Five days in the Florida Keys

playground-earth | Florida-keys-sunset

Five days in the Florida Keys



The United States has thousands of miles of roads that are tailor made for one of our most time-honored, roll-down-the-windows pastimes…the road trip. One such epic drive is Highway 1 in the Florida Keys

After three days of visiting the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show it was time to head south to the Florida Keys for some fun-in-the-sun. As the northern gateway to the keys we decided that Key Largo would be a great basecamp to explore the beauty and lore that this string of ancient limestone islands offers.

Lodging in the Keys offers up a wide spectrum from colorful seaside cottages to posh resorts such as Isla Bella Beach Resort located in Marathon at the threshold of the iconic Seven Mile Bridge. Our five day stay was at the Playa Largo Resort & Spa  Playa Largo Resort & Spa, Autograph Collection located in Key Largo on 14.5 acres of secluded beachfront property. The four-star resort offered plenty of water sports including stand-up paddle boards, kayaks and two Hobie catamarans. With three restaurants on the property having a great meal was only steps away from our third floor room overlooking the pool area and the beach beyond. Our go to spot for most meals was the rustic, yet charming Sol by the Sea located above the boat dock and run by the affable Executive Chef, Stuart Dove. It was the ideal spot for breakfast or lunch but was at its best in the late afternoon when the sun dropped into the sea in front of the restaurant.

PGE l Playa Largo Resort & Spa Autograph Collection. l View from our room
PGE l Playa Largo Resort & Spa, Autograph Collection l View from our room
PGE l Playa Largo Resort & Spa l Pool at sunset
PGE l Playa Largo Resort & Spa l Pool at sunset
Not being the type of tourists that feel the urge to stop at every roadside shack selling conch shells, plastic mermaids and tattered fishing buoys our drive to the “southernmost city in the continental United States” was considerably quicker than most day trippers. The two-laner from Key Largo to Key West is 113 miles and links 44 islands via 42 bridges and there is rarely a moment that you won’t see water, most often on both sides of the road. The weather during our drive was clear and balmy, just what one would expect from this Caribbean-like region.
PGE l Key Largo l On the road to Key West | Five Days in the Florida Keys
PGE l Key Largo l On the road to Key West
PGE l Key Largo l Railroad Relic from the past
PGE l Key Largo l Relic from a bygone era

Not surprising, upon arriving in Key West we encountered traffic. Lots of traffic. Unbeknownst to us we ran smack into Fantasy Fest, Key West’s annual 10 day premier masking and costuming extravaganza. Combined with Halloween weekend festivities the town becomes an otherworldly scene that would make many Mardi Gras attendees blush. Being that it was early in the afternoon the citywide party hadn’t really begun, yet judging from the crowds, it was easy to see that things would start to get more festive come sunset.

No fans of unruly party crowds, or traffic, we beat a hasty retreat and set our compass back to Key Largo. The return trip was more relaxed as most of the traffic was headed south, leaving the northbound side of Highway 1 nearly empty. The most distracting part of the drive, as we skipped across bridge after bridge, were the beautiful views of the sparkling Atlantic ocean on one side and the aquamarine Gulf of Mexico on the other.

Arriving back at Playa Largo and with our appetites dialed to high, we grabbed a bottle of wine and headed for Sol by the Sea for dinner. Our meal started off with an appetizer of lightly seared swordfish adorned with a tropical flower and a mound of fresh ginger. That was followed by a larger portion of blackened swordfish that was seared to perfection on a plancha…not an easy feat if the chef is not paying attention. It was just one of many excellent meals that Stu prepared for us during our stay. With the sun setting over the water and some live music playing it was a relaxing way to end our busy day.

PGE l Playa Largo Resort & Spa l Seared swordfish
PGE l Playa Largo Resort & Spa l Seared swordfish

The following day we joined the captain and crew of Sundiver Snorkel Tours Key Largo for and afternoon of snorkeling over the protected inner reefs known as The National Marine Sanctuary. While these reefs don’t possess the technicolor that exist in other tropical locations they still had an abundance of life and it was great just to be in the water once again.

PGE l Key Largo l Swimming with the jellies
PGE l Key Largo l Swimming with the jellies

Knowing that in two days we would have the long drive back to Savannah we decided to leave the car parked and simply enjoy our remaining time at Playa Largo. We also wanted to take advantage of the water toys available. One day we rented the kayaks for some serious paddling and the following day we took out the 14’ Hobie catamaran for an extended 3 hour sail. 

Key Largo
PGE l Key Largo l Prepping the Hobie 14

With light winds we were able to reacquaint ourselves with the joy of sailing the agile little cat. In the evenings we swam in the ocean as well as the pool and enjoyed more of Stu’s great cooking over cocktails and wine while live music floated on swaying palm trees

Key Largo
PGE l Key Largo l Manning the sail

From the time that the Calusa and Tequesta Native Americans fished the pristine waters to when Juan Ponce de Leon charted the islands, the Florida Keys were an isolated natural paradise. Today the keys are one of the country’s most popular vacation destinations with numerous ways for travelers to indulge in their favorite pastime. History buff…check. Shopping for souvenirs…check. Beach bumming…plenty of that. Fishing, boating, jet skiing, snorkeling and scuba diving…same.

Although we did not have enough time to take in every point-of-interest or historical marker our first visit was a relaxing mix of road-tripping and time spent in, around and on the water.

We wouldn’t have it any other way.