From Miami to Key West...and back!

Monday, October 21, 2013

When you think about Key, you think about a tool to open a door, but not an island. Anyway, Keys are the name of the Florida Islands and the Florida Keys, in particular, are the exposed portion of an ancient coral reef.

Diaries of an explorer

After the visit to Key Biscayne and to Miami, this time I'm going to tell you the travel story from Miami to Key West: another ride over the Atlantic Ocean! Ready to start?
Just imagine that in one day you have a return ticket to Key West, but you are not traveling by bus, but by car.

Let's start from the first (very short) stop: the horrible Coral Castle, built by the Latvian Ed Leedskalnin in 20 years using 2,2 million of tonnes of coral rock. He designed this coral castle for his lost lover. You can find it in Homestead and if you want to visit it, you will pay 10$ per person.
USA East Coast Road Trip, Diaries of an explorer

Well, hoping to find some better advices from the Lonely Planet Eastern USA (Regional Guide), that will effectively come, we stopped by the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo, America's first undersea park. 

You pay 8$ per vehicle and you can walk along the different trails like the mangrove trail,
USA East Coast Road Trip, Diaries of an explorer
USA East Coast Road Trip, Diaries of an explorer

USA East Coast Road Trip, Diaries of an explorer

Well this is a fantastic place for scuba-divers to explore the coral reef and you can rent the equipment or a kayak and have a tour along the different routes designed for you. Renting a kayak costs around 17$ per hour if you are not afraid of gators and other wildlife species. So, now we have a new category, natural parks and wildlife! :-)

I wanted to make a kayak tour but the we did not have time: that's me...everytime I'm traveling I wish a day lasted 48 hours to do all the things I want! :-)

Before leaving this beatiful park,  I want to show this great pic about the ocean water.
USA East Coast Road Trip, Diaries of an explorer

Well one of the bizarre things you can find on the way to Key West are the mailboxes: they are so original!!!
USA East Coast Road Trip, Diaries of an explorer

Back on the road again, in the middle of the Caribbean Sea with its incredible colors,
USA East Coast Road Trip, Diaries of an explorer

we got to the Dolphin Research Center (58901 Overseas Hwy, Marathon), where you can meet, swim, greet, play with the dolphins. I wanted to swim with the dolphins but it was a bit expensive: from 59$ to meet them to 199$ to swim with them. The cheapest thing was: "meet a sea lion" - 30$ and you have to add also the 20$ of entrance....well maybe better to go to another cheaper place like in Africa...next time! :-)
USA East Coast Road Trip, Diaries of an explorer
USA East Coast Road Trip, Diaries of an explorer

Not far from this center, you have to cross the famous Seven Mile Bridge, that connects the Middle Keys to the Lower Keys. It's an impressive bridge of almost 7 miles over the ocean.
USA East Coast Road Trip, Diaries of an explorer
USA East Coast Road Trip, Diaries of an explorer


As you can see on the rightside there’s the Old Seven Mile Bridge, the old bridge, not that strong to resist to the hurricanes. However, you can still walk and bike there, but I don’t think it’s still accessible to cars and other vehicles.

I’m wondering how these houses are still there as it is an area frequently devasted by those hurricanes.
USA East Coast Road Trip, Diaries of an explorer

This is another spectacular view from the top of the Seven Mile Bridge
USA East Coast Road Trip, Diaries of an explorer



And when you see the tropical islands, you say: “wow”!


The Lower Keys are an incredible environment with many little islands surrounded by the coral reef.

USA East Coast Road Trip, Diaries of an explorer

Some of them display also some little villas, like the Pigeon Key.

However, you forget being in a complete natural environment, far from the chaos and the noise of the big cities, when you get to Key West.

Once approached there, you got immediately the feeling to be in lively and party city, called also the Conch Republic.
USA East Coast Road Trip, Diaries of an explorer

Once house of pirates and smugglers, now it's completely an eccentric place that celebrates life every night along Duval Street, the heart of Key West.

Duval Street shows you an impressive number of restaurants, bars, pubs, souvenir shops, odd art galleries and the main attractions. In particular, let's start this exploration from the odd art galleries,
USA East Coast Road Trip, Diaries of an explorer
USA East Coast Road Trip, Diaries of an explorer

and these are the bars and pubs: the Old Town Mexican Cafè,
USA East Coast Road Trip, Diaries of an explorer

the Dollar Bar with this country singer, plenty of dollar banknotes,
USA East Coast Road Trip, Diaries of an explorer
  USA East Coast Road Trip, Diaries of an explorer
 the Whistle Bar,
USA East Coast Road Trip, Diaries of an explorer

USA East Coast Road Trip, Diaries of an explorerUSA East Coast Road Trip, Diaries of an explorerUSA East Coast Road Trip, Diaries of an explorer

some colonial - style houses that remind someway Gone with the wind movie.
USA East Coast Road Trip, Diaries of an explorer
USA East Coast Road Trip, Diaries of an explorer
USA East Coast Road Trip, Diaries of an explorer

I'm also wondering: "how Hemingway was everywhere": in fact, even here you can visit the Hemingway House and Museum, 907 Whitehead Street.
USA East Coast Road Trip, Diaries of an explorer
Source: www.google.com
You can find also some interesting buildings
USA East Coast Road Trip, Diaries of an explorer
USA East Coast Road Trip, Diaries of an explorer

Finally we got to the Mile 0, the beginning of the Florida Keys Scenic Highway ( or the end if you look from the opposite side).
USA East Coast Road Trip, Diaries of an explorer

The Southernmost Point is supposed to be the southernmost point of the USA, but it's not! Anyway, who cares about it? :-) And when you take the picture from the car, this is what it can happen :-) Wow, we were at just 90 miles from Cuba (150km)!
USA East Coast Road Trip, Diaries of an explorer

Our travel back to Miami was starting and we could see some breathtaking landscapes and sunsets. Sniff, sniff, goodbye Key West!
USA East Coast Road Trip, Diaries of an explorer
USA East Coast Road Trip, Diaries of an explorer
 Back again to the Seven Mile Bridge,
USA East Coast Road Trip, Diaries of an explorer
 the sun was going down and the wonderful colors of the sunset were taking place,
USA East Coast Road Trip, Diaries of an explorer
 and what about the sun "diving" into the sea? Wow!

Our travel ended a couple of hours later, of course in Miami.
USA East Coast Road Trip, Diaries of an explorer

Travel tips:
  • In Key West, if you want to know a good place where to eat, I would recommend the Mo's Restaurant, where we ate a  tasty chicken with spicy rice. Absolutely deserved the 4,5 Tripadvisor stars rating and low cost price, 43$ for 3 people.
  • A ride from Miami to Key West lasts about 2,5 - 3 hours by car: so if you think to go there, please plan it accordingly
  • Key West is a great nightlife spot but I could not experience this
Where to sleep in Key West:
  • Budget accomodation: Frances Street Bottle Inn, at 1,4 km far from the Hemingway House, breakfast included, prices around 130 Euros per double room per night.
  • Mid-range budget: Southernmost Point Guest House, located at just 100 meters from the Southernmost Point, nice rooms with hydromassage bath and breakfast included, prices around 213 Euros per double room per night.
  • Luxury accomodation: The Gardens Hotel, not far from Duval Street, private balcony, jazz concerts in the garden every Sunday, breakfast included, prices around 420 Euros per night per double room.
This was the last stop of the wonderful USA East Coast Road Trip: some travel highlights and the final trip report will follow! :-)

5 commenti:

Cocoa and Lavender said...

Sounds like you had a great adventure, Marco! I have never been to the Keys, but do want to go sometime. Did you do all your travel solo, or did you have friends with you? I know what you mean about wanting 48 hours in each vacation day! Maybe we just need to take longer vacations? A presto, mi amico! ~David

Marco Zannin said...

Lol David! that's true....I try to do as much as I can during my holidays and trips: in fact most of the times, I come back quite tired but soooooooo happy ( like Pharrell Williams)! Sometimes I travel solo and sometimes with other people: this time we were 3 close friends that had also other road trips in the past. Let's say that if you find some close friends and even you share the same way to travel, that's perfect! :-) And yes...we would need longer vacations lol

flahertylandscape said...

That is a long hard drive--out and back in one day--but your photos and writing made it seem very desirable! Nice job! Nice photos! Nice descriptions! Thank you. My next time in Florida, I just might try it!

Marco Zannin said...

Hi! thanks a lot for your comment! Yeah we had to do it as we had just one day of time...so we decided to reach Key West in a day :-) yeah just try it, but I would recommend you to spend more days on this trip! :-)

Ab Devilliers said...
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