Even though we drove to the most southern point of Florida, Key West felt more like a weekend getaway than part of our extended road trip.
Day 112 – 114
November 22 – November 24, 2014
Miles 14421 – 14591
Key West was approximately three hours away from Miami. We made the drive only stopping once, at Key Largo (the northern most key) for lunch at Buzzard’s Roost. Buzzard’s was along side a small marina with a screened in porch for dinning. Just about every restaurant in the keys serves conch fritters, and we wasted no time ordering them at this first stop. We each also had a fish sandwich. The sandwiches didn’t look like much, but Jon really enjoyed his blackened fish. Back on the road we drove through the remaining length of the keys. The blue waters along the way were beautiful and in most areas the ocean looked nicer than it did at our final destination. The most disappointing part of our entire trip through the keys came early with the realization that the bridges to the keys don’t look much like those shown in the movie True Lies.
Along our way to Key West, we noticed something white in the sky. From our angle and distance, it was hard to make out at first, but later we were clearly able to see the blimp called Fat Albert. A quick google search later and we were able to read some interesting history about the two stationary blimps tethered over the islands.
We made reservations several days prior for the Merlin Guesthouse. It took a few minutes to navigate the grid of oneway streets, but we checked in just before sunset. The Merlin Guesthouse was only a block from Duval Street (the main street in Key West), so we didn’t even bother to see our room before running down to Duval Street, turning north, and going to Mallory Square to watch the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico. My first impression of Duval Street was a good one. We saw many shops and restaurants in quaint island buildings, although we rushed past. We arrived in Mallory Square just a few minutes too late for sunset, but did see some beautiful reds and oranges in the sky. The large crowds that gather for the nightly sunset celebration were just starting to dissipate. We took our time walking back to the hotel taking in the sights and sounds and making mental notes of restaurants and bars that looked like good places to return to.
Even though the sun was down, we took a dip in the hotel’s pool after taking our luggage to the room. The room was nice, and could almost be considered a suite with the small sitting area before the bed. We also had a porch and high ceilings showing off the building’s wood framing, as well as a skylight. The pool was basically a large hot tub, but wasn’t any warmer than the sun made it. The water however was a great relief from the humidly. We got cleaned up and went back out to Duval Street.
We had a few ideas for dinner restaurants and actually walked to several places before going back to Caroline’s. We chose Caroline’s because it had a few seafood options that weren’t fried. Jon had hogfish which was the catch of the day. The hogfish is only served fried, despite our search for non-fried food, because of how delicate it is otherwise. I had a yellowfin tuna salad. My tuna salad worried me because other than the tuna, the salad wasn’t full of ingredients like fruit and nuts which I enjoy, however our very nice waiter brought over a tuna dipping sauce used with appetizers to add to my salad. The result was very good.
Duval Street was definitely a party town. Live music was playing out of many bars and you can even carry drinks down the road. We headed to a bar called Sloppy Joe’s. Sloppy Joe’s was often pictured in the paintings of souvenir shops so we figured it must be a popular place. We sat and had a drink while watching a live rock band from Alabama preform.
In the morning, we woke to light breakfast being served out by the pool. The day was hotter and more humid than the previous day. We decided to go to the beach and we walked about a mile south to Higgs Beach. The beach wasn’t quite what we expected. A small expanse of sand with very little shade. The water wasn’t as clear as it had been on the drive in, but the beach had a long pier next to it that let you enter the water farther away from the shore (by passing the weeds in the surf). Jon took one dip from the pier and I walked in at the shore up to my knees a few times, but turned back because it was rocky and dirty. Back at the hotel, I needed another dip in the pool to cool myself down.
The heat was too much for me, so we didn’t stay too long. For lunch, we went to DJ’s Clam Shack, where lobster rolls are the star. We didn’t know it until we got there, but DJ’s had been on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, making this at least our fourth Triple D restaurant of the trip. At DJ’s, you order at a counter and then pick a table in their courtyard. The lobster rolls were good. They both had a huge portion of lobster and I thought that the bread they are served on was phenomenal.
To entertain ourselves, we walked around a bit off of Duval Street to see areas we hadn’t until then. We stopped at Hog’s Breath for a drink before sunset. We had seen a large crowd at Hog’s Breath the night before and knew they’d have live music. At 5pm, we headed back to Mallory Square to catch all of sunset. The square got very full of people and we were lucky to go early and be able to stand along the railing.
We then returned to the hotel to take a break from the crowds. When we started to get hungry again, we went to Grunt’s Island Grill. Grunt’s is in a small shack set back off of the main streets. Grunt’s doesn’t serve food, but on most days a food truck, Garbo’s, parks out back and serves tacos.
We still had more town to see, so we went to Willie T’s. We had walked by Willie T’s earlier in the day and noticed a large crowd there to see the live music. We sat down, but unfortunately we arrived between musicians and watched the next guitar player setting up his equipment. It was ‘Mojito Monday’, so we each ordered a mojito while we waited for the music.
After finishing our drinks, we walked to Better Than Sex, a dessert restaurant. Better Than Sex is themed to be dark and intimate and the hostess used a flashlight to lead us to a table. The menu, which was on an iPad, featured desserts and wines which come in glasses rimmed with chocolate. We ordered a slice of Peanut Better Perversion Pie and Key Lime Pie. Both were very rich and good.
- Dry Tortugas National Park – This national park is located on islands 70 miles off of the coast from Key West. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations for people visiting Key West, but because it requires either a boat ride or seaplane, advanced planning is needed.
- Fort Zachary Taylor State Park – Our hotel recommended visiting this state park if we were looking for a beach in Key West. The park also is home to a fort able to be toured.
- Deuces’s Off the Hook – This was another place strongly recommended by our hotel. More than that, a car parked outside with a Deuce’s bumper sticker also had a sticker from our alma mater.
- Blue Heaven – We heard good things about the Key Lime Pie here, but they closed too early in the evening on Sunday for us to visit.