Last week, some old - and new - friends and I took a day trip down to the Florida Keys. I was at a Sunday afternoon BBQ with some old friends from High School that was being thrown in honor of someone that was down visiting from another state. I didn't personally know the girl, but we had many friends in common, so they invited me. The BBQ was a a lot of fun and I really clicked with the visiting friend. The group had plans to go snorkeling the next day in Key Largo, and they invited me to join them.
As many South Floridians can attest to, when you have an outdoor activity planned, it's bound to rain. It did...not only did it rain, but a storm rolled in that Sunday night and the seas were 4-6 feet high that Monday morning. Not only was our snorkeling company closed down, but EVERY water-based company was closed down. It's simply not safe to go out on those little boats in that kind of weather, and it's incredibly dangerous to be out on the water, even with a life vest, in those kinds of conditions.
So what did we do?
9 am - we went to a Cracker Barrel restaurant located near the gateway to the Keys, which is the only one in Miami. There's really no better way to start a day trip than with sweet tea and biscuits and gravy!
10:45 - We headed to Alabama Jacks, a local waterfront bar located on Card Sound Road (which is an alternative route to Key Largo. The bar is actually the ONLY thing on this road, other than a toll and a few bridges). They didn't technically open until 11 am, but the bartender was nice and friendly and served us up some fantastic bloody marys as we snapped a few photos of the fish swimming by and goofed around for a bit. If you're ever in Miami, this is a definite MUST for a quick trip. Whether you're going down to the Keys or not, Alabama Jacks is one of those classic Miami bars. It's right on the water, you can see fish swimming by...there are clams and sea sponges just naturally growing on the bar, the bar is covered in license plates from tourists...it's just one of those places you have to see!
11:30 - We spent some time at Shell World looking through the hundreds of different shells they offered. My friends bought hermit crabs, souvenirs, etc. I bought about $20 worth of colorful shells with the intention of making myself a decoration at home. I eventually went down to Walmart and bought some decorative sand and a glass bowl and created this little decoration for my entertainment center...it's so "South Florida" it's not even funny. I love the different colors - all natural by the way - and how beachy it makes me feel whenever I look at it!
12:30 - we stopped at the Islamorada Fish Company so that our Ohio guests could get a look at the live aquarium in the store. We also took a little walk around the pier, just to take it all in...
1 pm - We headed down to Robbies to feed the tarpon (fish that get incredibly large!) and have a drink. Our friends found a jet ski rental place that was actually running that day (it was actually the only place we found that was running despite the seas) and they went off for about an hour on the jet skis. My local friend and I sat at the waterfront bar and enjoyed a cold drink, then walked around and tried on a bunch of wide brimmed, floppy hats. Which reminds me...I need to buy a new floppy hat before beach season is upon us! After the jet skiing adventure was over, we walked over to the tarpon feeding area.
Now, if you should ever find yourself in the Key's, you must feed the tarpon! It's $1.00 to "look" at the tarpon, and $3. or so to "feed" the tarpon. The owners give you a bucket of fish and you're allowed to walk down on their pier to the holding area. Now, you might be tempted to feed the fish you pass by on your way down to the holding area. DON'T. The seagulls are insane and will bite your arm off before you get anywhere near the tarpon. They have an area latticed off from the open water, and a man walks around knocking the seagulls off the pier - if they didn't do this, the gulls would tear you apart for your fish. The tarpon are gigantic, some of them are quite scary, actually.
After we fed the tarpon, we pretty much just jumped from souvenir shop to souvenir shop, until it was time to head back.
5 pm -We stopped at Hog Heaven, which I have driven past a thousand times, but never actually dined at. The food was amazing, the drinks were cheap and delicious, and the waterfront ambiance was the perfect way to the end day. We walked along the boardwalk and got our toes in the sand...
And then, after a long, event-filled, relaxing and fun day, we headed home...