Thursday, November 16, 2023

The Florida Keys by RV

The Florida Keys by RV

Have you ever imagined yourself on a Caribbean Island chain without leaving the U.S.?  Well, that is about how an RV trip to the Florida Keys sums up. This chain of small islands or keys (quays) is about as perfect a “Caribbean” getaway as you can drive to without leaving the United States shores. 

Florida Keys FL

Not only that, but here you can indulge in your fishing fantasies and go fishing all day and night if you wish. You can snorkel and/or scuba dive in John Pennekamp State Park and see some of the best reefs that exist in the western hemisphere. 

Or you can simply lie on the beach and soak up some rays, especially nice to warm you up if you’ve been battling winter up north!

And, you can dine in absolute luxury or rough it in Margaritaville like the locals. The Florida Keys really is an adventure for folks of all ages, and your family will thank you for having taken them there!

Just south of Miami, about an hour on the Florida Turnpike, you will begin your journey to the picturesque Florida Keys. You will know immediately that something has changed when you arrive in Key Largo. The pace of life here feels more like that of a Caribbean Island nation than the mainland of the U.S. Have a unique view of the beauty of undersea life on a glass bottom boat in Key Largo’s John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. This is the home of the first underwater park in the U.S. 

Covering about 70 nautical square miles, this park offers many snorkeling and Scuba diving opportunities for the adventurous. You can spend the day here or even stay overnight in Key Largo at the Park’s campground. There are plenty of other RV campgrounds around Key Largo as well, in case the very popular state park is full. Check and reserve ahead of your trip when you know your dates of travel. The small aquarium at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park gives visitors a taste of what it is like to dive down to the bottom of the reef, without even having to get wet! And, if you want to snorkel or scuba dive, they have everything available for rent that you could possibly need to enjoy the deep dives.

There are at least two or three (or seven!) more great state parks worthy of checking out for your drive down the Keys.

Bahia Honda State Park and Long Key State Park are both truly remarkable.

sunset view of bahia honda state park

Bahia Honda State Park, on Big Pine Key is one of at least ten great parks in the Florida Keys, some of which are open for day use only. Bahia Honda’s seafront state park features with activities such as snorkeling, camping & kayaking. This is just a beautiful spot about two-thirds of the way to Key West. Bahia Honda is an island between mile markers 35-38.5, about 12 miles west of Marathon complete with three different campgrounds, including 48 or more sites that accommodate RVs easily.

Long Key Park is in the process of being renovated after 2017 storms destroyed their oceanfront cabins, but still offers campers walk in camping and a beautiful place for a day trip for fishing, kayaking, canoeing, etc. This is a remarkable park, and well worth a visit. Historically a favorite tourist spot for the rich and well-to-do, Long Key now serves as a tranquil haven for bird-watching, swimming, kayaking or relaxing on the shoreline as you gaze across the Atlantic Ocean.

In the early 20th century, Henry Flagler’s Long Key Fishing Camp was a popular luxury destination along his railroad to Key West. Celebrities and many of the world's best-known saltwater anglers of the time fished here, including author Zane Grey and several U.S. presidents. The entire facility was destroyed by the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 and never reopened.

Today as a beautiful Florida State Park, recreational opportunities such as kayaking, hiking, birding, picnicking, flats fishing and snorkeling are just the start of what your adventures can include! They have two great hiking trails to explore that provide a close-up look at the variety of natural plant and animal communities in the Keys. Bring your own kayak or rent one from their ranger station for a paddle along a natural shoreline to see a variety of wildlife hiding in the mangroves or in the clear shallow waters.

Please contact the park for the most up-to-date information regarding restoration efforts. 

A trip to the Keys is not complete without a stop at Marathon Key. This is almost a halfway point if you are venturing to Key West. Marathon is a city set on 13 islands, known for their beaches and barrier reefs. Loggerhead turtles nest at Coco Plum Beach and Sombrero Beach. Curry Hammock State Park has a sandy shoreline and mangrove creek. The Dolphin Research Center offers interactive demos in a shallow lagoon. Near the City Marina, Crane Point features a tropical forest, bird rescue center and natural history museum. Striking in its seclusion along a stretch of the Keys known for development, this untarnished sanctuary will entice even the most seasoned travelers.

Don’t omit visiting Key West and Mallory Square for a unique Key West sunset. This is a truly remarkable gathering place for old and young, hippies and ex-hippies and all manner of folk. Street performers play music or act out skits while others offer unique foods or various arts and crafts. 

The arts festival occurs nightly at the Mallory Square Dock, an easy walk to the Ernest Hemingway Home, where you should visit the four dozen or so six-toed cats. While in Key West, visit the old Harry S. Truman Little White House on Front Street, a unique piece of American history. If you want to spend the night in Key West, there are numerous RV parks to choose from or you can keep your campsite at Bahia Honda or Knight’s Key and drive back up the forty miles or so to your own secluded beach after a magnificent sunset in Key West.

Leaving Key West, you drive east, although it seems like you are driving north and take your time driving back up the Keys. There are many places to stop for gas and try a frozen slice of famous Key Lime Pie covered in dark chocolate! Stop for lunch or dinner at the remarkable Green Turtle Inn on Islamorada, at Mile Marker 81.2 as you return to the Upper Keys. Recently renovated and expanded to include a large clothing and souvenir shop, this landmark restaurant has been serving its world-famous Green Turtle Soup since 1947.

On your way north, don’t miss the Caribbean Club, the site of a scene from the famous Humphrey Bogart movie, “Key Largo.” In fact, if you are a Bogart movie fan, there is an annual film festival that started in 2013 in Key Largo. Each year the dates are a little different, but it usually occurs in early May, so you may want to check the dates and plan your trip for next year to enjoy the festival.

Wherever and whenever you decide to visit the spectacular Florida Keys, you can rent your RV from El Monte RV in Miami. 

Only an hour’s drive from the first of the Florida Keys, Key Largo, and they will be happy to answer all your questions about the spectacular Florida Keys.

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