip back here, because the atmosphere is contagious and you will most likely go home and Google house prices like I did. (Maybe you will have better luck- I may need to get a 2nd or 3rd job to afford a room in one of those houses! OR marry rich!)