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Wharf Bar & Grill

Wharf Bar & Grill

The Wharf Bar & Grill

The Wharf Bar & Grill took the place of the old Fish Cutters. It is really a great place. It has a lot of open air seating right along a canal with lots of working boats.

It is located at the far eastern end of Summerland Key, just before the bridge.

You can pull right up in your boat, as we did when Eric decided to just meet the girls at the restaurant rather than return home and get them.

The food is great. I love the Conch Chowder, which is as thick with ingredients as any you’ll get. Extensive menu, lots of other stuff available.

There is now an outdoor bar too.

Do not call the waitress “sweetie.”

Restaurant Information:

(305) 745-3322

25163 Overseas Highway
Summerland Key, Florida 33042

https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Wharf-Bar-Grill/144085468943570


2013 Kayak Trip

DSC_3010

This is very hard work.

The “Bionic Hips and Knees Kayak.” Not a team made in heaven. Look at the expression of the paddler in the back. He spent the rest of the week kicking the yellow kayak. We decided to switch front paddlers to avoid blood shed. Things got worse as the pairs were now man and wife. After counseling there was no permanent damage to the relationship.

We started and ended at the Niles Channel boat ramp on Summerland Key. The trip was abbreviated from the planned itinerary due to crew exhaustion and failure to paddle in a straight line.


Cudjoe Bike Trail

Bike Trail

New “Old State Road 4”

The Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail (FKOHT) is coming to Cudjoe Key. The “Old State Road 4” road bed, which was all overgrown and ripped up, first got graded and prepped for paving. Then it got paved. Very nice!

It now runs way past Blimp Road, all the way to where it will cross the highway around the Sheriff’s Substation. This is part of the Summerland Key to Sugarloaf Key trail section. All of it is under construction.

"Newer" Old State Road 4

Newer “Old State Road 4”

This makes the bike trip to the end of Blimp Road a very pleasant trip. No more branches in the face. The trip to the KOA Campground Bar and Mangrove Mama’s is also now a breeze. Who knows, maybe Sugarloaf Lodge and the Bat Tower will be on the Biking from Cudjoe short list.

I have no idea when it will be completed, but it shouldn’t be too long. I can’t find an updated schedule on the internet.

For more information about the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail go to: http://fkoht.net/.


Murray’s Market

Murray's Market
Murray’s Market on Summerland Key

Murray’s Market is the closest place to get comestables and sundries.

They have a deli with subs and cut their own meat. They also have wine and cold beer.

As usual with the smaller markets they are kind of expensive, but it beats going 8 miles to Big Pine or 20 to Key West.

Going North, Murray’s is on the right, right on the Overseas Highway at about MM 25.


Coco’s Cantina (RIP)

Coco's Cantina

Coco's Cantina, Cudjoe Key

The building is still there, but Coco’s is no more. The little dive at the corner of Overseas Highway and Blimp Road closed sometime in 2010.

I loved this place. Cheap food. Good for breakfast with my wife or dinner when I was down here alone.

I hope some one reopens it, but I won’t hold my breath.


Fat Albert

Fat Albert
Fat Albert at rest

Cudjoe Key’s singular and distinguishing feature is the unmanned Navy surveillance blimp (don’t get technical here), Fat Albert.

Fat Albert is tethered to the ground by a cable and flies on almost all days with good weather. Fat Albert is located at the end of, what else, Blimp Road. To get close enough to photograph it though, as in this shot, you must be in a boat.

 
End of Blimp Road

Bicycling to the end of Blimp Road

Bicycling to the end of Blimp Road is a nice ride from the house (maybe 2 or 3 miles). You just cross the highway and take Old State Road 4 to where it intersects with Blimp Road (at Coco’s Cantina, now closed, sob).

Fat Albert looks for drug runners and other smugglers, and broadcasts to Cuba.

It is great to have this “landmark” to steer by when returning to Cudjoe, although exactly where it is can be a bit confusing.

There is a very detailed article here: http://www.n-the-florida-keys.com/Fat-Albert.html 


Lower Keys Shuttle (Bus)

Key West Transit
The Key West Transit Logo

If we have guests that want to do some different things and we don’t have enough cars for everyone to go their own way, we rely on the Key West Transit “Lower Keys Shuttle.”

This bus runs up and down the lower keys between Key West and Marathon.

It is very inexpensive and it has a great web site that shows where the buses currrently are and gives an updated time of arrival at your stop.

So, if somebody wants to go to Key West, and some one else wants to go to the beach at Bahia Honda, just tell them to take the Lower Keys Shuttle. Our stop is right up Cutthroat and a few yards to the right on the highway.

Shuttle Information:

http://www.kwtransit.com/


Big Pine Speed Trap

Speed Trap

Speed Trap entering Big Pine from the north

As you leave the bridge (Speed Limit 55 MPH) onto Big Pine Key from the north, you must already be slowed to 45 MPH (35 MPH at night) BEFORE leaving the bridge. If you slow after leaving the bridge you will be ticketed.

The Trooper sits right at the end of the bridge and there is no slack.

This ticket is the first time I felt I was really tricked into a ticket.

For more information about speed traps see Trapster.com.


Grocery Store

Winn-Dixie

Winn-Dixie in Big Pine

The nearest full-size grocery store is the Winn-Dixie in Big Pine.

We do most of our shopping at the military commissary in Key West, but we go to the Winn-Dixie at times. We have always had a reasonably good experience, but customer reviews of this store are horrible.

Store Information:

Big Pine Plaza
251 Key Deer Blvd
Big Pine Key, Florida 33043

Phone: 305-872-4124

Regular Store Hours:

Mon – Fri: 7:00 A.M. – 11:00 P.M.
Sat: 7:00 A.M. – 11:00 P.M.
Sun: 7:00 A.M. – 11:00 P.M.

Store hours may vary due to seasonality.


The Flats

The Flats

The water out on the flats

Of all the aspects of the Keys, the most striking is the natural splendor of the “flats.”

The varied sea bottoms are visible through the crystal clear waters and the sky is a fitting partner to the land and sea.

Great day out in the flats

Sky, water, bottom, and mangroves

The famous game fish of the keys, sharks, porpoises, rays, crabs, lobsters, sea turtles; can all be seen out in the flats.

The unspoiled nature of the flats is best appreciated in the protected waters of the Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge. Cudjoe Key is located adjacent to the very center of this refuge.

Eagle Ray

An Eagle Ray next to the boat

Flats boat
Flats boat, fisherman, and guide

Refuge Information:

Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge
28950 Watson Boulevard
Big Pine Key, Florida   33043
Email: keydeer@fws.gov 

http://www.fws.gov/nationalkeydeer/
greatwhiteheron/

http://www.stateparks.com/
great_white_heron.html


Fanci Seafood (Fresh Seafood)

FanciFish

Fresh seafood within walking distance.

Fresh seafood right in the neighborhood!

Up on the highway is the Fanci Seafood market. They have moved from where the picture was taken. They are just about a quarter mile West now. You can still bicycle there on the road behind the store.

Another seafood store got their lease. Who knows?

They have fresh local shrimp, lobster, stone crab, and fish (Grouper, etc., yummy!).

I think they just changed their sign after changing their name a while ago.

They also sell a great shrimp cleaning tool that we have two of at the house.

Prices are not cheap, but the catch is fresh and excellent. They are open seven days a week until 6:00 pm. (Their website says they are not open Sundays, but I swear they are.)

Walk or ride a bike (take a basket) and bring back the makings of a great meal. Take a left at the last street before the highway and go through the open gate to a gravel parking lot.

They also carry bait, chum, and ice.

Store Information:

(305)745-3887

22.5  Overseas Highway
Cudjoe Key, FL

http://www.fanciseafood.com/


The Bat Tower at Perky, FL

Bat Tower
The Bat Tower at Perky, FL (Sugarloaf Key)

In the 1920s, this unusual structure was built by Mr. Perky to lure and house bats that would surely solve the mosquito problem and allow a planned resort to flourish.

Not so fast, as you can read in Joy Williams’ Guide to the Florida Keys.

This structure, which is in amazingly good shape (though still batless), is just a few miles from the house. See if you can find it.


Guided Back Country Kayak Trip

Back Country Kayaking

Captain Bill leads the way.

We wanted to try kayaking in the back country around the Lower Keys, but were a little reluctant to try it the first time without some expert guidance.

So, we signed up for a three hour tour with Captain Bill Keogh, a naturalist and author of a Keys paddling guide.

We started at the Niles channel on the north eastern end of Summerland Key and ended at Blimp Road on Cudjoe Key.

Kayak picnic

Stopping for some lunch

We did some neat exploring of mangroves, saw some beautiful birds, including a Roseate Spoonbill, and some sea life. We stopped and had a picnic lunch.

Probably the neatest thing was navigating through some dense mangroves.

It was a great introduction to Keys kayaking and although it got REALLY windy as the trip went on, we had a great time.

Mangrove channel

Exploring the mangroves

We also bought his book, Florida Keys Paddling Guide, and use it to plan our self-guided trips.

 
Contact Information:
 
 305) 872-7474
 
Old Wooden Bridge Fishing Camp on Big Pine Key


Email: bigpinekayak@aol.com

http://www.keyskayaktours.com/


Sugarloaf Key Bike Trips

Sugarloaf Map

Sugarloaf Bike Trips

We often bicycle from Cudjoe to Sugarloaf to go to the KOA Campground, or its neighbor Mangrove Momma’s. Both of these make nice destinations for a drink (KOA after 3:00pm).

If we want to bicycle more extensively on Sugarloaf, we put the bikes in the car and take them to the Surgarloaf Lodge where we mount up and ride through the Sugarloaf housing area, which is quite nice, all the way down to Loop Road.

Loop Rood is a closed off loop of asphalt road that can be walked or bicycled without fear of traffic. If you don’t feel like biking all the way from the Lodge, you can also park near the entrance.

You just walk your bikes around a barrier and take the road straight, over a bridge, until you see Loop Road on your left. After about a quarter of a mile on the loop, you end up with water on both sides. Sugarloaf Sound is on your left and a lagoon inside Loop Road is on your right.

Usually there are plenty of birds in evidence.

Another interesting thing about Loop Road is that you will see some signs of recent use by cars, tire slicks for instance. This is because they stage a sports car competition here now and then. It is known as the Bay Bottom Crawl and a description of it can be found on the internet.

If Loop Road isn’t enough, you can explore Old State Road 4A in both directions. Most of this old Keys highway is very beat up and overgrown. To the east you can bike about half a mile to the burned out bridge over Tarpon Cut. If you had followed the Old State Road from the KOA Campground, you would have gotten to the other side of this bridge.

Following the maintained road to the west, you eventually come to a dead end that leaves you a similarly unmaintained poriton of the Old State Road. This section is much longer, several miles, and it goes all the way to the end of Sugarloaf Key to where a wooden bridge used to cross to Geiger Key. You can still see some of the old pilings. If you had a blow up Kayak with you, you could have lunch at the Geiger Key Marina.

When you get back to Sugarloaf Lodge, you can see if you can find the nearby famous “Bat Tower” and then have a drink at the Lodge’s Tiki Bar right on the water.


Little Palm Island

Little Palm Island

Beautiful (expensive) place

Little Palm Island is a very exclusive resort about five miles up the road. You must take their launch out to the island. It is certainly beautiful! The food is excellent as well. However, it is (to me) absurdly expensive.

Our guests love it though, and since they usually pay I usually go. We hear Sunday brunch is a pretty good deal. We plan to try that next.

I have to echo Joy Williams in her guide book , “You’re really going to go there?”

Very, very pricey.

Restaurant Information:

(305) 872-2551

Little Palm Island Resort & Spa
28500 Overseas Highway
Mile Marker 28.5
Little Torch Key, FL 33042

http://www.littlepalmisland.com/littlepalmisland_home.aspx


Missy N’ Joe’s Deli

Evie’s is now Missy N’ Joes’s Deli. It is our local, walk to/bike to, sandwich shop. They have delicious subs which are made remarkable, as are most other foods, by a great pepper sauce.

We had one great lunch by buying four different sandwiches, cutting them into quarters, and everybody trying a little of each.

Evie’s hours were somewhat variable, however, Missy N’ Joe seem to be much more reliable.

Costs more than Subway, but it’s local and really good.

Restaurant Information:

(305) 735-4488

22836 Overseas Highway
Cudjoe Key, FL, 33042

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Missy-N-Joes-Deli/164680133621808


The Square Grouper Bar and Grill

The Square Grouper Bar and Grill

We can walk here!

The Square Grouper is our local, walk or bike to, restaurant. It is also one of the best restaurants in the Keys. We don’t go that often only because they do not have outside seating.

The other night we had:

  • Ahi tuna
  • Flash fried conch with Wasabi drizzle
  • Fried coconut shrimp

Everything was delicious. I get the flash fried conch almost every time I go to the Square Grouper. I love that stuff.

A little pricey.

Restaurant Information:

(305) 745-8880

22658 Overseas Hwy
Summerland Key, FL 33042

http://www.squaregrouperbarandgrill.com/


Evie’s Sub Shop for lunch

OK, the first real test of a blog from the iPad, with a picture taken and inserted at the time.

I decided to go to the local sub shop up on the highway. I jumped on a bicycle and in less than 5 minutes I was ordering an Italian Deluxe w/pepper sauce. Great sandwich… Don’t forget the pepper sauce.

They also had a bunch of stone crab available (her husband is a crabber/lobsterman), but no fresh lobster. They said you can order fresh lobster and they’ll go get it for you. I might do that for next week.

I did end up doing a little editing after I got back. The picture was much bigger than others and the text alignment was below. Other than that, it worked great.


Bicycle Trip

White Pelicans

White Pelicans in Formation

Today we bicycled around loop road on Sugarloaf Key. It was a beautiful day and as we ate lunch a flock of White Pelicans flew over.

Ibis

I scared the Ibises.

Toward the end of the ride I stopped to photograph some Ibises. As I approached a little closer, they took flight.