Playing Tourist with M & A
We always enjoy a good bucket list. More so, we really love helping others check something of theirs. Russ’ sister, Annette, and husband, Mike had never visited the Florida Keys, but it was high on their bucket list of things to see. Since they were still parked in South Florida at Big Cypress RV Resort, a four hour scenic drive was the only thing separating them from this bucket list item. They arrived shortly before lunch time on Tuesday. We spent the first day showing them around the campground, biking, and floating in the pool.
On Wednesday morning, we headed to Key West for some sight-seeing. We started with a drive along the south side of the key, pointing out the limited number of beaches on the island. Continuing on the drive and enjoying the ocean views on the way, we landed at the Southernmost Point of the Continental United States. The concrete buoy on the corner of South Street & Whitehead Street is a large brightly painted tourist attraction. While the buoy boasts about being the Southernmost Point in the Continental United States as well as being 90 miles to Cuba, neither of those statements are 100% accurate. There are actually 3 points that are further South:
- Ballast Key, which is a privately owned island about 10 miles further South. Currently for sale for a mere 15.8 million dollars! Do you think owner & famous Key West developer David W. Wolkowsky would trade even up for some cupcakes? I could whip up a few million over the next 10 years or so. Sugar speaks loudly, so you never know.
- Land on the Truman Annex property also lies further south than the marker buoy. This land is part of the US Navy property so it is off limits to tourists. (~ 900 feet further South)
- The Beach area of Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park also lies further South of the marker buoy and is actually accessible to all of us touring civilians as long as you pay the minimal entry fee. Don’t get me started on this one, as we talked about going, but didn’t pay a visit. Oh well, must come back soon then! (~ 500 feet further South)
About the “90 miles” to Cuba thing …. they must be using their rounding skills that they learned in my 2nd grade Math class. As long as they were rounding to the nearest 10, they got it right in saying 90 miles. As it is actually 94 miles (81 nautical) due South to the closest part of Cuba.
So while there are several reasons why the Southernmost Point Buoy isn’t 100% accurate, stopping for a photo is non-negotiable. It’s just one of those must-do things while relaxing in Key West.
Since we were playing tourist, we wanted to learn a bit more about Key West than just the order of the bars that line Duval Street. We opted for a 90-minute adventure on the bumpy Conch Tour Train. After climbing aboard and taking our seat, our driver ‘Judy’, provided us with an informational and safe tour of Key West. We learned more about Henry Flagler’s overseas railroad, Ernest Hemingway, and Key West architecture styles. We also got insider information like why Key West has the nicknames of Bone Island and The Conch Republic. While the tour was bumpy and warm, it provided a good overview of the lay of the land and history of the island.
After finishing up the tour, we were in the search for food. There definitely is no shortage of excellent options lining the main and side streets of Key West. We headed to the Historic Seaport and Harborwalk. The waterfront boardwalk is lined with restaurants, shops, piers filled with million dollar yachts, and boarding areas for sunset cruises and fishing charters. We enjoyed a late lunch / early dinner at Conch Republic Seafood. We all throughly enjoyed our meals, one of us salad and the rest of us seafood. Okay, okay the salad person was me. I’m still trying to like seafood and I want to make it known that I have had fried fish and fish tacos twice in the last month. Progress is progress, right? We also learned a little during our meal, as our waitress told us about “Royal Reds”. They are deepwater shrimp, that are larger and sweeter than other shrimp species. They spend their entire lives in waters between 800 and 1500 feet deep. Large concentrations of royal red shrimp can be found offshore of the Keys and only a few deepwater trawlers are licensed to harvest them. She described them as being much larger, sweeter, and naturally saltier than other shrimp and cook in just about half the time. They are distinguishable by their rich crimson color and their taste is often compared to lobster or scallops. Mike said they were incredibly delicious and sweet! You can trust his opinion based on the number of them he consumed in one sitting.
Feeling much better after eating, there were still two things on our Key West agenda - The Sunset & Key Lime Pie. We leisurely walked from Conch Republic Seafood toward Mallory Square. We made a stop for some Key West souvenirs for Mike & Annette. Mike proudly displaying his new hat and me carrying my camera, we officially all looked like tourists. We arrived to Mallory Square around 4:30 PM, about two hours before the sun was “scheduled” to set. Since this was Mike & Annette’s first Mallory Square Sunset, we made sure to get there early enough to snag some seats along the seawall to comfortably enjoy the view. The crafters & food vendors were already set up and the entertainers were claiming their “stages” and setting out their tip jars for the night’s sunset celebration. While the sun was still hot, we enjoyed a little people watching behind us and tons of boats heading out for a sunset cruise in front of us. Before long, the sun was providing a good show of lovely colors and rays. A few minutes before the sunset, clouds moved in and we were almost certain we wouldn’t see the sun disappear into the horizon. Lucky for us, the clouds only made the view more spectacular. As the sun set over the water, the crowds cheered and the entertainers started performing. Is there anywhere other than Mallory Square where a nightly festival breaks out to celebrate the sunset 365 days a year? No seriously, that is not just a rhetorical question. If you know of such a place, please let us know so we can get it added to our list of places to visit.
We stretched and moaned a bit as we stood up after sitting on a concrete wall for nearly two hours. We headed straight for some Key Lime Pie, so Mike could consider his Key West experience complete. We headed back to Cudjoe Key and were leaving before the real party begins for most people on Duval Street. Thanks for visiting us, Mike & Annette! We had a great time exploring with you and being a part of checking off one of your Bucket List items.