April 4 – 9, 2016: Florida Keys   1 comment

After seeing the crocodiles at the Flamingo Visitors Center in the Everglades, we packed up and traveled to Key Largo in the Florida Keys.  We had made reservations at John Pennenkamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo more than a year in advance of camping there.  The Keys are a popular spot during winter and early spring and the Keys were on our bucket list.  The campground isn’t large, but we managed to park our fifth wheel without any problems.  The campground was quiet and relaxing, but the state park itself was very busy.  People travel to this state park from miles around to enjoy the water activities available there which include swimming, snorkeling, canoeing, kayaking, scuba diving, and boat tours.  Boat tours will take visitors out to the reef to snorkel or scuba dive, or if one would rather stay dry, there are also glass-bottom boat tours.  The store to make reservations for all of these activities gets very busy by mid morning.  We walked around the park our first day there to get the lay of the land.

On Tuesday, April 5, we made reservations for the glass-bottom boat tour.  The tour started at 12:15 PM, but we were there early as usual.  We sat in a shaded area near the very busy beach, but managed to catch sight of a couple of visitors that weren’t expected.

This poor little guy was scared by all of the commotion at the beach. he climbed out from underneath the van and ran around the beach until he was able to scamper away

This poor little guy was frightened by all of the commotion at the beach. He climbed out from underneath the van, running here and there, until he was able to scamper away to cover. I believe I heard him breathe a sigh of relief once he felt safe again.

Shortly after spotting the racoon, we saw another visitor just trying to get a little sun.

This iguana was pretty large. He stayed on this rock for quite a while as he warmed up.

This iguana was pretty large. He stayed on this rock for quite a while as he warmed up.

My husband was able to get a close-up of the iguana. It looks like he's trying to hide behind the vegetation. I wonder if he realizes we can see him.

My husband was able to get a close-up of the iguana. It looks like he’s trying to hide behind the vegetation. I wonder if he realizes we can see him.

Eventually the hot sun did its trick and the iguana scampered away. The little pebbles were hot. It looks like he's lifting his foot from the beach because

Eventually the hot sun did its trick and the iguana scampered away. The little pebbles were hot. It looks like the iguana is trying to keep his foot off of those pebbles.

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This visitor was in the water and not at all unexpected. If you’re having difficulties seeing the fish, look at the center of the photo. The fish is long and skinny.

Finally, the time arrived for us to board the boat.  The tour would take us six miles out in the ocean.

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Look carefully to the right of the boat in this photo. We would go to the buoy furthest to the right. Fortunately, the ocean was relatively calm this day.

Soon, we reached the reef.  We were able to sit close to the windows at the bottom of the boat.  I know we would really have enjoyed snorkeling or scuba diving in this location, but seeing the reef from this perspective was still good.  The photos below were taken of the reef.

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The first of many blue fish.

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We thought the coral in this photo was really cool.

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Looks like this guy doesn’t want his photo taken.

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This blue fish has stripes!

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Yet another blue, but slightly different, fish. There are a couple of other fish swimming with him.

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This is the same fish, but with different yellow fish friends.

It took about 35 – 45 minutes for the boat ride to the reef and then we trolled around the reef for about another 30 minutes.  On the way back to the dock, we sat outside on top of the boat so we could see the landscape.

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There are mangrove forests in the Keys as well. This heron was right at home here.

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Shortly before we docked, this flock of birds flew over us.

We truly enjoyed this boat tour.  It was fun, relaxing, and interesting.  If anyone would ask our opinion, we would recommend the tour.  The following day, Wednesday, we decided to take it easy.  We hung around the park and did a little shopping.

Thursday, we drove to Key West.  We really only wanted to do a day trip to Key West, but certainly there were sights we wanted to see along the way.  There was another state park closer to Key West that we wanted to investigate.  We didn’t think that state park would handle an RV the size of ours, but after seeing it from the road, that may not be true.  The drive was cool.  I expected to drive along long bridges over open water, and there was some of that, but I was surprised at how much the road traveled over land.  Shows you my ignorance.

When we got to Key West, we decided to do a shuttle bus tour like the one we did in St Augustine.  The Key West tour was a little different from the one in St Augustine in that there were only a few stops.  The one in St Augustine had twenty-three.  We couldn’t get off and on the shuttle whenever we wanted as we did in St Augustine.  Needless to say, we preferred the St Augustine tour, but there was some fun stuff we saw in Key West.

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You can’t really see this in the photo, but this is the marker indicating Cuba is only 90 miles away. You just have to trust me on this one.

One thing on my husband’s bucket list was to go to Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville.  I truly believed that might have been the main reason why he wanted to camp in the Keys in the first place.  So, when the opportunity presented itself, we took advantage of it.

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Yes, we made it! My husband could scratch that one off his list.

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Of course, we also had a margarita. We had hamburgers, too, but they weren’t ready yet when the photo was taken.

After eating, we walked around the town.  Key West certainly gets lots of visitors and some of them come from cruise ships.

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Makes you think of the Love Boat, doesn’t it?

Yes, there were boatloads of people, but we were surprised at seeing these local inhabitants.

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Chickens were walking, sometimes running, free on the streets. Actually, I like the colors of this one.

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Close to the end of our walk, we saw this momma hen and her baby chicks. They were so cute. It was one of those “ahhh” moments.

Key West was fun and it was touristy.  One of the common things that visitors do in Key West, besides having a margarita, is to watch the sun set.  We didn’t want to stay that late, so I can’t saw we did that.  Still, we’re glad we came here.

We snorkeled at John Pennenkamp State Park on Friday.  That was a hoot.  We hadn’t snorkeled in years and were a bit amazed to discover that our ability to float had improved so much over the years.  Unfortunately, our ability to dive and stay under water just wasn’t as good as it used to be.  It was wonderful exercise, nonetheless.  Thankfully, we got used to the water temperature quickly and enjoyed a couple of hours seeing the underwater sights, such as fish and jellyfish.

Saturday was chore day, at least for a while, and then we finished off the evening grilling food and enjoying some wine with our neighboring campers.  Sunday, we would start a slow trek back home.





One response to “April 4 – 9, 2016: Florida Keys

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  1. The keys are lovely place. The Florida wildlife is so diverse! Looks like a fun trip.

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