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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Doesn’t it look like it goes on forever?
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.
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
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.
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 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
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.