Days 3-4 Key West


Roadtrip to Key West


Months before when we started planning this trip it was going to be a one week plus a day before and a day after cruise. Then when we started discussing with Bob and Judy that they should join us it became apparent that flying all the way to Florida just to do a one week cruise probably was a waste of a long flight. So we looked at a map and decided that we really would love to take the Oversea Highway from Mike and Carol’s house to Key West and spend a few days in that beautiful village.

Kathleen and I had booked our airfare for the four of us using our Alaska Air companion fares so Bob and Judy used some hotel points that they had accumulated to book us an OUTSTANDING hotel (almost our own condo) in Key West. We stayed at the Santa Maria Suites and I can’t recommend them highly enough. But more about that later on this page. First the trip down.

After our fun night at the emergency room, we were astonished when Bob and Judy showed up to pick us up at Mike and Carol’s before 11:00 am. But allergic reaction or no allergic reaction, Judy was still ready to go on vacation (as I kept telling everyone we met, “We’re on vacation.”) so off we went to Key West. Down the Florida State Turnpike meeting and greeting the toll takers and letting them know that we were still on vacation. We turned off on Card Sound Road to enter the Keys above Key Largo. This route had been recommended to me by a friend from work as very scenic. Unfortunately, the trees must have been somewhat lower when that person took this route as all we could see was dense vegetation as we headed south. If you have been advised to take Card Sound Road, and you have seen trees and plants, then skip it and just take A1A all the way.

By the time we had rejoined A1A we were in Key Largo and starting to get hungry for lunch. After trying to let Garmin Nuvi (my GPS unit) find us a place, we gave up and stopped at a Hilton and asked the doorman the best place for lunch. He sent us a mile down the highway to Snappers where we had the quintessential Florida Keys lunch. Not the food (although it was very good) but the ambience as we lunched outdoors sitting on a dock looking out over a marina with pelicans, cormorants and gulls serenading us. After a piece of key lime pie (our first of three eaten in the Keys) we were back on the road.

If you have no idea what I mean by the “Oversea Highway,” rent True Lies with Arnold Schwartzeneger and watch the highway he blows up at the end of the film. That’s this highway. It stretches from the Florida mainland all the way to Key West with hundreds of bridges (the longest is seven miles) connecting the keys. It is one of the most beautiful drives I have ever taken as the sea is a bright shade of turquoise and the sights are many and memorable. The drive from Boynton Beach to Key West took about five hours with our stop for lunch so by the time we arrived we were thrilled to be there and really enjoyed just walking around and relaxing at the hotel.

A few words about the Santa Maria Suites. First, they are exactly as advertised on their website, maybe better. They are a condo/townhouse type suite hotel. We had an upper unit that had two floors with a living room and probably the most efficient kitchen I have ever seen on the first floor and two full bedrooms and two full baths on the upper floors. They were incredibly clean, totally stocked with everything you would need in the kitchen (even a great set of knives) and had a beautiful verandah from three different rooms. If there was even one drawback to the hotel it was that it was college Spring Break. They were very open about it when we checked in and they promised to do a good job of keeping the noise down and they were good to their word. We hardly heard a thing although the pool was full of college kids every night. One other thing I need to mention about them is that they are in an outstanding location. It is only one block off Duvall (the main street in Key West) and this meant it was an easy walk to just about anywhere. You can see their website by clicking here.

We arrived to find that Pete and Wanda had gotten there earlier in the day and were staying in a place about a block away. So we told them to come on over, bring the wine and Bob and I went out to pick up the makings for a steak dinner. We were going to broil them but Pete and Wanda were on their way home from their winter place and had a cool indoor grille with them so we tossed them on there. That and some baked potatoes and a salad and we were in hog heaven. After dinner, Kathleen and I went off for a walk while the rest of the gang played a thrilling game of Euchre. A game we got to learn later on on Solstice.

The next morning I awoke with a nasty sinus headache. It was just about 7:00 am so I took something and
decided to go and try and walk if off. I got about two blocks away and found a pier that we had walked to the night before and it had been empty. But this morning at 6:55 it was crowded with about 100 people. I walked out to see what they were there for and saw right away--they were there for the sunrise. And what an incredible sunrise it was. And since I had just come out to get rid of a headache I hadn’t brought my camera. But I did have my iPhone. And I was amazed at the three great pics I got. Here is one of them and the other two are on the photo page for Day 2-4 in Key West.

After I walked all the way to the other side of Key West and back again, Kathleen called me on my cell to say she was up and I should come back for breakfast. When I got back and showered we went about a block away (right next to the pier where I got the sunrise pics)  and found the Southernmost Cafe and Bar which is supposedly “THE” southernmost cafe in the United States. Breakfast was outstanding and we would recommend this place to anyone. We liked it so much we went back for breakfast the next morning.

After breakfast it was Kathleen and Jim alone time and we went off to explore the island while Bob and Judy did the pool and the beach. We aren’t really beach or pool people but we love to tour so away we went. We headed down Duvall Street and stopped in a bunch of shops and galleries and loved them all but were really just thrilled with the warm weather. We also stopped to tour the Ernest Hemingway house before heading down to Mallory Square for lunch at Red Fish/Blue Fish. After lunch we did the tour at the Truman White House where Harry S. Truman spent vacations away from Washington. Being an ex-history teacher I loved the tour and Kathleen seemed to like it as well.

After that we made the long trek back to the hotel, found the rest of the crowd and headed back to Mallory Square by taxi to see the daily celebration of the setting of the sun. This happens every night in season and is a big celebration that includes all kinds of street performers and an incredible sunset where the sun seems to melt into the sea. Just gorgeous.

After an hour or so of watching the buskers we headed back to the hotel, bid goodbye to Pete and Wanda (who headed back to Ontario the next morning) and went to bed. Up early the next morning, I grabbed my camera and headed out to see if I could get some real sunrise pictures. Imagine my surprise to open the front door and find pouring rain. Thankfully it disappeared in about five minutes but left the streets coverd in water and some incredible clouds. And those clouds, combined with the sunrise gave me one of the best photographic experiences of my life. I shot more than 250 photos of that sunrise and everything else I could from that pier. I bracketed exposures, shot low and high shutter speeds and generally had a great time. Later that day I went through them all and weeded out most of the junk and I have posted the best of the rest here.

After my perfect photo hour, we grabbed breakfast at the aforementioned Southernmost Beach Cafe. It was on the road with a brief stop at the local constabulary to pick up a Key West PD shirt for Joel.

The trip north was uneventful with one very funny moment. On the way down, everyone we talked to we always said the same thing, “Hey, we’re on vacation.” We said it to people at gas stations, rental car companies and especially toll takes on the Florida Turnpike. On the way home we pulled up at a toll booth and said howdy and asked how the toll taker was doing today. We told her we were on vacation. She looked up with recognition and said, “Are you guys back already?” Cracked us up. In Florida for less than a week and already locals.

For more on our trip to Florida, click here.


Pertinent Info:
Day 3-5