Recently I took an unplanned day trip to the Southernmost point of the U.S. Where is that You may ask, well it’s no other place than Key West, Florida. Key West is possibly one of the most visited places in the US. It is a small Island city with a population of approximately 25,000 located 90 miles north of Cuba.
We hopped into my 2004 Toyota Sienna at around 10:25 a.m. one Saturday morning and headed on a road trip that was suppose to be a bit over 3 hours. It took longer than that because we made quite a few stops on our way. First we stopped to fill up on gas, then again to get beverages and ice to fill up our igloo.
It was a beautiful day for this road trip, the sun was shining and the view of the ocean on both sides of the highway was just beautiful. There was a lot of people headed that way too. We saw a lot of sports cars like Lamborghinis, RVs, and also a lot of boaters towing their boats.
While Key West is a shorter distance away from my address than Orlando, it takes a longer time to get there by car mainly because the road to Key West is mostly one lane going and one lane coming, except for certain areas when you enter another Key it becomes a 2 lane. Due to this sometimes the traffic is backed up causing delays.
After about 2 hours of driving we entered into Key Largo, we did not stop there we kept on driving after another hour and a half or so we entered Islamorada. I was so excited to get there because I wanted to visit the Theatre of The Sea, a place that I have been looking to visit for a long time and was glad I was finally getting the opportunity to do so. We pulled up in the parking lot and took pictures then went in to pay, only to be told that the dolphin interaction was done at 1 p.m. I wasn’t too happy about that because I was really looking forward to that particular activity. So we decided that we would revisit the location the next day on our way back from Key West if we decided to spend the night.
Feeling a bit disappointed we continued on our way to Key West but made another stop at another place I wanted to explore, Robbie’s of Islamorada, located about 8 miles from the Theatre of the Sea.
Robbie’s of Islamorada is a marina that is a local hotspot. Hundreds of people flood the marina each day and I could see why. There are a lot of things to do there like;
- Feeding the Tarpons
- Jet Skiing
- Chartering boat rides
- Eating at the Hungry Tarpon Restaurant
- Shopping for Gifts and Art
You could spend an entire day there with all the activities they have to do. We hanged out at Robbie’s for a for a hour or so scoping out the area and feeding the tarpons. After that we continued on our way to Key West.
One of the things I enjoyed about the road trip to Key West was just being able to take in the sights; the sights of the ocean, sights of the boat homes, and just the ride itself. If time permitted we could have parked in one of the parks just off the roadway and go swimming or just dip our feet in the water, and did I mention how close the ocean is to the road.
We arrived in Key West near the buoy at around 5:30 p.m. the first thing we did was find a place to park on the side of the street and then I went to join the line so I could take pictures by the buoy. Yes, there is a line to take pictures and the wait is approximately 15 minutes. There is parking available on the side of the streets as well as in parking lots, but I found the parking to be cheaper on the street side. We paid $5 per hour at the meter.
After I finished taking pictures we realized that it would be best to spend the night because there was no way we were going to drive back home that night and also we didn’t even start to explore Key West as yet and it was already late. In addition to that most attractions were already closed since 5 p.m. so we started to look up places to stay. The costs were ridiculous, we could not find anywhere to stay under $300 and I mean the high $300s. We called the smaller inns and lodges and no one would answer, instead we got voicemails saying that the office is open Monday through Friday with the times and I am thinking how can they expect to get business like that.
Then there were the high-end hotels with prices in the $400s and $500s. I kept searching google, maps, and travel sites like Expedia and Booking.com while driving around trying to get further away from Duval street to see if any of those hotels would be cheaper than the ones that were closer to it, unfortunately everywhere was about the same. Online we could see hostels renting in the $100s but I was not comfortable sharing the space with strangers and my friend and I could not stay in the same room at one of the places because only same sex were allowed in each room. I did eventually decide to give them a call but of course they wouldn’t answer and we got the same voice message as the other places. There was one occasion when we decided to go to one of the addresses we found for an Inn, which only led us to what seemed like the hood. There was nothing there, at least nothing that looked like a business or a place I would be comfortable staying in.
Eventually we caved and went to a Fairfield Inn and paid the money to get a place to stay for the night, it was pricey yes but the receptionist was kind to us and we did enjoy the pool and breakfast was included as well as parking which was not included at some of the other properties.
Later on after getting some rest, we headed out to get some food and went to the Stoned Crab Restaurant. It is a very nice seafood restaurant located just miles from the hotel and Duval Street. They were almost closing up but we were able to enjoy a nice meal of fish, shrimp, rice, and vegetables. Then we went to visit Duval street to check out the night life.
The next day, we started off our morning with getting breakfast and after that I went for a long swim in the pool, that was lovely. I was feeling a bit rushed though because I was hoping we could visit a few places I had in mind, then hurry back to the Theatre of the Seas, but that wasn’t the case because it wouldn’t have made sense to rush back and take away from my Key West experience, so we ended up just enjoying ourselves in Key West. For now, Theatre of the Seas is on the back burner.
Attractions We Visited
We left the hotel and went downtown, our first attraction was the Hemingway Home. The house was built in 1851 and became the home of the late writer Ernest Hemingway who along with his wife Pauline at the time purchased the home in 1930s, remodeled it and made it what is today.
At the Hemingway Home you will be able to take a tour of the the entire house. You can do a guided tour in a group or do a self tour. I would advise the guided tour, the tour guides (at least the one we had) was very knowledgeable about the author and showed such passion when she spoke about him. You will also be able to meet the cats and even play with a few. Some of the cats on the property are descendants of Hemingway’s 6 toed tomcat. Also located on site is Hemingway’s studio were he would go to write.
The cost to go in is $17 for adults, $7 for children 6-12, ages 5 and under are free. Make sure to note they only take cash at the gate.
Key West Lighthouse and Keeper’s Quarters Museum
Our next stop was the Key West Lighthouse and Museum which was just across the street from the Hemingway Home. The lighthouse is a 88 step climb to the top, it was a bit scary for me at first, but when you are at the top being able to see most if not all of Key West it was worth it.
Just across the yard is the museum or rather the Keeper’s Quarters. Inside the quarters you can see a short documentary on Key West’s history, uniforms the keeper’s wore and other artifacts.
The price to enter the museum is $17 for adults, $12 for seniors, locals, college students and retired military personnel, $8 for children ages 7-18, ages 7 and under are free as well as active military personnel. You can purchase tickets online or in person. You maybe able to get a discounted rate when purchasing the tickets online.
These locations do not have their own parking lots, so you will have to find parking streets side or in a paid public parking lot.
We had a great time at both locations, one thing that we were surprise to see on the property of the lighthouse was what we Jamaicans call a guinep tree (also called Spanish limes, quenepa, Bajan ackee and other names), it was loaded with the fruit, some even falling to the ground. We sure took some home, they weren’t what I was use to though as far as appearance and taste, they all tasted a bit stale even the ones that were looking fresh on the outside.
Kermit’s Key West Lime Shoppe
After we were finished with the lighthouse, a friend told us about visiting the birth place of the key lime pie. Not sure what it was or where, so I googled it and found it had two locations. We went to the one on Elizabeth Street which I was glad I did because we discovered a spot that we didn’t know about.
Kermit’s Key West Lime Shoppe is all things Key Lime, seasonings, key lime pie, candies, soaps you name it, everything in the store had key limes in it, I think except for the sodas that was in the Pepsi cooler. Of course I wasn’t going to visit Key West and not have a slice of key lime pie so I got me a slice, I wish I bought a whole one to take home though. I also bought a bottle of key lime juice to make my own pie, and took some of the free key lime candies, which I felt needed a bit more taste of the limes.
A & B Marina
As I mentioned above I was glad I chose this Kermit location to go to because across the street we found A and B Marina, filled with shops and restaurants. At the time we went, which was a Sunday afternoon, Conch Republic Seafood Company (a restaurant) was booming with customers, there are other restaurants like Lobster House, Wahlburgers, Bel Mare and more. There is also Fury water adventure where you can book water activities such as, glass bottom boat tours, dolphin tours, snorkeling, and sunset cruises just to name a few of what they offer.
After we walked around for a bit, we decided it was time to go home, but not before going to a restaurant that one of the Fury representative stated had the best key lime pie. I went there and asked how much was a slice and after hearing the price I decided not to bother. When we left their just before hitting the road we took a detour to see what was on the opposite side of US 1 South. It was mostly water on one side and hotels on the other, the airport was in the area as well and the Fort East Martello Museum. We stopped by for a bit to look at the view of the boat homes on the water and then headed back home.