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A week in Florida, and finally getting to do the drive through the Keys from Miami to Key West

posted by Russ, March 11 in travel, united states with tags , , , , ,

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Smather's Beach, Key West

Smather’s Beach, Key West

It’s starting to seem like visits to the tropics are becoming regular occurrences, and I certainly can’t complain about that! After 3 weeks in Costa Rica over the holidays, we recently returned from a week in South Florida. A cousin got married in Miami, and while normally these wedding jaunts back East are whirlwind travels, this time we decided to take our time and spend 6 nights there; 3 in the Keys, and 3 in Fort Lauderdale. [Note: weddings or other family gatherings are perfect events to turn into mini vacations!]

We flew into Miami on a red eye, picked up our rental car, and headed south to the Florida Keys, destination Key West, southernmost point in the Continental US. This drive through the Keys is one that I’ve been looking forward to for years, so having an excuse to head to south Florida made this side trip a no-brainer. The drive ended up taking close to four hours, but with the breathtaking tropical blue water visible on both sides for most of the ride, there were no complaints. (If renting a car beware of the cashless tolls in and around Miami.) Some highlights of the drive were the 7 mile bridge (really, I checked the odometer) and a quick detour through No Name Key near Big Pine to see the Key Deer.

The weather in the Keys this time of year is perfect, it was in the low to mid 80s every day in Key West, and I doubt it ever went below 75, even at night. We stayed in shorts and t-shirts the entire time. A nice spring getaway, even from San Diego! While there, we didn’t do a whole lot other than eat and relax. Each day we spent a few hours napping and reading on Smathers Beach, one of the few places around Key West where there is actually decent sand. Side note: A lot of people picture beaches everywhere in the Keys. Not true, since the Keys are mostly reef, there are actually very few beaches for sunbathing and swimming.

On a previous trip I had been to the Ernest Hemingway house, so we passed on that, but we did go the the Ripley’s Believe it or Not! museum on Duval Street. Though we didn’t end up touring the Hemingway House, we did check out the drinking establishments which he made famous, Sloppy Joes and Captain Tony’s (the original Sloppy Joes). We spent one evening at Mallory Square for the sunset celebration and to watch the performers; definitely a must do if you visit. Most of the other highlights revolved around eating: El Siboney for Cuban food (per recommendation of a local at Sloppy Joes), Blue Heaven for a very nice (and expensive!) dinner, and Havana 1 for more Cuban food. Cough, cough, a trip to the real Havana may have to go onto our list…

So after three days in Key West it was time to head north towards Miami and Ft Lauderdale for the wedding; the main reason we were in Florida. I ambitiously thought we’d be able to do the drive back to Lauderdale and still be able to hit Miami for lunch and a few hours at South Beach, but a late start and traffic through the Keys and into Miami gave me a quick reality check. We still detoured through Miami for more Cuban food, this time to Cafe Versailles which came to us yet again by recommendation. Unfortunately we never made it to South Beach, so that will have to wait for another time.

Of the remaining 3 days, we spent much of it visiting with family around the hotel. We got to have the rehearsal dinner right on the beach in Ft Lauderdale, and the wedding was on Jungle Island in Miami, which we shared with the exotic animals that lived there, including monkeys, baboons, parrots, macaws, crocodiles, flamingos, tigers, and even several ligers!

As expected, it was a great trip with a good mix of fun and family. And remember, next time you attend a wedding, be sure to turn it into a mini vacation!

>> See all photos from Florida and Key West <<

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Originally posted on Sunday, March 11th, 2012 at 12:35 PM .

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