Florida Keys Road Trip (Part 1)

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The week before last I had plans to go on a kayaking adventure with a friend I met on Instagram about a year ago. Our plan was to hit up one of the springs near Orlando and spend the day on the river taking pictures and enjoying the good old outdoors. Unfortunately the weather forecast for that day (and pretty much every day for the previous two weeks as well as the upcoming week) was calling for thunderstorms, and so we decided to reschedule for a later date when there would be a lesser chance of getting struck by lightning.  I had already planned on taking a few days off to do some exploring, so I checked out the weather map for the entire state of Florida to see if there was anywhere that would be sunshine-y during the days I was planning my adventure.

Turns out, the entire state was expecting monsoon-ish weather with the exception of the Florida Keys.

Also turns out that I’d been dying to go back to the Keys (only been there once a few years ago), and so I made a last minute decision to follow the sunshine and head on down to Margaritaville.

The first time I went to the Keys we took the Key West Express, which is a high speed ferry that runs from Fort Myers to Key West.  Since we circumvented the majority of the driving by taking the ferry, I didn’t really know what to expect from the drive or where the best spots were to stop and sightsee along the way.  So I headed on over to Instagram and did a hashtag search for “Florida Keys” to see if I could find some cool looking spots that I could check out while I was down there.

After ten minutes or so of searching through tags, I decided that Bahia Honda State Park was one of the places I needed to visit.  Aside from the fact that the water looked absolutely stunning in the photos I was seeing, there was also an old bridge nearby that you could climb up on and catch some amazing views.

I also discovered that for only thirty bucks you can take a half day snorkeling trip out to Looe Key from Bahia Honda State Park where you can explore the coral reef and observe all types of marine life including sharks, barracuda, and best of all….Goliath Grouper!

Sold!

The State Park website recommended making reservations ahead of time, and so I called to see if they had space available on the Thursday morning trip.  Unfortunately there were no spots left, but the guy told me he would put me on the standby list and if someone didn’t show up who had reserved a spot, I’d be the first to get it.

Aside from the snorkeling trip, I didn’t really have any other concrete plans of what I was gonna do or where I was gonna stay- I figured I’d just drive down and go where the breeze took me.  As I do.

So anyway, I took off bright and early Wednesday morning after just a few hours of sleep because as usual I waited until the very last minute to pack and I’m just gonna go ahead and give up on ever being prepared for a trip more than a few hours before I leave.  It just never happens.

The drive there was fairly painless save for the occasional thunderstorm, and I ended up making it to Key Largo (the northernmost key) in about 4.5 hours.  I had originally planned on doing some exploring once I got to Key Largo and then possibly staying there for the night, but it was much less tropical-y than I had anticipated (that’s my polite way of calling it a dump), so I decided to just keep on driving to Bahia Honda instead.

By the time I made it to Bahia Honda State Park it was around 3pm and I was starving and exhausted.  Although I kinda wanted to take a dip in the ocean, the beaches were really crowded by that time in the day and so I decided to just take a few pictures and then drive on to Key West which was only about an hour away.

Here are a few photos I snapped before I took off…(I couldn’t get over how pretty the water was…I just stood there and stared at it for a long time with my jaw on the ground).

Bahia Honda state Park

Bahia Honda state Park

Bahia Honda State Park

So anyway, after taking a few pictures I hopped back in my car and did a quick search for last minute deals on Key West hotel rooms using my Booking.com app. In just a few minutes, I was able to book a room on the cheap at a cute little B&B not far from Duval St. (the main drag in Key West). I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned it here before, but I absolutely love Booking.com for last minute hotel reservations- it has yet to let me down, although I probably just jinxed myself by saying so.

Once I reached my B&B I checked in and was pleasantly surprised by how cute the place was…

The Grand Guesthouse Key West

My room was bright, cheery, and immaculate, and the folks who greeted me in the front office were super accomodating- they even sat down with me and showed me a map of Key West and pointed out the best places to eat, drink, catch sunset, etc.  They also offered bicycle rentals for $10/day, which I decided to take them up on.  There are lots of people who ride around the island on bikes, and it’s a ton of fun to just cruise up and down the streets and check things out.

By the time I got all of my crap unpacked in my room it was around 6pm and I was famished and also in dire need of a cocktail.  So I hopped on my bike and headed to Duval St. in search of food and drink, and then got caught in a torrential downpour while en route.  Unfortunately I forgot to bring an umbrella with me and although one of my favorite things in the whole wide world is playing in the summer rain, I had my cell phone on me with no waterproof case so I ended up ducking into the closest restaurant and waiting out the storm in attempt to save my phone from a possible drowning. (Sidenote: I ended up dropping said phone in the Weeki Wachee River a few days ago and ruining it anyway. Awesome).

Anyway, after dinner and a few drinks, I hopped back on my back and headed over to Mallory Square where everyone gathers for a sunset celebration.  There are all kinds of vendors and street performers out, and it’s a pretty cool spot to catch the sunset.

Here’s a couple pics I snapped after the sun went down, and although I have no idea what that ladder-y thing is in the first picture, I thought it looked pretty cool…

Mallory Square Sunset

Mallory Square Sunset

After sunset, I considered stopping at one of the bars on Duval on my way back to my room, but I was absolutely whipped at that point plus I had to be up early to catch sunrise and then make it back to Bahia Honda for my 9am snorkeling trip.  So instead, I just tooled around on my bike for a little while and did some people watching, which did not disappoint.  It was a little bit intimidating riding a bike on Duval at that time, as there was a ton of foot, bike, and car traffic making it somewhat congested, plus, I think it would be a safe bet to say that around 50% of the people riding, driving, and walking were three sheets to the wind (or at least two), which doesn’t make for the safest biking conditions.

Here’s a view of Duval from my bike…

Duval Street Bike Riding
That’s my iPhone tripod peeking out of my backpack. Love that thing.

I ended up making it back to my room safe and sound, and after setting my alarm for the crack of early so I could catch the sunrise, I was out like a light as soon as my head hit the pillow…dreaming of my Looe Key snorkeling adventures that awaited me the following morning.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

…………..

(To read part 2 of this adventure, go here)

P.S.
If you’re looking for an adorable (and affordable) bed and breakfast in Key West- check out the Grand Guesthouse.  I give it two thumbs up. 🙂

 

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