A giant perk of living in Miami is its proximity to one of the United States’s most popular vacation destinations (well, other than Miami itself, that is): The Florida Keys.
From Miami Beach, it’s a straight shot down Route 1, and you can hit Key Largo in about an hour and a half, and to make your way to the famed Southernmost Point in the U.S., aka Key West, is a solid 3 1/2-hour-drive.
While most folks pop through here on well-planned vacations, Ayaz and I decided on a Friday to cruise our way down to Key Largo just 2 days later. Another bonus to living close enough to the Keys that you can plan last-minute trips, is that you can also take advantage of last-minute travel deals.
Our intention was to stay for one night and head home, but we were having such a fantastic time we decided on Monday morning to stay an additional night, and head down to Key West to cap off our spontaneous trip.
Here’s a look at the first day:
Day 1: Key Largo
We like to troll around on Hotwire and Expedia for these, and wound up getting a super reasonably priced room at the Key Largo Hampton Inn. Now before anyone goes knocking Hampton Inn for not being a super sexy-sounding accommodation — guess what? Not everyone wants to drop a couple hundred bucks a night on a hotel — in fact, most people can’t.
Cue the Hampton Inn. It was totally quality, and in a great location, on the water, with a little beach. Much to the surprise of visitors to the Keys, quality beaches are in rather short supply down there. Add to the beach a totally stylish and renovated room, a really nice pool, and a bangin’ breakfast buffet, and you had 2 very happy (and normally very picky, well-traveled) campers.
Robbie’s Marina, Islamorada
Just down the highway from Key Largo lies Islamorada (pronounced EYE-la-morada by the locals), technically a collection of isles, and home to Robbie’s Marina, a super popular tourist trap (feed the tarpons! shop the souvenir stands! rent a kayak!) in a scenic location on the tip of an island overlooking the turquoise sea. We had a pretty sucky lunch of verrrrrry dry fish tacos (did you know fish could be tough?), but there was live music, and we had a great view, so it was actually worth stopping here. Just … don’t feed the tarpon, ok? It’s weird.
Founder’s Park Beach, Islamorada
This was a fantastic find! We headed to Founder’s Park for a concert, but the big win was the beach. It was so pretty and a decent size, with shallow water, perfect for families with small children. There is a small fee to enter the park, but it’s worth the trip if you’re looking to veg out on a beach.
Bayside Grill, Key Largo
Ayaz and I have developed a bit of a crush on this divey little waterfront restaurant. Actually, if you go to Bayside Grill’s enclosed upstairs dining room, it’s not divey at all. But what’s the fun in eating indoors when you’re in the Keys? Instead, come here for sunset; watching sunset is the equivalent to going to church here in the Keys — it’s a glorious nightly ritual.
Sit downstairs at one of the tables on the waterfront — there’s self-service, drinks-only picnic tables, as well as tables with regular waitstaff service. Oftentimes, live bands are playing and locals boogie down, drinks in hand. It’s a regular Keys experience, peppered with tourists, too, of course.
In short, it was a GOOD day. So good in fact, that we decided to extend our stay a night, and headed to Key West in the morning. Stay tuned for good times from Key West, because, my goodness, there were many.