Salt Life in the FLORIDA KEYS

Date: July 13 – 20, 2019
Average temp: 34 – 36° Celsius

Island hopping in a convertible with the wind in your hair and Jimmy Buffet on the radio is the ultimate Florida Keys experience! We spent one week embracing the salt life while cruising the 204 km (127 miles) of narrow highways which connect the numerous tiny islands of Southern Florida, referred to as the Florida Keys.

This post is to share my experience and quick impression of the three regions of the Florida Keys: Key Largo, Islamorada, and Key West.

K E Y – L A R G O

Enjoy the relaxing Caribbean pace of Key Largo while you soak up the sun. This area is a paradise for those looking to enjoy the marine life under the sea and on your plate.

The sole purpose of our trip was for scuba diving so we contacted Rainbow Reef Dive Center in advance and they took care of all of the details for us. Despite spending five days with a constant dose of Bonine in our system, we completed our Advanced Dive Course along with four additional dives (I’ve never been seasick in my life but expect the unexpected when you’re out on the waters … unless you enjoy feeding the fish).

The bulk of our dives were spent exploring the French and Molasses Reef, where we saw an array of sea creatures ranging from nurse sharks, stingrays, giant groupers, eels, and an assortment of tropical fish. This area is a diver’s paradise because not only are there multiple dive sites, good visibility, and waters averaging 28°C (82°F) – there are also various dive shops and companies peppered along the main road passing through Key Largo.

This area is also known for its wreck dives, which I highly recommend if you’re a diver! We did an unforgettable dive to the USS Spiegel Grove – a frigate vessel that was intentionally sunk in 2002 in order to make an artificial reef. As you submerge yourself into the blue abyss, the silhouette of the eerie wreck eventually comes into view, with a decaying flag of the United States slowly waving in the water’s current. Due to its depth, you need your advanced diving certification for this dive.

As far as dining goes, it seems that you really can’t go wrong. With seafood on all of the menus, every restaurant we dined in was a mouthwatering sensation! One of my favorites was The Fisheries, where I enjoyed a lobster BLT with the tropical sounds of music played on a steel drum. It doesn’t get much better than that, right?

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~ I S L A M O R A D A ~

Deemed the Sport Fishing Capital of the World, you know what to expect when entering this region. Since we were just passing through, we focused on eating lunch rather than catching it. We stopped at the charming Midway Cafe to refuel on caffeine. From there, we roamed off the beaten path in search of the No Name Pub on the No Name Key island. To our surprise, we stumbled upon tiny deer roaming the neighborhoods like stray dogs. I was able to get up close and personal with these tame little critters as they came over to say hello (and probably to see if I had any food).

On our way back through this region, returning from Key West, we stopped to sample some of the local brew at the Florida Keys Brewing Co. and welcomed this opportunity to stroll through their eclectic beer gardens. For supper, we stuck around for a romantic evening at Chef Michael’s where we enjoyed … yep, you guessed it! More seafood!!!!

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K E Y – W E S T

As Jimmy Buffet would say, “Changes in latitude, changes in attitude”. Although Key West is elbow to elbow with other thirsty sunseekers, it is an experience like no other. I’m not going to lie, we did not take the time that this place deserves. Key West is known for its history, architecture, and nightlife.

As we explored the town on foot, stray chickens crossed the road for unknown reasons. We made our way to the southernmost point on the continent of the USA and snapped a quick selfie. Interestingly enough, this location is only 95 miles from Cuba! In search of a good meal, we zigzagged the streets until we settled on Bliss – which is exactly what it was. The food and service were superior. The owner claims that he makes the best sangria … and I’ll have to agree.

After our meal, we decided to continue our quest for the best key lime pie in the Florida Keys. Luckily, we found it hidden on a side street where the Employee of The Year is an overweight black and white cat napping in a box. Pepe’s served up a tart but sweet key lime pie the way your grandmother would have made it. The crust was flaky and the whipped cream was light. Satisfied and tired, we hopped on the Duval Loop, a free (air-conditioned!!!) bus that circles around the city, and called it a night.

The next morning we tested out the saying that “It’s 5 O’clock Somewhere” by ordering margaritas at 11 am at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, which to our surprise the idling bartender did not judge us for.

After embracing an early morning buzz, we set our sail onward to find food. A wooden shack built around a food truck on the corner of the street caught our attention – Bo’s. Peeking in we could see a few occupants other than street chickens so we decided to give it a try. We ordered up a grouper sandwich with a lime-ade beverage and took a seat on an old picnic table next to a chicken waiting for some crumbs. The old wooden boards that were built around this food truck were decorated with license plates, buoys, and street signs. Our food was served hot and fresh to perfection! This diamond in the rough was a friendly reminder that you should never judge a book by its cover (but always have Imodium close by just in case).

With our bellies full and seeing everything that Key West had to offer for us during our brief visit, we packed up to return to Key Largo for our final dives.

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My Travel Recommendations…

So in a nutshell, my recommendations are:

  • If you are looking for unforgettable dives in turquoise waters, take the plunge in Key Largo.
  • If you want to catch your own supper, cast off in Islamorada.
  • If you are looking to drink, pour something tall and strong in Key West.

Enjoy your trip and if you have any comments or questions about your past or future trip to the Florida Keys, please share them in the comment box below or email me!

Happy Travels!