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Posts tagged “Lower Keys

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!

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

2013 Kayak Trip


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.

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.

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: 

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:

Grocery Store


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

Bahia Honda (Great Beach)

Bahia Honda Bridge

The old bridge at Bahia Honda

Just 14 miles back up the Keys (mile marker 37) is the wonderful beach at Bahia Honda State Park.

Chosen in 1993 as “Best Beach of the Year,” this beach has a gently sloping sandy bottom with clear, warm waters.

There are also changing and showering facilities, picnic shelters, a concession with recently lowered prices, and camping and RV areas.

Bahia Honda beach

A nice long beach

The beach  is perfect for a long walk along the ocean’s edge. Read about all the other things you can do at the website below.

There is an admittance fee of (currently) $8.00 a vehicle.

Park Information:

(305) 872-2353

36850 Overseas Highway
Big Pine Key, Florida 33043

Ninety-Two in the Shade (Thomas McGuane)

Ninety-Two in the Shade

A very funky book! Only in Key West.

This book is not nearly as challenging as Ulysses or The Sound and the Fury, but it is strange enough to befuddle or offend some. It is definitely a Key West classic and is often referenced by authors who have chosen to write in the South Florida genre.

Thomas Skelton wants to be a Key West flats fishing guide. He single-mindedly pursues this goal in a Key West populated by a girl friend who is widely affectionate, a father who is lovably aberrant, a mother who is tolerant as only a fomer prostitute can be, and a grandfather who is a  standard corrupt South Florida politician.

Skelton’s chief obstacle is one of the two leading Key West fishing guides, Nicole Dance. Mr. Dance, due to a practical joke (his own) gone terribly wrong, is in implacable opposition to Skelton’s assuming his chosen occupation. 

This book is hilarious as it tracks purposefully toward tragedy. It really doesn’t respect the standard things. Prepare to be jolted at times: Skelton’s father opted out of WW II and called Adolph Hitler an invention of the Chamber of Commerce for crying out loud.

And there is so much more to this book.

It should be noted that 92 in the shade is not a temperature achieved in Key West, but back in Tennessee where Dance shot a man on a day of that temperature.

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


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

The Florida Keys (Joy Williams)

Joy Williams

Best guide book ever!

By novelist  Joy Williams. This is the best guide book ever written (with the possible exception of Michener’s Spain and Hawthorne’s Alhambra). It is a hilarious introduction to the insanity that is the Florida Keys.

Even (or especially) if you live in the Keys you should read this. I send a copy to everyone who visits us.

Don’t expect the usual sappy recommendations of every venue. She is merciless.

This book is out of print and has not been updated in a while. It is still worth the price.

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

Louie’s Backyard

Louie's Afterdeck Bar

Afterdeck Bar

Great restaurant with a great view and ambience to spare. The Afterdeck bar, right on the water, is legendary.

The last time we went we called that morning and, while they said they woud try to seat us outside, we ended up inside. Eating inside at Louie’s is not the answer, so call a week ahead.

The food was still superb though. Some of the things we had were:

  • The Conch Chowder, which is always great (spicy, plus I add the Bird Pepper Hot Sauce).
  • A creamed lobster starter, which was the most remarkable dish we had that night. The waitress said it was one of the chef’s signature dishes.
  • A shrimp, clam, and chorizo starter that was not so striking.
  • A  Boston lettuce salad with Maytag Blue Cheese, Apples, and Spiced Pecans. Excellent!
  • A clam starter that was great.
  • Shrimp and Grits. Outstanding!

We all felt we over-ordered. We did not realize the portions would be so big, plus the food is rich and fills you up.

Overall, GREAT food as usual. Too bad we got late reservations and had to sit inside.

We go to this restaurant more than any other and we always have a great time (and food).

Very pricey!

Restaurant Information:

(305) 294-1061

700 Waddell Ave
Key West, FLorida 33040

Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice!

Freshly squeezed Florida orange juice

Nothing like freshly squeezed Florida orange juice!

Florida oranges and an OrangeX medium sized squeezer from Willliams-Sonoma.

Katie also squeezed a grapefruit from our own tree in the backyard.

I have had the best luck with moderately sized or small Navel oranges. They have been very sweet and tasty. I have had some bad luck with large Navel oranges.

Really, really sweet and good. Probably good for us too!

Yet another sunset…

Cudjoe Sunset

Not a bad sunset


I swore I would stop taking pictures of sunsets. HOWEVER, take a look at this sky from last night!

Cudjoe Sunset - South

More of the same sunset


The next picture is the same sky a little further south of where the Sun went down.

Cudjoe Sunset - Inside

Not bad wallpaper


And the last picture is the same sunset a little later FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE!! I think the photo on the computer is from a bed and breakfast in Tuscany 2007.

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.

Tide Chart

iPad screen shot

The iPad TideGraph HD app

Ha ha! I just figured out how to post photos to the blog from the iPad. I just needed the Worpress iPad app.

Here is a picture of the iPad Tide Table app. As you can see, it was high tide this morning. This tide app is the most accurate I have seen.

Before Sunrise

Before sunrise

Morning reflections

I am sitting on the screened-in porch, writing this post on the iPad. The sun is not yet up. The tide is pretty high right now. It has been low in the early morning most of the time I’ve been here.

There is no wind at all and the day is a little humid. This is the first humidity I’ve seen this month.

I’m alone now, until at least Sunday when Nathaniel and Katie might show up if they’ve both managed to get off work. Cindy gets here Tuesday evening. Looks like dinner in Key West that night.

I can’t quite figure out how to get a photo from the iPad into my post. I took a couple pictures of the morning sky and water, so I guess I’ll add them later.

Cosi Fan Tutti is on the radio. Life is good!

Fishing from the Dock


It's a small Bonnet Head shark.

There are some nice size fish right off the dock. We’re not going to eat this one, but he was fun to catch. Of course we released him right away. He is a small Bonnet Head shark.


Morning at MM23

From the Dock at MM23 "Morning"

Just another beautiful day! Very, very calm today.

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.