15 Feb The Florida keys, an underestimated gem
by Zoe Austin from United Kingdom
Florida keys by Zoe Austin
We decided to book a trip to the Florida Keys directly following a week in Orlando, and honestly I was kind of blasé about the whole thing. In my mind, the keys were just a lazy stretch of Americanized beaches along the side of a highway and why on earth anyone would pass up another week in Disneyworld was totally beyond me. I am so glad I was wrong. We stayed on Tavernier, which is technically part of Key Largo, the closest (and largest) key to mainland Florida. This was such a great location for exploring as it meant we weren’t restricted to only sampling keys life; we were within easy distance of the Everglades too.
Bahai Honda by Zoe Austin
Don’t ever let anyone tell you there is nothing to do but lay on the beach in the keys, they are so much more than that. Bahai Honda State Park and John Pennekamp Coral Reef State park offer some truly spectacular snorkeling and opportunities to explore the natural beauty and spot local wildlife. We had a once in a lifetime experience at John Pennekamp when kayaking through the mangroves with a family of manatees swimming by our side. Bahai Honda is home to nesting turtles, and its untouched beaches and corals give life to a plethora of marine life. I highly recommend taking or hiring some snorkeling equipment to see what you can spot under the water, it is a truly incredible feeling being surrounded by brightly colored fish and if you are lucky like us you might even spot some small (very friendly and kind of cute) sharks!
John Pennekamp by Zoe Austin
One of the most memorable and entertaining experiences on the keys is definitely feeding the tarpon at Robbie’s on Islamorada. There is nothing quite like dangling a little bait fish off of the pier to be greeted by a 5ft tarpon who has jumped out of the water to snatch it out of your hand! On Big Pine Key, somewhat surprisingly, are hundreds of wild deer. I recommend parking up and walking one of the trails for the best chance of spotting them.
Deer by Zoe Austin
Fishing boats are everywhere on the keys and for good reason, the opportunities of hooking a delicious and challenging catch (if you’re into that sort of thing) are second to none. Many of the hotels and resorts have their own licensed piers that you can fish from and hire rods. We opted to make the most of it and took a half day fishing boat trip and even got to keep what we caught to have for lunch! Lots of the local restaurants are more than happy to cook your day’s catch for a small charge. Speaking of food, the BEST key lime pie and conch fritters you can find are at the Key Largo Conch House.
No trip to the Keys would be complete without venturing down to Key West and driving over the seven-mile bridge. At the southernmost point of the continental US, you are just 90 miles from Cuba something you can feel in the brightly painted houses and the vibrant atmosphere of the Old Town.
Finally, you simply cannot talk about visiting the Florida Keys without mentioning its sunsets. Night after night we were treated to some of the most beautiful displays I have ever witnessed; wherever you are, I recommend you make sure you have a beachside seat and a Bahama Mama in hand to watch the sun go down over the ocean. Once the sun has set the skies come to life again with an abundance of stars. Being far enough away from the mainland, the light pollution is so low that the night sky is spectacular, find yourself a spot on the beach, lay back, look at the stars and wonder why anyone ever leaves the Florida Keys