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….
One of our neighbors who welcomed us when we arrived at the marina in Lake Worth.
This park is on man-made Peanut Island, created when the Port of Palm Beach was constructed; we saw many such examples of ‘urban’ parks along this highly populated portion of the ICW.
A typical busy section of the ICW, waiting for the bridge opening (usually they are 30 minutes apart; others open on request).
Moored next to ‘Plush Toy’ at Larry Geller’s dock in Lighthouse Point – thanks for the hospitality Larry!
The beach at Lighthouse Point, about midway to Miami.
In Ft. Lauderdale we had a brief reunion with Dick & Carol Tuschick, our hosts for last year’s PDQ flotilla to the Bahamas, who happened to be cruising the ICW with friends; to the far right are Kaarina & Lion Benjamins, who were on their maiden voyage…..
…..in a Havana 40 powercat, which is made in South Africa; we had fun cruising together for the next 10 days.
This was our lovely little anchorage located just west of the heart of Miami Beach, which provided access to…..
…..the sights and sounds of South Beach….
…..with its numerous and unique art deco buildings from the first half of the 20th century…..
…..in a variety of shapes, sizes…..
…..and colours; many also have intricate friezes and other interesting architectural details.
Another South Beach street scene.
Even the lifeguard stations have pizazz here!
Government Cut, Miami harbour/skyline, and a resident pelican; this picture was taken from the South Point Park pier.
Sunset across Biscayne Bay from our anchorage at No Name Harbour.
Up close and too personal with an Azimut 53 in No Name Harbour; unfortunately some slight damage was done to His Idea because of this guy’s poor anchoring skills; to his credit, cash compensation to cover the cost of repair was successfully negotiated.
The entrance to Largo Basin (John Pennekamp State Park) was long, winding and busy, with lots of tour boats coming and going to the offshore reefs…..
…..but well worth the effort for the protected anchorage and services it provided; generally the weather has been sunny and very warm, but on this day we received a welcome rain to wash the salt away.
A school of parrotfish feeding around the Pennecamp dock; wildlife was plentiful here, including manatees…..
Upon arrival in Marathon we were greeted by ‘King’, reportedly the oldest (12 years) and biggest iguana in the Keys.
The Keys were linked to the rest of Florida by the Overseas Railroad in 1912, a major engineering feat; it was severely damaged by a hurricane in 1935, to be replaced by the highway system in 1938; much of the old ‘Seven Mile Bridge’ is available for walking and cycling.
In Key West we were fortunate to get a slip in the heart of the old downtown harbour area; it was a lively place, right in the centre of the action.
While other places we’ve visited have been known for the abundance of cats that rival the human population, in Key West it’s free ranging roosters and chickens – they’re everywhere!
The tourist factor – here is the line up for pictures in front of the ‘Southernmost Point in the Continental U.S.’ monument.
Given it’s strategic position at the entrance to the Gulf of Mexico, Key West has an interesting history as a naval and transportation hub, including as the initial base for the the United States’ first international airline.
Fishing for the Captain’s hat which blew into the harbour….
…..thanks to the help of Harumi and Ray, we got the catch of the day!
We visited the museum for the Atocha, a Spanish galleon wrecked about 50 miles west of Key West in 1622; Mel Fisher hunted this treasure for 16 years, finally achieving success by discovering the ‘mother load’ in 1985; estimated value of the wreck at that time – $450 million
Captured by the good times vibe of this town, each night we walked to Mallory Square for the music and antics provided by live bands, jugglers and other street performers, and to enjoy the sunset with the other revelers there.
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…..