We headed to Key West, Florida with our family in the RV this year. When I was planning our travels, I imaged Key West having beautiful beaches and pristine waters. I should have done further research because only 1 of those things is the case.
Beaches – or lack thereof
The coastlines in Key West are not sandy beaches like you might picture. Because of where Key West sits in the Gulf of Mexico, it doesn’t really get large waves to create sandy beaches. Most of the beaches on the island of Key West are rocky and have a TON of seaweed (sargassum). If you want to get to the “pristine waters” you will need to go on a boat tour away from the island out to where there are smaller islands and reefs. Plan on hopping on snorkeling or eco-tour.
We took two different trips with Fury Water Adventures. Our first trip was a combo snorkel, kayak, paddle-board trip, and our second trip was a snorkel trip to a reef. We enjoyed both trips but the snorkel only (reef) trip was a much better place for snorkeling than our first trip.
Old Town Key West
Downtown or “old town” Key West was a fun place to visit. Since we have smaller kids, we only went down Duval street once and stayed more in the Mallory Square area and on Front Street. The Duval Loop is a free bus that will take you to most of the places you might want to visit. We parked in a paid parking garage and then rode the Duval Loop bus to the many places we visited in the Old Town area.
The Hemmingway house was a fun place to visit. It’s a very old home with a guided tour. We learned a lot about the personal life of Hemingway and got to see (and pet) dozens of the polydactyl cats that roam the property.
I do think it’s worth noting that Hemingway most likely had a lot of undiagnosed and untreated problems (PTSD, Chronic Pain, Alcoholism, etc.) which contributed to him ending his life at only 61.
We visited the Southern Most Point (be prepared to stand in line to take your photo) and mile marker 0. While there is nothing “spectacular” about either of the landmarks, they are very much the “thing to do” while visiting Key West, Florida.
Other “Key” islands
We took a drive over to Big Pine Key to see a Nature Preserve. We saw several alligators and also several of the small Key Deer that roam around the island. The deer are everywhere! We stopped for dinner on Sugar Loaf key and ate at Mangrove Mama’s.
During our 8 day visit to Key West, we stayed at El Mar RV Resort on Stock Island. While this was a “no-frills” RV park (no laundry, no bathhouse, no pool, etc.) the views were fantastic. Our site was bordered by seawall on 2 of 4 sides and we kept our front curtain open most of the time to soak up the views. El Mar is a smaller campground with only 11 sites – most of which are water front. If you have a kayak, jet ski, or paddle board, you can launch right from the small dock at the campground. There are also iguanas everywhere! We watched several of them sunning themselves on seawall around our campsite every day. Fiona, the campground host/manager was super friendly and gave us a lot of good tips for things to do and see in the area.
Overall thoughts: If we ever visit Key West again (which we probably will at some point) a few things we will do differently.
- Stay for 5 or so days instead of 8
- Book a trip on the Yankee Freedom to go to Dry Tortuga’s WAY in advance. I thought we would be able to book when we got there and they are booked two or more weeks in advance.
- Bring more bug spray!
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