From the sparkling high-rise towers, and art deco masterpieces of Miami we headed south. We picked up our rental car a few blocks from Ocean Drive and then just kept driving south until we joined the iconic US Highway 1
This famous road, which crosses the alligator-infested swamps of the Everglades National Park, heads down to the southernmost point of the United States and the island city of Key West. As it goes, this ‘Overseas Highway’ strings together, with causeways and bridges, some 43 of the many hundreds of islands and coral atolls that make up the unique archipelago of the Florida Keys.
This is a fishing environment that is unique in the world, with a variety of prize game fish. Even better, there are two oceans to choose from; allowing you to fish the warm waters of the Gulf to the west in the morning and then in the afternoon and early evening take your luck in the deep sea of the Atlantic.
Almost everywhere one looks there fishermen! Either standing at the edge of bridges with rods and line, or out on small boats in the shallow waters of the gulf, or on huge super yachts in the deeper Atlantic.
The first island, Key Largo hits you with it’s noisy marketing – first impressions are not great, this key has suffered at the hands of commercialism, with hundreds of billboards and motel signs lining the highway. Yet this key is home to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary offering world-class eco-tourism and a stunning location for snorkelers and scuba divers.
(Andy Newman Florida Keys News Bureau)
Just a little further on though, is the perfect place to make a stop on this classic America road trip, and enjoy some barefoot elegance at a quintessential luxury inn. On the nearby historic Tavernier Key is ‘Coconut Palm Inn’, an intimate beach front hideaway that faces out over the Gulf of Mexico. Its private beach offers tranquillity with hammocks hanging between coconut palms, and classic Adirondack chairs looking out over the water.
This was our first night on the keys and the perfect place to kick back and relax. Our suite was beautiful – understated luxury with with the almost priceless luxury of a sunset view over the gulf.
(Coconut Palm Inn, Taviener Key)
(Hammock at the Cocunut Palm Inn)
The property has two piers and can arrange exclusive charters, allowing you to reel in some of the biggest fish in the ocean including blue and white marlin, acrobatic sailfish, kingfish and swordfish. Deep sea fishing off the keys is best enjoyed with one of the many experienced charter captains available, and on board a luxury air-conditioned long-range ocean yacht. It’s little wonder that this is one of the greatest salt water fishing destinations in the world. With an eco-friendly, sustainable fishing approach and catch and release policies, visitors are sure to find plenty of fish.
After breakfast we took to the highway again and drove to the historic island city of Key West. The road-trip covers a series of 42 bridges that link the keys, the most iconic of which is ‘Seven Mile Bridge’ connecting Marathon Key with the lower keys.
(Andy Newman Florida Keys News Bureau )
Before long one reaches Key West and the southernmost point in the continental United States. Key West is legendary, an island of pirates and sunken galleons loaded with treasure.
To get a feel of the real, laid-back, tropical Key West we decided to stay at Key West’s only Leading Small Hotel of the World, is the boutique ‘Santa Maria Suites Resort’, one of the top rated properties in Key West. Close to lively Duval Street, famous for its luxury galleries and varied eateries, and one block from the ocean with access to a private beach, it is in a secluded and peaceful location.
Sophisticated one and two bedroom duplex suites feature state of the art entertainment and sound systems, broadband Wi-Fi, and spa-like bathrooms with lux amenities. Pool concierge is on hand for Caribbean smoothies and cocktails and to offer an islander’s insider knowledge of the best bars, restaurants and clubs in town. The resort’s Japanese restaurant, ‘Ambrosia’ offers some of the finest sushi cuisine in Florida, using ocean fresh produce from the Keys.
With vintage timber clad homes, painted in pastel shades, swaying coconut palms and vibrant sunsets, Key West provided a stunning end to an exciting journey that took us from the glamour of Miami to the relaxation of the Carribean.