Established in 1963, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park was the first undersea park in…
As they say, there is no peace for the wicked – so we completely ignored Karen’s need for sleep and headed to the furthest most point of the Florida Keys – Key West. The day did not seem too promising when we set out – at least as far as the weather was concerned – but by the time we had reached our destination the sun was out and we were basking in the sunlight. We initially decided to park down by the main marina area. This was a fun place to walk around with plenty of gift shops and eating places. We walked along the jetties where trips were offered on tall ships out into the Gulf of Mexico, of particular interest to us were the sunset trips with dinner (these were pretty pricey). For the more adventurous you could hire a boat and go out deep sea fishing for tarpon, marlin and other big game fish. We settled for a bar serving alcohol, good food and live music. Jack and Emily entertained themselves by looking for fish in the harbour – particularly the 4-foot long tarpon quite happily swimming amongst the moored boats. The grown-up Hoblets were more content to watch people (one of our favourite hobbies) and the large boats manoeuvring around in the tight confines of the busy marina. After this brief moment of peace, we continued our walk around and found a small museum on the dockside that presented the history of the turtle fishing industry. In fact, the building was operated as a fishery for turtles, which were slaughtered in their thousands for their flesh, primarily to make turtle soup. Fortunately, nowadays these animals are protected.
From the port, we decided to explore the old town a bit more and search out a beach. As this was Sunday afternoon things were somewhat busy in the tourist-driven centre of town and we were soon caught up in the traffic – which is somewhat accentuated by a large number of tourist buses and trolleys porting tourists from one point to another. To our great joy, we discovered Marker 0 – signifying the starting point of US Route 1 on its long and tortuous 2000 mile journey north to Maine. We stepped out for a photo opportunity and then headed for the beach. This was not a planned trip so we had no swimming costumes or towels or anything. Nonetheless, Jack and Emily wanted to swim so they stripped down to their underwear – unfortunately, we had histrionics from Emily who is self-conscious of her body now and did not want to be “topless” and then she scratched Jack’s back so the beach experience was bought to an abrupt end.
We moved down to the most southerly point in the contiguous United States for another photo. Down here you find the southernmost hotel, southernmost café, the southernmost house and the southernmost house. From here we proceeded to walk into town to peruse the many shops selling basically crap for consumption by tourists. We picked up several mementoes of our trip and was about to leave when we bumped into a couple of wonderful ladies who told us about the daily ritual at Mallory Square where hundreds of people gather to watch the sun go down every day. So off we went.
Mallory Square is down by the port area and offers an unobstructed view of the Gulf of Mexico and the sun setting. To help us pass the time there are several street entertainers and we spend some time watching a juggling act – who to Emily’s delight have two dogs who help in the act. Then it is time to sit down and watch the sun go down – and we were not disappointed as the large flaming sun slips down over the horizon. At the end, everyone cheers and claps – not quite sure who they are applauding but I suppose God will appreciate the recognition.
Best time to visit the Florida Keys
The best time to visit Key West is between March and May. The winter crowds will taper off, the hotel rates become reasonable and the weather is remarkably similar to winter’s blissful 70s and 80s. Speaking of winter – that season is the island’s busiest and priciest. The rainy and humid summer months see the fewest tourists but the best hotel rates. The trade-off might be worth it, but you’re still gambling against hurricane season (June to November). Also, beware that rates will surge during special events like Key West Pride and Fantasy Fest.
Where to stay near Key West
1. ISLA BELLA BEACH RESORT
Located in Marathon, within 4.3 mi of Conch-Air Florida Keys Scenic Flights and 6.2 mi of Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters, Isla Bella Beach Resort features a private beach area. Located around 3.7 mi from Seven Mile Bridge, the resort is also 6.2 mi away from Captain Hook s Marina Dove Center. A Deep Blue Dove Center is 6.8 mi away.
At the resort, rooms have a terrace. Rooms are fitted with a flat-screen TV, and certain units at Isla Bella Beach Resort have a balcony. The rooms feature a private bathroom with a bath.
The property has a full breakfast menu to choose from. There is an in-house restaurant, which serves a variety of Italian dishes.
The wellness area at the accommodations is consist of a hot tub and a fitness centre. Guests at Isla Bella Beach Resort will be able to enjoy activities in and around Marathon, like cycling and fishing.
2. COCONUT CAY RESORT
3. BLACKFIN RESORT & MARINA
This Marathon, Florida resort and marina features an outdoor pool, on-site restaurant, and dive shop. Free Wi-Fi is provided in public areas. Sombrero Beach is a 5-minute drive away.
A flat-screen cable TV, small refrigerator, microwave are included in each air-conditioned room at this Marathon Blackfin Resort and Marina. The private bathroom features a bathtub or shower and a hairdryer.
Guests can go diving within a 10-minute walk of the Blackfin Resort and Marina. A laundromat and free parking are available for added convenience.
The Hurricane is open for lunch and dinner every day with seasonal seafood. The restaurant also has a full-service bar and daily drink specials.