Friday, January 16, 2015

The Florida Quays

Julie’s Christmas present this year was to view the sunset from KeyJulie christmas 2014 gift cert West; either from her room at a hotel (I was going to pick this one – www.pierhouse.com) or from a boat whilst on a sunset cruise. We started planning the trip and picked a weekend before we started hosting visitors. Unwittingly we picked a long weekend. What does the travel book say about driving to Key West? “We strongly recommend to not drive to the islands on a Friday afternoon, especially if it’s a long weekend.”  Guess what time we hit Miami for the final segment to Key Largo? d’oh!

We also got a quick lesson in hotel prices and availability for Key West: holy shiza are they expensive! Finding something under US$300 was a challenge. So we spent the hotel points that we got for signing up for a hotel credit card on a room at the Fairfield Inn & Suites.

We staggered the trip to Key West, spending 2 nights on other islands on our way there: first Islamorada, then Marathon and finally Key West. Our stay in Key west lasted about 30 hours. And if you go to Key West, there is a 3-hour time frame wherein most of the action takes place. We missed it (we were on the boat). So we’ll have to go back to see the sunset party at Mallory Square. We originally thought we’d make the entire trip back in one day, but we ended up staying a night just off the islands in Florida City before driving back to Bradenton through the Everglades.

The reason for picking this weekend to go the Keys was because of all of the events that were going on.

A story is one thing, but pictures make the difference – see them all here: http://kalicinski.smugmug.com/Florida-2015/FloridaKeys/

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Trying something new… providing more information, here are the details of the places we stayed. Our Trip Advisor…

Fuel was actually cheaper on the islands than it was on the mainland. Up until you got close to Key West, then it was expensive.


Gilberts Resort (actually still on the mainland?), www.gilbertsresort.com The motel looks OK as a motel. The draw is likely the restaurant tiki hut that’s right on the water for boaters to pull up to. When we were there they had just boosted their man-made beach area (nice enough) and added some extra parking.  If sea levels rise 3ft in a decade, this place is gone, so visit soon!

Casa Thorn (Islamorada), www.casathorn.com is a quirky guesthouse/B&B that appears to be operated by an older lady (Thorn Trainer) who emanates classic Floridian style (perhaps too much plastic surgery?) but she’s got an autographed selfie-photo of Sinatra proudly displayed on here piano so you know that this lady was part of the “it” crowd at some point. We stayed in the “Secret Garden” room that was quite pleasant. Each room has a bistro sitting area outside in the lush gardens. We recommend it, but to a discerning traveler.


John Pennekamp State Park, http://pennekamppark.com is sort of a big deal in terms of protecting underwater areas. They promote a “wreck” that is offshore from one of the beaches (the main one) but the wreck is staged. They’ve placed cannons and other relics from other sunken ships in this bay for our entertainment. On the plus side, if you swim out from the beach, you can see varied wildlife underwater while snorkelling; Julie spotted a sting ray.


Tropical Cottages (Marathon), www.tropicalcottages.net bills itself as true classic Florida Keys lodging with about 5 standalone units on the property. We were “lucky” and got the one that’s an old mobiletropCott home. You could sit on the front porch and catch the Wi-Fi signal from the cabana where, in the morning, a central pot of coffee was placed. It’s a race against the other customers to time your walk out the door and successfully get a cuppa!

Our “splurge” in Key West, the Fairfield Inn & Suites Key West was provided to us courtesy of the Marriott VISA card’s bonus points. Very hospitable in the usual Marriott manner, we enjoyed the place even though we didn’t get into the pool. It was just such a change from the night before!Fairfield


FURY Water Adventures {www.furycat.com} took us on a “Double Dip snorkel & sunset cruise”; a 3-hour-long trip out from the harbour in Key West to a couple of snorkelling spots, during which you could watch the sunset, either from the boat like Julie, or from the water like Andrew. The guide tells us that winter is the slow season (there were perhaps 15 customers onboard, mostly a big party of visitors from Mumbai) while the summer is when it’s busy [the Keys are generally a few degrees cooler than the steamy mainland].  Find Fury’s little sales hut at the Historic Seaport a short walk away from Duval Street down Greene Street. They’ve got a bunch of different boats to satisfy your water adventure needs.

Craziest story our guide told? A scuba diver died “just over there by those boats” 2 days ago. What!?! Supposedly the guy ran out of air and floated away. Whoa. Of all the sketchy places we’ve gone diving, I was very surprised to hear this happen in the USA.

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