5210 College Road | Key West, FL 33040
From Key West: Turn onto US 1 North, immediately after crossing the Cow Key channel bridge onto Stock Island, take first left onto College Road. Turn right at the Garden entrance and follow the signs to parking. Adult admission = $5
The only "frost-free" botanical garden in the continental United States. A tropical environment with ample rain allows most trees to retain their leaves in the dry season (December through late May). It is home to many endangered and threatened flora and fauna, has two of the last remaining fresh water ponds in the Keys and is a major migratory stopping point for neo-tropical birds from places as far as South America, as well as being home to many rare birds in the Florida Keys. This fact is what brought us here - my husband is an avid birder and was excited to visit. He was not disappointed, as we saw many birds that day, including three "life birds" for his list. I enjoyed walking in the beautiful garden, which is not like the heavily landscaped and neat gardens you may have visited previously. There is an unkemp wildness to the garden, which lent itself to the birdwatching (in trees) and it was filled with butterflies in the two butterfly gardens. Lovely!
There are several self-guided information tours (via cell phone - you call the 800 number on the sign, add the code of your location, and the guide will tell you about the area).
Hogfish Grill and Bar - marina on east end of Stock Island
very casual and relaxed compared to the hustle and bustle of Key West
Meals under $20
locals seafood restaurant
Great Coconut Shrimp, try it w/ spicy mango dipping sauce
Located on Bahia Honda Key, MM 37, about 30 minutes from Key West. One of the nicest beaches around, camping is available, there is a gift shop, snack bar, boat slips, and snorkeling. The park can get full and close, so get there early on the nice days. Admission is minimal. A must-see.
If you have a chance to drive north a little to Big Pine Key (its about 30 minutes on US 1), you should definitely do it.
If you are lucky enough to be there on a weekend in the fall or winter, you must go to the Big Pine Flea Market. Its a great place to find interesting, quirky things with real Keys flavor for not that much money. Dive equipment, art, hot sauce, jewelry, sunglasses, Fantasy Fest costumes, food, and all around fun stuff that you didnt know you needed.
Second, if you are brave enough to leave US 1 at dusk, head down Key Deer Boulevard for an up-close and personal encounter with the endangered and shy miniature deer the road is named for. The Key Deer only live between Marathon and Little Torch Keys and their numbers are concentrated in Big Pine. They are able to swim and can even drink salt water if fresh supply is short and they grow to a max. height of 2-2.5 feet at the shoulder. Drive slowly and you are certain to see them on the sides of the road.
Finally, if you get to Big Pine, you should stop in at the local Vegetarian Restaurant. There is a giant lobster out front. It very inexpensive and food is served at a lunch counter in a health food store. Try the tuna wrap with Miso Sauce.
Key Deer are a very notable natural attraction of the Florida Keys. Everyone who visits seems to want to catch sight of one of these diminutive creatures. Basically, they look like a pretty typical whitetail deer that you would find throughout North America, but are about half to 2/3 the size. We happened to spot a couple off the side of the road while driving through the key just south of Bahia Honda (Big Pine?). There is also a Key Deer Preserve there, but we didn't go.
Bahia Honda is a great park with beautiful beaches and a very cool bridge that used to carry part of Flagler's Railroad (see Flagler Railroad Museum under "Must See Activities"). It has a great campground that we unfortunately couldn't fully appreciate (see Camping? under "Hotels/Accomodations"), but all in all, if was an awesome park. They even have ocean kayaking, which we plan to do on a return trip some day!
Be sure to take the Yankee Cat "fast ferry" to the Dry Tortugas National park. The best snorkling experience. The water is so clear and there are tons of fish and corals. Huge fort to walk around and relish the views from the top layer! The ride is pretty long, but well worth it!
Islamorada in the Fla keys!
Beautiful place to be and locals as well as other travellers friendly and ready to share a story or two!
Go to Loreleis -pull your boat right in and stay a while. They have great island fare and local live music. Very relaxed island bar
OK OK so the Hemingway thing was a bit of a downer...I for one have always wondered why there isnt a Jimmy Buffett look-alike contest. Now THATS a downer, dude...the good news is..on your way out of town...potentially anywhere along the 100+ mile drive home it could look like this...ahhhh....THATS BETTER;-)
*Somebody posted a comment on my page recently that this picture looked like there were mountains(duh) in this picture I posted from the in front of my beach house in the Keys...(glasses anyone?)...rest assured...those are clouds.
The National Key Deer Refuge is located on Big Pine Key, approximately 30 miles from Key West. The key deer are endangered and highly protected. They come out in herds at dusk to eat, although you can spot a few any time of the day. They live on Big Pine and No Name Keys only, because they have fresh water on those keys for them to drink. Speed limits through Big Pine Key are STRICTLY enforced to protect the deer.
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