Where am I taking my viewers this week? I’ve decided to step back in time and share an adventurous trip exploring Florida from Fort Lauderdale to Miami, Key Largo, Key West, and Orlando. I chose to blog about Florida this week to pay a tribute to the amazing state and support my friends and fellow Americans that were affected by Hurricane Irma.
The state of Florida is my second favorite state, next to California where I was born and raised. Why do I LOVE Florida? There is adventure from tip to tail. In 2009, I was blessed to receive a professional accolade and offered a three year fellowship at the Inland Press Association. During this time, they held two conference in Florida, one was held on Captiva Island which located in southwest Florida off of the Gulf of Mexico. Captiva Island is known as one of the US top ten islands for having the most seashells. The second conference was held in St. Augustine, on the northeast coast of Florida. Both of these trips provided an opportunity to explore and fall in love with everything Florida has to offer.
Our main goal was to scuba dive in Florida. One of our fellow divers and Dive Master Andy Siebert’s all time favorite place to dive in the world was Florida. Andy had orchestrated amazing dive trips we’ve taken in Cozumel Mexico and the Fuji Islands, so I had to experience what he was talking about first hand.
When we planned this two week trip, we had planned to spend two weeks in the Keys scuba diving. Scuba diving is a very expensive sport so we were looking for ways to reduce our travel expenses so that we could stay longer. Since we were already experienced RV’ers we decided to try out the concept of van camping. We decided to rent a minivan, purchase a quality mattress, buy a few camping supplies like an ice chest and make our way down the Keys. This idea sounded brilliant to me, as I love camping in the outdoors. No advance reservations were made for this trip. We were free to follow our hearts.
We flew in and out of Fort Lauderdale, as there a few Tiki Bars we wanted to visit in the area. We visited the world famous Wreck Bar in Florida, with hopes of seeing MeduSirena and the Aquaticats, followed by the 100+ year old Mai Kai Restaurant, which offers the full Polynesian cultural experience with a world class dinner show, magnificent live dancers, perfectly made tropical libations and several great rooms full of Polynesian décor. You will truly feel like you visited an island in the tropics after a stop at the Mai Kai. Make sure you have a reservation, and come in your best elegant island cruise wear, as there is a dress code. No shorts, flips or tank tops allowed. Get there early to spend some time looking around the expansive grounds as there is so much to see.
The next day we headed for a quick detour in Miami. In this case we were following our stomachs; we had visited Miami on a previous trip and there is a Cuban Restaurant called Enriqueta’s Sandwich Shop in Miami that was calling to us. This small restaurant is always packed with Cubans so you know it is GOOD. The steak and traditional Cubano sandwich are delicious. This is a blue collar, inexpensive, Cuban coffee and sandwich shop and there is always a wait, the parking lot is small but they do take out as well. They have daily blue plate specials of traditional Cuban meals.
Really, Miami was just a lunch stop, from there we headed directly for The Keys.
Our first stop was Key Largo which has the largest number of dive sites. We found a nice campground in Key Largo, Kings Kamp RV Park and campground, which has RV sites, camp sites, motel rooms and cottage rentals all reasonable priced. The park was quiet and clean. The showers were hot, and they have a laundry room. We camped right on the water. I highly recommend this place if you are traveling in an RV and want to spend some time in Key Largo.
There are some excellent restaurants in Key Largo but overall it is a very quiet town with not much night life.
We visited the local dive shop Rainbow Reef Dive Center, and made a reservation for diving the next day. Rainbow Reef was an excellent dive outfit. The dive teams were knowledgeable and the boats were fast. Florida is known wreck diving; we dove the USS Spiegel Grove a decommissioned US Navel Boat that was sunk in 2002 to create an artificial reef and dive site.
Key Largo is pretty quiet, after one day of diving and two night, we headed further down the Keys.
We stopped at the visitor’s center in Marathon, and captured an amazing shot of an Iguana checking out a squirrel.
The drive to Key West was beautiful. My husband had enough of van camping. He couldn’t sleep, no matter how hard he tried. Whatever the reason, he was ready to abandon the experiment.
He called on several hotels and found a GREAT rate at the Casa Marina, a glamorous and historic Waldorf Astoria hotel built in 1920. We were in heaven! We stayed 3 nights.
We rented bikes and rode around the island.
Some of our favorite activities were…
Bike riding around the island and visiting Zachary Taylor State Historic Park. There was Civil War Era fort to tour and explore.
We were also there for the 36th Annual Key West World Championship Boat Race.
Duval Street was amazing. There were so many excellent restaurants, entertainment and sites to see.
We wanted more diving, but there was so much fun to be had in Key West.
Eventually we headed back for Key Largo. We went back to dive with Rainbow Reef. The waters were rough on this day, so we dove two locations at Molassis Reef. I spotted two White Tip Reef sharks that were checking me out. That was awesome! On our way back to the Key Largo we stopped a the Safari Lounge.
The next day on a whim we headed north for Disneyworld, connected with our friend Mike Remmel and spent 3 nights at a Disneyland hotel and visited the park for some Disneyland magic.
If you are planing a trip, please consider the Keys and help support local businesses and help rebuild their economy. Here is a link to the Florida Keys webcams.
Thank you for joining us. Please be sure to follow my blog if you want to keep up with our weekly adventures. If you enjoyed this post, please like this post or like my page or follow my weekly blog at Stephanie’s RV Travels. Comments are welcome and enjoyed. If you have a favorite place to go, that you would like to share please share in comments or send me a message.