Day 5 – Bahia Honda State Park, Big Pine, & No Name Key
Wednesday, May 31st… This is the day of the trip that I had been anxiously awaiting a bit more so than the rest of it. Today was Bahia Honda day, and I had big plans for Bahia Honda. We didn’t get up and moving quite as early as I would have liked because we were in need of a little extra rest at this point, so we didn’t make it to Bahia Honda State Park until about 11:00am. We really lucked out, though, and found the perfect spot to post up for the afternoon. It was prime realty – right under a little shade tree.
We typically hang out on the Atlantic side because it tends to be less crowded than Calusa Beach by the old trestle bridge on the Gulf side.
I spread out my round towel to claim our spot and then we hit the water to try out some snorkeling (neither one of us had ever snorkeled before). We got the feel for breathing through the snorkels right about the time we were realizing the water wasn’t great for snorkeling this particular day. It was rather murky and the waves were a little rougher than usual, so we ended up abandoning the idea of snorkeling and headed over to the gift shop to see about renting some kayaks. I had never kayaked in the ocean before, and kayaking Bahia Honda would be so incredible. I had been both excited and terrified about the idea for months. My motto is “there’s nothing to it but to do it”, so I was going to be brave and go for it.
Or not. When we approached the rental desk a very unenthused woman informed us that they weren’t renting kayaks that day. She didn’t offer an explanation really, other than “coastguard guidelines” (literally, that was all she said). I assume that it had something to do with the slightly choppy conditions.
That was a little disappointing. I’m all for safety first and everything, but no snorkeling and no kayaking? Lame. Oh well, at least Bahia Honda is amazing enough in itself that we still had a great time just swimming and relaxing on the beach under our little shade tree.
Plus, we got to hang out with this guy.
And not going kayaking gave us plenty of time to walk the beach and pick up litter – which is a huge pet peeve of ours.
After our little litter clean-up, we ventured over to the Gulf side to look around. We wandered over to a little boat ramp and as we were walking along the edge of the water we spotted a couple of parrotfish swimming around. Check out the video below! So cool!
We left Bahia Honda around 5:00pm and went slightly south to Big Pine Key because we had planned on doing some exploring around the National Key Deer Refuge. We were just driving around kind of aimlessly (and very slowly because “speed kills Key deer”!) and all of a sudden we happened upon Blue Hole. Good thing we were only going 20 miles per hour so I didn’t have to slam the brakes too hard, because we were stopping here.
After wandering around the Key Deer Refuge and not really seeing any Key deer (go figure) we headed to the next island over – No Name Key.
No Name Key is across the bridge right past No Name Pub (where we ate the night before) and really only consists of a couple streets and about 43 homes. This is where I would want to live if we ever moved to the Keys.
The area around No Name Pub is where we always see the most Key deer so we wandered around there for a bit, slowly cruising up and down different roads. We ended up seeing another 16 Key deer, bringing our grand total for this trip to 39 (which is a new personal record for us).
I take driving in Key deer territory very seriously so I didn’t get any photos of the deer. However, my husband did manage to grab a few with his phone from the passenger seat as we rolled by. (Go hubby!)
At this point it’s getting later in the day and we were starting to get hungry. We left Big Pine and backtracked a tad to Marathon to hit up another one of our favorites – Burdine’s Waterfront Bar & Grill. We love this place because it has a fantastic atmosphere, a great view, and really tasty food.
On our drive back to our room in Key West, the sun put on quite a show for us. Florida Keys’ sunsets really are something special. We also saw a huge slaughter of iguanas! (No, not like an iguana massacre. A “slaughter” is the term for a group of iguanas.) There must have been at least 50 of them just hanging out on the sidewalk. It was crazy!
Once we got back to our room at the Caribbean House, we decided to just stay in for the night and relax. When I originally booked this place, I was a bit nervous just because it was in Key West. Don’t get me wrong, I love it… but it can be a bit overwhelming at times. It can be extremely overcrowded, a little rowdy, and has the most ridiculous parking I have ever seen.
However, I was actually pleasantly surprised by this place. It was so quiet and peaceful, you would never know we were only two streets over from Duval Street (which is the party capital of Key West). We had also planned it so we were there during the week as opposed to the weekend like last year, which I’m sure helped some with the crowding and traffic issues. And while parking was a little tricky, we always managed to get a good spot – of course, this is where it pays to have a small vehicle like the Prius. All in all, staying in Key West really was actually pretty nice.
Totals for Day 5:
16 Key deer
5 Florida softshell turtles
1 state park/beach
1 national wildlife refuge