READY. SET. GO RVING! LET’S GET STARTED FROM KEY WEST, FLORIDA
The first week of our journey from Key West to Alaska has gone wonderfully well. Of course, how could a week in the Florida Keys not be wonderful? Especially when your RV is parked right on the Gulf of Mexico.
The Keys are a chain of islands off the tip of the coast of Florida. There are 1,700 islands total with only 43 being accessible by car. These 43 islands are connected by a 127 mile long highway, the Overseas Highway. It’s a fairly easy drive in an RV, and we didn’t have any problems with our 40’ fifth wheel. Although take note, if you are driving or pulling a larger rig, parking lots big enough to stop in are somewhat scarce, so you may want to plan accordingly.
The drive through the Keys is one of our favorites in the country. Crossing each bridge, you take in a stunning display of color where deep brilliant turquoise gives way to the light aquamarine of shallower waters, and then the soft tans of sandbars. The islands are filled with charm and whimsy. Small colorful beach shacks sit alongside large modern beach homes in visual harmony. You’ll find everything from small local health food stores to touristy shell shops.
Campgrounds of all sorts are sprinkled from Key Largo to Key West. While there is no shortage of places to camp in the Keys, you’ll want to make reservations well in advance if you plan on going in the high season (roughly from the beginning December through the end of March). Some places like Bahai Honda State Park, which is stunningly beautiful, will require reservations up to a year in advance. However, if you are persistent and have the flexibility, check the Reserve America website daily for cancellations. That’s what we did two years ago and got a spot! Otherwise, there are many independent campgrounds from which you can choose.
This time we stayed at Sunshine RV Resort and felt very fortunate to have gotten a beach-front site. It’s one of the benefits of going in the off season. We enjoyed BBQ-ing and watching daily sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico from our “backyard.”
For months we had been talking about purchasing a kayak. We couldn’t think of a better place to use it than the Keys, so we checked out the local Craigslist and found just what we were looking for. We took turns going out and exploring the shallow warm water surrounding the island.
While kayaking the boys enjoyed looking for conch shells, which are symbol of the Florida Keys. Much to our amazement, Thing 1 found an empty conch in a shallow grass seabed. Florida law permits you to keep conch shells as long as they are uninhabited at the time of collection, and don’t have a hole larger than 1/16 of an inch off center through its spire (the hole would indicate that a living queen conch had been removed. Thing 1 was over the moon with his find and said his mission in the Keys had been completed!
Wildlife is abundant in the keys. We couldn’t walk outside our RV without spotting a bird, crab, or lizard. One of our favorite inhabitants of the Keys is the Key Deer. Key Deer are an endangered subspecies of miniature deer that only live in the Keys. The National Key Deer Refuge is located in the Lower Keys. One evening, we drove over to Big Pine Key to look for the little creatures. We weren’t disappointed to be greeted by a small friendly herd. I suspect they were looking for food and went on their merry way when they realized they weren’t getting a handout from us.
A trip to the Keys isn’t complete without a visit to Key West. The pinnacle of funky in the Keys, this place has captivated the minds of writers and artists, and chickens roam freely in the streets.
Our first stop was Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park. The fort was named after President Zachary Taylor in 1850. While the fort was never directly involved in battle, it served as a strategic location as headquarters for the U.S. Navy’s East Gulf Coast blockade squadron during the Civil War.
After a visit to the fort, we headed over to the beach. We found the perfect spot under some palm trees where I could relax with the baby and Thing 2 while Brent and Thing 1 went swimming.
Later that afternoon, we headed back into the town for some key lime pie. We also took a walk to the Southernmost Point Marker to get our picture taken in front of the iconic landmark and the official “start” of our journey to Alaska.
Finally, we ended our day in Key West with the performers and sunset at Mallory Square for the Sunset Celebration. As I child, I visited Key West with my family and this is what I remember the most. Not only that, but my most vivid memory of the Sunset Celebration is of cats jumping through hoops of fire. And much to my surprise the Catman of Key West was still there with his menagerie of trained house cats for our children to enjoy. A wonderful ending to a wonderful day and we were ready to head back to the comforts of our RV.
Our RV trip to Alaska has gotten off to a great start. After a week of finding our AWAY in the Florida Keys surrounding by the brilliant blue waters and breathtaking sunsets, we are ready to find our AWAY again as we head north into Georgia and onward.
Have you ever been to the Florida Keys? What did you enjoy the most? Any suggestions of places to see as we #GoRVing into Georgia?