After 6 amazing days in Walt Disney World, we checked out and left our hotel early to start our 500 mile journey to Key West. We looked at a few different routes online, but settled on the west coast route allowing us to visit Naples and the Everglades before reaching the famous U.S. Route 1, the highway to Key West. Starting in Maine, on the Canadian border, and ending at Key West, this is the longest north-south highway in the United States.
The first stop on our journey was Naples. We arrived late morning, and so we decided to get some brunch. Strolling through the town we came across a restaurant called Tommy Bahamas and noticed that they were just setting up for lunch. We sat down outside on the terrace with a lovely view of the quaint, tree-lined road. We shared some raw Tuna tacos, and to follow I had the Blue Lump Crab and avocado salad, washed down with a mojito, or two – as I didn’t have to do the driving!
We then continued on towards the Everglades. We hadn’t planned on making a stop in the Everglades, but I couldn’t resist a few quick stops for some fabulous photo opportunities, and to see the alligators that were literally lining the sides of the road. After we passed through the Everglades we ended up on the outskirts of Miami (where we had began our trip a week ago), but this time we headed south on Highway 1 towards Key West. Once you leave the mainland the first Key you pass through is Key Largo, and it’s here where the 40 and 50 MPH speed limits start, so be prepared for about a 4 hour drive from here! The scenery is so beautiful along this route so I promise that your eyes won’t be clock watching! This was a drive that I would not mind doing again and again, as a passenger or as a driver.
The day had really flown past and it was already 2pm when we reached Key Largo. This meant that we were going to struggle to arrive at Key West by sundown, so I really had to limit my photo stops! I was ok with this as we would be driving back through the Keys a couple of days later. We made good progress, and arrived at Key West just as the sun was setting.
After driving to the very end of Highway 1 we found our hotel, The Southernmost Inn, located just off Duval Street. This street is the main street running through Key West, where you can find all the shops, restaurants and nightlife. It runs from one side of the island to the other. Upon arrival in Key West we could already sense a more chilled and laid-back attitude than the rest of Florida; people were getting around on bicycles, and there seemed to be smiles all around.
When we were checking in at the hotel I was not expecting very much as the images online had made it look quite tired and dated. I had booked this hotel purely for its location (close to Duval Street) and the value for money it appeared to offer. When I arrived at my room I was shocked: Even though the room was not huge, it was beautiful, and it had the added bonus of double doors opening straight out onto the main pool area. I was extremely happy with this room, and it was such a pleasant surprise!
Once we had settled in and unpacked our cases we decided to take a stroll down Duval St. Our hotel was located close to the end where the Southernmost Point is, so we decided to walk to the other end taking in the vibrant, yet chilled out atmosphere before finding somewhere to eat. Choosing somewhere for dinner was quite a difficult decision, as there were so many great places on Duval Street, leaving us spoilt for choice. We eventually decided to try a place called Nine One Five. They were so busy but we were lucky to get a table outside on their terrace, overlooking the hustle and bustle on Duval Street. I decided on the beef carpaccio, followed by confit duck. Dinner cost about $60 each for two courses plus wine, so not bad at all. After dinner we went back to the hotel for some rest after our very long day on the road.
The next morning after breakfast we decided to chill out in the sun by the pool for a few hours. Then we hired some bicycles so we could get about and explore more of the island. Our first stop was Bad Boy Burrito for some lunch. This place was recommended to me, and is definitely worth a visit while in Key West. You can chose whatever you like in your burrito from a huge list of options. I went for a shrimp and avocado burrito, and it was absolutely divine. This place definitely has my recommendation too!
After our burritos we headed down Duval Street towards Mallory Square and the marina. We locked our bikes up and went for a walk along the water’s edge. We spotted some huge tarpon in the marina, as well as hundreds of beautifully coloured tropical fish. We even saw a manatee. After our energetic morning of cycling and walking we were in need of some refreshments, so we headed into the boat house bar which is located on the water’s edge and ordered a mojito and some hot wings. Earlier as we were walking around the marina we had seen some super boats heading out to sea. Now whilst enjoying our drinks, we overheard someone saying that it was the first day of the 34th Annual Key West World Championships, and that the last race of the day was about to begin. We quickly finished our refreshments and headed out towards Mallory Square to watch the race. After the race we came across a ticket booth selling tickets for all kinds of excursions. We quite fancied the Commotion on the Ocean sunset cruise, so booked to go on it that evening.
With not long until our cruise was due to leave, we decided to head back to the hotel to shower and change. We didn’t cycle back to the marina as we had dressed for the cruise, so we got a taxi instead. We boarded the Fury catamaran and had our photos taken, before heading down to the bar to grab the first of many margaritas. The cruise cost $50 each, which included unlimited drinks and a buffet dinner. We set sail out of the marina in the direction of Mallory Square to watch the sunset. Unfortunately there was quite a bit of cloud in the sky and so the sunset wasn’t as good as we had hoped; but it still made some great photos. After the sun had gone down we circled around a small island just opposite the marina, before we heading back to port. After the sun had gone down the live band on board picked up a bit and everybody started dancing. I think all the unlimited drinks helped a bit as well!
As we left the boat we were shown our photos that had been taken earlier in the evening. For once mine had come out ok, so I agreed to buy one. After all the food on the cruise, we didn’t need any dinner, so we just casually strolled down Duval Street back towards the hotel and enjoyed a few drinks outside on the terrace before bed.
The next morning we decided to get up at a reasonable time and went for a cycle around Key West. We first headed to the Southernmost Point for a few photos, before making our way towards the Key West Cemetery to see if we could find some of the famous headstones with epitaphs such as ‘I told you I was sick’ and ‘I’m just resting my eyes’. When we arrived and saw how large the cemetery was we thought that we would never find them. Luckily at the main entrance they have maps of the cemetery, showing you where all of these headstones are located, as well as the graves of the notable people who are buried here.
Then back on our bikes towards Atlantic Boulevard to enjoy a cycle along the coast. We cycled as far as Smathers Beach before heading back towards the hotel. En route we stopped for brunch at Sandy’s Cafe – Home of the Cuban sandwich! We sat outside in the sun and enjoyed a traditional Cuban sandwich before dropping the bikes off at the rental place opposite the hotel. We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing by the pool and enjoying the sun, and a mojito or two.
Later that afternoon, after a not so impressive sunset the night before we decided to head down to Mallory Square to watch the sunset, amidst the crowds of people who flock here every afternoon to do the same. We had about a 30 minute wait once we had arrived, so we just chilled out by the water’s edge and watched a street entertainer juggling fire whist riding a unicycle (now that takes some talent!). Finally, the sun met with the sea upon the horizon, and the sky changed from light blue to a beautiful warm orange as it slowly disappeared beyond the waves.
After we had seen the sunset we decided to make the obligatory stop at Hard Rock Cafe to get a T-shirt, and some dinner. The Hard Rock Cafe in Key West is conveniently located on Duval Street, so we didn’t even have to go out of our way to look for it. Rather than my normal choice of fajitas I went for the locally caught fried shrimp, with a Long Island ice tea. After our meal we decided to have a few drinks on Duval Street, so we did a kind of bar-hop along Duval Street starting at the Hard Rock Cafe, and moving from one bar to another until we found ourselves back at the hotel.
The next morning we reluctantly packed our cases and left Key West, heading for our last port of call on our trip, Miami Beach. Given the low speed limits throughout the Keys, we left quite early and made our way towards Miami as I wanted to make some photo stops along the way. As we weren’t keeping the car for the rest of our trip we dropped it off at Miami Airport and got a taxi to the next hotel, for the last few nights of our trip.