After our time in Miami, we continued our girls trip, renting a car and heading south to Key West. I highly recommend renting a car just so you can drive yourself over the Macarthur Causeway, bumping out the jams and getting an epic view of downtown Miami – and of course to drive yourself to Key West.
Our mission – reach the southern most point of the continental US. When we hopped in the car Sarah was sure that given the 305′s obsession with Pitbull, there must be a Pitbull radio station. I foolishly didn’t believe her, until I turned on our XM radio in the car, and discovered we could jam the entire drive down to Key West to Pitbull’s Globalization Radio.
I expected the 3 hour drive to feel endless, but it was anything but that. Driving through the mangroves to reach bridges and highways over endless clear, calm blue water that seems to never end is what you experience when you drive to the Keys.
On our way down we stopped in Islamorada for lunch, and of course, for the beautiful view. We were already a bit culture shocked from Miami, and the Keys felt like they had a distinctly different vibe. Sitting down on a huge covered terrace overlooking the water, we looked at the menu to find a word we never expected: dolphin.
“Oh my god, Sarah,” I said, “they serve dolphin here.” We had heard a lot of things about Southerners… especially when you live in California, most people from other areas of the US are usually classified as white trash – sorry y’all! We giggled nervously under our breaths… how could we eat here when they served dolphin? Was human next on the menu? We went with what we assumed would be a safe option – chicken – there would be no way they could slip up and slip Flipper in there.
Side note: a few days later I told my dad about my “discovery.” He politely informed me that no, southerners do not eat dolphin. Dolphin is another name for mahi-mahi. Apologies, Southerners, I take back my white trash claims!
Below: Our lunch view in Islamorada, where dolphins definitely were not on the menu. Seriously, could anything be more beautiful?
Part of our trip to Miami, Key West and the Everglades, consisted of seeing gigantic creatures lurking in Florida that we had never before been exposed to. I felt like I was constantly shrieking “Oh shit look at that fucking lizard!” “OMG look at that giant fish”. Yes, being from California we have rattle snakes and grizzly bears, but they aren’t really near where people are living. In Florida I saw huge lizards laying in the road catching a sun tan!
When we arrived in Key West it, too, was excessively humid. We decided to take a stroll along Eaton Street to check it out. Although the walk in the humidity was painful, it was lovely, because Key West is insanely cute. All you can do is look at the houses and sigh, and then realize you are dripping with sweat and head into a shop for some ice cold lemonade and key lime pie on a stick. Key West is one of those places where you simultaneously almost never want to leave and wonder how the hell anyone can live here and lead a somewhat normal life. My conclusion is that no one who lives there is normal. Eaton Street is filled with bar after bar of 40 year old-plus visitors in Margaritaville t-shirts drinking themselves stupid, yet it is somehow a really charming place.
Below: One of those Key West houses that made me sigh
We booked a sunset wine sail for the end of the day, so we had plenty of time to fill before then with whatever we fancied in Key West. Sarah really wanted to visit the butterfly museum, which I initially rolled my eyes at – am I inhuman? Who rolls their eyes at seeing butterflies? Anyway, I ended up going with her to the Key West Butterfly Conservatory, and it was actually a very magical experience! It is well worth the small price of a ticket to get in – and by the way, its the number 1 tourist attraction on TripAdvisor – for good reason!
You enter a large room with huge butterflies passing right in front of your eyes, tiny birds darting across the walk way, and flamingos relaxing in a small lagoon. Trust me, it is magical, and you should go visit it.
Afterward we headed to Fort Zachary, recommended to us as the best beach to chill out at on Key West. Like everything else we experienced, it was beautiful and postcard perfect.
Below: a perfect place to cool off in Key West
That evening was our sunset sail, hosted by Danger Charters. If you are looking to get tipsy while befriending other guests on a boat while watching the sunset, this is the tour for you! There wasn’t much wind, none at all actually, we had the engine on the whole time on our boat, but it was great anyway.
I’ve never been on water so calm and quiet, or ever seen such incredible clouds, the kind that pile up on top of each other. Nor have I ever sweated so much while staying seated. Temperature aside, this was a beautiful cruise, and definitely got our night started off right since we had about five wines on the boat! We ended up dancing with the locals in the watering holes on Eaton Street, so all in all, a successful night. But don’t worry, fellow snooty travelers, the only people on this boat were mature adults (like me!) no fraternity groups.
Below: Sunset Wine Tour
As with Miami, we had really no clue what to expect of Key West. I had read that it was a really unique place, attracting the misfits, the party crowds, and those who just want to get away from it all to live in their own piece of paradise at on the last inhabitable piece of US soil.
Our stay in Key West was short but sweet, much like a Key Lime Pie on a stick, which I recommend you eat while you are there. Next up, the Everglades.
Where to stay in Key West
We stayed at Albury Court which was just a short walk from Eaton Street – the perfect location for a short walk to sober you up after a few drinks – which you’ll inevitably have in Key West. The room was clean, cute, and the AC was powerful. As a bonus, breakfast was included. All in all, it was a great place to stay when we were in Key West.
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How’d I find out about Fort Zachary? My trust Lonely Planet of course – I never leave for a vacation without it! Seriously.. my collection is growing rapidly
Gabby is a native (Northern) Californian who spent the majority of her 20’s living the expat life in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, exploring Europe and beyond. 27 countries later, she’s relocated back to her home base in California where she explores her passions for the travel and the outdoors.