IS IT TIME TO RE-THINK THE FLORIDA KEYS?
Having said that, the Florida Keys are very different from the water than from the land – it’s quite different to explore them from a sailing catamaran or a motor yacht instead of the narrow and unpredictable US 1 route by car.
The first piece of advice for a boat trip, however, is not to underestimate the distances, e.g. it’s 175 miles from Miami to Key West. It a good three day journey on a sailing boat and two days on a motor yacht. So if you’re planning a 4 or 5 day or even a week’s trip, think Upper Keys, maybe Key Largo and Islamorada, or at a push, the Middle Keys to Marathon, Duck Key, etc.
- Outside the barrier reef if the weather is great. The waters are clear and there is great diving and snorkeling on the reef. The Gulf Stream will hold you up a bit due to its strong 2 to 3 knot South to North current.
- Using Hawk Channel on the inside of the reef which has really protected waters and a depth of between 7 and 12 feet.
- The inside route by using the Intra-Coastal waterway. This can be used in case of bad weather and has a unique charm all of its own. Much slower though due to the no-wake zones.
THINGS TO DO AND SEE
Dinghy or Tender excursions into Florida Bay. This is a very unique experience and highly recommended. Florida Bay has a unique eco-system that supports all kinds of marine wildlife including Manatees, and LOTS of unusual birds. It is very shallow, has brackish water and some local knowledge is useful.
Parts of Florida Bay have been set aside as an American Crocodile reserve area. There are not many Crocodiles left probably about 200 or 300 and the species is in danger of extinction so you probably won’t see any of these critters. They are generally smaller than Alligators and can live in brackish water unlike Alligators that like fresh water.
Hanging out at the older bars and watering holes that have become Florida Keys institutions – like Lorelei’s and Hog Heaven, Snappers and many, many others.
Snorkeling and Diving on Molasses Reef. The scientists at the John Pennekamp Marine Park and Sanctuary have been working wonders with the coral reef and are slowly bringing it back to its original splendor. You can dive on the bronze underwater statue of Christ and there are all kinds of fish and corals right here in your back-yard.
WHERE TO GET PICKED UP?
If you have limited time available for your Keys excursion, it might be a good idea to take a cab or limo to Key Largo and avoid the long and rather uninteresting sail from Miami to Key Largo. It’s only an hour by car.You can also fly into Key West and start your charter from the South. But, remember the distances..!!
EATING IN THE FLORIDA KEYS
If you are looking for more sophisticated fare, eating in the Keys is not for you. If you are lucky enough to have a good chef on your charter vessel, my advice is: take most of your meals on-board. Drink ashore and eat on the boat.