Friday, February 3, 2023

Key Largo Weekend Getaway

When my friend asked if I wanted to getaway for a three day weekend in Key Largo,  I thought he was nuts.  Fly 1000 miles for a weekend? Clearly, I was convinced.  In the end - this mini vacation was a great reboot, felt like a real getaway, and wasn't rushed.  A Key Largo weekend getaway was full of adventure, relaxation, and great food.

Here's how to recreate this adventure:

Adventure: 3 Day Weekend Key Largo Getaway

Friday Night: Fly BOS to FLL

After looking into flights to both Miami and Fort Lauderdale, my friend and I chose to fly to FLL.  It was cheaper and only a little longer drive.  I caught a 6 pm flight out of BOS after work on Friday and flew direct to FLL.  My friend, Matt, flew in earlier that day, grabbed our rental car so he picked me up right from the airport.  We spent the night at the Stadium Hotel in Fort Lauderdale - 15 minute drive from the airport.  The hotel was the right location and had an impressive complimentary continental breakfast.

We had a great time on our half day kayak in Key, Largo

Saturday: Kayaking, Pedicures, and Food

We got up around 7 am, enjoyed the complimentary breakfast at our hotel, packed up and headed south.  Our only plan for the day was a half day paddle with Paddle The Keys.  It was an hour and a half drive from our hotel to the paddle spot in Islamorada. It was a surprisingly cold day in the Keys - 60s Fahrenheit.  We bundled up and met our kayak guide - Suzanne.  The kayak was really lovely - we meandered in mangroves, and traveled down residential channels.  Suzanne pointed out fish, waterfowl, and iguanas. We saw some dolphins but no manatees.  We returned around noon - ready for lunch!

We looked for a lunch spot with good drinks and local food.  We settled on Blackwater Siren where I got the fish reuben - really good!  Matt and I shared the "Blackwater Bucket" which was delicious and strong (glad we shared it!)

After lunch, we checked into our airbnb in north Key Largo.  It was modern, clean, and the owner was accommodating and helpful. 

The rest of the day was taken up getting pedicures at T & T nails (call ahead), gourmet desserts at Pinecrest Bakery, and a late dinner at Senior Frijoles*.

*Tip: A lot of local establishments have a coupon to Senior Frijoles.  We saw them near the register at  Divers Direct.

Pinecrest Bakery

Sunday: Everglades National Park, Smoothies, and Sunset Cruise

Sleeping in on Sunday was lovely!  We had a delicious breakfast at the popular The Hideout Restaurant.  I highly recommend paying extra for the hash brown casserole side!  After breakfast, we packed up for a little visit to the Everglades.  It was a 35 minute drive from our AirBnb to the Ernest Coe Visitor Center in the park.  The National Park has an entry fee of $30 per car.  I have a yearly America the Beautiful Pass this year so we didn't have to pay.  Although the original goal was to make it all the way to Flamingo at the other side of the park (see my previous blog post about this drive), we ended up going just halfway so we didn't have to rush or worry about time.  

Everglades National Park Trails:

We enjoyed two easy hikes in the park:

 Ahinga Trail: Royal Palm Parking Area: This 0.8 mile boardwalk loop trail is a fantastic way to see wildlife and Everglades beauty.  The ADA trail walks over lily pad covered marsh.  Spot fish in the water, birds in the trees, and alligators in the water and shores.  On this particularly chilly day, we saw spotted eight gators hauled out along this trail.  It was both thrilling and a little scary!  This trailhead also has a gift shop and bathrooms.

Mahogany Hammock Trail: This 0.5 mile boardwalk loop travels through jungle-like forest.  Listen for birds and try to spot critters in the thick "hammock" of vegetation.  This is also an ADA trail.

Alligators on the trail in the Everglades.

Smoothies at Robert Is Here:

After our little hikes, we left the park.  Before heading back to Key Largo, we stopped at the popular tourist destination-fruit stand called "Robert Is Here".  We enjoyed a fresh smoothie, a walk around the market, and the small animal yard - including emus and giant tortoises.  The market is free to visit and is a fun spectacle.  

Smoothies at Robert is here fruit stand

Sunset Cruise:

We returned to our AirBnb, regrouped and headed to Pirates Cove Watersports to check in to our Sunset Cruise.  Pirates Cove is located at the Reefhouse Resort and Marina.  Our Captain Henry took us out on a little pontoon boat with another couple.  He was easy going and informative.  We had a pleasant water tour of Key Largo, a bit of history, and a fantastic sunset  - complete with jumping dolphins!  This was not a "booze cruise" like I'd done before with another outfit.  I enjoyed the relaxed boat trip. Highly recommend this experience.

Dinner and Drinks:

After our cruise, we walked over to the Breezer's Tiki Bar for dinner and drinks with a view.  It was a great day!

Monday: Snorkeling the Reef, Italian Lunch, and Souvenirs

Our last day in Florida was a delight.  We checked out of the AirBnb and headed back to Pirates Cove Watersports for our snorkel trip.  It was still chilly so we rented wetsuits from them for an addition $10 each (worth it!).  

 The snorkeling was excellent!  We saw schools of barracuda, colorful fish, sea turtles, and gorgeous and diverse coral.  It was amazing.  I LOVED that they took us to two different places.  Both reefs had slightly different communities of fish and it was fun to explore both.  

Snorkeling in Key Largo was fine in the cold with a wet suit.

After snorkeling, we washed off with a hose and headed for an Italian Lunch at The Italian Food Company.  It was a great meal with huge portions.  The best part was the desserts. They had both imported Italian desserts as well as in-house baked items.  

After lunch we drove back to Fort Lauderdale, returned the car, and flew home!

A weekend that felt like a week!

Even though we were only there for a weekend, our Key Largo weekend getaway felt like a week-long vacation.  We packed it in but at the same time felt relaxed.  Whether we were floating at sunset on the ocean, snorkeling with sea turtles, or cruising route 1 for great restaurants, it was a real vacation.  If you love this idea or want to stay longer, check out when I came for a week in summer!

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