The Florida Springs, South Florida & the Florida Keys
Florida has always been home and while it is mostly flat it does have so much to offer still! Click on one of the links below to skip ahead or read on through for stops made throughout Florida.
Mostly located in central/north central Florida is different springs you can visit. This includes blue springs, Wekiva springs, Ginnie Springs, Silver Springs, Blue Grotto/Devil's Den (found below), Crystal Springs, Rainbow Springs, Three Sisters Springs, Ichetucknee Springs, Weeki Wachee Springs, etc. These are great family friendly spots especially with how clear and blue the water can be. Each spring is unique and provides a variety of activities at each. Make sure to arrive to these early, as they do tend to get super crowded depending on the time of the year! Depending on which spring you decide to visit and what time of the year it is, you are more than likely to spot some manatees, as thy are frequent visitors among the springs. Don't worry they are super friendly, but it is illegal to feed/give them water. Heads up, since these are natural springs that water tends to be a little cooler.
While this is one of the springs found in Florida, this is known to be prehistoric! This spring is quite unique as it is found in a dry cave and now is a big spot for scuba divers and snorkelers alike to explore her mystery. Warning, due to lack of sunlight in the cave the water does not get very warm and usually is in the low 70s and the water can reach as deep as 54 feet. They do have gear rentals on site as well as a gift shop, lodging and picnic areas.
Growing up in Florida, the Keys become this magical escape from reality while not having to travel too far. I have lost count of the number of trips made down here both for fun and for work but each time, it always seems to provide a great new memory! Some of the keys I have visited over time include:
Key Largo -
Great for weddings, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, food, sandbars, etc. Being the first key among the stretch allowed for easy access from South Florida.
A must stop is Robbie's Fish Camp, where you can enjoy good food and drinks and then feed the local tarpon after! There are local vendors on the site as well.
Fiesta Key -
While this is a smaller key, it allows for great campsites along the water and great spot for paddle boarding. This location allows for both camp sites and RV camp sites. And tends to get very crowded especially near the December holidays!
Duck Key -
Came here as a kid to Hawk's Cay Resort. Awesome place to get a way and live the Key's lifestyle. There's a lagoon, dolphin swimming, biking, and all the amenities to just get away and enjoy time on the water.
Marathon is about halfway through all the keys. This is a great spot to stop for fishing as numerous charters run out of here. Likewise, there is a small airport located on the island and multiple places to stop for good food and activities.
Big Pine Key -
More of a local's spot, came here during spring break of college to a friend's family house. This island is most known for the key deer, who tend to run around especially at night. They are super cute (about a size of a large dog) but also protected at the National Key Deer Refuge. Can't miss the beautiful white sand beaches at Bahia Honda State Park. This park is a great spot to launch your boat, paddle boards, or just relax right there on the beach. Make sure to get their early because parking is limited. As for the adults make sure to stop at No Name Pub and sign a dollar to hang up in the spot!
Sugarloaf Key -
Again, another local's key but has amazing views to paddle board through or boat. The mangroves make for some tricky shallow spots but amazing crystal waters. Also, if you make friends with the locals, they will show you there sweet swimming hole/ bridge where you can jump and enjoy some time on the water.
Boca Chica Key -
Small island about a mile from Key West this was always a stop for work. But makes for a scenic drive on your way into Key West.
Stock Island -
Separated from Key West only by Cow Key Channel, stock island allows for an old Key West vibe, for half the price. As it is only a two-minute drive into Key West or a short uber/taxi ride over. Located across the Key West golf course this holds a hidden gem to the Stock Island Marina & Perry Hotel. This hotel was recently completed and great dog friendly spot. Located right on the Marina the venue allows for easy access to fishing charters, on site distillery and retail shops/restaurants. I loved staying at this hotel because it has so much to offer!
Key West -
While it might take a four plus hour hike to get to the final key of Key West, the island sure does not disappoint. There are easier ways to get here such as the international airport (small but numerous flights in and out) or by Key West Express Ferry even which travels to/from Marco Island & Fort Meyers. Luckily, some of my work trips are designated down here which allows me to enjoy the island often. Plenty of food stops found throughout often with most being located on the water, especially crowded when it comes time to sunset. If in Mallory Square make sure to check out the Cuban Coffee Queen, a little hole in the wall but great breakfast sandwiches and awesome coffee. Always a must stop when in Key West. This town comes alive during the night where Duval Street is known for its bar hoping and night life. Make sure to check out the various bars. Lastly, if in town for a few days/nights I recommend a catamaran for a sunset booze cruise or a day trip over to the Dry Tortugas. Dry Tortuga is one of the 63 national parks and is located 70 miles west of Key West. It is only accessible by boat and allows for exploring the 19th century Fort Jefferson, which was once a prison during the civil war.
Each key is unique in its own way, and all have great adventures to explore. Of course, when visiting NEVER miss a sunset! They never disappoint.
Ocean Reef Park - Blowing Rocks Preserve
Home - South Florida
Sometimes even mother nature at home sweet home likes to show off and she never needs a filter. Living in south Florida allows for numerous close stops to other things like Blue Heron Bridge for diving, Dania Beach for exploring the euro jacks and even stopping in Everglades National Park for some fishing among the alligators and exploring the mangroves. Fun Fact, mangroves pick one random leave to absorb all the salt the plant takes in and turns this leaf yellow then falls off.