Day 5 – Wednesday, July 6th
Waking up on a boat in the Florida Keys is a special kind of awesome. The view of open water right outside the marina was beautiful, the air was salty, and the sun was shining. This was going to be a great day.
First thing on the agenda was Key West, so we packed up our beach bag and hit the road. Key West is roughly an hour and a half drive from Islamorada, but there is so much to see along the way that it doesn’t feel like a long drive at all. Once we reached Key West, our first priority was finding a place for lunch. After a quick Google search I nominated Turtle Kraals because they had something each of the kids would eat, they weren’t too expensive, and they were right on the water. We had a winner.
After lunch, we did a little souvenir shopping and sightseeing before heading to Fort Zachary Taylor Beach. This was one of my 8-year-old son’s favorite stops on the entire trip. The water here was great for swimming, no strong waves or currents. Plus, the kids found all kinds of dried up sea sponges on the beach! They were thrilled.
We left Fort Zachary Beach around 5:00pm with the intention of going right down the street to the Eco Discovery Center. Turns out it closes at 4:00pm. Whatever, we’ll just come back tomorrow. We headed out of Key West back toward the boat, but we had a stop to make first.
I figured that Mallory Square would be a bit much with the kids, plus we would have to drive all the way back to Islamorada afterward. Next best spot for a sunset in the Keys? Bahia Honda. We got to the park sometime between 6:00-6:30pm and explored the beach for awhile before heading up to the Old Bahia Honda Bridge to watch the sunset. Then, it was back to the boat for dinner and some shut eye.
But wait…. I promised the kids they would see Key Deer. We haven’t seen Key Deer yet. Luckily, I know just the place. After a slight detour back south to Big Pine Key, we drove out to No Name Pub because this was where my husband and I had seen so many during Honeyversary 2016. Excellent move. They were everywhere! It was too dark out to get good photos, but the kids were ecstatic that they got to see so many of them. Mission accomplished. Now it’s back to the boat for dinner and shut eye.
Day 6 – Thursday, July 7th
We packed up all of our stuff to check out of our rental in Islamorada, loaded up the car, and headed back south again to Key West. This time we went straight to the Eco Discovery Center so we were sure to have plenty of time to look around. It’s a really neat place. Fun, educational, and free? Yeah, this is a new favorite for sure.
After the Eco Discovery Center (and a quick picnic lunch in the parking lot), we headed for the Southernmost Point Buoy for a quick photo op. Or not… There was a huge line, it was blazing hot outside, and at this point the kids were wiped out and being somewhat uncooperative, so we skipped the photo op and got some sno cones instead. At least they can say they’ve seen it, and we can get a photo the next time.
On our way back up through the Keys, the kids wanted to stop at a gift shop and look for Key Deer souvenirs. I figured what better place than the National Key Deer Refuge visitor center? So we stopped off again in Big Pine Key. Before hitting up the visitor center, we drove over to the actual refuge. I am so glad we did! We saw a few more Key Deer and were able to get some good photos since it was still daylight.
When we left the Keys, we headed back down Highway 41 through Big Cypress on our way to Sarasota. I was really hoping to make it to the Oasis Visitor Center before dark since we had skipped it on Day 4. No such luck. We reached the visitor center right after sunset, and in the middle of a raging thunderstorm with way more cloud-to-ground lightning than I am even remotely comfortable with. Getting out of the car in an alligator infested area after dark? No. And with crazy lightning in the middle of flat swamp land? Double no. We’ll just have to add it to the list for next time, too.