Just a Start in the Florida Keys

When we say we are in “the Keys” most people assume we are partying in Key West. In fact, we are over 100 miles away from the party town and have spent a busy two weeks exploring the “upper keys.” The Florida Keys are made up of 1,700 little islands beginning about 15 miles south of Miami and extending westward beyond Key West. The word “key” is derived from the Spanish “cayo.” With so many little islands, we have a lot of territory to explore! We started with Key Largo.

Luckily, we snagged a two-week reservation at the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park campground, which made this a more affordable stay than other options in the Keys. Our next-door neighbors in the campground, Dave and Cinda, were from Arizona, and we had a lot in common. The four of us enjoyed excursions, happy hours, and dinners together, which really made our stay here even more special. 

The park itself is mostly underwater. We took the snorkeling excursion to the reef twice and were amazed with the clarity of the water and the health of the reef. The water temperature is about 76 degrees, so it’s possible to swim and snorkel with just a swimsuit. We have our wetsuits with us, so we used those just for a little extra comfort. Lots of colorful fish, calm blue waters, and plenty of sunshine made for two perfect afternoons, one of which we shared with Dave and Cinda.

The park is also known for its kayaking trails through the mangroves. We took the Botē kayaks out several times to paddle around and look for cool things in the water.

Steve also set out on a few mornings to fish from the kayak. He caught a tree and a small pinfish, but that was about it. He had better luck fishing from a nearby bridge.

The Wild Bird Sanctuary is a small, local refuge for a variety of birds. We checked it out one afternoon while we were out poking around. There are a number of these little environmentally focused organizations through the Keys and we always try to stop and support these important organizations. 

One day we had the opportunity to travel back to the Miami International Airport to meet up with our dear friend Lucia Idarraga and her nephew Alvaro who were passing through on their way back to Colombia. There weren’t many options for breakfast in the very crowded airport terminal so we set up our own breakfast cafe curbside. It was a beautiful morning and we were thankful to spend some time with our special friends. 

A highlight of every day here in the Keys is sunset. Many of the area bars and restaurants have a sunset celebration so we checked out as many as we could! That means we’ve got A LOT of sunset pictures! We’re only two weeks into our six week Keys tour, so you can expect a few more sunset photos coming your way!

Key Largo has a warm, community feel. Steve got a haircut, I got a pedicure, we went to the library, and even gave blood one day in typical Keys fashion—there were chickens!

We met a number of locals along the way who were happy to recommend sunset watching locations and favorite restaurants. The Holiday Lighted Boat Parade was a fun local event we shared with our friends Dave and Cinda.

We’ve got a lot more Keys to check out. Soon we are heading to the southernmost point in the USA.