Friday, February 20, 2015

Tarpon, Sunsets and Fishing Boats: The Upper Florida Keys

Catch of the Day, Key Largo, Florida (photo by Luis Bastardo)

When the rep at  told me that Bahia Honda State Park was fully booked, I was starting to resign myself to the fact that we would not find cheap (or for that matter, any) campsites throughout the Florida Keys. We had arrived in high season and all sites were solidly booked through April or May and we had been unable to reserve ahead of time due to family crises. So I couldn't believe it when she said "Oh wait...two nights just opened up at Long Key State Park for $38 a night; someone just cancelled. Do you want them?" "Yesss!!!!!" I screamed into the poor woman;'s ear. I couldn't believe our luck; it felt like winning the lottery! We had called around and the sites ranged in price from $65 for dry camping with no electricity, water or sewer to $105 for a full hookup, way out of our budget. We thought that we might have to give the Keys a pass until our luck suddenly changed. The next day, we hit US1 for the long drive south. 

Luis feeding a tarpon, Robbie's, Islamorada (photo by Simone Cannon) 

First stop, Key Largo, is in the upper keys, many of which are bedroom communities for Miami commuters. The vibe is laid back: chartered fishing and dive trips, t-shirt shops and casual, waterside restaurants serving items like conch fritters and fish tacos. We stopped at Robbie's to feed the tarpon with bait fish, no simple task with the marauding pelicans nipping at our legs and hands in an attempt to commandeer the fish. We had a lovely waterfront lunch of conch fritters and tarpon tacos (hey, they were well fed) washed down with Islamorada Citrus Ale

Luis at The Hungry Tarpon restaurant, Robbie's, Islamorada (photo by Simone Cannon) 

After a relaxing meal, we headed to our campground at Long Key State Park. We arrived at the small, sleepy park in the late afternoon to catch the last rays of a gorgeous sunset. Our site was just inches away from the small beach and the sea's shallow, tranquil waters. As the sun set, the sky darkened and we were lucky enough to have a moonless night, so we also had a fantastic view of the milky way. Tomorrow, we head to Key West, which should be interesting since I haven't visited in 30 years. Guessin' things may have changed a tad...

Sunset at Long Key State Park (photo by Simone Cannon)



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