• Exploring the Florida Keys From Islamadora to Key West

Exploring the Florida Keys From Key Largo to Key West

Ever since I was younger, I always wanted to go to the Florida Keys. I’d been to Florida on vacation, but they always seemed inaccessible since they were so far South and I imagined them as exclusive and expensive. Well, they aren’t more expensive than other areas of Florida I’ve been and it was actually really relaxed there; not fancy like I pictured it.

Exploring the Florida Keys

The Keys are pretty spread out and you would have to choose which area you’d like. The road the “Overseas Highway” runs all the way down so you’re not going to get lost! Key Largo is closest to Miami if you just have a little bit of time, and of course Key West is the furthest South and the most famous.

Exploring the Florida Keys

Exploring the Florida Keys

Exploring the Florida Keys

Exploring the Florida Keys

We stayed a Kona Kai the first night in Key Largo as we worked our way down South. Kona Kai has little villas dotted around so you get a whole condo vibe to yourself. Just across from Kona Kai was a yummy restaurant called Ballyhoo’s which I highly recommend if you stop here.

Exploring the Florida Keys

Exploring the Florida Keys

Did you spot the iguana above? He’s hiding!

All of the photos above are from the property at Kona Kai, which was really beautiful and encapsulated what I think of when I think of “the keys”. The sunset might have been the best part (in the photo below). I could see it from our room and was like “mom, we have to go out there!”.

cocobellePS this is another dress from my new favorite, Kersh, and some classic Cocobelle sandals that match everything.

From Key Largo, you go through Marathon (where we visited the Turtle Hospital to get to Key West.

Exploring the Florida Keys

The Turtle Hospital was really interesting. I hadn’t been to one before, but my mom had. It’s a 90-minute tour and you can look in through the glass on the surgeries. While we were there, they were doing surgery on a turtle called Huckleberry! The same name as my beautiful dog, Huck, who passed away a few years ago.

Just as we entered near the Keys we met up with Sera from Serenity Eco Guides in Big Pine Key to do even more SUP, this time over a school of barracudas! Sera does a really amazing SUP yoga class and you can see how enthusiastic she is about her work. The class was amazing and went up near mangroves which were really cool, too.

Florida Keys

Florida Keys

Florida Keys

You then drive further South through the Lower Keys, and finally Key West.

It’s not a huge drive; overall just 3 hours from Miami to Key West! We actually drove passed Miami when we left, onward to Fort Laudedale 30 more minutes because flights from there to Ohio were much cheaper than out of Miami.

Key West – What You Can Do in Two Days

We spent most of our time in Key West. Parking here is just street parking; it’s a really small town. We paid for lot parking at our hotel as to not risk getting our rental car side swiped. We walked everywhere but you can take the Trolley Tours which is “hop on- hop off” all day so you could choose one day to see ALL the touristy things in Key West, and it is 100% possible to see it all at once.

The first thing we did was eat at a random diner next to our hotel. It was really tasty but expensive and small portions so it’s best to do research and choose places that really rank well online for great food because the Keys have AMAZING food. Luckily, we found more good food later.

Ernest Hemingway’s House was right near our hotel so we went there. If you don’t know a lot about him or care a lot about him you can go through here quickly (20 minutes) but if you’re into it, you could spend maybe 2 hours here. I didn’t realize he did assignments for the US government spying at one point! There were cats everywhere which was the cutest part, even on his bed!

Florida Keys

Florida Keys

When it comes to touristy things here, going to the Southernmost Point is the biggest tourist attraction and there is a long line to get a photo here. The water behind his point is so clear and blue!

Florida Keys

Other Tourist hotspots in Key West

  • The Mel Fisher Maritime Museum
  • Truman Little White House
  • Shipwreck Museum
  • Butterfly Conservatory

The coolest thing we did there was taking the ferry to Latitudes for breakfast with the best views.

Florida Keys

Florida Keys

Florida Keys

The best meal we had was at Hot Tin Roof where mom had a steak and I had the lobster mac n’ cheese! It was delicious and this restaurant offers just about the best view in Key West of the sunset.

Florida Keys

Florida Keys

We also ate amazing tacos at Nine One Five which is ranked as one of the best restaurants in Key West. 

Of course, you have to try the Key Lime pie (more than once!). They put cinnamon on it at Hot Tin Roof, yummy! We ate at Margaritaville which is a chain restaurant but neither of us had ever tried it. It was really good, actually, and I’d go back!

Florida Keys

We also ate amazing tacos at Nine One Five which is ranked as one of the best restaurants in Key West.

We also ate amazing tacos at Nine One Five which is ranked as one of the best restaurants in Key West. 

We also ate amazing tacos at Nine One Five which is ranked as one of the best restaurants in Key West. 

The sunset is a BIG deal in Key West. They have what is called the Sunset Celebration in Mallory Square where locals come up and open up shops and attractions. It’s a big party and really crowded while everyone watches the most beautiful sunsets! The funny thing was as soon as the sun goes down, people scatter and go back to drinking but that’s when the sky really lights up and turns pink and purple! So, lucky for me they left and I could get to the front of the crowd for some good pictures.

Florida Keys

Florida Keys

Florida Keys

Down by Mallory Square where all the roads converge is where it’s really hoppin’ and people are drinking (legal to drink and walk down the street) and having fun. While it’s a lot of live music and parties, it’s a very family-friendly scene.

While the Keys aren’t actually known for their beaches (even though the water is SO clear and beautiful, it’s got reefs around it), Higg’s beach was really nice and so beautiful. I could spend a whole day there! Apparently, this is where the locals go. We did have to drive here, but it was the only place we had to drive to.

Florida Keys

Florida Keys

In those taped in lines, it’s actually where turtles have put a nest and it’s being protected. So once those eggs hatch the little babies will make their way to sea. Remember at beaches if you build sand castles or dig ditches you should flatten it out when you’re done playing as it can actually kill the baby turtles who can’t understand how to get past it.

Florida Keys

Florida Keys

In Key West, we stayed in a historical hotel, the Chelsea House which being on Truman Ave, was close enough to walk to everywhere we wanted to go, but far enough away we heard no noise from the bars down on Duval and Front Street. The hotel room was clean and comfortable and there was a pool behind the house.

florida keys

On Truman, there are a lot of these heritage homes turned into hotels and they have a lot of charm so I recommend this road for a good place to stay. You can walk down Duval or Whitehead Streets to get down to all the restaurants, bars, many attractions/museums, and the Sunset Celebration.

We also ate amazing tacos at Nine One Five which is ranked as one of the best restaurants in Key West. 

We also ate amazing tacos at Nine One Five which is ranked as one of the best restaurants in Key West. 

We also ate amazing tacos at Nine One Five which is ranked as one of the best restaurants in Key West. 

Beyond what I’ve mentioned as you can imagine there are SO many tours you can do on the water. We didn’t plan ahead and they take reservations, so that is why we didn’t do them BUT you can do waterskiing, jet skiing, boat tours, dolphin tours – the list is endless. The water here is just amazingly beautiful and the more time you spend on it the better!

We also ate amazing tacos at Nine One Five which is ranked as one of the best restaurants in Key West. 

Pin this little guide to the Florida Keys for later:

This post is in collaboration with Visit Florida. I was compensated for my time in being in the Florida Keys and writing this article.

2017-08-18T10:32:03+00:00

About the Author:

Rachel Jones left a career in nursing to live on the beaches of Goa, India almost four years ago where she is now a travel writer. Her website gives advice on the 35+ countries she's been to but has become the go-to site for India travel, focusing on offbeat places & “glamorous travel”. Hippie in Heels has been featured in ELLE magazine, Tripadvisor, and Thomas Cook. Her blog is one of the top 50 travel blogs in the world based on traffic. She also enjoys writing for BravoTV.

One Comment

  1. Tim Blight August 30, 2017 at 2:48 am - Reply

    I remember reading about the Florida Keys when I was a child and thinking it was just so idyllic… I’ll be adding this one to the bucket list!!

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