A few weeks back I took a long overdue vacation to the Florida Keys. I’ve always wanted to visit the Keys and, I’m sure like many of you, the first time I heard about this destination was listening to the Beach Boys’ song “Kokomo;” plus, images of an island paradise away from the big city is more than enough to lure vacationers to this place.
What makes the Florida Keys so special? It’s the southernmost point of the continental United States comprised of a series of islands that experience subtropical weather year round. From Key Largo all the way down to Key West, the Keys are linked by 42 bridges along its 126 mile stretch of crystal clear water. Therefore, with the assistance and generosity of the Florida Keys Tourism Council, I soaked up the beautiful weather, sights, sounds and hospitality of this island paradise.
Where I stayed…
Lime Tree Bay Resort – located on Long Key (between Key Largo and Key West), Lime Tree Bay Resort is an affordable, small but quite place where the Wi-Fi is free and you get complimentary breakfast. Trip Advisor gives the resort a good rating and the standard room was clean and came with a full kitchen – stove, microwave and fridge with filtered water!
A hidden gem off the beaten path…
Old Seven Mile Bridge – Don’t let the name of this bridge fool you, it’s a hidden gem and has the most amazing and uninterrupted view of Florida Keys’ crystal clear water for seven miles straight! Old Seven, as it’s affectionately called, was built in the early 1900s by American industrialist Henry Flagler, to serve as an overseas railroad linking the mainland to Key West. Now, the bridge is a historic destination iconic to the island’s history and is used recreationally by pedestrians and bikers. A volunteer group called Friends of Old Seven are campaigning to raise awareness and funds to restore and maintain the bridge, make sure to stop by their booth to sign the petition and donate to the cause.
Sunset Grille and Raw Bar – located just before you cross Seven Mile Bridge, Sunset Grille and Raw Bar is were the locals and tourists come to fill their bellies with good food, good drink and a really good view. The food and atmosphere of this place was so nice and relaxing that I came back to eat here twice in one day, lunch and dinner!
Day two was when I got down to serious sightseeing business and headed off to Key West, one of the most happening spots in the Keys.
Things to see…
Hemingway Home & Museum - as an English literature major, the Hemingway Home was on my list of must-see places in Key West. The world renowned author wrote some of his best works here, such as A Farewell to Arms and The Snows of Kilimanjaro. Ernest Hemingway left many of his personal affects in the home when he up and left in 1940, like his trophy mounts from African safaris and typewriter. Admission is $13 but the guided tour is free and takes only 30 minutes where you’ll hear all about the author’s escapades from the bar, to the boat and with the ladies.
Southernmost Point - first-timers to Key West flock to the Southernmost Point to stand beside the buoy marker and get their picture taken, me included. From here it’s 90 miles to Cuba and it’s said on a clear day you can see Havana in the distance.
Sun Sun Bar at Casa Marina Waldrof Astoria - by far this is one of the most beautiful resorts I’ve ever stepped into. Casa Marina is breathtaking and the moment you enter the grounds you can see and feel the history and elegance of the place. After visiting several Key West attractions I stopped to eat at Sun Sun Bar for lunch and to get a little respite from walking; I ordered fish tacos which came with the best tasting sweet potato fries ever!! I also have to admit that I stayed here for more than lunch and enjoyed watching the sunset from the resort’s pier – best sunset ever!
Blue Heaven - one of two spots highly recommended to get authentic and ‘thee’ best Key Lime Pie in the Keys is at Blue Heaven. I arrived here for a late dinner and ordered the Caribbean BBQ shrimp and, of course, Key Lime Pie. Blue Heaven’s Key Lime Pie melts in your mouth and comes with mile high meringue – it’s so good that I still think about it weeks later! Watch owner Richard Hatch show you how good their Key Lime Pie really is.
Look out for my next blog posts detailing my trip to the Florida Keys… that’s when the shopping begins!