I’m a local South Florida guy. I was prompted to write a review from a long lost friend.
A trip to the Florida Keys begins with a ride over “20 mile strech” from Florida City to Key Largo. In Largo, eat at Doc’s Diner for breakfast,or Sharky’s for lunch, you won’t regret it. It’s a little diner, like most places in the keys, next to a bar.
Diving in Key Largo is the best in the U.S. There you will find Penekamp National Park. There are spur and groove reefs between 5-45 ft that offer the most beautiful coral structures anywhere. There are many sites to see such as North Dry Rocks (a personal fav), Spanish Anchor, and the Christ of the Abyss. The Christ of the Abyss is the most famous dive site in the keys. There are church services on Sundays above the statue. If diving in Key Largo, I recommend Ocean Divers as a charter. Penekamp also has charters if Ocean Divers is full. Please tip the dive master.
Moving south from Key Largo the views open up. There are mangrove and sea grape on the road side and small islands on the horizon. Islamorada is the next town. There you will find several bars and resturants, the most popular being “Holiday Isle”. There are charter boats for fishing and diving and a tiki bar with a swimming pool in it. After Islamorada, the big bridges begin. Its a long drive to the next town so enjoy the ride. Grassy Key, just before Marathon, has the dolphin and sea turtle hospital. Visitors are welcome, donations too.
Marathon is in the Middle Keys. OMG the whole place smells like food. If you’re still hungry, there is a great sandwhich shop inside the liquor store on the ocean side before 7 Mile Bridge (sorry, the name escapes me). Also there is 7 Mile Grill. Get the grouper, it’s bigger than the plate.
Now we are getting down to the heart of the keys. Seven Mile Bridge was an engineering marvel in its day. The orginal has been replaced with a new bridge. The old bridge still stands, resisting time and gravity. There is a dead pine tree growing from the old bridge’s road deck about 4 miles into the drive. Really cool to see. There is a really beautiful vista at the hump of the bridge. After 7 mile bridge, you are in the Saddlebunch Keys. There are islands everywhere. Continuing further, you drive over the Long Key Viaduct. It too has been replaced.
The towns get smaller as you drive into the Key Deer Sanctuary. Look around, the deer are usually on the road side; please drive carefully through here. These deer are tame because they are protected. The locals feed them but it is ILLEGAL. These deer are tiny – only about 50 pounds. It’s really pretty to watch them mingle around the lobster traps.
Past Deer Key is Cudjoe Key. According to me, this is the best place in the keys for sportsman. To take advantage, you need a boat. Hire a guide, ask a local, explore on your own. I risk exposing great secrets here. Hint, hint. Leaving Cudjoe Key, you will see Sugarloaf Key. I accidentally saw a Jimmy Buffett concert there. He played a private show for a wedding while I was fishing. Lucky me.
We have arrived to the best place to party in the keys: Key West. Affectionally known as The Conch Repubilc, Key West is a mecca for drinkers, divers, fisherman, and partiers from all over the country. Be careful getting too drunk, there are pickpockets in Mallory Square. Look for the silver mime and try to steal his bicycle. He gets soo mad!
Duval Street is famous. The street is lined with bars, resturants, and art galleries. Many people try, to thier demise, “the Duval crawl.” This means drinking at every bar on Duval from end to end: begin at Smather’s Beach end at Mallory Square. Leave your kids at home!
Do yourself a favor, eat at “Blue Heaven.” This place was a favorite hang out of Hemmingway and Jimmy Buffet played a concert on the watertower. There are chickens and six-toed cats everywhere. After dinner, watch the sunset on Mallory Square. Take the family to Wyland Galleries and Peter Lik Galleries. Also check out Mel Fishers Maritime Museum and Hemmingway House.
I’ve been going to the Keys for years. There is no place like it.
Oh, refer to the locals as “conchs.” They will appreciate it.
Filed under: Drive the USA, North America | Tagged: 7 Mile Bridge, 7 Mile Grill, charter boat fishing, Christ of the Abyss, Conch Republic, coral, Cudjoe Key, diving, Doc's Diner, Dolphin and Sea Turtle Hospital, donations, Drive the USA, Duval Crawl, Duval Street, Florida Keys, Grassy Key, Grouper, Hemingway House, Holiday Isla, Islamorada, Jimmy Buffett, juror #32, Key Deer Sanctuary, Key Largo, Key West, Lobster Key, Long Key Viaduct, Mallory Square, mangrove and sea grape, Marathon, Mel Fisher's Maritime Museum, North America, Ocean Drivers, Penekamp, Penekamp National Park, Peter Lik Galleries, Saddlebunch Keys, Sharky's, South Florida, Spanish Anchor, Sugarloaf Key, tiki bar, United States, Wyland Galleries | Leave a Comment »