Craving The Keys

Last May, Hubby and I took a kind of spur-of-the-moment trip to Key West.  Winter had been long and cold and our lives were overloaded and overstressed.  A little escape was just the ticket.  Disguised as an early anniversary present to ourselves, our time in the Keys turned out to be one of the most restorative trips we’ve ever taken together.  Fast-forward to this May.  The weather has been especially dreary here in southeastern Pennsylvania – grey, drizzly, and muggy.  In describing life in general, overloaded and overstressed is the understatement of the century.  Lately I’ve been craving some seriously laid-back time in the Conch Republic.  Conditions being what they are, a visit to the Keys isn’t in the cards any time soon.  However, I can reminisce by blogging about some of the highlights.  Maybe the memories will give you something to daydream about, too.

We flew into Ft. Lauderdale and enjoyed the drive down Highway 1 to Key West.  It was the perfect way to ease into the Keys vibe.  After all, when the speed limit is only 45 mph for most of the trip and strictly enforced, slowing down is a requirement of the law.  For the most part, it’s a lovely drive: sky, water, and mangrove. I love road trips, though, so I could be a bit biased about this.  We took a break for lunch at Morada Bay Cafe.  Quintessential Keys’ atmosphere, great food, live music, and our first sampling of the ubiquitous Key Lime Pie.  Delicious!

{ Driving Route 1 }

 { The culmination of Henry Flagler’s dream }

{ Morada Bay Cafe }

{ Sublime Key Lime pie… }

Food was a highlight of our trip.  Meals were always eaten alfresco and everything was fresh and delicious.  No joke.  We still talk about how good we ate in the Keys.  Besides Morada Bay, we sampled:

  •  Fogarty’s on Duval Street (for superb seafood, steak, Rum Runners, and people watching)
  • Southernmost Beach Cafe (for fabulous coconut shrimp, lunch fare, Mojitos, Key Lime pie, and people watching)
  •  Little Palm Island’s Sunday brunch (for the whole experience and of course people watching)
  •  difficult-to-find-but-oh-so-worth-it Colombian Grace (for the sangria and delicious ethnic dishes)
  • the hotel’s breakfast buffet (for fresh offerings complete with the occasional foraging chicken)
  • Sparky’s Landing (for Keys’ atmosphere, seafood, more coconut shrimp, and Key Lime Creamsicles)
  • Kermit’s made the list twice – once for regular Key Lime pie and once for Key Lime pie dipped in dark chocolate and frozen on a stick.  Oh, my!

(I don’t have very many photos of the food – I was too busy eating.)

{ Frosty Rum Runner at Fogarty’s }

{ At Southernmost Beach which is visible from the Cafe }

{ Giant coconut shrimp at Southernmost Beach Cafe were very hard to share }

{ Mmmmmmmojito }

{ Loved the chocolate cookie crust }

{ Sparky’s Landing on our only cloudy day }

{ Key Lime Creamsicle, anyone? }

{ A lunch buddy }

I could write an entire post on Little Palm Island.  Maybe someday I will.  Just in case you are not familiar with this little slice of refined heaven, let me enlighten you.  Little Palm Island is a tiny, very expensive resort accessible by boat from Little Torch Key.  Their Sunday brunch is available to non-resort guests and is, in my humble opinion, worth each one of the many dollars we forked over to enjoy it.  The brunch is a combination of buffet and small plate menu items which can be ordered over and over again (trust me on this) and is accompanied by make-your-own Bloody Mary and Champagne Bellini bars.  Brunch is expected to be an all day affair.  Everything, and I mean everything, about this destination oozes laid back elegance.  If you ever have the chance to visit, do not hesitate.

The Woodson, replete with blue leather cushions and original watercolors }

{ Approaching Little Palm Island }

{ Just the first course }

{ Key Deer for brunch companions }

{ And baby makes three }

{ Where we waited for The Woodson to return us to reality }

Our hotel , The Inn at Key West, was another highlight of the Keys experience.  It was comfortable, clean and private with excellent customer service.  It isn’t located in Old Town, which can be a negative for those who like to stay in the midst of the action.  We preferred to escape the madness of Duval Street and relax in peace.  We spent hours every night floating around in the deserted pool.

 { Our late rising alarm clock – he must operate on Key West time, too. }

{ Floating in the pool became an evening ritual }

Key West is a great walking (or riding bike, or scootering) town.  It’s a quaint, compact area which lends itself to leisurely touring.

{ The ubiquitous Key West tourist shot disseminating false information to the unsuspecting masses }

We had our fair share of fun, too.  One morning, we spent five hours kayaking and snorkeling with Lazy Dog tours near Sugarloaf Key.  We learned about the mangroves, licked plant leaves, touched sea creatures, and turned crispy from the sun.  From Bahia Honda state park, we took the Sundance out to Looe Key and snorkeled with tarpon, parrotfish, and sergeant majors (just to name a few of the critters we met).  Even medicated, I struggled with seasickness  – on the boat and eventually even in the water.  The trip back was A-W-F-U-L.  Once I was on solid ground, though, a cold fizzy Coke and a doughy soft pretzel began to work their magic and I was feeling better in no time. One late afternoon and evening was spent at Fort Zachary state park, swimming in the warm water, reading good books, and listening to a jazz band warm up for a wedding reception.

{ A delicate Cassiopea or upside-down jellyfish }

  { Peaceful Mangroves }

{Bahia Honda State Park }

 { Bahia Honda State Park }

{ “The Barf Bucket” }

{ Jazz at Fort Zachary }

We made it a point to see the sunset from a different spot on the island every evening.  Each sunset felt different.  At Fort Zachary, it was quiet and romantic.  In front of our hotel, it was unsettled and stormy.  At Mallory Square, the atmosphere was celebratory and the sky was dramatic.

{ Fort Zachary }

{ In front of our hotel }

{ Mallory Square }

 In reviewing the best of Key West, I would be remiss not to mention the friendliness of the residents.  Everywhere we went we encountered pleasant, welcoming, and helpful people.  It made a wonderful experience even sweeter – like icing on a delicious Florida Keys cake.  Key West can be what you want it to be.  For us, it was a romantic getaway where we lost track of time and spent hours getting up close and personal with Mother Nature.  Oh, and eating really good food.  Thanks for joining me on this little jaunt down memory lane.  I think it only intensified my craving for a return trip, but it sure was fun.


    • I never really had a strong desire to see Key West, either. It just happened that flights and hotel rates were irresistibly low and we wanted a quick getaway. It turned into a great experience. I hope you get the chance to visit sometime. Thanks for the kind words, for stopping by the blog, and for liking it enough to follow.

      • Hi Stephany,
        I recently visited the Keys for the same reason you and your husband went, the stress of everyday life. I had been there once before but this time took my 23 year old daughter with me as she needed a much deserved vacation too. We also stayed at the Inn at Key West. I chose it because it was away from Old Town. At the end of the day I want to get away from the hustle and bustle. Your article took me to places I haven’t been yet and hope to see when I return some day. Thank you for the article and “taking me away” for a few short moments before I have to start this Monday, with rainy weather no less. ~Karen

  1. Gorgeous photographs from an awesome trip. It has been twenty years since I visited, but when reading your post all sorts of great memories came flooding back – thanks.

    • No, thank you! I stumbled upon your blog last night and your photographs are just beautiful. I’m honored by the compliment. Glad I could assist you in recalling some good times from Key West. Perhaps you’re due for another visit – twenty years is a long time. 🙂

  2. Thank you for this! I am visiting The Inn at Key West with my 2 sons (10 and 12) in June and you gave me some great ideas. Can I ask if you normally get seasick or was it the boat, the rocky water, or something else?

  3. You’re welcome, Karen. Your boys will love the pool at the Inn. I have tons of trouble with motion sickness. The day we went snorkeling to Looe Key I took one dose of Bonine a few hours before we departed. I probably should have taken an earlier dose as well. Waves were 1 – 3 feet, but it seemed to get rougher while we were out there. The boat was a catamaran, which I believe is supposed to offer smoother sailing. For me, it was probably a matter of not medicating well enough for a boat in the ocean. I was the only one of the group (there were probably 25 of us) who got sick. I still enjoyed the snorkeling and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Also, If your kids like critters, the kayaking tour we took really focused on the plants and animals that call the mangroves their home – lots of hands-on interaction. I have three kids (daughter – 15, son – 13, son – 10) and they would have LOVED it. Have a wonderful trip!

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