Day 7 – Old Bahia Honda Bridge, Sombrero Beach, Curry Hammock, & Big Cypress
On Friday, June 2nd, we checked out of the Caribbean House, said goodbye to Key West, and headed back up the Keys. We really wanted to go back to Bahia Honda for the third day in a row and do some more snorkeling (and maybe even some kayaking… finally), but I had gotten such a bad sunburn the day before that we decided against it. We did, however, stop off at Bahia Honda on our way past, but this time it was to the other end of the Old Bahia Honda Bridge.
When you approach Bahia Honda State Park from the south, there is a small pull-off area on the right at the end of West Summerland Key, just before you cross the bridge to get to the entrance of the park. There you will find a short walking trail that leads to the end of the Old Bahia Honda Bridge. This spot offers a great view of the old bridge and the channel, and you can even walk under the Overseas Highway.
While you’re driving across the Seven Mile Bridge you might notice a rather oddly placed tree – right in the middle of the Old Seven Mile Bridge. This is Fred. Fred is a very special tree, whom locals and visitors alike are very fond of. Fred even has his own Facebook page.
One of our favorite beaches from past trips is Sombrero Beach in Marathon (on Boot Key), so we had scheduled a stop there on our way out of the Keys.
This little hermit crab was teeny tiny and so adorable! Check out the video below, I slid my pointer finger into the shot to give you an idea of just how tiny it was.
After hanging out at Sombrero Beach for a couple hours, we hopped back in the car and got a little further north. We had some time to kill before our next scheduled stop, so we made a spur of the moment detour to Curry Hammock State Park. This park is situated on it’s very own little island located between Marathon and Vaca Key (sandwiched right between Long Point Key and Crawl Key).
Like quite a few of our stops, it wasn’t on the list. We just saw the sign, had never been there, and decided to check it out. After all, that’s what wandering is all about isn’t it? And I’m telling you, sometimes it really pays off because you find gems like this.
It was so awesome because there was hardly anyone else there. There was a group of kids that appeared to be on some sort of marine science field trip. They were out catching all sorts of things with their nets and then putting them in little containers of sea water. When we were leaving, they were all gathered under a pavilion and one of the adults was naming off what all they had caught. The list was extensive, and I was intrigued. I really had to fight the urge to go join them in their oceanic learning experience. I thought that may make me look a little like a crazy person, so instead we hopped back in the car again and backtracked slightly to Key Colony, which is on the outskirts of Marathon.
We had been hearing about Sparky’s Landing for years from a couple different friends of ours. We were always told that if we go, to go during happy hour (between 4:00pm and 6:00pm – everyday). On previous trips through the Keys we were never able to make it during happy hour, so this year we planned accordingly. By 4:30pm, we were at Sparky’s Landing and placing orders for their happy hour appetizers – $0.30 hot wings and $0.30 peel-and-eat shrimp.
In addition to their great food, awesome happy hour deals, and beautiful scenery, we had also heard that it was fairly common to see manatees in the water around the restaurant. We got a table right by the water and ate slow, all the while keeping our eyes fixed on the water.
Once again, it was a no-go with the manatee sightings. My husband is absolutely convinced that their entire species hates him. He’s so dramatic.
We did, however, get to see lots of fish. Sparky’s Landing employees encourage the guests to toss their peeled shrimp scraps over the side of the dock and into the water. The fish go crazy for this, thrashing around and gobbling up every last speck of shrimp. It’s a sight to see.
Once we left Sparky’s Landing, the plan was to hit up a place called Sunset Park, which is supposed to be a public beach in Key Colony. That didn’t really work out as planned. We couldn’t find the place. The road my GPS was telling me to turn down was closed, and we couldn’t find another way around.
Fine. Moving on.
The next stop on our list was Far Beach in Key Largo. This was actually one that had been on the itinerary for the trip down, but was nixed due to time constraints. However, now that Sunset Park was out, we had extra time and figured we’d add it back on the list.
Far Beach happens to be located within the boundaries of John Pennenkamp State Park, which means unless we wanted to pay John Pennenkamp admission prices, we were out of luck. We were running a bit low on funds at this point, so I made a u-turn at the admission booth while my husband Googled free public beaches in Key Largo.
Turns out, there aren’t any.
Fine. Onto Big Cypress National Preserve.
So… we had this plan. We knew we would be car camping on this night, so we figured we might as well make it interesting. The plan was to make it to the Oasis Visitor Center in the Big Cypress Preserve and then car camp in the parking lot. I definitely had my reservations about the idea. My main concerns were your typical Florida wilderness concerns – snakes, gators, panthers, etc. It’s a widely known fact that snakes like to curl up in warm, tight places, such as car engines that were running recently. Plus, I know for a fact that there are alligators in the water about 100 feet from where we parked, and there was only a chain link fence between us. And the panthers… well, they’re panthers. So all of these concerns were very justified.
What I didn’t take into consideration, however, were the mosquitos. (I know, pretty dumb.) Now, your first thought might be, “Just roll up your windows.” Yeah, here’s the thing about that – while it may not necessarily be hot in the Everglades at night, it’s still humid and muggy. Trying to sleep in a car with your windows all the way up in the Everglades lasts about 10 minutes, 20 if you’re lucky. At that point, all of your windows are fogged up and it’s so hot in the car it feels like you’re suffocating. At this point you may do what I did and throw open the door to let in some air. I’m going to tell you now that this is something you will immediately regret.
Cue the mosquitos.
Within 15 seconds of opening the car door, we are overwhelmed with mosquitos. I quickly closed the door, but it was too late. We spent the next 20 minutes slapping the buzzing, biting, blood-sucking, itch-inducing little pests away from our bodies.
Of course now it’s like a sauna inside our car again. Maybe we can roll the windows down just a teeny, tiny, hairline fracture of a bit.
Strike three. We’re out.
I started the car and took off. We’ll just have to drive on through to the other side of Florida and nap somewhere in Naples.
Totals for Day 7
1 state park
1 national wildlife preserve
1 tiny crab
1 horrible encounter with blood thirsty mosquitos