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Sunday, February 3, 2019

Exploring the Best of the Florida Keys: 16 Must-Visit Places

The Florida Keys are the best way to experience a tropical vacation in the Continental United States. A driving road trip down Overseas Highway 1 will take you from Key Largo to Key West. In between, you will experience amazing water views that will take your breath away and lots of interesting places to visit.

I have listed 16 places below that are worth exploring. Hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park 

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is an undersea park encompasses approximately 70 nautical square miles.

It is best known for its living coral reefs. Glass bottom boat tours, diving, and snorkeling trips are available to see the reefs. There are always people snorkeling from the beach areas when we are there, but I have heard that there is not much to see close to the shore. 


102601 Overseas Highway (MM 102.5), Key Largo, FL 33037


Daily from 8:00 a.m. until sunset office closes at 5pm


$8.00 per vehicle

Key Largo Chocolates

A cheerful place in Key Largo to get homemade ice cream and candy. I always get key lime fudge and the mango and banana truffles. They are a little expensive, but so worth it!


100470 Overseas Hwy, Key Largo, FL 33037


Monday - Thursday  10am to 9pm
Friday & Saturday  10am - 10pm

Rain Barrel Sculpture Gallery 

The Rain Barrel is an Artisan Village in Islamorada. It is easy to spot because of the 30-foot-tall lobster in front. Little shops with sculptures, paintings, pottery and gifts made by locals make up this village.


86700 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, FL 33036


Open 9am -5pm daily



World Wide Sportsman

The World Wide Sportsman, located in Islamorada, is a great place to pick up clothing, fishing gear, snorkeling equipment and much more. The store itself is a nice place to look around.
Located behind the store is the Islamorada Fish Company restaurant. It is a nice relaxing place to get some delicious seafood.


81576 Overseas Highway Islamorada, FL 33036


 Monday through Thursday  10:00 AM - 8:00 PM
Friday & Saturday  10:00 AM - 9:00 PM
Sunday  10:00 AM  - 7:00 PM


Did you really go to the Keys if you didn't visit Robbie's?!

Feeding the Tarpon is one of the most popular things to do in the Keys. Over 100 hungary tarpon are waiting for the chance to grab fish from your hand as you kneel on the dock. It is frightening and exciting at the same time! 

Watch a live webcam- https://robbies.com/videos.htm

Admission to the dock is $2.25 per person (once per day).

Each bucket of fish is $4.00 (5-8 fish per bucket).

Robbie's open air market is a place where you can find anything from Robbie's merchandise to art. We love visiting with the locals running the shops. They are always so friendly and offer advice on new places to visit. 

Robbie's offer so many options for getting out on the water. You can rent kayaks and paddle boards or go on one of their tours. Snorkeling, fishing, parasailing, and jet skiing are some of the tours they offer. 


77522 Overseas Highway Islamorada, FL  -  Mile Marker 77.5


Open 7AM-8PM



Anne's Beach

This Lower Matecumbe Key beach is located on the oceanside, but there is almost no wave action due to the expanse of shallow water typical for Florida Keys beaches. 

There are two parking area ¼ mile apart with a boardwalk connecting the areas.


Mile Marker 73.5, Lower Matecumbe Key, Islamorada, FL 33036

*As of right now, the beach is still closed. The boardwalk and structures were destroyed by hurricane Irma. A grant to repair it has been approved, so hopefully it will be reopened soon.

Sombrero Beach

Sombrero Beach is beautiful white sand beach located on Marathon Key. It is located in a residential area with lots of free parking.

Sombrero Beach Rd, Marathon, FL 33050


7:30 a.m. until dusk



Dolphin Research Center

The Dolphin Research Center is a nonprofit education and research facility located on on Grassy Key. They offer some of the best dolphin interaction options in Florida. Prices range from $30 for a brief encounter from the dock to $475 for a vip experience. This is one of our favorite place to visit in the Keys.

Watch a live webcam - https://fla-keys.com/webcams/dolphin-research-center/


58901 Overseas Hwy, Grassy Key, FL 33050


open 9am -4:30 daily


Adults: $28:00, Military/Veterans (present military ID): $25:00, Children 4-12: $23.00.  Children 3 and under free admission. All guests under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a paying adult.

Bahia Honda State Park

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful! Bahia Honda State Park is our favorite place in the Florida Keys! It also has the best beaches in the Keys.

Watch a live webcam -  https://fla-keys.com/webcams/fort-zachary-taylor-beach/

Read more about it in my post here.


36850 Overseas Highway, Big Pine Key, FL 33043


8:00 a.m. until sundown, daily

Admission Fees:

$8* per vehicle. Limit 2-8 people per vehicle.
$2* Pedestrians, bicyclists, extra passengers, passengers in vehicle with holder of Annual Individual Entrance Pass.
$4* Single-occupant vehicle or motorcycle.

*Some areas of the park may still be closed from hurricane damage.

Smathers Beach

Smathers Beach is the largest public beach in Key West. It has about a half mile strip of white sand and tons of palm trees. It is absolutely beautiful! Parking is along the road and runs the length of the beach.


2601 S Roosevelt Blvd, Key West, FL 33040


7am – 11pm



Higgs Beach

Small beach with volleyball courts, play ground, and pier. It was once the site of an 1800s African slave cemetery. Nice family beach with palm trees, white sand, and clear water.


1000 Atlantic Blvd, Key West, FL 33040


7am – 11pm



The Southernmost Point 

The Southernmost Point in the continental United States is marked by a concrete buoy in Key West. It is in the open and can visited at any time. Be prepared to wait in a long line for your chance at a photo with the buoy.

Watch a live webcam - http://southernmostpointwebcam.com/


Whitehead St & South Street, Key West, FL 33040

West Martello Tower

 Located at Higgs Beach in Key West, West Martello Tower is a historic tower built in 1862 during the Civil War.  It has been turned into a tropical paradise by the Key West Garden Club.   

1100 Atlantic Blvd, Key West, FL 33040


9:30am - 5pm daily



Custom House

Now home to Key West Art & Historical Society, this museum was once the island’s customs office, postal service, and district courts. Custom House is a place to view unique art pieces and displays located inside and around the outside of the building.


281 Front Street, Key West, Florida 33040


Monday  - Saturday  9:30am - 4:40pm 


Adults: $12
Children (age 6 and up): $5
Children under 6: FREE
Students with ID: $5
Seniors (62+) and Locals with Monroe County ID: $9

Fort Zachary Taylor

Fort Zachary Taylor, located in Key West, was built to guard the harbor. The fort was used in the Civil War, WWI, WWII, Spanish American War, and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Snorkeling along the rock at the beach area is a popular activity. The beach is mostly a coral type rock and sand. Palms and pine type trees provide tons of shade. It is a nice place to spend the day.

Watch a live webcam -  https://fla-keys.com/webcams/fort-zachary-taylor-beach/


601 Howard England Way, Key West FL 33040


8:00 a.m. until sundown, daily. Fort closes at 5 p.m.

Admission Fees:

$6.50 per vehicle

Mallory Square

Located on the waterfront in Key West, Mallory Square is lined with upscale restaurants and shops. It is popular for its nightly festivals to watch the sunset. About two hours before sunset, the crowd begins gathering to watch street performers and browse through local made crafts.

Watch a live webcam - https://www.mallorysquare.com/key-west-webcam/


400 Wall St, Key West, FL 33040


Hours vary from business to business

No matter where you visit in the Florida Keys, it is sure to provide memories for a lifetime.

Happy Travels! 

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Navarre Beach, Florida: A Hidden Gem on the Gulf Coast

We stumbled upon Navarre Beach by accident.  We were looking for a place to stop for the night on a trip to the Florida Keys. I am one of those people who believes that flying somewhere is like reading the first and last page of a book. Driving road trips are what I love. My trip planning involves “wonder what there is to see between here and there”. So, on this particular trip, Navarre Beach looked interesting and lodging was fairly cheap.

I was really shocked by the beauty and peacefulness of the area. It was afternoon and cloudy when we arrived at the hotel. My mother and I dropped our bags off and hit the bridge to the beach to check it out.

Sugary white sand, emerald green water, and very few people is what we found. This place was perfect!

We walked along the beach to the fishing pier. Past the pier, we could see rows of condos lining the beach. Up towards the parking area, some teens were playing volleyball. Upbeat music coming from the restaurant set the perfect beach vibe. We had found a paradise!

Navarre Beach is located about 17 miles west of Pensacola Beach on Gulf Boulevard.

The pier there is 1,545 feet long (the longest in Florida) and stands 30 feet above the water. A shop, attached to the pier, rents fishing poles and sells bait and tackle.

Best Western Navarre Waterfront is where we usually stay. It runs less than $100 a night and is clean.


8697 Navarre Pkwy
Navarre, FL 32566

We usually prefer to stay right on the beach, but the views across the bay are amazing from the Best Western!

We have been back to Navarre beach several times since our first visit. We continue to love it just as much. It remains one of the most beautiful and peaceful places in the Florida Panhandle.

Happy Travels! 

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Unveiling the Best Activities in Pensacola, Florida: A Comprehensive Guide

Pensacola is a favorite beach vacation destination for many families for good reason. I have never had a vacation strictly to Pensacola, but rather use it as a stop over point for trips father down into Florida. We usually wind up spending a day there on the way down and then stop again on the way back home. I find it to be more of a peaceful laid-back beach town than a busy party place. It gets a little crowded in the middle of Pensacola beach area, but go out a mile or so in either direction and you get to enjoy solitude.

Check out some of our favorite adventures below!

The Beaches

Pensacola Beach is popular for its sugar-white sand beaches and emerald-green waters. In fact, the beaches in the Pensacola area rank as some of the top beaches in the United States. Navarre Beach is my favorite and is usually lively without being crowded. Fort Picken is the place to go if you want miles of beach all to yourself.

Fort Pickens

This 1834 pentagonal historic United States military fort is located at the west end of Santa Rosa Island. It is named after American Revolutionary War hero Andrew Pickens.

After visiting the fort, enjoy some of the 10 miles of gulf and bay beaches leading to the fort. It's also one of the few places in the Pensacola area to find seashells. 

1400 Fort Pickens Rd, Pensacola Beach, FL 32561

8:30 am - 6 pm   daily

$20 per vehicle

Big Lagoon State Park

This Park is a 705-acre located on the northern shore of Big Lagoon, which separates the mainland from Perdido Key and the Gulf of Mexico. Activities such as bird watching, swimming, fishing, canoeing, and hiking are available. Strolling the long boardwalk and crabbing in the shallow waters of Big Lagoon are some favorite activities. Be sure to walk up the observation tower for a view of this amazing park!

8am to 6pm daily

$5.00 - $10.00 per vehicle, depends on number of occupants

12301 Gulf Beach Hwy, Pensacola, FL 32507

Pensacola Lighthouse

This 1859 lighthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  A climb (177 steps) to the top will reward you with one of the most beautiful views on the Gulf Coast. It is located on an active military base (Naval Air Station Pensacola), so you will need to show proper identification for yourself as well as any other passengers who are 18 or older at the check point.

Adults $7.00
Children 12 and under $4.00
Seniors 65+ $4.00
Military $4.00

9:00am–5:00pm Daily

2081 Radford Blvd, Pensacola, FL 32508


Pensacola Bay Snorkel Reef (Escambia County Bay Snorkel Reef)

  • Located approximately 50 ft. off shore in Park West, just before the entrance of Fort Pickens. Great for beginner snorkeler.

Pensacola Beach Reef

  • The reef is located 500 ft. off shore in Park East and attracts a wide variety of marine life.

Gulf Breeze Zoo

The zoo is small, but has a nice variety of animals and it is a fun way to spend a few hours.

9 am – 4 pm daily

Adult (13-64)      $20.95
 Senior (65+)      $19.95
 Children (2-12) $16.95
 Under 2               FREE

5701 Gulf Breeze Pkwy, Gulf Breeze, FL 32563

Historic Downtown Village

Located close to the Pensacola Bay, the Historic Pensacola Village consist of 27 properties in the National Register Historic District. Eleven of these properties are open for tours.

Tuesday – Saturday       10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Adults   $8
Seniors 65+, Active Military & Dependents           $7
Children (3-14)  $4

120 Church Street, Pensacola, FL 32502

Happy Travels! 

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Exploring the Natural Beauty of Fort De Soto Park, Florida

Fort De Soto Park is a hidden gem located at the southern tip of Pinellas County, Florida. With its stunning beaches, natural habitats, and rich history, it’s a must-visit destination for nature lovers and history buffs alike.

The park gets its name from Fort De Soto, a military fort built in the late 1800s to protect Tampa Bay from potential invaders. The fort played a significant role in both the Spanish-American War and World War II before being decommissioned in the 1940s. Today, visitors can explore the remains of the fort, including the gun batteries and officers’ quarters.

The park is home to three miles of pristine, white-sand beaches. Whether you’re looking to swim, sunbathe, or take a stroll along the shore, Fort De Soto’s beaches offer something for everyone. North Beach, located near the fort, is a popular spot for families and has a playground, snack bar, and kayak rentals. East Beach is a great place to go shelling, and it’s also dog-friendly, with a designated area where pets can run and play off-leash. Finally, there’s the secluded, tranquil beach at the southern end of the park, known as Fort De Soto Beach. This beach is popular among locals and is a great place to relax and enjoy the stunning scenery.

Fort De Soto Park is also home to a variety of natural habitats, including mangrove swamps, salt marshes, and seagrass beds. These habitats provide important breeding and feeding grounds for a diverse array of wildlife, including manatees, dolphins, sea turtles, and shorebirds. The park offers several nature trails and birding opportunities, including the Arrowhead Nature Trail, which winds through a coastal hammock and offers views of the Gulf of Mexico.

For those looking to extend their stay, Fort De Soto Park offers camping options. The park has 238 campsites with electric and water hookups, as well as several primitive camping areas. The campsites are located in a wooded area and are just a short walk from the beach.

Fort De Soto Park is a treasure trove of natural beauty, history, and recreational opportunities. Whether you’re looking to relax on the beach, explore the park’s natural habitats, or learn about its rich history, there’s something for everyone at Fort De Soto. So next time you’re in Florida, be sure to add Fort De Soto Park to your list of must-visit destinations.

A $5 parking fee is collected at the entrance station approximately one mile into the park.

Address: 3500 Pinellas Bayway S, St. Petersburg, FL 3371

Enjoy Your Visit!


Thursday, December 27, 2018

Treasure Hunting: Discovering the Best Places to Find Sea Glass along the Gulf Coast of the United States

Although there are no beaches on the Gulf Coast that are specifically known for their sea glass, there are some locations where you can find a few scattered treasures along the shore. The Gulf Coast encompasses Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, and I have personally visited almost every beach along this coast, from South Padre Island in Texas to Key West in Florida.

As someone who loves Florida, I can attest that it boasts some of the most stunning beaches in the United States. However, when it comes to sea glass hunting, Texas is the clear winner. That being said, you are unlikely to find any type of glass on the beautiful white sand beaches. Rather, your best bet is to search for spots with darker sand, some shell fragments, and a high population density or proximity to populated areas. If you follow my blog, you are likely aware of my affinity for Florida's beaches.

I am only able to find sea glass in four specific locations on a regular basis. While some of the pieces are beautifully polished, others are only slightly tumbled.

Bolivar Peninsula

High Island Beach, Old SH 87, High Island, TX 77623

Out of the entire peninsula, I have only been able to discover sea glass in this particular area. It's an excellent spot to uncover smooth glass in a range of colors.

High Island Beach

 310 Ocean Village Dr, Surfside Beach, TX 77541

Most of the glass is clear.

 Sea Rim State Park

19335 State Hwy 87, Sabine Pass, TX 77655

All colors, but very little

La Quinta Inn & Suites

7000 Padre Blvd, South Padre Island, TX 78597

Tons of brown glass

Wishing you luck on your sea glass hunting adventure!