A Little Slice of Paradise ~ The Florida Keys

The Florida Keys, land of 1700 islands…

Grassy Key is one of the northernmost islands that form the Middle Keys and is to be our home for the next week.  When we decided to spend our winter in Florida, we quickly learned that it is no easy feat to book the RV park of your choosing in the Keys without planning many months or even a year ahead of your visit.

Although wishing for a state park stay but feeling lucky to have gotten a reservation here at all, we are thinking that Grassy Key RV Resort may be the little slice of paradise we were looking for, a tiny gem.   She may be small and not as plush as some parks, but we cannot resist her charms when sitting on the dock each morning, enjoying our coffee, as the sun casts its first colors of the day across the glassy waters.  Having the ability to walk our kayak down to the dock and cast off into the Gulf is an added bonus.

Colorful chairs on the dock begging us to come sit and relax.
Colorful chairs on the dock begging us to come sit and relax.

Exercise has been high on the agenda during our Keys visit, and we are fortunate to have a section of the Overseas Heritage Trail just outside our RV park.  When completed this bike trail will connect Key Largo to Key West and will span 106 miles, crossing over 37 bridges – the “Tour to Land’s End”.  This trail parallels US 1 and currently 70 miles of this aggressive project is complete. Love, love, love seeing this type of work unfold.

South of Grassy Key is where we planned the bulk of our exploits for the week, which meant crossing over a bridge connecting the Middle Keys to the Lower Keys, the famous Seven Mile Bridge.   It is part of US 1 known as the Overseas Highway, famous for being one of the longest bridges in the world at time of construction but now sits at a paltry 54th in the world and 9th in the US.  Size is impressive in this case but celebrity boasts as well, as scenes from Mission Impossible III and James Bond’s License to Kill showcased her breadth.

A lone fisherman at the base of Seven Mile Bridge
A lone fisherman at the base of Seven Mile Bridge

After reading MonaLiza’s wonderful post on the Lower Keys, a good part of our agenda was set.  Sometimes it is best to be the follower instead of the leader. 😉

Bahia Honda State Park is a fabulous way to while away a day, and with the park’s generous admittance fee, we were able to leave for a few hours to explore further south, and come back to enjoy the sunset, at no additional cost.

Coconut palms, sea grape & turquoise waters frame a glimpse of the new Bahia Honda Bridge.
Coconut palms, sea grape & turquoise waters frame a glimpse of the new Bahia Honda Bridge.

This park boasts an award-winning beach, a historic bridge, roads to bike or walk, short trails to traverse, and snorkeling and kayaking activities.  After biking the 3.5 miles, we slowed down and took time to soak in the park’s beauty and history.

The defining landmark at Bahia Honda is the Old Bahia Honda Bridge, a reminder of the industrious dream of Henry Flagler that still rises like a phoenix from the deep waters of the channel, albeit a bit worn.

Still quite photogenic!
Still quite photogenic!

This part of Flagler’s East Coast Railway, a rail system that ran down to Key West, was completed in 1912.  Its “day in the sun” was short-lived, destroyed by the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, the strongest cyclone of that Atlantic hurricane season, and the most powerful to make landfall in US recorded history.

Walking up a short trail to the section of the old bridge that remains open affords you a great vista of the park and award-winning beach.

Breathtaking views from above
Breathtaking views from above

As I stayed atop the bridge admiring the views, Terry decided to continue his exploration below.  It seems the expression “right place at the right time” fit his wandering, as he was rewarded with a close-up visit from a great white heron, only found in the Florida Keys.  This white cousin to the great blue is endangered and is a bird we thought we might not see unless we traveled to the wildlife refuge established in its name.  Isn’t she a beauty?   Her light-colored legs (resembling my very own in color!) lets you know she’s a heron, not an egret.  As I take a closer look, her legs may be a bit shapelier than mine however. 😦

Great White Heron
Great White Heron

We took a break from the park and headed south to the National Key Deer Refuge, where we hoped to catch a glimpse of the petite Key deer, the smallest sub-species of the Virginia white-tailed deer, standing no taller than two feet. They are listed as endangered due to past human interaction.  Thankfully today the residents here on the 25 islands in the Lower Keys where they reside take their safety seriously.  I find it quite interesting that these little cuties can easily swim between the islands.

Too busy eating to pose or to be spooked by me either.
Too busy eating to pose or to be spooked by me either.

By now we had built up a thirst so went in search of the No Name Pub, on the tiny little island known as No Name Key.   If your eyes weren’t wide-open searching for the pub, you might blink and miss this Key, sparsely populated with only 43 homes.

Terry heading into the No Name Pub to quench his thirst!
Terry heading into the No Name Pub to quench his thirst!

What I found most interesting about the No Name was not its pub but the fact that, due to a county ordinance prohibiting it, the residents of this pint-sized island have been off the commercial power grid until recently, relying on solar or generators instead for electric needs.  After a decades-long fight, these steadfast residents won their suit and were plugged into the grid in May 2013.

Back at Bahia Honda State Park, I was praying for a lovely end to the day, by way of a spectacular sunset.  The weather was turning hazy so I had my doubts.

Will the sunset disappear behind the clouds?
Will the sunset disappear behind the clouds?

What do you think?

After a long wait, the sun made one last appearance.
After a long wait, the sun made one last appearance.

But I think the best show may have been seen not above on the bridge, but down below on the beach.

Key West here we come!

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66 thoughts on “A Little Slice of Paradise ~ The Florida Keys

  • OMG! I want to be there. Your pictures are fabulous, as usual, as well as your humor and historic information you have passed on to us. I hope you will get to ride more of that bike trail. Of course, your sunset pictures jumped right into my “Sunrise, Sunset” folder. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • After reading this post, MonaLiza’s post and Pam and John’s post, we MUST get to that area one way or another. Looks like a little piece of heaven on earth!

    A more wonderful sunset I have never seen….absolutely beautiful!

    • You two have to visit here at least once! I can’t believe it has taken us this long to get to the Keys. There are many lovely sunsets around the country and this part of Florida definitely has some beauties! 🙂

  • LuAnn, what a fun post! It brings back such lovely memories of our time in the Keys last November/December. Your sunset photo of the old bridge at Bahia Honda is the most beautiful I’ve seen. Don’t know if you’ve already made your journey to Key West, but if not, I think you might enjoy some of the lesser known places we visited — the Eco Discovery Center and Butterfly Garden — and breakfast at Blue Heaven is the quintessential Key West experience!

    • We have already been, just the other day, and went to the Butterfly Garden, which we adored! Wish we would have taken the time to go to the Eco Discovery Center. We opted to walk around Key West to get some exercise instead of riding and it was pretty humid, so after many hours in the sun we were both a bit spent.

  • Truly, a fabulous account of the Keys Luann! The sunsets are spectacular, and I am in awe at thought of getting up close with the gorgeous heron!! Thanks once again for taking us along.

  • Wow and Wow! LuAnn you have captured it best. And the Great White Heron found you and posed for you, even the Key deers! You captured the sunsets beautifully which Im sure made your day in your slice of paradise.
    Thanks for the mention too, glad to pave the way for your enjoyment.

    • The Great White Heron found Terry as I was up top on the bridge. Thanks for all the wonderful tips. What am we going to do when we visit a place you have not been yet (lol)! You have been the best tour guides! 🙂

  • You find the most wonderful hidden delights and gem like places. It makes me want an RV myself. I will content myself with traveling along with you unless or until a windfall makes one of my own possible. Thanks for taking us all along.

    • My pleasure Gale. We feel fortunate to have found Grassy Keys RV Resort. Coffee on the dock watching the sun come up has been one of my favorite pastimes these past few days.

  • Lu, Your pictures paint a great picture of the keys. Had you thought about checking out sunsets instead of sunrises? I’m seldom up that early. Of course if the scenery was that great I might be so inspired.

    We are enjoying San Miguel de Allende this year, but after two years we have decided to try someplace else next year. So many great places to see. Since you have hit most every state in the union, do you have a suggestion for us? Someplace warm, beautiful and inexpensive….ha The keys look great for a month or so, but fear the rates might be a little steep. Have you been to Charleston, SC yet? A great place but a little cool in January.

    We’re winding down here, heading home March 8. However, it’s still pretty cold up north. We’re going to Ireland and Scotland in May. Then in July we go to Virginia for Bob’s daughter’s repeating of wedding vows and full wedding ceremony. They were married at the courthouse 10 years ago. Do you know where you will be in July?

    Think of you often and fondly. Love to you both, Jan

    • Jan, so good to hear from you. We are enjoying the Keys but you are right, Florida in general can be pretty pricey in the winter. I will send you an email to catch up.:)

  • Wow, this time you two have really made all of us envious of the great time you are having in the Keys. Your descriptions and the photos are really first class and make Gayl and I wish we could be there also. Heading to San Elijo tomorrow, Wednesday to begin our CH tour. As we set up, we’ll be thinking of the two of you and hoping everything continues in a happy and positive mode as you explore the Keys. Roger & Gayl

  • Great post LuAnn. Beth is in San Fran while I am here in Chicago awaiting the return of Mr. Polar Vortex. High of 8 tomorrow and Thursday with a low of 10 below zero. Give my best to Terry and I hope all is well and hope that we can meet up sometime in the future!

    • Polar vortex is going to be the expression of 2014, isn’t it? Sorry to hear you are having yet more frigid weather. I am guessing you would much rather be in SF right now. I won’t brag about our weather but suffice to say we are enjoying it. 🙂 Hope all is well with you and Beth and that our paths will cross again. Take care and stay warm! Thanks for stopping by.

  • This really sounds a brilliant place to be… and what an informative post this is… I’ve learnt a lot this morning… Love the white Heron, what a lucky capture… when I started the post and saw the small islands my first thought was a perfect place for sun ups and downs… and I think the sunset is brilliant… what I’m reading of snow to the north of you, don’t leave there in too much of a hurry… love this post…

  • You sure did find a little piece of heaven. Looks like a perfect place to watch a “SUNSET” with a cup of coffee:) That is such a great shot of you looking content with the world.

    Yes, the Keys are well worth a visit at least once by everyone. You certainly did a wonderful job capturing the beauty. John and I were commenting on how gorgeous your photos are. Looks like you are soaking it all in and having a fun time.

    • Don’t think the word sunset escaped my attention. It practically jumped off the page (lol)! The Keys have been enchanting. I am planning to soak it all in before we head to Flamingo, land of the giant mosquito. 😉

      Hope you are having a wonderful time in Cortez.

      • I thought you might get my drift…haha! We have been having a good time in Cortez, keeping busy with lots of social activities. That something we aren’t use to. Good Luck in Flamingo. Maybe all the mosquitoes left for the season:)

      • We just got back into civilization a few hours ago, having been without cell phone coverage and internet for the past 6 days. I have a bit of catching up to do! The mosquitoes weren’t as bad as I thought they might be but I was not out much without some bug repellant.

  • LuAnn, outstanding photo of the Great White Heron!! Just beautiful. You look stunning sitting there watching the sunrise; what a moment in time these mornings must be for you. To sit and just let the beauty of a new day wash over you. All your photos are beautiful, especially your sunset photos! Wow!

    • Thanks Sheila! This has been a very relaxing trip for us. Don’t know when we might return so we are soaking it all in. Safe travels back to Colorado! 🙂

  • LuAnn, I just read this post and realized you may be still be in Marathon. We are staying nearby in our motorhome parked at my brother’s (mile marker 50) and would love to meet you! Not sure how to get a hold of you other than leaving a reply here. Our mutual friends are Janie and John, Pam and John, and we just recently met MonaLiza and Steve for a brief introduction. Hope to hear from you before you head to Flamingo.

    • We have been enjoying ourselves but quite often we find ourselves thinking about heading out west. It will always be the place we call home. 🙂

  • Just looking upon the setting sun in the photo makes me jump in my seat. Imagining sprawling in the warm beach sand, a martini in hand, makes me want to cry. It’s working season here. That’s it. My summer holiday destination is set! 🙂

    • Ooh, a martini sounds good right about now! We certainly cannot complain about the weather here and see why so many people winter in FL.

  • Here’s an interesting fact, did you know that when the sun looks like it about to set, it has actually already set. Apparently it is heat lines bending the air. An interesting fact for a fascinating and beautiful shot post. That’s a fair deal and no mistake.

  • LuAnn, your photos are gorgeous. It’s such a pretty part of the world and you captured it beautifully. I know how tough it is to find a place to camp this time of year. When we lived in St. Augustine, James was doing a bike tour through the Keys with a little one-person tent. When he tried to camp they wanted to charge him $65. Yikes! Looks like you’re having a blast. 🙂 Terri

    • I am not surprised at the $65 cost even to tent camp. We stayed one week in the Keys and that pretty much shot the budget! 😉 Hope you two are still enjoying San Miguel.

  • Activities after another! Good word, you RVers never seem to get tired. I guess the images are proving no one would be. Perfect sun pic! That’s one for the book!

    • Thanks Rommel. Given your photography I will cherish this comment. We RVers don’t stay too long in one place so have to see lots while we can.

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