School’s out, the roads are a little less jammed with traffic and the dog days of summer are definitely here. You won’t hear us complaining, though. Our neighbors to the north (even just up the road in Miami) have not been able to enjoy a full dry day of sunshine in weeks. Even with the few passing showers in our neck of the woods this week, the water is the typical flat calm of summer, the breezes are light and refreshing and that means its time for us to get out and enjoy all the pleasures and fun available right here in our own backyard.
Even though many fabulous sites, attractions and dining opportunities lie right at our own doorstep, it is not until we have visitors and must entertain guests that us locals get out and enjoy our island paradise. Take a break from the air conditioning and go remind yourself why you moved here in the first place!
Fabulous Fare for Locals
Where to Find a Waterfront Breakfast
Lorelei Restaurant and Cabana Bar, at MM 82 bayside in Islamorada, has been dubbed “the pulse” of The Florida Keys’ Sportfishing Capital. Lorelei is renowned for their nightly sunset celebrations as their waterfront watering hole offers prime sunset views, but have you tried them out for breakfast?
After an eye-opening bottomless cup of coffee for only $1.50, try out their hearty three-egg omelets, Fluff’s Fried Egg Sandwich or the Conch Republic Breakfast complete with generous portions of fried dolphin and eggs cooked to order.
Start your morning off in paradise with cool bay breezes for less than $10. Did we mention $3 Bloody Marys and Screwdrivers with a breakfast order during Sunday school each week from 7-11?
Skip the Sandwich and Treat Yourself to Lunch
For all you desk jockies out there, we know you’re trying to pinch pennies this summer, but we suggest you take a break from the office and the brown bag. Treat yourself to the locals’ lunch specials at Middle Keys eateries Key Colony Inn and The Hurricane.
For a mere $5, you can grab a Snapper sandwich, Thai chicken stir fry of a soup of the day and salad and enjoy some fresh air on the patio at The ‘Cane.
Enjoy fine friendly service and classic Italian dishes like Chicken Piccata or Baked Stuffed Shells for under $10 at Key Colony Inn on Key Colony Beach. The Inn also offers a fabulous Sunday local lunch with specials each weekend.
Delicious Dinners When the Day is Done
These institutions that have stood the test of time offer the most exquisite, yet relaxing meal at the conclusion of your busy day. Dining beachside at Morada Bay in Islamorada is akin to taking your bungalow dining room straight out to the beach and enjoying the fabulous sunsets.
The atmosphere is only one highlight. This outdoor Mediterranean bistro in the sand serves some do the most delectable American/Caribbean fare. The menu alone can make your mouth water, but why not load up on tapas like grouper ceviche, fried calamari, shrimp and zucchini and fresh seared tuna rolls stuffed with fresh veggies and served over mesculin greens with a chipotle aioli and avocado cream. If you’ve any room left, try the crème brulee or sorbet medley.
Make your way down to Key Colony Beach and dine Oceanside at Cabana Breezes. They’ve added a fabulous Caribbean hummus appetizer served with fresh chopped veggies and toasted pita points to start your meal. We also highly recommend the Toasted Brie and Berries. Move on to Grilled Swordfish or try the award-winning Yellowtail Piccata.
What To Do With A Bit More Spare Time
Founder’s Park in Islamorada is always a hub of community activities, but did you know they also play host to Community Game Nights and Float-In Movies? The Aquatic Center invites you to come out once a month, park your family on floats in the Olympic sized swimming pool and enjoy a PG rated movie under the stars. The pool opens at 7:30 and show time is 8 pm. Village residents have access for only $3 per person, and non-resident admission is only $5 per person. Bring your own floats, suits and towels. These guys even offer movie theatre fare like popcorn and candy to enjoy during the flick.
Founder’s Park also hosts community game nights each month. They invite you to venture out of the air conditioning for a game of ping-pong, foosball and board games with family and friends. If enough people show up, staffers may even organize some friendly tournament competition. For more information and dates, call (305) 853-1685.
Down in Marathon, pack a picnic lunch, grab the ferry at Knight’s Key and prepare to take a step back in time on historic Pigeon Key. Many residents in the Middle Keys admit with a passing glance as they zip back and forth over the Seven Mile Bridge that they’ve yet to set foot on Pigeon Key. Well, folks, it’s time to get out and explore! A peaceful ride on the ferry or a breezy bike ride across the old bridge leads to a different kind of island oasis. The historic boarding houses of Henry Flagler’s railroad crew have been immaculately maintained and unless occupied by researchers or campers are available for touring. Pigeon Key’s dock and lush grassy lawns provide the perfect setting for a peaceful picnic.
Tucked away behind The Reach Resort in Key West, a two-hour jet ski tour at Barefoot Billy’s offers a different perspective to familiar surroundings. (See related article)
Want to Get Away on Half a Tank of Gas?
Send the boys out on the boat and get a babysitter for the kids…this weekend is all about the girls! Through October, the Key Largo Bay Marriot Beach Resort is offering a Girlfriends’ Getaway Package complete with a room and treatment for a queen. This special offer package includes a room with a breathtaking view of the bay, a special welcome gift upon arrival, drink tickets for Breezer’s Tiki Bar, breakfast at the famed Gus’ Grille and a $50 credit at the spa.
Grab a massage and treat yourself and your friends to a mani-pedi or facial treatment. The hotel also offers plenty of recreational opportunities like snorkeling trips, Scuba diving, biking, hiking and kayaking. Of course, you can do absolutely nothing, relax by the pool and simply gab with the girls.
Call (305) 453-0000 or visit http://www.marriotkeylargo.com
Hailed as the top family destination in the country by The New York Times, Hawks Cay Resort on Duck Key is one of the many world-class getaways available within short driving distance. Mainlanders as well as world travelers intermingle around the adults-only “tranquility pool” while youngsters from 9 to 17 enjoy the Pirate Ship pool at The Cove complete with volleyball and basketball courts, video games and a teens-only lounge area. Camp Hawk offers daily activities for boys and girls age 5-12, and Friday and Saturday Kids Night Out give mom and dad reprieve during this family-friendly escape.
Visit http://www.hawkscay.com or call (305) 743-7000
Feeling the need to rekindle the romance? Fall in love all over again with an intimate escape to Little Palm Island off Little Torch Key. At various times throughout the summer, Little Palm offers a Dinner and Something Suite Package which includes Bungalow Suite accommodations and dinner for two (excluding alcohol) for $495. Full access to all the facilities on the Island, which recently received top honors for World’s Best Service Awards by Travel + Leisure Magazine, is available with the Day on the Island Package. For $500 per couple, lovers can enjoy the spa, dining room, pool bar or gift shop any way they would like.
Local friends looking to spend a few nights with us on their boat should always ask the dock master for any locals’ specials.
Call 800 3 GET LOST or visit http://www.littlepalmisland.com
Don’t have an entire week to getaway with friends? No problem! Grab your best pals and take advantage of summer rates at Parrot Key Resort in Key West. Parrot Key offers charming yet spacious “Conch” style homes completely outfitted with anything a weekender might need. All the amenities of a resort – four spectacular pools, on-site spa services, a fitness center and plenty of on-the-water recreation are just steps away from your relaxing, shade-covered porch.
Visit http://www.parrotkeyresort.com or call 866-MID KEYS
More Cool Locals’ Bargains and Attractions…
Free Admission to Everglades and Dry Tortugas for Two More Weekends
For two more weekends this summer, national parks, including Everglades National Park and Dry Tortugas National Park, are waiving fees.
The parks are set to drop admission fees July 18-19 and August 15-16
Government officials made the announcement Tuesday citing an effort to boost the economic recovery in communities surrounding these and the country’s other 317 national parks.
Normally, Everglades National Park charges $10 per car for a week-long pass, and Dry Tortugas National Park charges $5 to visitors for admission, valid for up to seven days; visitors to Dry Tortugas must board a boat or ferry to reach the site, located 70 miles west of Key West.
Additional fees for camping, reservations, tours and use of concessions are still in effect.
According to park service officials, some tour operators, hotels, restaurants, gift shops and other vendors may also offer additional discounts and special promotions.
For more information, visit http://nps.gov/findapark/feefreeparks.htm
Key West Sunset Celebration, Bahia Honda Beach Lauded By TripAdvisor.
Key West’s nightly Sunset Celebration has been named America’s best unheralded free attraction, and Bahia Honda State Park near Big Pine Key has been ranked number two in a list of best United States beaches by TripAdvisor.
Both accolades were determined by the TripAdvisor Popularity Index and TripAdvisor editors.
TripAdvisor-branded Web sites provide online travel reviews and feature more than 25 million monthly visitors and 10 million registered members.
For more than 30 years, Key West’s Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square has drawn large nightly crowds to applaud talents of colorful street performers, view local artisans’ handmade wares and watch the sun sink beneath the horizon beyond Key West Harbor. A tightrope walker, jugglers, mimes, quirky animal acts, fortune tellers, musicians and foodstuffs including “Pretty Good Popcorn” are among attractions as well as unobstructed views of the setting sun.
In its announcement of the designation, TripAdvisor lauded the nightly event as “a celebration of dazzling Key West sunsets” and quoted a TripAdvisor traveler who said, “You can’t imagine the beauty of this, it is just awesome.”
TripAdvisor’s number-two U.S. beach, Bahia Honda’s pristine sandy expanse, is part of a 524-acre state park located on Bahia Honda Key between mile markers 36 and 37. One of the Florida Keys’ most popular camping and recreation areas, Bahia Honda offers deep near-shore waters for swimming and snorkeling as well as camping, picnicking, watersports, a marina and rental cabins.
Dive 35 feet down into the City of Washington Wreck with Captain Slate’s Atlantis Dive Center. Watch Captain Slate feed the Barracuda and Nurse Sharks with Ballyhoo hanging from his lips. Locals can dive to the bottom and pet the creatures themselves, or snorkel above the world-renown Creature Feature. Visit Captainslate.com or call 800•331•3483 This is one underwater experience your children will talk about all year long and you can find it at MM 106.5 right by Pennekamp State Park!
John Pennekamp State Park
Enjoy fishing, camping, boating, snorkeling and picnicking! Take in the history and environmental education from the land or aboard a glass bottom boat. Fun-filled adventures right about at MM 102.5
Boondocks Grille & Draft House & Miniature Golf Course
A true tiki hut located on Ramrod Key, Boondocks has deals the entire family will enjoy. Swing by for half-price appetizers or a free round of miniature golf. Located at MM 27.5
In Key West’s historic Solares Hill neighborhood on Fleming and Grinnell Streets, the owners are offering $5 lunches. Don’t expect a salad or soup, these are flavorful, Mediterranean inspired dishes that will bring diners back to sample the entire menu.
Located at 115 Duval Street adjacent to Mallory Square, stop in to the old Spanish home. Locals can sample the summer tasting menu, 3 courses for just $22.95, or head in for $6 martinis & wines 6 nights a week. Also a 2-for-1 Happy Hour from 3 – 7 pm.
The invitation is extended for The Marquesa Summer Sensation, 2 courses for $28 per person. Wines are priced low by the glass and by the bottle.
Free bottle of wine with the purchase of two entrees.
The locals have dubbed the recurring event Mass Sundays. Locals are invited to hang out poolside while they enjoy daily drink and food specials. Show your ID and always receive 25% off alcohol. The band Caffeine Carl starts playing at 1 pm and stays until 6 pm. Enjoy giveaways and Dante bartenders’ drink of the day. They usually pour raspberry, peach and sweet tea vodka.
The Opera Italian Restaurant
Buy one entrée, receive a pasta dish for free! A deal you can’t help but spin your fork around! Head South on Duval Street until you find it tucked away in an alley at 613 Duval.
Part of the Casa Marina Resort on – street. Locals are invited to dine and be treated to a free appetizer of their choice with the purchase of two entrees.
Every Tuesday this summer it’s the Summer Shrimp Spectacular. Key West Pinks are steamed in Old Milwaukee Beer right on the pier, then sautéed in Thyme, celery and pepper. $5 gets you a half pound of Key West Pinks. Wash it down with $5 1800 Margaritas and $15 Landshark Buckets