The Family Trip-Miami to Key West and Back

THE FAMILY VACATION 

Picked up Hank and Patty and Ft. Lauderdale airport and we proceeded to South Beach. We needed a decent rate room with a second bedroom or full couch pullout in  dedicated living room. Sagamore fit the bill.

Source: Sagamore Website-Lobby

Sagamore Hotel  (Room 405)

Great art, a real salt water pool, lots of euros with new tshirts-lots of babies!

Needs some touch up–It’s an older hotel-fan and ac 1 position-ugh  not what you’d expect…. We stayed in room 304 noisy on street-Elevators too forever and need an update.

Stay in a bungalow if you can (unless you want a suite or the penthouse-easy access to the pool and there’s a cool walkway along them…(see below)

The hotel was generally quiet, but there was amazing art work everywhere, lots of little areas to hang out— would love to see this place on a busy night.

The breakfast room view

I think that the artwork and the vibe helps this hotel. Most of the smaller boutique htoels seem to be getting overtaken in terms of price and quality by the big boys, Setai, Fountainbleau, “W”, Loews, Shore Club, Gaenspoort, etc.etc

Dinner 

source: Prime 112 website-The Facade

Prime 112-great shrimp appetizer-as big as Pomeranian, great bread selection (they walked us into the grey haired section $20 parking ahahah-like W hotel’s and Mr Chow’s $22 scotch-NEXT-

source: Prime 112 website-The Bar

but food here is great!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!steak is great-truffle fries–we also had spinach-creamy topped w small onion rings-too much cheese in it, not creamy enough…tuna sliders!!! Great breads. This is just a great place and worst case you can eat at the bar which is a scene unto-itself.

source: Prime 112 website-The Dining Room

I am always the first to rise and took a walk down Collins and came across Dolce Vita-Coffee shop nearby hotels-not the $18 orange juice that hotels charge…great coffee, french pastries,etc ambiance so so…

Key west is next: So off we go, rental car and all. I highly recommend that everyone does a Miami to Key West Drive once. It’s new Florida to old Florida, with lots of old Florida and beautiful water, you feel like you’re floating along the think piece of land where there was actually a train once-compliments of Mr. Flagler, the great man who brought Florida into the modern world. And one of the great wonders is driving on the 7 miles bridge…..So off we go..

KEY LARGO CONCH HOUSE   

This was our fist stop. There was a sign on US 1 “As Seen on the Food Netowrk” so we could not resist and were not disappointed-with the fish, the bisque and the Key Lime Pie—which was so good that we decided to have key lime pie wherever we went but in a land of Key Lime Pie, this was one of the best. If you go to the website your will see all the accolades.

100211 Overseas Hwy s 305-453-4844 (right off US1)

After stuffing ourselves with great local seafaring fare, we continued south and were stopped by the famous 35 foot lobster at Treasure Village, a tacky, nostalgic fun tourist trap that I loved strolling through, looking at license plates turned into art work, sea shells, you name it…

TREASURE VILLAGE

US 1 at Barrell MM 86.7 Oceanside
Islamorada, FL 33037
Phone: (305) 852-0511
Toll Free: 1-800-854-5298

After about a 4 hour trip we made it into quaint Key West, alot more built up than I remember it in 1994 when I put the Hard Rock Cafe there.

We had alot of hotel choices and picked THE MERLIN HOTEL, one of 5 historic B&B’s (Room 18).

The hotel was-ok a bit in need of touch up-it was 2 blocks from the Duval Street action which was great, parking was not easy-surface streets, the pool not exactly Olympic size. What we liked was it was simple, simple breakfast outside every morning we had a room with a bedroom, a sitting room and a good loft bedroom for our son. Just writing this I think I will opt next time to spend a bit more and get more. The below picture is of our room:

It was on Simonton street, which has a range of nice hotels from The Heron House to the Marquesa.

Our first day we walked down to the docks and had lunch at CONCH REPUBLIC, really good eating, especially the smoke fish spread. It was rustic, with a big bar and plenty of seats indoors (if you need a break from the sun) or outdoors where you can people watch and watch the boats come in and out of the harbor.

Turtle Kraals Museum: Before we got to our boat we paid some nominal amount to go into a small house on a dock manned by a historian who was strumming a guitar (Friend of Jimmy Buffet?) who took us on a rather interesting history of the turtle trade in Key West, Spanish, Mexicans and early America. Really worth it.

Turtle Museum

200 Margaret Street, Key West, FL 33040 (305) 294-0209

FISHING

We looked at a lot of options, from bone fishing in the mangroves (which I hear is great on small boats great fights) to deep sea full day boats ($350 plus per person) to private charters. Since my son was interested at best, we decided on a half day boat and liked the reviews of  Fishing Tortuga IV .

Our Boat

And we were not disappointed, we went out a few miles, lots of fishing to be had, went in afternoon (if we did this again I think the morning is better for fishing), th boat is well kept the crew is safety conscious, “can do” type of people and they made it fun. In the end it cost us $108 for two of us, we bought a few sodas and ice teas and gave them a $20 tip for  cleaning all of our fish and throwing in some extra fish caught so we could go across the walkway to a food feast of our own catches! And we caught fish:

Hit!!!

 Our Fresh Fish Dinner: We went to DANTE’S and had them prepare our fish in blackened, lightly fried and broiled with lemon juice  for I think it was like $24 bucks and we washed it down with beer and cokes for the underagers.

Last time we had the opportunity to eat our own caught fish was in Cabo-but this was instantaneous Dante’s seems like a nice outdoor hang to watch the boats come in, listen to some tunes, be part of a bar scene,etc.

Good Key Lime pie at $5.99 per slice. (305) 293 1189

CIGARS IN KEY WEST

That’s right, we’re at the southernmost point to Cuba-not that you’ll see any Cuban cigars but you will find lots and lots of cigars from the Dominican Republic and very fresh ones at that. We visited two:

Island Cigar Factory

I loved this place. Not as much selection as the below but the guy working there was a Vietnam Vet, he had some knowledgeable hottie as his sidekick and they were pure Key West and really helped us through buying a lot of great cigars.

221 and 1100 Duval St, (305) 879 4959

Key West Cigar City

Across from the hub-bub of Mallory Square, find in an old brick building, nice assortment, a bit crowded-disorganized and touristy.

Mallory Square  (305) 295 2622

Other things to do in Key West:

  • Visit the southernmost point of US
  • Visit Fort Tortuga
  • Go to Butterfly Museum
  • Sarabeth for breakfast
  • Dick Last Resort, Hard Rock and tons of bars on Duval Street
  • Visit Associates, Inc, one of the best men’s store I’ve been to in awhile-the owners are the buyers and they have great taste, Peter Millar, Madras Company,etc,etc

THE DRIVE BACK

HOTEL: DROP ANCHOR

Nice pool, Islamorada, some college kids at hotel, playing music to 10pm but polite. no beach but little beaches along keys —you basically go out on a boat and dive in!

Island Grill-ate at bar-tuna app-big chunks, great atmosphere, great sandwiches-lapprox $13.50 big pieces and fries , great people….local-key lime pie testing-the best so far!!!

Yours Truly getting the Full Experience

I have recommended this place to 2 others and they also are total thumbs up.

keyislandgrill@bellsouth.net  Jack McCormack is the manager (maybe the owner?) 305 664 8400

Bass Pro Restaurant: Avoid!!! Avoid!!! Avoid!!!. Like a giant theme park , sharks painted on the parking lot, ordering food a nightmare-slow, band was awful, they are busing them in as we speak. I have not even linked.

Camp  Pennekamp: One of the THREE LIVING REEFS IN THE WORLD, Great Barrier Reef, Belize and here.

Very low key, take flat metal pontoon boat out to this reef, very professional, safety conscious (always important when dealing with water), we went in afternoon-next time in am when there is less wind and waves. great stuff. Snorkel, dive….

I hear the fishing in Islamorada is the best.

 Fort lauderdale Hilton Marina Hotel:

 

It’s modern, hip, there’s a China Grill, great pool, we ate at the bar-so-so food. I would recommend you get in your car and go to one of the great local seafood joints, Anthony Cold Fire Pizza or something on East Las Olas.

The rooms are great, hip lobby. Before it became a HIlton, it was never crowded-now it’s filled with lots of conventioneers so it kinda loses its hip thing but that’s ok.

Note it’s directly under the 17th street bridge, on the inter-coastal so no beach but that’s easy to get to.

 

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