It’s becoming a Friday tradition – heading out the door after our last meeting of the week and traveling to our weekend destination. This past Friday, we gladly left the hustle and bustle of Miami and headed south.
Putting lots of miles of the 4Runner
The trip down Route 1 to Key West is on many lists of the country’s most scenic drives. We were trying to get to our campsite before it became too dark so we didn’t have time to dilly-dally. Even so, the drive was enjoyable, especially the Seven-Mile Bridge, which is one of the longest bridges in the world.
We didn’t make it before it the sun set
Interestingly, before there was a road to Key West, there was a rail road. Completed in 1912, costing over $50 million, it was only used until 1935 when a hurricane destroyed many of its bridges. The bankrupt Florida East Coast Railway sold the infrastructure to the State of Florida for $640,000. Many of the surviving bridges and beds were used to build the Intercostal Highway.
Seven Mile Bridge
We camped in Sugarloaf KOA, which wasn’t our first choice but all of the nearby state parks were already booked when we were making reservations. It was very crowded and incredibly expensive for a campground (it is our most expensive accommodations yet). But it had a nice pool and hot tub, and although it was noisy, we had no trouble sleeping.
Saturday morning, with three alarms set to make sure we didn’t oversleep, we headed to Key West, which was about a half hour drive. We boarded the Yankee Freedom III and were off to Dry Tortugas National Park as the sun was rising.
Looking for turtles or dolphins (we didn’t see either)
Dry Totrugas is located 70 miles off of Key West. Although 100 square miles, a majority of it is water, with only seven small islands. Other than the 2.5 hour ferry ride we took, the only way to get there is by seaplane or private boat. The main attraction is one of the largest forts in the country, Fort Jefferson built of over 16 million bricks in the 19th century.
The parade field itself is 8 acres
We arrived to the park around 10:30 after a pleasant ferry ride. Zach’s parents visited the park a few years ago and said that a majority of the people got sea sick, so we were glad the water conditions were calmer for us. We did a self-guided tour of the fort, which was much more impressive than I was expecting. It’s mind baffling to me both how and why they build a giant fort in the middle of the ocean.
After a surprisingly good lunch provided by the ferry, we went snorkeling. It wasn’t as good as the previous weekend in Key Largo but I don’t think we were in the best area; later we overheard people talking about some much cooler sounding snorkeling.
Every picture so far has been of Zach so here’s a selfie of me
We walked around the outside of the moat, looked at the birds nesting on a neighboring key and before we knew it, we were boarding the ferry for the trip back. We had really been hoping to camp on the island but the ferry only has 10 camper slots, and when we booked back in December, they were already taken.
Why does a fort on an island need a moat?
Once back in Key West, we ate dinner at the Waterfront Brewery and then headed to Mallory Square for the Sunset Celebration. We arrived after sunset but still saw some cool street performers. We stopped at a bar and then headed back to the KOA. Maybe I was just tired from being in the sun all day but I wasn’t super impressed with Key West – it seemed like just another Florida tourist town.
A fire breather
On Sunday morning we went for a run and then packed up and headed back towards the mainland. The only thing I wished we had done was visit the Southernmost Point Marker but what is there to do other than take a photo with it? And I’m pretty sure our ferry took us south of it.