Our family kicked off the new year in a way we never have before; leaving all of our traditions behind from black-eyed peas to college football and made so many memories together traveling to the Florida Keys!
It’s actually the busy season in the Keys as many people are wanting to leave behind the cold, wet days of winter and find a little sunshine and fun! That is exactly what we did and I do believe we have discovered a new tradition for our New Year; every year!
After the lovely few days away I thought it would be fun to share a few highlights of our trip with a list of Our Top Things to do in the Florida Keys. These are completely teenager friendly as we are not partiers at all, but out more to enjoy sights and culture when we travel.
1. You can’t drive to Key West without travel the highway that runs parallel with the Historic Seven-Mile Bridge. Seven-Mile Bridge, when it was finished in 1912, was the longest bridge of its kind. It connected the middle Keys to the lower Keys as a railroad line until the 1930s when it was refurbished for auto traffic. Now it is closed, but portions are open for pedestrians and bicyclists. If you like history it’s a neat little stop as you travel through.
Not all of the bridge is accessible at this time, but there is a massive project getting ready to begin to restore the entire length of the bridge. I find that very exciting!
I apologize for the blurry pics…. we were driving while I was trying to shoot.
The broken railings? They were made from the railway trackage when the bridge was converted from a railroad bridge to an auto bridge in the 1930s.
2. The Ernest Hemingway Home. If you ever took a high school or college lit class, you read Ernest Hemingway at some point. Visiting his main residence in the 1930s was a really awesome way to visualize his life. From the studio where he wrote his best-selling novels to stories that brought the man to life, the Hemingway Home was a fabulous treat.
Built in 1851, Ernest Hemingway acquired this well-built island home in 1931 while he was married to Pauline Pfeiffer, A French Vogue editor, for $8000.
Pauline hated this chandelier and had it removed & stored in the attic while living in the house. I can’t even imagine…
The tour guide we had was absolutly fantastic and truly brought the colorful life of Hemingway to us in an entirely new way!
James Bond turned in his “License to Kill” at the Hemingway house in the 1988 movie of the same name.
The room above the garage where Hemingway wrote some of his most famous works including “To Have & To Have Not”.
This fountain and “flower bed” was built by the original builder/owner, Asa Tift, to resemble an old confederate ironclad boat.
3. Key Lime Pie from Blue Heaven restaurant. If Blue Heaven is packed (or closed getting ready for a New Year’s Eve bash), just head across the street to Andy’s Cabana which is owned by the same family.
And they have THE Key Lime Pie.
4. Take a sunset cruise from the Port of Key West. We chose the Jolly II Rover and are so glad that we did! With a fun crew and beautiful views, it was the perfect evening to a fabulously fun day!
Madeline helping raise the sails! Such a neat experience!
You’ll discover on this cruise that you are closer to Cuba than you are the nearest Walmart. I thought that was just a really cool fact.
On the Jolly II Rover you may also have the adventure of firing a cannon at other passing ships!
And the sunset?
Breathtaking, amazing, and unforgettable.
5. Visit the Southernmost point. If you want to get technical it is really not the southernmost point, but unless you wan to be arrested for trespassing on a military installation this will have to suffice.
Lines form early to have your picture made here, so plan to arrive super early, or do like we did and go after sunset; no waiting necessary.
6. Take in the island real estate. I love the houses and historic buildings found in both Key West and Key Largo.
Enjoy the sightseeing and don’t catch island fever…. It can be costly!
7. “Sail away to Key Largo” with a ride the African Queen.
The African Queen is not a replica; this is the real deal built in 1912 and used in the 1951 movie The African Queen with Humphrey Bogart and Kathryn Hepburn.
With the history behind the boat, as well as the legend, this evening cruise was a true highlight of our stay.
Enjoy your own Boggey & Bacall … Or is it Bogart and Hepburn moment?
Take your pick, but a cruise on the African Queen is a step back in time allowing you to have your own romantic moment.
8. Hit the water in Key Largo at John Pennecamp State Park in a canoe. Canoeing is a lot of fun and the perfect activity for everyone in the family. The park also offers camping, snorkeling, swimming, and various other water-sports.
9. Don’t forget to hit the beach. Seriously. The whole purpose of a vacation is to get away from your environment and relax. Take time for this.
If not for you, do it for your family.
I loved the naturally preserved beaches at John Pennecamp State park, but I also loved the man-made sandy beaches of the resorts.
And as you can see, my teenagers had a blast!
In no way is this a list of all the things to do in the Florida Keys. With this being our first trip and only having a few days to kick back, these highlights were what we enjoyed most! When we return this year after Christmas we will have a whole new list of activities planned.
Just a few tips to getting around Key West. First, if you are wanting to hit up historic Key West, find you a good parking space (legally) on the street and leave your car for the day. You might want to brush up on your parallel parking skills before you go. Walking about town is honestly the most logical way to go. Key West is extremely pedestrian friendly. Make reservations if you have a specific, but popular hot spot you want to visit. Lines for dinner can be quite long, especially when mile high Key Lime pie is involved. Also, book your cruises early. We purchased our tickets a few weeks in advance and the tickets were texted to me on my phone. Quite convenient indeed, and we didn’t have to risk being turned away at the dock. Key Largo does involve more driving as the area is not so compact. The drive all the way to Key West can be a long one. The speed limit is 45-55 and there is a lot of traffic. Drive safely and go with the flow.
It’ll make the trip much more enjoyable!