I’m heading up to the snowy mountains this weekend, so guess I must close my wander down the Memory Lane of Highway 1.
So here are a last few, fond images and recommendations for my favorite Key.
Rent a Conch Cottage!
You will love having your own place in Old Town, complete with BBQ, pool, and private courtyard to shelter you from the hubbub of Southard!
You can kayak a sunset, with Blue Kayak Eco-tours on Stock Island.
Ask for James as your guide… he knows how to find a yellow ray hiding in the turtle grass, and he’ll lead you through the Red Mangrove warren by headlamp! If you time it right, you may get to kayak under a full moon!
You can “Eat it Raw”!
It’s oysters on the half shell and more, at the Raw Bar, a Key West institution over on historic seaport, open to the wharf and sea.
You should meet Lloyd, for his tropical bike tour through the back alleys of Key West
…find the secret garden and parrot refuge, sample unusual tropical fruits (which Lloyd pulls off the trees, cuts with his machete, and serves to you, right on your bike! Check out the YouTube on the right), smell jasmine and learn about island plants, meet other locals and hear history… some official of the island, and some personal of Lloyd himself! Tough Love Travel says, This is the best $40 you will spend all week!
You should check out the Conch Republic Cyclist!
for all kinds of local bike events, like the Holiday Lights tour which we… and about 70 locals… rode one Wednesday night last month!
Meet Trish Pleasant at the famous Mallory Square Sunset Celebration!
Her Namaste Studio, called Namaste Heart, makes my favorite metalwork turtles, which I consider a proper tribute to the endearing sea turtles of Dry Tortuga fame. You can usually find her near the Pepes entrance to Sunset, not far from the violinist.
You’ll want to shop at the weekly farmers market!
Is it Sunday? A diverse and lively farmer’s market is set up at Help Yourself, the health food shop at Margaret and Fleming. Meet the Coconut man, sample Chinese grapefruit, buy sea salt, find all kinds of avocado, melon, and juicy starfruit, and even try homemade chocolate “pudding” made from the Black Sapote fruit!
If you have a whole day, spend it at the Dry Tortugas National Park.
Tour Ft Jefferson, picnic and snorkel, and admire the frigate birds. Long Key, in the Dry Tortugas are the frigate’s only nesting place in the US. See sidebar for a full slideshow!
You’ll enjoy tapas at Santiago’s Bodego!
The sangria is sweet and the tapas aren’t cheap, but you’ll get a jazzy grouper, a melt-in-your-mouth beef filet, flaky spanikopita, and even this flambe’ saganaki, made with haloumi cheese and brandy! The bodega has only about 12 tables and is easy to miss… tucked on a quiet corner at the end of Petronia. We loved the front porch, though, where we could sit for hours ensconced in bougainvillea and banana tree!
You want to meet the Pirate!
This is no museum… it’s a Seafood shop, with a slogan, “From the Boat to You”! Pirate Seafood is unlisted, but runs out of a truck-n-trailer at the corner of White and Truman. You can get shrimp, lobster, or fish, and it comes uncooked or ready for the table!
Grab a stool at Bo’s!
This open-air Fish Wagon, with its nautical décor and Square Grouper sandwich, is the pride of the island. (don’t worry… this is not the same “square grouper” from smuggling days!)
Duck into 5 Brothers Cuban Grocery!
On Southard, about 5 blocks from Duval, you’ll find a jovial local crowd, delicious Cuban coffee, and freshly baked guava pastry (it comes out of the oven at 8:30 every morning… if you show up late, you might be out of luck!)
With lots of designated bike lanes (south of Southard to Duval, north on Fleming to White), it’s safe and fun to ride around town! Eaton Bikes, on Margaret and Caroline, is a great place to rent!