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  • Writer's picturesunflowerstops

Key West

In the beginning of June, Dave and I drove to Key West for a quick 2-night staycation. Key West is a short and beautiful 3 hour drive from our home in Miami. It's home to the Southernmost Point in the continental USA. It's also known for its laid back lifestyle, fishing, drinking, roosters and some of the best sunsets from Mallory Square. Key West is one of approximately 800 keys and it is the very last one on US Hwy 1, at mile marker 0.

Our journey south started super early in the morning so that we could have breakfast at The Green Turtle Inn at mile marker 81 in Islamorada. Since we left on a Sunday we wanted to beat any morning crowds and ensure that we could order their lobster benedict. In addition to the benedict, Dave and I shared the cinnamon roll French toast.

After filling up on our delicious breakfast we continued south to Vaca Key and met up with our friends for a quick visit. While there we went out for a quick tour on their boat to enjoy the view of the coastline from a different perspective. The weather was perfect, not too hot yet.

Earlier in the week I reserved two tickets to tour The Turtle Hospital in Marathon for 11:30am. We cut it close but made it just in time for our 90 minute tour.

Each ticket cost $35 and of course, it went towards helping to rehabilitate the injured patients with hopes of having them return to the sea. In 2023, The Turtle Hospital admitted 108 sick and/or injured turtles. They were able to release 81 of them back into the ocean and gulf. The tour started inside the hospital building where our guide went over the different types of turtles and some of the common injuries and sicknesses. The hospital also houses many permeant residents who are unable to be released. Their general rule is if the turtle has less than 3 flippers they will not be released. I learned that when a sea turtle gets injured by a vessel's propeller it can not only cause a laceration to their shell but it can cause their shell to deform and create air pockets. This is irreversible and makes it impossible for the turtles to dive down deep into the water making them easy prey. At the end of our tour we were able to throw some food into the water pen and feed some of those permeant resident turtles. The Turtle Hospital usually sponsors an athlete during the annual Tour de Turtles which starts on World Turtle Day (June 16) for the loggerheads and August 1st for the rest of the sea turtle species. I have been supporting this race for at least the past 10 years or so.

Next, we continued south to No Name Key and stopped in for a beer at the No Name Pub. As we turned off US 1 into the key we saw numerous key deer throughout the neighborhood.

The No Name Pub dates back to the 1930's when it was built as a general store and pub. During the late 1930's it became what I found out is very common history for the Florida Keys, a brothel. It is no longer a brothel and the walls and ceiling are filled with thousands of $1 bills. And the fish dip was the best I have ever had!

After finishing our beers we headed back to US1 and finally made it to Key West. We checked in to our bed-and-breakfast, The Gardens Hotel, and relaxed for a while before hitting Duval St. Our hotel was perfect! We stayed in the main house and had a beautiful porch that overlooked Angela Street which is less than one block from Duval. They had tranquil gardens with parrots and resident tortoises, live music every night, a serve yourself wine bar and breakfast was served either inside or out by the pool. The pool, by the way is open 24 hours.

Our first stop was the Seaside Cafe down at the Southernmost House. Although the seating was all outside right up the water, I wasn't impressed with the setup. Their lobster pizza was fabulous though. You get the complete Keys vibe with all the chickens walking around your feet plus they have the narrowest walkway to get to their bathrooms.

We then headed towards Mallory Square to catch the famous sunset. Shortly after we arrived there was a torrential downpour, needless to say we did not see the sun set that evening. As the rain let up a little, we made our way back to our hotel and called it a night.

After breakfast the next morning we headed out early to beat the crowds. Upon arriving at the southernmost point buoy there was already a very long line for pictures. There was no way that we were going to wait in that line, so we nonchalantly walked past everyone and when people were switching places we snapped our picture from outside the line.

We took the scenic side roads and stopped in various little shops as we made our way past the Hemingway House to President Truman's Little White House where of course we took a tour. Our tour guide, Chet, was enthusiastic and super informative about President Truman and the history of the house. He was a retired history teacher which we have found to be the very best tour guides. One of Truman's presidential limos was also on site to view. President Truman was a fan of the Hawaiian shirt and would have his staff ditch their suits and wear the colorful shirts when working out of the Key West White House. Some of his favorite shirts were on display.

As we finished the tour it began to rain a little so we quickly walked over to the southernmost brewery, First Flight Island Restaurant & Brewery and had a pint.

As we sat at the bar, we realized that we had been there before. It was the location of the Keys100 relay celebration in 2019 when we ran the almost 17-hour race from Key Largo to Key West.

Later on in day we did some shopping and then stopped by Kaya Island Eats. We went there for the kalua pork which had a Caribbean twist to the Hawaiian dish. I ordered the jackfruit tacos which I thought were very good. Then it was back to the hotel for some rest and wine by the pool.

That evening we decided to give the sunset a second chance and made our way back to Mallory Square. It was a little hazy, but we did have a successful show. We finished out our night at Alonzo's Oyster Bar and then The Waterfront Brewery for some beer and pretty delicious pretzel sticks with beer cheese sauce.

Although our hotel provided a nice breakfast, we couldn't pass up eating at one of our favorite spots before heading home, Galley Grill Restaurant at mile marker 24. Dave indulged in their crab cake benedict which he remembered having over 10 years ago and hasn't stopped thinking about it since. After stuffing our faces and having our share of coffee we got back in the car and drove home.

I could have done with having just one more day in Key West, if only to relax and enjoy the amenities of the hotel more. I guess we will just have to go back again!


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