It’s been over a decade since my one and only visit to the Florida Keys, yet that three weeks in paradise has not diminished in my memory, mind’s eye or soul. I was touched to the core of my being – given the gift of heaven on earth where blue skies touch bluer waters, people are quick with a smile and come from the pages of a novel as characteristic of being characters who are too real to not be characters and a home of such vast beauty, it lingers a dream as ready to be stepped into as Mary Poppins stepped into the sidewalk of childhood fun.
The Florida Keys are each as unique to themselves as they are from the rest of the world – moving from a touristy island movie set into the watery-wash of the middle into the kitchy-fun-party-lov’n-goofiness of the farthest tip.
From Key Largo’s anchor where a boat, some dolphins and the nation’s first underwater State Park are situated into the heart, where fish are always on the menu and catching them is a boat ride away, down into the land of fantasy and fun, history and rebellion. Marathon to Key West things are wild on and off shore.
Here are just five for my next visit – it took a while to get to only five – places I can’t wait to add to my “have done” list for the Florida Keys.
And since it’s been longer than my nieces and nephew have been alive, I also can’t wait to repeat those old friends I too long ago met.
1. John Pennekamp Coarl Reef State Park. My first visit was hindered by the unfortunate and unexpected sucking down of a couple gallons of water. I admit – screaming at the site of a barracuda swimming at me only a few feet away was a little nuts – especially with my face underwater (my friend in front – a dive instructor – was blocking my view, she saw it, turned and got moving – it was only feet away when I saw it). I spent the rest of the day “feeding the fish,” so I didn’t get to enjoy the underwater stuff, the Christ of the Abyss or much of anything. I’d like to go back – bring on the ‘cuda!
2. Robbie’s Marina is a “regular” marine where you just happen to be able to feed swarms of Tarpon that hang out around the docks. I’d heard of it, but didn’t get to see it. Apparently these fish are as playful and plentiful as it gets, ready for a handout… Think Koi on a really big scale.
3. Marathon & Dolphin Research Center. I loved the town and area around Marathon and want to return. I’m sure it’s a lot different, but I didn’t get to spend much time here. I did like the WalMart with the giant Wyland painting on the side, a small beach nearby where I read an afternoon away and of course, just north is Dolphin Research Center on Grassy Key. DRC is the main reason for that first visit and will be a must-return stop on our next.
I also look forward to meeting and hopefully going onto the Gulf and Atlantic with Tweeps, Captain Chris and Christine Johnson who operate SeaSquared Charters. I “met” Christine on Twitter and have tweeted their many adventures, but would love to get on the water with them
That brings me to – getting on the water. Something I never did in those previous 3 weeks. I was surrounded by it, got in it, but never on it. Hoping to enjoy a few hours with the Captain & his crew.
Along with SeaSquared Charters, Christine operates the popular and very well done Hooked on Marathon website - a great visitor’s guide to the Marathon area. If you’re looking for things to do, places to eat or stay or just to see what’s happening in the middle Keys, check out Hooked on Marathon.
4. Kayaking the Keys. I’m hoping a boat ride of the speedy variety is in the cards, but so too – I have always dreamed of kayaking there. I want to see the mangroves up close, spot manatee in the warm waters, see a baby shake in “the nursery of the sea” and perhaps run into a pod of dolphin at play. The Keys are a natural wonder and to enjoy them while skimming across the surface of crystal clear waters is a dream waiting to happen…
5. Hemingway’s home and Key West are waiting. I did not get the chance to spend much time in Key West my first visit – only about 24 hours and it rained most of that. But I have dreamed of seeing Hemingway’s home, the place he wrote created and even railed against a federal government he saw as responsible for the deaths of too many veterans following the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane. Like Hemingway, the Keys are a muse for me – one I too seldom have been able to touch base with. To be in his home would be most any writer’s dream.
Key West calls me – a place where the outcasts of society are in, where fun is as free flowing as breathing, where drink pours forth as if the island were surrounded by it, where sun and ocean breezes are a cliché…
I dream of it all… returning for a few days, perhaps staying for longer. I was only there for three weeks over a decade ago, yet the Keys and Key West I met linger in my blood, my heart, my soul… dear friend… I hear your call and I will return soon.
If you’re dreaming of the Florida Keys & Key West, visit their website to help you plan your vacation. And when we go (a major goal for 2011) be sure to join us as we take you on our journey…