Getting to Key West is half the fun. I’ve been to The Keys about 5 times now and I have never tired of the ride down to the end of Route 1. Roughly a 4.5 hour drive from Fort Lauderdale and 3.5 hours from Miami, Key West is a great spot to relax, sweat, relax some more, eat, drink, sweat, and enjoy the pace of life you’ve always wanted.
I think knowing all of that relaxation is waiting for you makes the ride just as relaxing. Yes, the traffic can be a pain at times, but if you watch the water colors change between every shade of light blue and green as you drive along Route 1, and if you try to figure out when you are riding on top of the old railroad bed or not, the trip flies by.
Another trick to break up the trip is to plan a stop in Marathon for a little education and food. Before one of my trips down, this time with my parents, I decided to call ahead to the Turtle Hospital and make the recommended reservation for a tour. The cost is $22.00 for adults which is a bargain for the 90 minute tour, especially after you see where the money is going. This last trip down, I did not make a reservation. We decided to call the morning we left Key West and made a reservation for the trip home.
The tour was uplifting as well as sad. Since you are in a hospital, you are seeing patients at different stages of diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. Just be respectful of the hospital’s wishes and rules, especially if you want to keep your fingers and keep the turtles healthy (305) 743-2552, 2396 Overseas Highway, Marathon, FL 33050).
While on Marathon, I love to stop into Burdines, excuse me, Burdines Waterfront Grill, also known as Burdines Waterfront Chiki Tiki Bar and Grill (1015 15th Street Ocean, Marathon, FL 33050). When it’s hot in The Keys, which is always, having a cold beer and great food on the deck of the stilted tiki hut cannot be beat. It is a staple of my trip to Key West, either stopping on the way down or on the return drive. Being roughly half way down the keys, it’s a great stop to refuel.
Once we departed Marathon, the 44 mile drive to Key West went by quickly. This last trip I went on was with my work wife whom had never been to the end of Route 1 and the keys. I decided to keep the trip simple and take her to my favorite restaurants and a couple of my places on the island. Our first eatery was Caroline’s Café (310 Duval Street, Key West, FL 33040). Every time I come here I must have their bruschetta, one of the best I’ve ever had.
There’s a great deal of culture to experience in Key West, but one of my favorite places is not down town, not on Duval, but about as different from Duval as you can get. Fort Zachary Taylor State Park is more than an old fort. It’s also home to one of the best beaches in Key West. You can stay in the water for hours, just bring some water shoes as the walk in the water and along the shore can be a little rough. As for the fort, definitely set aside some time to walk from the beach to the fort and experience the history presented to you. Read the information boards for there’s a great deal to learn here. Who knows, you may want to book the fort or the beach for a party or even your wedding.
So from turtles to tikis and Taylor, there’s a lot to see in the keys. The beauty of the keys, like any great destination, is that you can make whatever kind of trip happen there. You can do relaxing or balls to the wall adventure. My next trip to the keys might be shaping up to be the latter. I’ll be sure to take some pictures.