Tuesday, July 9, 2019

What to Do/See in the Florida Keys

I know Key West has a reputation as a party place, but there really is so much to do and see there, along with the rest of the Florida Keys.  It would be impossible for me to go through everything there is to do - the Florida Keys span approximately 120 miles - so today I'm going to share what we did during our vacation.

If you missed my first Florida Keys vacation post, you can read that HERE.

The Turtle Hospital

As the name implies, the Turtle Hospital is a non-profit organization which rescues, rehabilitates and cares for sea turtles.  They also house turtles, who are permanent residents of the hospital due to their injuries. The girls absolutely LOVED visiting this place and they list it as the top thing we did during our vacation.


A visit to the Turtle Hospital consists of a 90 minute guided tour and at the end, all guests are able to feed some of the turtles.  This definitely falls under the category of "educational entertainment" and really is not ideal for toddlers or very young children.  The first part of the tour is actually a sit down presentation.  The remainder is outdoors around the tanks/pools where the turtles are located.  There are rules and our guide was serious in communicating those rules.  No hands in the tanks.  Turtles have a strong bite and they will bite you.  Some of the turtle are infected with bacteria, which means that bacteria is in the water, which means if you put your hand in the water, that bacteria could now transfer to you.

This little guy was being prepared for surgery.

I've saved most of my vacation photos and videos that were posted on my IG stories to my main IG page.  There is a video clip from part of this tour to give you a better idea.

All kids are different but I'd say the cut off age would be 5/6.  For our tour, we were in a group of approximately 40 people and there was only one family with two young kids.  Everyone else was over the age of 8.  And that's not a reflection of who was vacationing in that area at the time as we saw plenty of younger kids at the hotel pools.

Allie, the turtle!

Also note that you are required to be a part of a tour.  This is not a place you can wander around on your own.  Tours run every hour on the hour from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.  Reservations are suggested but not required.  We called when the hospital opened at 8:30 in the morning and the tours starting at 9:00, 10:00 and 11:00 were already full.  We decided to go with the 2:00 tour.  As we were waiting for it to start, a woman came in to see if there was any availability and she was told that they were fully booked for the day, but there were openings for the next day.  This isn't the sort of place you just show up to and expect to get in, especially depending on the time of year.

Bahia Honda State Park

There aren't many natural beaches in the Florida Keys due to the barrier reef but the beach at Bahia Honda State Park is natural and one to visit.

Check out that water temperature.  83 degrees!  (The water temp at our Cape Cod beach this past weekend was 65-68 degrees.)


With white, soft sand, gentle waves, and shallow water, this is a great family beach.

When I zoom into this photo, I can see a tiny portion of Anna's bum behind Allie.  She must have dove under water when I was taking this.


The water is clear and aside from patches of seaweed carried by the current, we didn't run into any undesirables, such as jellyfish or the like.


There is a snack bar (we didn't visit so I can't give an opinion), bathrooms and showers.  If you plan to visit a beach, this is the one!  

Old Seven Mile Bridge

The original Seven Mile Bridge was constructed from 1909 to 1912 as a railroad bridge.  After suffering damage during a hurricane in 1935, it was sold to the US government and reconstructed for automobile use.  That old bridge is still standing and runs parallel to the current, modern bridge, construction of which was completed in 1982.


The old Seven Mile Bridge is currently under refurbishment (for recreational use, such as walking and biking) and is expected to be completed in 2021.


The northern entrance is closed but a portion of the bridge at the southern end is open to pedestrians.  There's a parking lot for easy access and I highly recommend checking it out.  There are spectacular ocean views and it's amazing to see just how narrow that original bridge was.


What the what?  Imagine driving 7 miles across that!

Day Trip to Key West

This will be a separate post I'll link to when completed.  :)

Explore the Water

As you're driving down the Overseas Highway, you'll see little parking lots with parks and water access.  These are fun little places to explore.  One such area we wanted to check out was Anne's Beach in Islamorada, but unfortunately, the boardwalk, restrooms and beach suffered severe damage during Hurricane Irma in 2017 and it is currently closed for repairs.

We did check out Veteran's Memorial Park, which wasn't too far from our hotel.


This is not a swimming beach at all, which we pretty much expected.  Based on photos I'd seen online, I thought we'd be able to walk along the sand bar but that had shifted and there was no way to get out there without walking through the sea grass, which I would absolutely not recommend doing.  Maybe it's because I've grown up next to the ocean but when I enter beach water, I look down.  Here's one of the first things I saw when I stepped into this water.


A lovely jellyfish.


We walked along the beach in the water and spotted 10-15 jellyfish.  There was a guy who was also staying at our hotel (we ran into him in the elevator a couple of times) and he confirmed that there were quite a few jellyfish floating around.  Someone told Rich he had been stung and it didn't hurt that bad.  I wasn't interested in finding out for myself.



Other than the jellyfish, there were crabs and a ton of little shells.  I suspect this place was also damaged in the most recent hurricane as the bath/shower building was closed and had been replaced with port-o-potties.  


Swimming and Sunsets

Summer in Florida means heat and humidity and staying at a place with a pool was an absolute must.  This was very much a vacation for us and we wanted loads of downtime by the pool.


There was a small marina behind our hotel which was great for short walks to check out the boats and yachts, and also watch the sunset.


I still have more vacation posts.  Stay tuned!

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