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Posts tagged “Activities

Bicycle Bar-hopping

Stop Two: Mangrove Mama's

Stop Two: Mangrove Mama’s

We found a new way to have fun. Now that there is a finished bike path from the northern end of Summerland Key all the way past us to the beginning of Sugarloaf Key we can hop on our bicycles and bar hop.
First stop: South 3 miles to the KOA Campground Bar
Second stop: Across the Overseas Highway to Mangrove Mama’s
Third stop: Back 3 miles north to our own Square Grouper
Fourth stop: Further north 3 miles to The Wharf Bar and Grill.
Then south again 3 miles back to Jolly Roger Drive.
The only thing you have to watch out for is when the bike path crosses the Highway. When this occurs you need to be VERY careful. However, we even had the traffic stop for us. That was kind of scary. Otherwise it is wait for an opening and make a dash for it!


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/.


Image

Old Town Recreational Kayaks

Old Town Recreational Kayaks

Two Tandem Recreational Kayaks
We have two tandem kayaks with two paddles and two life jackets for each. You can paddle across the bay, explore the local canals, or put them on top of your car and take a back country kayak trip. Lots of fun!


Mango Cruiser Bicycles

Bicycle

Mango Cruiser Aluminum Bike

We have six of these Mango Cruiser bicycles in the storage room. They are all aluminum so they don’t rust. They are great for riding around the neighborhood or up to the fish market to get seafood for dinner. There are also lots of places in the local area to go exploring, like Blimp Road or Loop Road. Also, it looks like the Overseas Highway Bike Path is going to be completed in this area pretty soon. They are working on it like crazy.

There are three boys bikes and three girls bikes. They all have gears. four of them have seven gears, two of them have three gears.

Each bike has a removable basket and a lock. Three have pumps.


Eagle Ray

Eagle Ray

We see an Eagle Ray.

While out fishing on the flats one day, we spotted an Eagle Ray not too far from the boat.

We manuevered a bit and managed to get near enough to get this close up. You can really see the Eagle Ray’s distinctive spotted pattern.

We were out behind Cudjoe, pretty close to Sawyer Key.

Eagle Ray Close Up

A real good look at the Eagle Ray.


Dolphin Mud

Dolphin Mud

Dolphins forming a "Mud"

On the way back from the flats we came across this sight. It is a classic “mud.” A mud is formed when fish stir up the “mud” by rooting around on the sea floor for food or a when group of predator fish do the same thing while attacking other fish.

In this case, the predators are dolphins. There were four of them going round and round and up and down feeding on some little fish we couldn’t quite spot.

Dlophins leaving a mud

Three of the dolphins leaving the mud.

The second photo shows three of them leaving the mud.


Dry Tortugas

Dry Tortugas

Arriving at the Dry Tortugas

This is a great trip! I am a little hesitant to recommend it because it is pretty expensive and we were so lucky with the weather and with hardly anyone else on the boat. We took the Yankee Freedom II, a fast catamaran that runs from Key West to the Dry Tortugas on a daily basis.

The trip was wonderful, but there were only a few people on the boat. It could really have been crowded and that would not have been as nice. Also, the weather was wonderful.

Dry Tortugas Seaplane
Getting There by Airplane

The arrival at the park is very impressive. The fort appears rise right out of the sea, probably because it does.

You can also get to the park by sea plane. This costs more, and you don’t get to stay as long, but I  bet it is a spectactular trip and arrival.

When you go by boat they provide a nice picnic lunch and you have plenty of time to frolic in the water (great snorkling, gear provided) and to tour the fort.

Fort Jefferson
Tour of Fort Jefferson

The fort is quite interesting. The Park Service guide gives a comprehensive explanation.

The top of the fort provides a nice view of the other islands that make up the park. These islands are home to a plethora of sea birds.

Trip Information:

http://www.nps.gov/drto/index.htm

http://www.yankeefreedom.com/key-west-reservations.htm

http://keywestseaplanecharters.com/


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/


Sunset at the La Concha

La Concha view
View from the La Concha Hotel

We usually take people who have not been, to the top of the La Concha Hotel in Key West. It is the tallest building, by far, in the city.

They have a bar, often some Jimmy Buffet type live music, and a great view of most of Key West.

La Concha sunset

A sunset from the La Concha

If you do this, you need to get there a little early (before sunset) so you can get a seat with a view. Otherwise it is not so bad standing and watching as the sun goes down.

Beats Mallory Square (I think)!

Then we usually head off to dinner somewhere.


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


The Pool/Spa

Pool

The Pool/Spa

The pool is not very big, but since it has swim jets you can swim for as long as you like. It is great exercise.

It is heated, so you can always keep the water at a comfortable temperature.

In the evening it is nice to heat it up to spa temperature and turn on the Jacuzzi jets. There are seats around the two sides of the pool where the jets are located, so you can just lounge around and enjoy the warm/hot water.


Photos on Google Earth!

Sunset on Dock

Watching the sunset from the dock.

We’ve had two photos accepted for viewing on Google Earth!

This one, and one of the after glow included in one of our earlier posts.

To see them on Google Earth, just put in our address and select the “Photos” layer. When you zoom in, click on the photo icons that appear and the photos will popup.


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.


Kayaking with Athena

Athena goes kayaking

Athena is OK with kayaking.

Athena is a Black Lab/other things. She went for her first kayak ride this morning. She had to be encouraged to go for a swim and wanted back in as soon as she hit the water.


Geiger Key Marina!

Geiger Key

Killing time till the steps are dry

 The steps are painted. They take four hours to dry so I went to town to get a few things and I still have two hours to kill… So I stopped by the marina for a beer and a bowl of really hot conch chowder.

We like this place a lot! Right on the water and great food.

I was going to stick in a picture as I sat here, but I forgot the camera cord so that will have to wait until I get home and can get past the steps.


Kayak Trip

Blimp Road Kayak Trip

Kayaking in the Swash Keys Mangroves

The wind died down this afternoon, so we took the kayaks back out to the end of  Blimp Road and took a short paddling trip. We saw a buch of birds: Great Whites Herons, Great Blue Herons, Little Blue Herons, and Great Egrets.
We also saw a ray on the bottom in very shallow water.
Nice trip.

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.