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  7. A Taste of Summer in the Florida Keys

A Taste of Summer in the Florida Keys

With year-round sunshine, ecological beauty, and activities from bustling to laid-back the Florida Keys has something for everyone.

Image Caption: Photo: Getty Images

Over the last seven years of full-time RV travel, we’ve experienced many warm winter getaways to the southern part of the US (many in the wine and Hill Country of Texas). However, of all the places we’ve traveled to in our RV, there’s one place that takes the cake—specifically, the key lime cake.

That destination is the Florida Keys and it was one of our all-time favorite RV trips. In the winter months, you’ll be able to visit the Florida Keys with temps hovering between 75–80° F. Not only will the weather be incredible, but the Keys offer a true escape with a beautiful coastline and access to incredible state parks and national parks like Biscayne and Dry Tortugas.

The Florida Keys are the perfect mixture of a nature escape blended with a variety of tropical restaurants and local activities.

Where to Camp

Fly Fishing in the Florida Keys

Photo: Jack Ballard

During our visit, we stayed at two RV parks that were right along the ocean: Fiesta Key RV Resort & Marina and Sunshine Key Resort & Marina.

Fiesta Key has RV sites along a canal and an incredible beachfront restaurant that you walked to from our site. Like many places in the Keys, a site here will likely run you more than $100 per night, but in my opinion, the proximity to the water is worth it.

Our second stop was at Sunshine Key, just up the road. What I liked about this park, in particular, is that instead of being on a canal you pretty much have your own private beach (which is probably the vibe you’re going for if you want to drive your RV down to the southernmost point in Florida).

What to Do

Key West Harbor

Photo: Lisa and Jack Ballard

When I think of the Keys, my first thought is clear water, warm weather, and some kind of Jimmy Buffet-style drink in my hand (all accurate). However, there are a number of incredible activities and things to do when staying in the area.

Here are a few of my family’s favorites:

Kayak Around the Mangroves

I never tired of kayaking around the mangroves, which are native trees to this part of Florida. A forest of mangrove trees looks like a tangled mess of roots and trees that are standing on stilts and, with more than 80 different kinds along 1,800 miles of coastline, you can be fascinated for hours as you paddle among these mangrove forests.

We took a tour with a local company, Big Pine Kayak Adventures, who showed us around the area and educated us on everything we could possibly want to know about the mangroves and the Florida Keys.

Spend a Day Walking Around Key West

I loved the day we spent walking around Key West, the southernmost point in Florida (and where you see photos of everyone in front of a sign reminding you that it is the southernmost point).

Walking Around Florida Keys

Photo: Lisa and Jack Ballard

While much of our time in the Keys was relaxing at our campsite, playing in the water, or dining at a restaurant, our day in Key West felt more akin to time I’ve spent in New Orleans. Key West offers an energy all of its own with an incredible selection of restaurants, historical sites (like Hemingway’s house), and evening entertainment everywhere you look.

While I found it fascinating to visit and tour the home of Ernest Hemingway, my favorite part of the experience in Key West was the ability to spend a day walking around and stumbling upon interesting restaurants and sites.

Visit the Turtles

Thirty years ago the first-ever state-licensed veterinary hospital dedicated solely to the rehabilitation of endangered sea turtles was created in the Florida Keys. We spent the day at the nonprofit Turtle Hospital and were able to ride along on the release of a 50-pound sea turtle named Skipper that was being released into the wild. Spending time around the staff and doctors at the Turtle Hospital gave me a greater appreciation for the vast amount of wildlife in this region.

Snorkel Along the Reefs

The Keys are known for world-class snorkeling and reefs. Within a short boat ride, you’re able to park and explore some of the most beautiful water imaginable. Even if you don’t have your own watercraft, you can hire a local company like KeyZ Charters that will take you out to some of the best snorkeling spots.

Where to Eat

Florida Keys SUP

Photo: Lisa and Jack Ballard

While there are a plethora of great spots to check out in the Keys, the activity we spent the most time doing was eating!

Here are a few of our favorite establishments:

Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen

Our first stop when entering the Keys was Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen and I’m so glad we made the quick turn into the parking lot. It served the hands-down best key lime pie I’ve ever had. You have to stop here. Don’t think about it, just do it.

Mrs. Mac’s was originally founded by Jeff MacFarland, who named it in honor of his mom and her recipes, and it’s the longest-running restaurant in Key Largo. Take a bite of their creamy, tangy, and sweet key lime pie in a freshly made graham-cracker crust and you’ll know why!

Lazy Days

While many of the restaurants have incredible views, Lazy Days probably had the best ambiance of any restaurant we went to in the Keys. There was live music, rolling waves, and spacious outdoor seating.

They also have an item on the menu called the “Lazy Conch,” basically a seafood version of a fried steak, and it’s absolutely incredible. I also had mahi-mahi with a crab cake stuffed inside as a main dish and I still have dreams about it to this day. Honestly, you can’t go wrong with a night out at Lazy Days.

El Meson de Pepe

I had some of the best Cuban food I’ve ever had at El Meson de Pepe, located in Key West. The chef who started the restaurant once prepared a delicious meal for President Ronald Reagan.

Know Before You Go

Key Largo Florida

Photo: Lisa and Jack Ballard

Advance Reservations

Regardless of where you’re planning to stay, make reservations as far in advance as you can since many campgrounds and RV parks book out months in advance.

Watch Out for Deer

Numerous signs are spread out over the islands, but the Key Deer are an endangered species that live here and will actually swim from island to island. The speed-limit signs are relatively low but you’ll still want to keep an eye out while driving at night.

Bring a Toad

There’s a lot of driving to be done in-between the islands and there’s no RV camping on Key West, which has very tiny roads. I highly recommend coming to the Keys with a vehicle to get around in, if possible.

Visit More Than One Key

Each Key has its own micro-culture with a variety of things to do, and I recommend splitting your time across the islands.

Heath Padgett
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