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!
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.”
25163 Overseas Highway
Summerland Key, Florida 33042
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.
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.
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.
The second photo shows three of them leaving the mud.
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.
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
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.
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.
Big Pine Plaza
251 Key Deer Blvd
Big Pine Key, Florida 33043
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.
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.
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.
Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge
28950 Watson Boulevard
Big Pine Key, Florida 33043
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.
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.
36850 Overseas Highway
Big Pine Key, Florida 33043
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.
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.
We also bought his book, Florida Keys Paddling Guide, and use it to plan our self-guided trips.
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.
Little Palm Island Resort & Spa
28500 Overseas Highway
Mile Marker 28.5
Little Torch Key, FL 33042
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.
22658 Overseas Hwy
Summerland Key, FL 33042
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).
700 Waddell Ave
Key West, FLorida 33040
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!
I swore I would stop taking pictures of sunsets. HOWEVER, take a look at this sky from last night!
The next picture is the same sky a little further south of where the Sun went down.
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.
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.
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.
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!