Another catch up post from last year.
There are still some places in the USA I want to check off my bucket list. At the top of the list was Key West. I had read about the sunset ceremony they hold EVERY night in Mallory Square and I knew it was something I wanted to experience for myself.
In the spring of 2022 when I suggested Key West I had no idea it would become a twelve day road trip. I thought we would fly into Miami, rent a car, spend a week in the Keys and come home. But Chad thought it would be more fun to drive. While it meant adding on an extra days and more money for gas/hotels, I was game. Especially when we traded in our Acadia for a Bronco. I envisioned warm days with the top down soaking up the Florida sun. That didn’t exactly go the way I thought, but more on that later!
We headed out a few days after our oldest daughter got married. We figured early October was a great time of year to be on the road. We didn’t take I-75 like we usually do. I wanted to take a route less traveled. I knew for sure I wanted to stop in St. Augustine on the way down and the Cincinnati Zoo on the way home. Everything else would be left to chance and we meandered our way through West Virginia, Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia, stopping at every “scenic overlook” we found. Towards the end of the first day, I realized we weren’t far from Point Pleasant, VA home of the Mothman, so naturally we detoured to check it out. THAT is my favorite part of a road trip, stopping at whatever catches your eye. The next day as we hit Florida and the temperature started climbing, so did the humidity! It didn’t take long to realize my desire to drive with the top down was not as great as my need for the AC!
We spent 2 nights in St. Augustine and did a hop on/hop off trolley tour, our favorite way to explore a new place. I would definitely go back there again some day. A few people had recommended we check out the Prohibition Kitchen and after we ate there we could definitely see why. The whole Old Town area was very cool. We watched the sunrise over the ocean from our hotel the next morning and then headed down the coast towards the Keys, making a pit stop through Palm Beach to see how the rich and famous live. WOW!
Once we got to Miami I was officially the farthest South in Florida I had been. The traffic was a nightmare but eventually we got through it and found ourselves going through the Everglades and soon, Key Largo. Our condo was in Tavenier in the Upper Keys and our resort had a pool with a bar, a small beach and marina and lots of mangroves. Something we would be very familiar with by the end of the week. We unpacked, made a quick trip to Winn Dixie and our vacation in the Keys was on!
Over the next week we alternated pool days with exploration days. We already know we aren’t going to see everything a destination has to offer and we don’t even want to try. I’ll generally pick out a few places ahead of time I’d like to visit and then we find things once we are there. We spent three of our seven days there doing nothing more than lounging in the pool, enjoying tropical drinks, playing cards and finding new places for dinner.
The other days we went off exploring. We saw the Turtle Hospital (where we, and a couple from Wisconsin, bailed on a slow moving tour because we were melting into pools of sweat. Move it along already people, geez!), Theater of the Sea, Bahia Honda State Park, and spent an entire day in Key West. THAT day was the hottest, most humid day of the week. Even the locals said it was bad. We had to keep going back to the car for AC breaks. While we were there we did another trolley tour, a nighttime ghost tour, ate at the original Sloppy Joes, and of course, saw the sunset ceremony. That was the best part of the day. Hundreds of people watching the sun slip beneath the horizon and then breaking out into applause. There were fun street performers, local artists and even a marriage proposal.
One of the things I was prepared for but took my husband by surprise was the fact that there aren’t many sandy beaches in the Keys. This isn’t a place where you sit under a palm tree, drinking fruity drinks from a nearby tiki hut on a sandy beach that stretches for miles. You’ll find that in the Bahamas or Virgin Islands. Th e Florida Keys are made up of coral, rocks and shells…so soft sand is hard to come by. There are a few places that have created sandy beaches but from what we were told, they require a lot of time and money to maintain so most places just leave it as is. People go to the Keys for fishing, scuba diving, boating and snorkeling. If you want to take long walks along a white sandy beach, you need to stick to the mainland. Even the touted “best beaches” we visited surprised us. They were gorgeous from a distance but not what we are used to. We are so spoiled with our Great Lakes beaches, especially here in Oscoda.
By the end of the week, we were ready to hit the road. Florida is a fun place to visit but we were anxious to head back home. There is no prettier place to be in the fall than Michigan! On the way back we stopped in Cincinnati for two nights so that I could go see the baby hippo, Fritz, at the Cincinnati Zoo. He was absolutely adorable and the zoo is a really nice one. In fact, I’m planning a return trip later this year. I can’t even remember the last time Chad and I spent an entire day at a zoo on our own. It was a gorgeous sunny, 70 degree fall day and we drove away with the windows down, breathing in the fresh air.
So that was our 2022 vacation. Those of you reading this that have been to the Keys probably have lots of gorgeous photos and stories you could share as well. Feel free to share them in the comments. If this is on your future bucket list, I hope this post was helpful.