We’ve Migrated To A New Site

Hello All!

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Things To See and Do On The Way To Key West

There’s so much to see and do on the way to Key West that it’s impossible to name them all.  But I’m going to try to hit the “high points”.  There’s no way to do them all on one trip, but if you’re driving into – and out of – Key West, you should be  able to hit quite a few.

Robert Is Here

1st up is Robert Is Here. Fresh fruit, preserves, relishes, salsa, live music on the weekends 2PM to 6PM November through March.  You MUST try a smoothie. Delicious! Closed September and October.  Hours are 8Am to 7PM every day with early closure on Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Located at 19200 SW 344th Street, Homestead, Florida 33034.  You’ll find directions on their website http://www.robertishere.com

Alabama Jack's

Next is Alabama Jack’s.  Open daily 11AM to 7PM.  A rustic outdoor setting right on the water – it’s a “must see” kind of place.  Food is excellent – The Conch Fritters are to die for – and the drinks are cold.  A word of warning:  if you plan to stop on a rainy day or if it’s high humidity, take bug spray with you.  Remember it’s set in the mangroves, so mosquitoes are everywhere on those kinds of days.  Who Knows?  You might even see a Manatee!  Located at 1500 Card Sound Road, Key Largo, Florida 33037.  It’s a bit difficult to find, but well worth it. Directions are on their website http://www.alabamajacks.com

Next up is the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park at Mile Marker 102.5 on the ocean side.  It’s a beautiful underwater park featuring the only living coral reef in the United States. Dive, snorkel, canoe, take a sunset cruise, walk the nature trails, play on the beach.  There’s also picnic grounds and campsites.

African Queen

On to the African Queen.  Yes, the same one in the movie of the same name.  It’s docked at Mile Marker 100, adjacent to the Holiday Inn on the ocean side.  If you like the Bogart movies, you’ll love seeing the original boat.  Of course, it looked a lot bigger in the movies!  The actual address is 99701 Overseas Highway (US 1), Key Largo, Florida 33037.

Sharky's Beer Company

By now you should be thirsty again.  So, since you’re here already, stop at Sharky’s Beer Company. A beautiful setting and cold beer.  Food is okay but you’re there for the setting on the waterway, right?  Besides, it’s a locals hangout so it must be doing something right!  This place can’t be seen from the road, so most tourists don’t find it.  They do have live music and a juke box.The address is 522 Caribbean Blvd., Key Largo, Florida 33037 on the ocean side.  Take the small road next to the Holiday Inn – it winds behind the property – and you’ll find Sharky’s.

We’re now in Islamorada.  Our 1st stop here is the Theater of the Sea.  It’s a marine park, they have eco-tours, you can swim with the dolphins. It’s on the ocean side, around MM 84.5,  Their address is 84721 Overseas Highway (US 1), Islamorada, Florida 33036.  Visit their website at http://www.theaterofthesea.com

View from Runrunners

On the same side a short drive from Theater of the Sea, is the Holiday Isle.  Dance in the sand to live reggae at Kokomo’s every Saturday and Sunday from Noon to 6PM..  Or stop by the World Famous Tiki Bar for live bands every Friday and Saturday night 8PM to closing.  My favorite is Rumrunners.  I love taking my drink to the 3rd level for a panoramic view of the Atlantic.  Enjoy solo performers Thursday through Saturday 8PM to closing.  Holiday Isle is located at MM 84.5 at 84001 Overseas Highway (US 1), Islamorada, Florida 33036.  Their website is:  http://www.holidayisle.com

Robbie's Kayak Shack

Tarpon is the fish of the day in the Florida Keys.  So…why not feed them?  Stop at Robbie’s Marina on the Gulf side at MM 77.  It’s a fun time!  You can fish, snorkel, shop at the kiosks, have a bite to eat or stop by the bar of a cool one.  Robbie’s is located at 77520 Overseas Highway (US 1), Islamorada, Florida 33036.  Check out their cool website at: http://www.robbies.com

Ready for a swim?  A picnic lunch?  Stop by Anne’s Beach on the ocean side.  There’s free parking, rest rooms and it’s pet friendly.  You can walk out to the channel in mostly knee deep water.  It’s located at MM 73.5.

Sombrero Beach

You’ve made your way to Marathon.  My favorite place in Marathon is Sombrero Beach.  It’s one of the most beautiful beaches in the keys.  It has a playground, picnic tables with BBQ pits, benches, rest rooms, is pet friendly, has free admission and is beautifully maintained. Swim to your hearts’ content as it has a nice sandy bottom.  It’s a little hard to find, though.  It’s at MM 50 – turn at Co. Rd. 931 – Sombrero Beach Road.  It’s 2 -3 miles on your left.

The Stuffed Pig

If you’re early enough, stop at The Stuffed Pig.  The food is excellent.  It’s where the locals go, so it must be good!  They serve breakfast until 1PM and lunch til they close at 3PM.  I LOVE the seafood omelet!  It has a small dining area and a very large outdoor dining area.  Serve is friendly and fast.  They’re located at MM 49 – 3520 Overseas Highway (US 1) at the corner of 35th Street, Marathon, Florida 33050.  The website is:  http://www.thestuffedpig.com

The 7 Mile Bridge – What a beautiful view of the Atlantic and the Gulf.

7 Mile Bridge

Doesn’t it look like it goes on forever?

No Name Pub

Big Pine Key boasts the No Name Pub, the Key Deer and the Blue Hole.  It’s extremely hard to find if you’ve never been there before.  But well worth it!  The No Name Pub is literally covered floor to ceiling with $1 bills.  It has the highest bar stools I’ve ever had to climb onto.  It’s a treasure with excellent food (the pizza is the best), cold drinks and friendly service.  This is a “must see” – you can’t not see this if you have the time.  The address is North Watson Blvd, Big Pine Key, Florida 33043.  Their website is:  http://www.nonamepub.com.

Alligator at the Blue Hole

You pass the Blue Hole on your way to – and from – the No Name Pub.  It’s a nature sanctuary but if you like seeing alligators up close, this is it!  This picture was taken from the viewing deck about 4 feet above the alligator.

And let’s not forget the Key Deer.  They roam all of Big Pine Key.  If you don’t come across one on your way to No

Key Deer

Name Pub, take a drive down the residential area.  They are everywhere!  They’re very friendly and will not run away unless you really spook them.  The speed limit is strictly enforced because they are  an endangered species that can only be found on Big Pine Key.

View from the bar at Parrotdise

Our next stop is Parrotdise on Little Torch Key.  It’s on the Gulf side at MM 28.5.  It’s a beautiful view of the Gulf – sit at the bar, or a table by the windows.  Take a walk down the pier that extends into the water.  Try a glass or two of Big Pecker Wine.  The food is good and the service is extremely friendly.  The address is 183 Barry Avenue, Little Torch Key, Florida  33043.  The website is: http://www.parrotdisewaterfront.com.

Boondocks

Boondocks Grille and Draft House on Ramrod Key is our next stop.  It’s a locals favorite!  The food is excellent – there’s entertainment of some sort all the time.  And it boasts the only miniature golf course in all of the Florida Keys. Have a drink out of  a coconut cup!  Boondocks is located at MM 27.5 and the address is: 27205 Overseas Highway (US 1), Ramrod Key, Florida  33042.  Their website is: http://www.boondocksus.com.

On to Mangrove Mama’s on Sugarloaf Key.  Excellent sandwiches!  and you have to take a walk inside – it’s huge.  There are several different dining areas inside and outside.  There’s music in the evenings.  It’s a locals hangout.  Located at MM 20, the website is:  http://www.mangrovemamasrestaurant.com/index.html

Hogfish Bar and Grill

Last, but not least, is Stock Island‘s own Hogfish Bar and Grill.  They’re located right on a working marina and boast the best Hogfish sandwich around.  It’s so big you can share it.  You don’t find too many tourists here because it’s hard to find and not widely advertised.  If a local doesn’t tell you about it, you’ll never find it. Their address is: 6810 Front Street, Stock Island, Florida 33040.  The website is: http://www.hogfishbar.com.

There are so many other places that are special, but they’re too numerous to mention.  These are the MUST SEE places that will linger on in your memory.

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The Key Lime Pie at Pepe’s Cafe Rated #3 in USA

National Geographic Traveler Magazine has rated the Key Lime Pie at Pepe’s Cafe Number 3 in the USA.  I myself have never tried it but a friend of mine has, and agrees that it’s very, very good!  Just the right blend of tartness and sweetness.

What makes this honor even sweeter, it takes into consideration ALL kinds of pies – not just Key Lime.

Since the article is in the magazine and not on the website, I’ll post the article below:

The Rise of the American Pie

Serving up the best regional slices / By Margaret Loftus

Invented by the Brits in the Middle Ages,the modern pie has been wholeheartedly co-opted by Americans. Pull off at any roadside diner or farm stand (or even the streets of New York,where pie is making a resurgence), and you’re bound to find the fresh-baked pastry.  Here’s where to tuck into some authentic standouts:

1.  Blueberry Pie > Wild blueberries have adapted well to the harsh winters of Downtown Maine – the swath of coast from  Penobscot Bay to the Canadian border. Helen’s Restaurant in Machias uses a blend of fresh and cooked berries.

2.  Chess Pie > A tribute to the resourcefulness of Southern cooks, it’s traditionally made with whatever is in the larder,such as sugar, eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla. Dixie Supply Bakery &Cafe in Charleston, South Carolina, adds cornmeal.

3.  Key Lime  Pie > More tart and perishable than its grocery-store cousin, the Key lime that grows throughout Florida’s island chain is the one ingredient on which everybody agrees. Pepe’s Cafe in Key West gets raves for its deconstructed concoction in a bowl.

4.  Marionberry Pie > The result of cross-breeding two types of  blackberries in the 1950’s, marionberries are the pride of Oregon, serving as state ambassadors in jellies and jams. The pie, however, is best consumed in situ, preferably with a scoop of ice cream at the Bipartisan Cafe in Portland.

5.  Sour Cherry Pie > Sour cherries don’t travel as well as the ubiquitous bings.  Sample them along the northern coastlines of Michigan and Wisconsin that frame Lake Michigan – where the tart red orbs are at their best inside a buttery crust from Sweetie Pies in Fish Creek, Wisconsin.

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Things To Do in Key West

There are so many things to do in Key West, in addition to the “Duval Crawl”.  Here’s a list:

MUSEUMS

Mel Fisher Maritime Museum
Shipwreck Historeum Museum
Martello Towers
Ernest Hemingway House and Museum
Heritage House Museum and Robert Frost Cottage
Key West Lighthouse and Keepers Quarters  Museum
Key West Museum of Art and History
San Carlos Institute
Truman Little White House
Turtle Kraals Museum
Curry Mansion Museum

GARDENS

Audubon House Gallery and Tropical Gardens
Fort East Martello Museum and Gardens
Key West Memorial Sculpture Garden
Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Gardens
Nancy Forrester’s Secret Garden

ATTRACTIONS

Conch Train Tour
CityView Trolley Tour
Ghosts and Legends of Key West Tour
Historic Key West Walking Tour
Key West Aquarium
Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
Key West Cemetery
Key West Ghost Tours
Key West Speedway
Mallory Square
Old Town Trolley
Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine
Pirate Walking Tours
Ripley’s Believe It or Not
Southernmost Point
Southernmost Scavenger Hunt
St. Paul’s Church
Tales and Tombstones Trolley Tour
Tropical Bike Tours of Key West
Tennessee Williams House
Tennessee Williams Theater
Trails and Tales of Key West
Waterfront Playhouse at Mallory Square

There are too many art galleries to mention here but they are everywhere.  Browsing is encouraged.

There are also many, many water activities too numerous to mention here.  If there’s something in particular you’d like to do, the TA posters will be more than happy to help.

Enjoy your visit to Key West!

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What to do in Key West …. Other Than Water Activities

While the oil spill may – or may not – hit Key West, many are worried about their upcoming vacation.  My response in 2 words:

STOP WORRYING!

IF the spill does affect Key West, there’s still so much to do that you won’t get to do everything on your vacation.  Even with children, there’s still plenty to keep everyone occupied.

Hemingway House

Let’s start with museums (yes, I can hear the kids saying EWWWW….so don’t tell them they’re museums :)).  In no particular order, there’s:

Mel Fisher Maritime Museum
Shipwreck Historeum Museum
Martello Towers
Ernest Hemingway House and Museum
Heritage House Museum and Robert Frost Cottage
Key West Lighthouse and Keepers Quarters  Museum
Key West Museum of Art and History
San Carlos Institute
Truman Little White House
Turtle Kraals Museum
Curry Mansion Museum

Now for the Gardens:

Audubon House Gallery and Tropical Gardens
Fort East Martello Museum and Gardens
Key West Memorial Sculpture Garden
Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Gardens
Nancy Forrester’s Secret Garden

Key West Aquarium

On to the attractions:

Conch Train Tour
CityView Trolley Tour
Ghosts and Legends of Key West Tour
Historic Key West Walking Tour
Key West Aquarium
Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
Key West Cemetery
Key West Ghost Tours
Key West Speedway
Mallory Square
Old Town Trolley
Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine
Pirate Walking Tours
Ripley’s Believe It or Not
Southernmost Point
Southernmost Scavenger Hunt
St. Paul’s Church
Tales and Tombstones Trolley Tour
Tropical Bike Tours of Key West
Tennessee Williams House
Tennessee Williams Theater
Trails and Tales of Key West
Waterfront Playhouse at Mallory Square

There are too many art galleries to mention here but they are everywhere.  Browsing is encouraged.  And you just might buy something! 🙂

And don’t forget the pool wherever you’re staying.

Enjoy your visit to Key West and hopefully you’ll catch the dreaded Key’s Disease!

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New Bakery Opens in Key West

It’s nice to see new places open in Key West.  Especially one as “sweet” as the Old Town Bakery.  Located at 930 Eaton Street, on the corner of Eaton and Grinnell Street, owner Niall Bowen specializes in cakes, pastries, muffins and other delectable desserts.

Niall arrived in Key West in 1998 and worked at Louie’s Backyard and the Strip House at The Reach Resort.  He and his new bakery were featured Sunday in the Key West Citizen newspaper.

The Old Town Bakery opens 7AM daily, is closed Wednesdays, and can be reached by stopping by, calling at 305-396-7450 or visiting his website at http://www.oldtownbakerykeywest.com.

I know I’ll be stopping by in August to sample of these treats.  Hope you stop by, say Hi to Niall and enjoy some of his delectable morsels with, say, a morning cup of coffee.

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There’s A New Kid In Town

CityView Trolley - Key West

Just finished reading about CityView Trolley, the new tour service in Key West.  There’s now 2 companies, and 3 tour services, in town. Historic Tours of America operates the Conch Train and Old Town Trolley,and the new kid, CityView Trolley.

Now I’m all for free enterprise but Key West is a rather small island, only 2 miles by 4 miles.  And the tours primarily focus on Old Town and the closely surrounding area – say maybe a mile or 2 total.

So I’m a little concerned….okay, a lot concerned….about the environmental impact of this.  I mean, it can’t be good having all that exhaust going into the air of this rather small rock.  Not to mention the traffic snarls.  I’ve  already been witness to the traffic tie-ups when a trolley stops.  And now they kinda tag behind each other.

Let’s do a comparison. Since CityView is an on/off tour just like Old Town Trolley, we’ll use these two.  (Conch Train does not allow you to get off and reboard later.)

We’ll start with price.
CityView charges Adult $19, Senior/Active Military/Student $18, Child (4-12) $9.  All are $1 less is purchased online.
Old Town Trolley charges Adult $29, Children 4-12 $14, under 4 is no charge.  Online the prices are Adult $26.10, Children 4-12 $12.60, under 4 is no charge.

Now before we think this is a no-brainer, let’s consider the tours and what they encompass.

CityView has 9 stops:  (1)Mallory Square area; (2) Pirate Soul area (Editor’s Note: Pirate Soul will close this month); (3) La Concha; (4) Eco-Center & Ft. Zachery Taylor Park; (5) Higgs Beach Area; (6) Southernmost Point & Butterfly Museum area; (7) Hemingway House area; (8) Bight area; (9) Conch Republic Seafood Company area.

Quite frankly, the route seems a little convoluted to me.  Not the most efficient route, to say the least.  But it does cover Old Town pretty well.

Now for Old Town Trolley, which has 12 stops: (1) Mallory Square area; (2) Bight area; (3) Simonton Row – which is the area Pirate Soul is; (4) La Concha area; (5) Bahama Village – the Hemingway House is in this area; (6) Fairfield Inn – Key West Yacht Club is here; (7) Welcome Center and quite a few hotels/resorts on N. Roosevelt; (8) Smather’s Beach, Airport, East Martello Fort area; (9) Higgs Beach, West Martello Fort, White Street Pier area; (10) Butterfly Museum and Southernmost Point area, (11) Truman Avenue area – St. Mary Star of the Sea Grotto, Truman Avenue Shopping, Hemingway House, Butterfly Museum are close by; (12) Key West Cemetery.

Also a convoluted route – could use an efficiency expert here too.  It covers a wider area.  For approximately $10 more, you do get mostly the same stops as CityView, with the addition of the  Cemetery and Smather’s Beach.  Also, Old Town Trolley stops in the newer part of Key West, where the chain hotels and shopping centers are.

Tales and Tombstones Tour

The one new feature CityView brings to Key West is the Tales and Tombstones Trolley Tour.  Although there are several walking tours, this is the first trolley tour that I know of.  Not quite sure how a trolley tour of scary things works, but I guess I’ll have to take this tour to find out.  I’ll review it in August.

But, quite frankly, I can’t see how another trolley service is benefiting Key West.  It doesn’t bring in more business – it’s just diluting the daytime business of all 3 services; and diluting the nighttime scary, haunted tours business too.

CityView pulled out of Salem, MA. because there wasn’t enough business to go around….let’s see how this plays out in Key West.

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