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Old 07-24-2015, 05:17 PM
 
Location: Dripping Springs, TX
2 posts, read 2,166 times
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Hey there guys,


Taking a trip down to the Keys in a few weeks with an old friend and trying to gather as much info as I can to best utilize the time we have. I've been a few times before when I was a kid (my grand father has lived in West Palm for quite some time), but I'm sure the experience will be plenty different as a young adult.

We'll be driving down and back (yes I know flying would be easier, maybe even more economical, but I much prefer driving for so many reasons) and so far plan to leave Austin around 5 or 6 am Sunday morning, blast on through LA, MS & AL (definitely aware of cops offI 10 in Louisiana, I've heard they can be merciless) and spend the night in either Pensacola or Tallahassee. In the 'Cola I know the beaches are nice, plus we'd get there pretty early, but it almost seems worth it to just suck up the remaining 3 hrs and get as done in one day as possible, then from there down towards the Keys.

At this point, my question, especially for locals, is: I-75 down through Tampa & the like, then across the everglades (or go further south at this point to the 41? Which everglades drive west to east is better?) or just book it on the 91 & deal with all the turnpike craziness and such? If i did wind up taking the 91, I'd speculate cutting off the section that runs through Port San Lucie down to about Ft. Lauderdale in favor of taking state highway 441 south to see Lake Okeechobee and then state highway 27 to get back on course. But with that course of action I think I add as much time as it would take to just do I- 75 down and across. Any preferences? Would rather not get hit with a huge out of state toll bill in the mail upon my return home.


Now that we're there, we'll be staying in lower Sugarloaf in a nice little neighborhood (thank you Airbnb ) and using that as our base for Keys exploration. Anyone know anything about that particular area? The Bat Tower looks cool, and I've read there's a few decent coffeeshops and breakfast places and such around. I'm sure we could cover the whole thing by bicycle pretty quickly though, so mainly looking for advice on the whole keys region.

Of course we're going to hit Duval in Key West and such at least for one day-night, but we're also into more nature oriented activities. I know Bahia Honda is right by the place we're staying and that's supposed to be a gorgeous beach. Also heard good things about Ft. Zach Taylor, Dry Tortugas, No Name Pub, etc., but these all seem like rather obvious popular spots. Who's got the real info here? Parks, beaches, cheapest jet ski or kayak rental, best bars (both quiet, classy or loud and raging), food, etc.? We're young, plenty of energy, willing to drive or hike around to get to places, trying to save a buck where we can but still interested in quality of experience.

I know when folks ask me about Austin they always such a lame list of places, activities, etc. I do not want to be THAT guy in y'alls beautiful part of the country. Thank you so much, go PHINS!
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Old 07-24-2015, 07:35 PM
 
Location: Somewhere
8,071 posts, read 5,392,429 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A11V View Post
Hey there guys,

At this point, my question, especially for locals, is: I-75 down through Tampa & the like, then across the everglades (or go further south at this point to the 41? Which everglades drive west to east is better?)
I-75 is better, the speed limit is always 70 MPH between Naples and the Broward(Alligator Alley)
US 41 is a very dangerous 2 lane road prone to head on collisions. I never take it. Besides the speed limits change several times throughout the road.
Quote:
Originally Posted by A11V View Post
or just book it on the 91 & deal with all the turnpike craziness and such? If i did wind up taking the 91, I'd speculate cutting off the section that runs through Port San Lucie down to about Ft. Lauderdale in favor of taking state highway 441 south to see Lake Okeechobee and then state highway 27 to get back on course. But with that course of action I think I add as much time as it would take to just do I- 75 down and across. Any preferences? Would rather not get hit with a huge out of state toll bill in the mail upon my return home.
The Turnpike has a lot of tolls. They have a toll calculator on their website. You can switch to I-95 in the Yeehaw Junction(Vero Beach) or in Fort Pierce to save on tolls. I rarely take the Turnpike but I heard you save a lot of time. I wouldn't go through the center of the state through Highway 27 or 441, I think it would take longer than sticking to the interstates or the Turnpike because of the traffic lights and speed limits in towns.

I'm not sure which one is better. I haven't done that drive yet to the Western states but when I do I would probably go through I-10 and then I-95. I prefer I-95, even with all its crazy drivers and never ending construction work, it just has populated towns everywhere and it's better lit in my opinion. The Alligator Alley stretch on I-75 is very boring and dark at night but if you do that drive during the day, as I usually do, is not that bad. There is a $3 toll fee there.
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Old 07-24-2015, 10:59 PM
 
823 posts, read 860,769 times
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If your plan is to make it to the Keys in 2 days, you'll definitely need to take the turnpike south from I-10. If you go I-75, you likely won't make it from Pensacola due to the traffic.
As far as recommendations once you're in the Keys, remember, the Keys are small islands and there aren't too many "secrets" left to discover. You didn't list it, but I would hit Mangrove Mama's for dinner, it's not far from where you're staying and if you want to try some Cuban sandwiches, go to 5 Brothers on Ramrod Key. Happy hour at the Looe Key Tiki bar is a great place for cheap drinks in the afternoon, also, Looe Key itself is some of the best snorkeling in the Keys. You can take a trip there from the Looe Key resort or from Bahia Honda state park.
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Old 07-25-2015, 08:11 AM
 
Location: Miami
1 posts, read 1,379 times
Reputation: 10
Agreed. You will need to take the turnpike just for speed. Pick up a $5 Sunpass at a grocery store. Register it and attach it to your window. The time saved is well worth the expense.

You mentioned kayaking. On your way down to Key West you might stop at John Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo. You can rent kayaks there and there are several nice trails to paddle on. It's also a nice place to snorkel if you care to grab a boat trip out to the reef. For a little more urban setting, you could look into grabbing a kayak in Miami at Oleta State Park. It's always a nice paddle around that area and a lot of people find their way out the the Haulover Sand Bar which is quite a party on the weekends with all the boats pulled up playing music and everyone socializing.

On the drive down, when you cut across from the west to east Alligator Alley is the safest and fastest for sure. But there is a lot more to look at on US 41. If you're interested in seeing some of the Everglades you might consider taking it. Definitely not at night. If you, check out Shark Valley for a cool little walk with hundreds of gators, many of them right on the trail with you. You're going to see a lot of signs for airboat rides. In my opinion they are overpriced and not really worth it. If you decide to really get into it, you might look into kayaking in the Everglades National Park (Florida City, just south of Miami, just before entering the keys) where you can find yourself kayaking with crocs.

Not a lot of advice for Key West. I'm a UT Austin grad. It kind of reminds me of 6th Street which is cool, but it's a long way to go for a drink IMO. Be sure to figure out where you are going to stay. The cost of hotels is kind of crazy and sometimes it's kind of full. If you want to look around, renting a moped makes it easy and fun. It's the best (and sometimes only) way to find parking!

Anyway, hope you have a good trip. Enjoy!
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Old 07-25-2015, 03:43 PM
 
2,626 posts, read 4,950,140 times
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I would suggest taking the turnpike all the way down to its southern end, at Florida City. Don't go to the West coast of FL and then across on 41..... The drive in the Keys itself will be slower. You will be passing through towns, etc. A warning, do not speed on Big Pine Key, through the Key Deer Refuge. Lots of speed traps are possible. Have a great time!
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Old 07-25-2015, 05:12 PM
 
Location: Somewhere
8,071 posts, read 5,392,429 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by popcorn247 View Post
I would suggest taking the turnpike all the way down to its southern end, at Florida City. Don't go to the West coast of FL and then across on 41..... The drive in the Keys itself will be slower. You will be passing through towns, etc. A warning, do not speed on Big Pine Key, through the Key Deer Refuge. Lots of speed traps are possible. Have a great time!
Yes it will be a lot faster and easier just to take the Turnpike. If possible avoid driving through Miami during high Traffic hours (4-7pm)

According to their website the tolls will be $24.93 or $20.41 if you use a Sunpass each way. I think it's worth it in your case. Buy a Sunpass no matter what to save money and because Miami has toll by plate(no cash payments) if you don't have a Sunpass you will get a bill sent to your Texas home and charged $2.50 for administrative costs.

Last edited by Sugah Ray; 07-25-2015 at 05:28 PM..
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Old 07-25-2015, 08:01 PM
 
1,448 posts, read 2,148,499 times
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I live in the Upper Keys and don't have time to post now as I wrote a lot on another thread before seeing this one. But I would disagree with above, there are a million and one things to do in the Keys and many of them are not listed in typical tourist guides. However, Trip Advisor is usually pretty spot-on with Keys reviews, so you might want to run through their list of Keys activities/sights and see what is most highly rated. A lot of people want to see the less touristy stuff like you, so you'll see that in some of the reviews of things.

Don't speed ANYWHERE in the Keys, it is jam-packed, and there are plenty of speed traps throughout. Jackasses cause accidents here all the time, and because of the driving conditions, many are fatal. Any accident anywhere ties up local traffic all the way down to Key West, because much of the drive is single lane roads. Slow down and enjoy the drive, which is spectacular - YOU ARE ON ISLAND TIME NOW! Chill out. Don't slow down the car over bridges to look at the water or sunset either, or you will get rear-ended. Hit a Key Deer, and you are looking at MAJOR fines.

I will try to get back to this if I can.

But how long are you going to be in the Keys? Recommendations are totally based on the amount of time you have on the islands.
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Old 07-25-2015, 08:02 PM
 
1,448 posts, read 2,148,499 times
Reputation: 2358
By the way, this thread should be in the Florida forum, not the Miami forum, since it is not about Miami but about the Florida Keys, which do not have a forum they belong to except Florida general. People in Miami generally do not go to the Keys and know nothing about them, so you will get more and better advice in the Florida forum.
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Old 07-25-2015, 09:00 PM
 
Location: Whispering pines, cutler bay FL.
1,912 posts, read 2,198,215 times
Reputation: 2054
Quote:
Originally Posted by StarfishKey View Post
By the way, this thread should be in the Florida forum, not the Miami forum, since it is not about Miami but about the Florida Keys, which do not have a forum they belong to except Florida general. People in Miami generally do not go to the Keys and know nothing about them, so you will get more and better advice in the Florida forum.
Look I understand your point BUT there are a lot of folks that live in Miami and have property in the keys or have family in the keys. We also have our Miami folks that either have Rv's in the keys , their own space our land locked campsites . There are Miami folks that are like us, that want to escape, we go every weekend and know the local places.

At the moment I am traveling so I can't reply in detail, but Op I have a lot of my local favs since my sister lives on marathon key and we are there at least once a month to help her with a VIBO turn over or just guests.

The keys are our vacation weekend retreats and we know the tourist traps and our own local fav places. We have our family boat, a 30 footer, and we know the spots for fishing and diving.

There are so many places for you to stop and see, please don't waste any time if you really want to see the keys.

When I am back on the main land
And and have a stronger wifi... Currently in Bimini, I will post some suggestions.

Last edited by Cubanchic; 07-25-2015 at 09:09 PM..
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Old 07-26-2015, 10:25 AM
 
Location: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
9,203 posts, read 8,287,258 times
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I spend a lot of time in the keys.

The best piece of advice I can give you is to get the Key West City bus in Key Colony Beach and take it to Key West instead of driving.

You can actually see the drive instead of driving it yourself.

It is quite common for a driver to take their eyes off the road to look at something and drive right into oncoming traffic. If there is a driving fatality, it will stop traffic in both directions for a minimum of three hours because the coroner has to be onsight to remove the body from the wreck.

You can park and leave your car at The Holiday Inn at Key Colony and get the bus right there.
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