Florida, the sunshine state. We’re so jazzed to be here, not only to enjoy white sand beaches, shimmering turquoise water, and oranges, but to celebrate a milestone on this journey: making it to the east coast in one piece! And I know I’ve certainly been trying to get my share of vitamin D while we’re here. ☺
We spent a solid 2 weeks in the Keys alone and it wasn’t nearly enough. There’s something for everyone: wonderful diving in Key Largo, slow-paced afternoons in Long Key, stunning views on the 113-mile overseas highway, and energetic, touristy Key West.
As you can imagine, securing a campsite in the keys is not always easy. You may get lucky and snag a walk-in spot or benefit from someone’s last minute cancellation but I’d recommend making a reservation early. Really early.
John Pennekamp State Park is a popular place to join a dive or snorkeling tour, so you’ll see lots of day visitors. The campground sites are a little snug but having easy access to the dive shop was a plus. Key Largo has stores and restaurants worth checking out that were a bicycle ride away.
Located roughly mid way through the keys, Long Key is a quiet, relaxing haven. There’s not much here in the way of grocery stores or amenities, so we were sure to stock up before arriving. But it was worth it! You’ll quickly get on island time, that is to say, you’ll stop looking at your watch and do what comes naturally here – wade, swim, nap, eat, repeat!
Bahia Honda Key
There’s a nice protected bay within walking distance of the campground for snorkeling and swimming. You can also walk on the nearby trail to see the old railroad bridge. But bring bug spray – there are mosquitoes and noseeums here!
Traveling south through the Florida Keys, you’ll likely pass a number of keys so small they whiz by without you even realizing it. Other keys are more populated, yet still exhibit a laid-back, relaxed vibe. Then, you get to Key West.
Key West is hands down the most visited key, probably owing in part to the cruise ships that sail here. While you can still experience quiet pockets here and there, you’ll likely stumble upon large crowds of tourists eventually. This is definitely true on Duval Street, a popular main avenue where you can find shopping, bar-hopping and good eats.
RV/Oversized Vehicle parking: As hard as I tried, I could not find any dependable information on parking an RV on Key West, so I thought I’d compile what we discovered in talking to some helpful locals. We were picking up a friend who was arriving at Key West airport, so we needed to find 1) a parking place near the airport for the RV and later, 2) a spot that could serve as a suitable base while we spent the day exploring.
- The Key West airport is pretty small; the arrivals terminal has 2 baggage carousels and a bar! The easiest parking option is to park across the street at Fort East Martell. It’s only a 2-min walk across the street from the airport and has ample space for an RV. Best of all, it’s free.
- If you’re searching for a place to park your RV while you explore Key West on foot, consider parking at Fort Zachary Taylor. It’s conveniently located to give you access to Duval Street, Mallory Square, etc. and costs $6 per vehicle. Note that walking from the parking area to the street entrance is roughly 1/2 mile. If you have bicycles with you, you may want to consider parking your RV, then riding your bicycles into town. It’s an easy ride. The fort closes at sundown.
Everglades and Biscayne National Park
Everglades and Biscayne National Park may be located relatively close to one another but the two parks couldn’t be more different! The main draw for me at Everglades was easily the gators. At Biscayne, 95% of the park is underwater, so I enjoyed joining the ranger led 2-hour boat tour to Boca Chita Key. (Cost: $35/person).
Wynwood Walls and Coral Castle
At Wynwood Walls, you can browse several blocks of intriguing and awesome street art. There are also fun cafes, restaurants and shops to peruse in what appears to be an up-and-coming gentrified area. The hipsters have struck again!
Coral Castle is an interesting site built single handedly by a man named. He quarried the coral from his land and used it to build a property comprised of tall coral walls, coral “gardens” complete with benches, tables and sitting areas. Plus, it was all built with rudimentary hand tools!