Ah, the Florida Keys. The perfect place to escape reality and overload on reggae music. My trip was filled with playing outside, making friends with dolphins, and just plain enjoying life.
I took a road trip down over the 4th of July to catch up with one of my favorite people-my college roommate Keke. Her, her kindhearted man, and their sweet pets graciously hosted me for a few days in Marathon and gave me a true Keys experience. A lot of the Keys were badly damaged by Hurricane Irma in 2017, but the community has rebuilt, moved forward, and started flourishing again.
I drove halfway on the 3rd and finished off my drive on the 4th. I love being on the road when it’s a holiday like the 4th or NYD because people are usually where they are supposed to be and traffic is obviously less congested. However, it was congested enough cruising through Miami (and why wouldn’t it be lol) that I nearly got side swiped by a Lamborghini. Now that would have made for a day! Anyway, upon arriving we caught up over margaritas and headed out to Sombrero Beach for some 4th of July fun with Keke’s coworkers. They were all so friendly and I loved that community feel of people that had traveled from here, there and everywhere to chase their dreams in the Keys.
Activities: Get in the water! Bahia Honda Key is breathtaking! We fought the current snorkeling and I’ve never had so much fun struggling before! They have been working adamantly to restore the park since the storm, and not every place is open. That being said, you can still enjoy Atlantic and Gulf swims. We took a walk out on the modern day bridge to see the original 7 mile bridge and observe Henry Flagler’s bold efforts to create the Overseas railroad.
Sombrero Beach is a nice free beach to spend a day. There’s not a lot to see snorkeling, but it’s still a lovely place to take a cool dip in clear water. Coco Plum is a nice secluded beach to stroll around on.
After our trip to Bahia Honda, we went down a little ways to a jumping bridge in Sugarloaf Key. I’d like to say this is a hidden gem..but unfortunately for the locals, the secret is out now that there is a Facebook page for this bridge. It was my first rodeo jumping off a bridge and I was feeling pretty high and mighty. That was until I saw a six year old jump off as well! Those true Floridians really have no chill.
We hung out on the side of the channel being big kids and checking out some of the marine life. I felt like I was in Finding Nemo with all the live treasures we saw. All kinds of sea anemones, sergeant majors, and even popping shrimp. Let’s just take a minute to give popping shrimp the recognition they deserve. These little guys are more formally known as, “Pistol Shrimp”. They’re about 2 inches, but pack a punch. They have a normal sized pincer, but grow an enlarged claw to shoot off “bubble bullets”. One pincer section cocks open and has a protruding “plunger” while the other is immobile but acts as a socket. While used in action, this mechanism sends off a jet of water that has clocked in at up to 62 mph! When moving through surrounding water, low pressure is created directly behind the snap and creates a gas bubble. The bubble implosion can stun or kill nearby invertebrates. Oh, and the sound of sonic hunting, yah that can get up to 210 decibels. Which is exactly why we could hear popping sounds above the surface while we were chilling on the rocks. Perks of having marine biologist friends to share this information with you! We capped off the day by trudging through the mangroves with tubes to float back down the channel. Bliss.
A big highlight of the trip was getting to visit Keke at Dolphin Research Center where she works. DRC is a nonprofit research and education facility that bridges a connection between marine mammals, humans, and the environment. Their research and educational programs are top of the line and they truly care about the well being of their dolphins. About to get sappy here. But y’all, it is so nice to see a wonderful human’s hard work come to fruition and make a difference. I absolutely love getting to see those that I care about follow their passion and do well at it. Life’s true blessings, I tell ya what.
Eats & Drinks: On a lighter note, okay or heavier, however you want to take it…let’s talk about the grub. Irie Island Eats makes their own rules and I’m glad they do. Get a tropical bowl with jerk shrimp and your taste buds will be groovin’. I’m a sucker for fish tacos and Brutus Seafood has it goin’ on. A few years back when I visited, we went to the Cracked Conch where you need to get a seafood basket. Island Fish Company has a great atmosphere, tasty bites, and some delicious frozen drinks. Last but not least, Curly’s Coffee Company has my heart. Oh my lanta. I’m craving a iced vanilla latte right now. Their cute little stand also does kayak and paddleboard rentals and fishing charters. All in one place.
Sunscreen, sundresses, and swim suits. Maybe a pair of sandals or two. The Keys are so laid back with their style and I loved going makeup free for several days My skin and brain went home quite happy.
There you have it. A trip that left me salty, sandy, and happy as a clam.