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TRIP REPORT Key West and rating
|Author||Topic: TRIP REPORT Key West and rating|
posted 03-25-2009 08:48 AM ET (US)
We're going to Key West for one week beginning next Fri April 3 for about 10 days. We fly into Orlando, grab a car and head South destination Key West.
We have no interest in tourist stuff, malls, overeating or any of that. We would appreciate any tips or ideas any of you have regarding our trip. We posted a few years ago and had a fantastic vacation, met Sheila and had a blast. Same with others over the years who have become good friends.
Any ideas, way points, cool spots, black holes, recommendations would be greatly appreciated. And if any of you ever plan a Great Lakes or Pacific NW trip let me know anytime for a fun itinerary or, if close to us, Whaler time.
Looking forward to your suggestions.
posted 03-25-2009 09:09 AM ET (US)
Feeding the tarpon at Robbies in Islamorada is a must. It's really cool and only costs a few bucks. They also seel cold beer there.
In addition, if you have never been there (although it is a touristy thing), a short tour of the Mel Fisher Museum in Key West is worth it. You can see the emeralds that they recovered which are the largest emeralds in the world. They are amazing, brilliant green and almost as large as billiard balls.
posted 03-25-2009 09:10 AM ET (US)
I meant "sell cold beer" sorry.
posted 03-25-2009 10:04 AM ET (US)
If you do stop at Robbies in Islamorada and feel like Charter fishing, one of the best Captains in the Keys works out of there. His name is Brian Cone and his boat is the Contagious. We have Chartered with him several times.
Great fishing! Last time out we got 9 sailfish and 2 dolphin fish.
posted 03-25-2009 10:34 AM ET (US)
The Halfshell Raw Bar (231 Margaret St, Key West) has all you can eat King Crab legs for 19.99 on Wednesday or Thursday nights. Goggle it for their website. Locals hangout with a harbor view. Hogfish Bar and Grill on Stock Island (First Key north of KW)is also a local favorite. Go there for lunch and walk around the marina. There are several specialty art and woodworking shops that work out of the commercial buildings on the pier.
posted 03-25-2009 11:09 AM ET (US)
Two words...Green Parrot. Don't bring the wife and kids. The Half Shell also has jumbo crab cakes that are addictive and delicious.
posted 03-25-2009 12:08 PM ET (US)
"We have no interest in tourist stuff, malls, overeating or any of that."
Then you are going to the WRONG place Pete. Stay on another key and just daytrip Key West.
posted 03-25-2009 12:09 PM ET (US)
Oh..PS...10 days in the keys could drive you insane. Might want to cut it short and come up and visit Len and I again while you are here.
posted 03-25-2009 01:26 PM ET (US)
I agree -- Key West is very touristy, and the street people are very annoying and filthy.
We stayed at Marathon Key, Ocean Beach Club, and it was very nice. The Dolphin Research Center in Grassy Key is very cool. We went for Dolphin rides. The snorkel trips out of Bahia Honda - spelling? are fun.
posted 03-25-2009 03:07 PM ET (US)
Key West can very touristy if you are a typical tourist and stay on Duval street.....its like a mini Bourbon street and living there during the winter I avoid it like the plague.
good news though there are no malls in KW and if you like history, art and architecture walking along the streets of "old town" and the waterfront area can be fun. My favorite restaurants are Cafe Sole (Southard St), Mangia Mangia (Southard St), Michaels (Margaret St.) Sarabeths (Simonton St) and lunch on the beach at Salute (Atlantic St)
I keep my Whaler at Hurricane Hole, just on the left before you get onto the Island of Key West and they offer some fun guided Kayak eco tours, be sure to look in the Mangroves for Iguanas. Hurricane Hole also has great food right on the water.
If you like wildlife there is a neat self guided tour of the wildlife rehab facility at the end of White street (the Atlantic side)they have native birds and a pond in the back that is littered with giant Iguanas if you look in the trees.
For history take a stroll in the cemetery in the center of town (the highest point as well) there is a great tribute to the sailors of the USS Maine and some other strange things.
Also if it is quite the conch train tour is fun as well even spending tons of time in KW I usually take the tour when relatives or friends come to town but if a cruise ship is in town or the town is crowded it can get old.
Ice Cream at Mattesons on White street is a must as well. Stay away from Duval, maybe one stroll for the experience and I am sure you will discover Key West has something for everyone.
If you like to geocache there are some neat ones in the area if you are not sure what a geocache is go to www.geocaching.com
posted 03-25-2009 03:08 PM ET (US)
LOL! i was thinking the same thing about key west being a tourist trap.
if you really wanna get loco, take a day trip over to the dry tortugas. bring the wife/kids and some snorkles. it will be the trip of a lifetime for them (history, nature, adventure).
oh, and you can feed the tarpon from the dock, too... and the harbor will be full of bull sharks (their season).
posted 03-25-2009 03:58 PM ET (US)
88 & Ellen,
I have a buddy who lets me use his place in Key West. He turned me onto a few great places where the locals hang out to eat and drink. My favorite place to eat is the Rusty Anchor and Hog Fish on Stock Island right before you get to ey West. Here are some details below from a previous post I made.
There are plenty of charter boats out of the Municipal Marina and Key West Bight. The seaplane trip to the Dry Tortugas is really nice or you can also take an all day snorkel trip there which would be nice.
As for places to eat, here are some great places where the locals hang that are Great. If you want fancy & expensive there is no end to the list of expensive eateries along Duval Street. I always have the kids along so I choose the more reasonable route. Here you go:
Rusty Anchor on Stock Island -- This is a locals place and my favorite. Freshest seafood and reasonable prices. Nothing fancy with concrete floors so when the huricane hits they just broom the water out the doors.
Hog Fish Grill on Stock Island -- Old funky Keys type bar down near the docks on Stock Island. Very hard to find but worth a visit. The Hog fish sandwich is out of this world.
B.Os Fish Wagon on Caroline Street -- Very cool little joint by Key West Bight. Mostly fried fish but still excellent and fast while your cruising the dock area.
Half Shell Raw Bar-Key West Bight -- Tourist place. But people seem to love it and the food is excellent and fresh.
Schooner Wharf BarKey West Bight -- Outdoor old key west type place. I love their Mahi Melt sandwich. Great place to stop for a drink after you return from your snorkel trip.
Captain Harveys Run Aground -- Floating dump in Garrison Bight. Has its charms though.
Awful ArthursDuval Street -- Ive only eaten there once. I remember I thought it was a deal. Fish & Chips under ten dollars on Duval Street.
Other Places on my cheap list
PTs Late Night on Caroline Street -- This place is a locals place. It has good food and is reasonable. Especially their daily specials.
Mangia Mangia -- This is a homemade pasta place. Not real cheap, but has meals in the $9-$15 range.
Cuban Mix DeliUS 1 on way into Key West -- Really good Cuban sandwiches
Hope this helps.
posted 03-25-2009 04:13 PM ET (US)
Thanks man, keep this stuff coming!!! We'd like to do some snorkeling and maybe fishing, not sure. Spring Break is Fifi's call entirely What ever she wants to do. I wish I'd asked a few weeks earlier - we've both been as far as Marathon but that's it. I wanted to go to the mountains to make some turns and we were thinking Heavenly but she made the call.
don't think for a minute that we might roll out early and stop and see you and Len - you never know. Don't care about the miles.
Please, anything else all of you can share we totally appreciate it for sure.
Is it like Venice Beach in Cali?
posted 03-25-2009 05:35 PM ET (US)
Looe Key is a marine sanctuary off Pine Key. I think several commercial boats take people out there. The structure of the reef is like aisles in a grocery store. You just swim up one and down the next. We had great visibility and lots of large fish to gawk at. It's the best place I've snorkeled up to this point. If you camp, the keys can be great. Heat is the limiting factor in the summer.
posted 03-25-2009 06:32 PM ET (US)
One of our all time favorite spots:
(Mostly locals so you know your'e in the right place.)
Enjoyable hour or two:
World Wide Sportsman
(I hate shopping but worth seeing a replic of Hemmingway's boat The Pilar.)
Grab a bite afterwards in back of World Wide at:
Islamorada Fish Company
Have Fun !!!
posted 03-25-2009 06:49 PM ET (US)
Nice Fish Tank:
posted 03-25-2009 06:54 PM ET (US)
Let's try this again.
Nice Fish Tank:
posted 03-25-2009 07:48 PM ET (US)
If I were going to Key West, I'd look up the bar and restaurant that is owned by Kelly McGillis--you probably remember her from the cinema TOP GUN when she was smoking hot as the jet fighter pilot instructor "Charlie"--and see if you could hang and have a few beers with her. Also, bring a lot of cash, as I hear that's an expensive place to stay for a week.
posted 03-25-2009 07:55 PM ET (US)
Cash?? All my available Cash is tied up in bills!!!
posted 03-25-2009 09:57 PM ET (US)
If you like Cuban food, then you've got to hit El Siboney on Catherine St.
There's basically three things to do in Key West, fish, dive and drink.
If you're not into to those you can see everything in 2-3 days.
Might want to spend a little time in Miami too.
posted 03-25-2009 11:13 PM ET (US)
How about fishing or boating or both?
posted 03-25-2009 11:48 PM ET (US)
Start calling dive shops for the cheapest snorkeling/dive boat trips you can find. They are probably giving deals now. the snorkeling and diving is good in certain areas. I rented a boat in Summerland Key at a boat rental place that was about a mile or so into the island on the left sid of the road (heading toward key west). The guys were really cool, they offered me endless supply of live shrimp, fishing poles, etc. The operation wasn't top shelf by any stretch, but they were pretty cool and I had a great time. The key is follow the channel markers and don't sway... most of the ocean out there is about 10 feet deep until you get a couple miles out. I almost ran aground!! It was cool to see baby hammerheads and turtles and lots of cool sea life. I can't wait to go back and stay a while... there's lots for the outdoor ocean lover to see. Hell, you can go drink at a Chevy's in any town in the US. Don't bother with that nonsense.. get yourself some Cuban food from a hole in the wall place where they will take a bout 1/2 hour and make your food from scratch. Yumm.. but that's just me. We did that in Key Largo at a plain restaurant with a red awning... I'm rambling here but go looking off the beaten path and talk to the locals fishing on the bridges. They know where the good recreational opportunities are. Most people told me that there is nothing to do in the keys but drink, fish and dive. Pick the last two!! Other than watching out for the stinging jellyfish, it's cool to jump in the ocean in your swim suit and no wet suit! Enjoy!
posted 03-26-2009 05:03 AM ET (US)
I'll second or third about spending the entire 10 just in Key West. I'd go nuts. It's not that big enough to warrant that amount of time.
For snorkeling I'd look towards Key Largo at the north end. Go with a dive group that will hit areas for the snorkel crowd, vs a scuba crowd. Shallower.
For lodging up there, look up Harriet at Largo Lodge (www.largolodge.com) and tell her we sent ya. Nice individual cottages, screened porch, ceiling fans set in a very tropical setting with privacy. Even a nice sand beach and nice sunset view.
Best - Don
posted 03-26-2009 07:51 AM ET (US)
My brother is a hardcore fisherman and stays in Marathon every year with a rented 20 or 22 footer tied to his private dock out the back door of his motel room. If you have any desire to do something like this, let me know. I can details from him.
posted 03-26-2009 08:11 AM ET (US)
I have stayed in Travernier for 8 days a couple years ago and loved it. Islamorda was just to the south and you could find great charters down there for open water fishing as well as backwater fishing guides that run up in to the everglades. Also lots of boat rentals around there. To the north was great snorkeling in Key Largo and the place we stayed at was nice and quite on a back bay.
Here is where we stayed. The have a couple large docks and offer free dockage. Let Ellen fly and you could take the Outrage down there:P.
Key West is touristy but the place I will say is a must there is the Butterfly house. I know it sounds pretty weak but honestly it was very cool.
Off Topic here Jim but, Kelly McGillis also starred in the movie made about Pat's (Homeaside) case of the guy that murdered 3 of his wives...
|New 2 Whalers||
posted 03-26-2009 08:34 AM ET (US)
If you want to fish, check out Bud and Mary's marina in Islamorada.
Charter boats and head boats which are less expensive but you will catch fish:-)
posted 03-26-2009 09:18 AM ET (US)
Sounds like a great trip. Driving down US 1 from Miami is one of my favorite things. Getting there is half the fun.
Some of this will be redundant, but here are my two cents worth.
Great spots to eat away from the main herd on Duval:
Pepe's on Caroline Street. Small place, mostly outside seating, slow service, island time, super drinks & food. It's also a great place for breakfast.
Mangia Mangia, very good pasta and wine in a nice neighborhood.
Blue Heaven, at Thomas and Petronia, a few blocks off Duval. It may be the best restaurant anywhere - with a dirt floor and live chickens in the dining area.
Green Parrot for live music, happy hour and local watching.
Five Brothers Deli for Cuban sandwiches and Con Leche. It's the real deal, not a Disneyfied touristy place.
I agree with jimh, Kelly McGillis was a total biscuit in Top Gun, but the beer brewed on site at her restaurant has not been very good. I try it almost every trip. However, I'd gag one back with her given the chance.
Two things to do that have already been mentioned, I'd like to second them. Take the day trip to Fort Jefferson. About 3-4 hours each way by boat and about 4 hours on the island. You can fly, but, during my most recent trip to Key West, 14 months ago, that was priced at almost $200 per person. A walk in the Cemetery with a couple Con Leches is a good way to spend a morning, very interesting.
Go to the beach at Fort Taylor State Park vs. Samthers Beach. It has lots of shade trees, better swimming, more interesting snorkling, a historic fort to tour and a view of the very active ship channel.
Have a great trip.
posted 03-26-2009 12:03 PM ET (US)
I second stopping at world wide sportsman and checking it out. I was in there in December and from what I remember it is not a replica but more of a sistership that was renamed, etc. VERY interesting story that you read while standing in the boat. I would also advise on the restaurant around back & upstairs but it is a tourist trap. I prefer Lorelei(sp?) down the road and so do the locals. Great chowder and cheap for the keys.
I refer to Key West as "Ground hog day". You can go there every ten years and NOTHING changes. Same bars, same restaurants, same guy playing a guitar at Rick's American Cafe with a dildo telling the same corny jokes. Neat place but 3-4 days is my limit in that joint.
Have fun and eat some local food like advised. Anyone can eat a burger anywhere in the world. Key west shrimp are....well from Key West. Cuban food is awesome!!!! Don't trust the pizza shops no matter how many "Voted #1" signs they have hanging up...it will probably suck! Do some head boat trips with the family, guaranteed to catch some stuff and many restaurants will cook it for you for cheap, especially if you give them a couple/few fish to keep. So ask around for what restaurants will do that before you go fishing. I took a huge cat boat sailing/snorkel trip to the largest living reef in the US. Not bad $$ and free beer and wine. Really cool reef, keep a lookout for resident(large) cuda. They are friendly but will scare the crap out of you the first time you see one.
posted 03-26-2009 01:01 PM ET (US)
Kelly's Restaurant is no longer owned by Kelly McGillis
posted 03-27-2009 10:04 AM ET (US)
If you are going to Key West, put your drinking shoes on. It is a fun place, and they really like their booze.
There are some crazy bars there. If you enjoy a few drinks, it is fun. If you enjoy having too many drinks, it is going to be a great time.
There is one outside bar on the roof of one of the taller buildings on Duval St that is clothing optional. I was down there with my brothers years ago, and it was a great time as there was a bunch of girls there half naked getting painted.
The fun ended when a group of guys showed up & dropped drawers. Nothing kills a good time faster than a bunch of naked guys running around(unless you are into that sort of thing). We weren't; so happy-fun time drinking with the naked ladies came to an end.
There are a ton of other great bars, but I can't remember any of the names because there was a bit of drinking going on.
You have to go have cocktails & see the sun set at the west end of Duval Street; this is a good time every evening.
THere are a ton of fishing charters on Key West We took a half day fishing charter out of Key West, caught a bunch of fish, and had a resturant at the dock cook it up. They have some sort of deal that they split the fish with you & prepare and serve your meal for short money. This worked for us; we had no use for all the fish we caught.
Ten days in Key West may be a little much, unless you really plan on drinking heavily every day.
There is a ton of stuff to see & do on the drive down.
I have to second the recommendation to the Dolphin Research Center in Marathon. We went there the last time we went down. I thought it was going to be cheezy, but it is a good take. It was mid week, and me & the wife had the place to ourselves. It was really cool swimming with the dolphins.
Tons of tourist traps on the drive down; fun to check some of them out.
posted 03-27-2009 10:43 AM ET (US)
If you'd like to have a quality beer while you're there, something on par with your Bell's, bring it with you. Buds will help you adjust to island time.
My 2 bits.
posted 03-27-2009 11:35 AM ET (US)
One big thing to avoid is driving down to the Keys late on a Friday or back up on a Sunday.
The Everglades are pretty easy to dart in and back out for a few hours. It's a really unique place.
On the drive in, instead of Route 1 from mainland Florida to the Keys, take the alternate Card Sound Rd. Stop at Alabama Jacks.
I have not been to Key West, we stayed in Islamorada and had a fantastic laid back time.
posted 03-27-2009 04:35 PM ET (US)
Bahia Hondo State park was voted one of the 10 best beaches in the world some time back. Don't miss it. It is on the left, going toward Key West right after you cross the seven mile bridge from Marathon. Two restauraunts that will cook your fish are Lazy Days in Islamorada (next to Bud and Mary's) and Anette's in Marathon. I am sure there are a hundred others, but both of these do a great job for a good price. There are two public beaches in Marathon. Both are on the Atlantic (south) side of the Island. The less known (and less crowded) is almost to the end of Cocoa Plum road. Sombrero beach is the other and it is very nice and highly maintained. (No seaweed, just sand). I guess we all have different interests, but having recently (February) spent 5 days in the keys, I don't think there is any way that I could get bored in 10 days. Maybe 10 years, but not 10 days.
posted 03-27-2009 05:18 PM ET (US)
If you want a boat and some fishing/snorkeling you might try staying at Captain Pips in Marathon. Stay at one of their rooms at get a boat too...
posted 03-28-2009 02:19 AM ET (US)
I went to sombrero, ready to snorkel, but the wind was howling at about 35 and I couldn't see in front of my mask... A very nice free public beach though, with some reef rocks offshore a bit for some good snorkeling if I remember correctly.
Sounds like drinking in bars is the main attraction for many travellers.. It just seems a waste to me. I'd rather spend the booze money on bait and gas and air fills for scuba diving...
posted 03-29-2009 12:07 AM ET (US)
Thanks you guys are too cool! More appreciated.
posted 03-29-2009 12:08 AM ET (US)
Ellen is interested in Dry Tortugas - boat trip right?
posted 03-29-2009 12:13 AM ET (US)
Ellen is interested in Dry Tortugas - boat trip right?
posted 03-29-2009 09:34 AM ET (US)
88 and Ellen,
The Dry Tortugas are about 70 miles from Key West and are a great destination. We went by seaplane several years ago and it was an interesting and fun trip. They drop you off for 3-4 hours to see the fort, snorkle, etc. and then pick you up. The boat trips will require more time, maybe days.
posted 03-29-2009 11:51 AM ET (US)
My fiancee has been to Dry Tortugas. It was a day trip and she took the fast cat catamaran. She recommends it highly, a must do.
posted 03-29-2009 11:58 AM ET (US)
I have never been to Dry Tortugas, but have been dying to go. We planned on going the last trip down to Key west, but the weather was not cooperating.
Everyone I talk to that has gone just gush about what a great time it is, but it takes up an entire day.
If you are spending 10 days there, definitely squeeze the trip in & take your snorkling gear.
posted 03-30-2009 11:53 AM ET (US)
Louie's Backyard is a great spot on the backside-dining wise,a little on the fancy side- but they have a bar that is 2nd to none- and away from "it all"
posted 03-30-2009 01:17 PM ET (US)
I found a few of my photos of Fort Jefferson.
In the distance, over the wall of the fort, is Loggerhead Key and it's lighthouse.
posted 04-01-2009 07:57 PM ET (US)
Hey everybody, we're flying out of O'Hare Friday AM and we appreciate you guys taking time to post to this thread. We'll have a blast. Thanks again!!!
posted 04-02-2009 03:07 PM ET (US)
oh yea ~ the best i've ever had:
La Lechonera, 3100 Flagler Street. Cuban food. Fried palomilla steaks, roast pork, shrimp enchiladas. Daily. 292-3700.
posted 04-11-2009 08:51 PM ET (US)
TRIP REPORT - We had a blast and stayed at an adults only place which was excellent and funky- - going back and after so many trips to Caribbean and Mexico I can't remember them all we totally had a blast.
Thanks again - so much to explore for sure.
posted 04-13-2009 11:29 PM ET (US)
what gives Pete? Photos? Wild stories? Adult only place? Whoa man, sounds like you mixed well with the locals! Tell us more.
posted 04-12-2009 10:46 AM ET (US)
TRIP REPORT - We had a blast and stayed at an adults only place which was excellent and funky- - We used this as a scouting mission and definitely going back. You know, after so many trips to Caribbean and Mexico I can't remember them all, however, in many ways the Keys are the total package considering weather, fishing, underwater, boating, beach and wacky stuff. We wanted to go to Dry Tortugas but thanks alot for the cold front Mr Weatherman! which screwed that plan up until next time. Lots of funky Whalers too -
Thanks again - so much to explore for sure.
Rating 4 Harpoons
posted 04-12-2009 11:02 AM ET (US)
Good to see you enjoyed it. I agree the Keys are the best.
We love it.
posted 04-12-2009 12:42 PM ET (US)
Where did you stay?
posted 04-12-2009 12:49 PM ET (US)
Moved to TRIPS AND RENDEZVOUS.
posted 04-12-2009 03:20 PM ET (US)
We stayed at Banana Bay - funky, funky, Lousy breakfast, very slow house computer but wireless worked great, nice pool (topless generally), reasonable location and price, not the Ritz but we're tired of places too nice or corporate. We're trying to do more business w/ mom and pop joints. Met wonderful couple who stayed there before, so would we. However, I think next time we stay at Marathon.
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