This post covers three somewhat distinct areas of east coast Florida: the heavily populated stretch from Palm Beach to Miami; broad Biscayne Bay plus the chain of islands that are the Florida Keys; our final destination, the town of Key West.
Although we briefly passed through to Miami last year on our way to the Bahamas, this was our opportunity to experience the area at a slower pace. Our lasting memories will be of canals and bridges, big palatial homes, even bigger boats, and vibrant city life in tune with the sun and the sea. A particular highlight was a protected and relatively peaceful anchorage near Miami’s South Beach that provided easy dinghy access to the action of this colourful area.
The narrow canals and highrises of the urban area begin to recede as one enters Biscayne Bay, however transition to the more relaxed atmosphere of the Keys is just beginning. At Key Biscayne, with the Miami skyline in sight, we anchored in No Name Harbour. Well protected and located in a state park, it is a very popular destination for Miami boaters. On the weekend it is a party destination, and for a day we enjoyed the circus of boats and people coming and going. Fortunately by Sunday night the anchorage was relatively uncrowded and quiet, enough for us to remain and enjoy the park and beaches for a few more days.
The Keys feel more easy-going as one heads south and then west along this island chain. Calm and sunny weather enticed us to travel the Hawk Channel route, on the Atlantic side, rather than the winding and intricate intra-coastal route, on the west/north side. We had a pleasant week-long stay at John Pennekamp State Park, which includes a large land and underwater reserve around Key Largo. John took advantage of the calm weather to snorkel the offshore reefs, which are impressive for their variety and abundance of fish and coral. We also stopped at Marathon on Vaca Key, a winter destination for hundreds of boaters. This small town has anchored 226 mooring balls in Boot Key Harbour, and likely boasts the most organized mooring field in the world. To generalize, whereas Georgetown in the Exumas is a winter mecca for water-borne wanderers, Marathon is a saltwater-based suburbia for northern boaters who are looking to escape the cold (and both have their own cast of interesting people).
Our final destination was Key West, Florida’s leader of the pack for being ‘laid-back’. It’s the terminus of the Overseas Highway, the ‘end of the road’ for the Keys. Perhaps this feature has led the community to attract and accept a wide diversity of characters – some permanent, some just there for vacation – and develop broad minded attitudes to all manner of people enjoying themselves. Key West is definitely touristy – even garish in places – however we found much to enjoy in its fun-loving and historical charms.
First a map, then to the pictures….
Having now returned to Marathon,we next head north for the Everglades and other spots along the west coast of Florida. Hopefully we’ll have another post in three weeks or so…..