What should I do in the Keys that the guide books don't mention?
October 27, 2005 5:53 AM   Subscribe

What should I do in the Keys that the guide books don't mention?

I'll be in Key West for a week from the 12 November. I've been before and have done the obvious tourist traps like the trolly bus tour and Hemmingway's house. I haven't been to the other Keys towns and will have a car, but I don't do boats...
posted by londonmark to Travel & Transportation around Florida (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I liked Marathon last time I went.

I'm not sure what you mean by "I don't do boats," but if you don't mind riding in a boat someone else is piloting, and like snorkeling, I'd recommend a day trip to the Dry Tortugas [Wikipedia]. There are also seaplane flights out there.
posted by oaf at 6:36 AM on October 27, 2005

Oh, but: the Keys have a guide book that shouldn't even be called such. It's great. So before you dismiss the guide books, make sure you actually do read it.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:39 AM on October 27, 2005

I second Dry Tortugas. Even if you don't snorkel, walking around the fort watching Frigatebirds perching on the ruins is a surreal experience...however, there is quite a bit of boat involved.

We found the best places by asking the folks who live there for recommendations. We ended up eating at some really great places off the beaten path.

One thing I never got to was the Pelican preserve. I love me some Pelicans.
posted by Biblio at 7:15 AM on October 27, 2005

"Chat with Parrotfish...Barnstorm Over Beaches...Paddle Past Mangroves...Sail into the Sunset...": Find out how to do this and more on a road trip detailed in the "Wild Roads" column of National Geographic Adventure, go to http://www.nationalgeographic.com/adventure/0312/trip.html
posted by smartypanties at 7:19 AM on October 27, 2005 [1 favorite]

oops...i forgot you "don't do boats." But there's plenty more in that article.
posted by smartypanties at 7:20 AM on October 27, 2005

I wish I'd gone to the bar at the top of the La Concha hotel in Key West to watch the sun set. Seems like it should be a lovely view -- much better than Mallory Square. Alas, we ran out of time.
posted by junkbox at 7:46 AM on October 27, 2005

The Garden of Eden is an open air, clothing-optional bar on the roof of the Bull and Whistle on Duval which can be...um...interesting.

Be sure to eat some conch fritters and have a Cuban sandwich. There's a great Cuban restaurant that's been there forever, but I can't remember the name. Somebody'll know. The Green Parrot is the locals' bar in town. It gets some of the best music on the island.
posted by wsg at 7:51 AM on October 27, 2005

Thanks for the ideas, all great. I'm particularly excited by the pelican preserve. One of the best memories of my last holiday was sitting on the beach by the airport watching them dive for fish.

Re: the boat thing, actually it's my partner who gets motion sickness, but snorkelling may be okay. I'd love to see the dry Tortugas but the journey's a bit much for my better half!
posted by londonmark at 8:34 AM on October 27, 2005

PBS ran "A Cemetery Special" last night (rerunning Halloween), which highlighted some of the more curious bits of the Key West Cemetery.
posted by steef at 8:38 AM on October 27, 2005

It's probably in the guidebooks but if you're out by MM 77.5 (Islamorada) check out The Hungry Tarpon.

It's a restaurant/marina that has a mess of HUGE tarpon hanging out by the dock. The last time I was there they'd sell you a bucket of bait for a couple of bucks so you could feed the leviathans (Google cache). Call ahead and see if they still do this.

I never ate there so I can't vouch for the food.
posted by Opposite George at 9:51 AM on October 27, 2005

I asked this question a few months ago, here's my results.

The best thing I did (besides each conch fritters and chocolate-covered key lime pies) was rent a bike and just journey all over the island throughout the time I was there. Great experience.
posted by itchie at 10:03 AM on October 27, 2005

Oh, itchie, Kermit's chocolate covered key lime pies....how could I have forgotten?

And junkbox, we stayed at La Concha, and yes, the sunset is fabulous up there. Mallory square was a bit insane, though the guy playing "Scotland Forever" on a conch shell was something to see!
posted by Biblio at 11:45 AM on October 27, 2005

I'll second The Hungry Tarpon - great diner. If you do feed the fish watch out for the pelicans ;-)
posted by i_cola at 2:27 PM on October 27, 2005

Frommer's Guide to South Florida and the Keys is the best I've found -- odd, because I usually don't tend to like Frommer's guidebooks.

If you're driving to Key West from Miami or thereabouts:
--consider stopping at Coral Castle or the Fruit & Spice Park, both of which are off-the-beaten-path and unique;
--take the Card Sound Road from Florida City. The views from the Card Sound Bridge are worth the toll, you get to go by dive par excellence Alabama Jack's, and the road features in a couple Carl Hiaasen books. Card Sound Road rejoins with US 1 in Key Largo;
--In Key Largo, consider going snorkeling at Pennekamp Coral Reef State Marine Park;
--also in Key Largo, Calypso's Seafood Grill is wonderful. I've eaten here on two different trips, and it's a friendly laid-back place with very good fish;
--Bahia Honda State Park on Bahia Honda Key (MM37) has one of the most gorgeous beaches I've ever seen.

And in Key West, exploring off the beaten path is rewarding. Try wandering around Bahama Village.
posted by Vidiot at 8:56 PM on October 27, 2005 [1 favorite]

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