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Trip Report A week in the Keys trip report

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We (me, hub and 7 year old son) spent a week in the Florida Keys mid-March month and loved it! We flew into Fort Lauderdale on Southwest, stopped at a few grocery stores in the area, then drove 2 hours down to Lower Matecumbe Key in Islamorada. I found a nice condo on vrbo.com that was perfect for us.
Day 1 we went to Bahia Honda State Park. I had heard that it was once voted one of the nicest beaches in the country or something. The sand was white and soft, but covered with dead seagrass that resembled pine needles. The beaches near the concession stand aren't too big, but the water was clear and calm. If you sit on Calusa Beach you can see the old and new bridges. Walking out on the old bridge is pretty cool. The concession stand sells fast food, ice cream and souvenirs. Down at the other end of the park is Sandspur Beach which is much longer and has more waves.
Day 2 we started with a tour of the Turtle Hospital on Marathon (make a reservation). 30 minutes of lecture about turtles, 30 minutes of lecture and looking around the hospital then 30 minutes of wandering through the turtles and learning about their ailments. Very cool! We all really enjoyed it. The big surprise was the big wild iguanas wandering around the area. Next stop was the Dolphin Research Center, also on Marathon. There you can swim with dolphins and they also offer several other encounters. If you know for sure what you want to do and when you’ll be there, make a reservation. We figured we’d show up then decide if we wanted to do the Meet the Dolphin deal. We looked around, decided to sign up to Meet the Dolphin, then had to wait two hours. We watched some people swim with dolphins, watched a short movie, wandered around, and tried to fill the two hours. Finally time to Meet the Dolphins! $25 each for an experience that lasted just a few minutes, but it was really cool! We got to touch dolphins and shake hands with them. Even though we only got to touch them for a matter of seconds, it was a highlight of the trip for our son.
Day 3 we went to Everglades National Park. It was about 1 ½ hours drive from our condo back up to the mainland. First stop was the Anhinga Trail at the Royal Palms visitor center. WOW!! The wow started with the vultures in the parking lot, picking at the black rubber on cars. The park supplies tarps but there aren’t enough for all the cars and the vultures were trying to pull them off! We didn’t have a tarp and the vultures didn’t bother our car or lots of others without tarps. A park ranger told us that she’s seen them destroy cars before. Yikes! The Anhinga trail starts at the visitor center and right away we saw birds and alligators. Down a ways the trail becomes an elevated boardwalk which goes over ponds and grassland, and LOTS OF ALLIGATORS!  Lots of funky birds and turtles everywhere. Very very cool! There were even alligators just off the trail by the visitors center. They didn’t look hungry but we still kept our son close to us.  We also stopped at a few other places on the way down to Flamingo. Mahogany Hammock, Pahayokee Overlook (sp?), West Lake all have boardwalks through interesting areas and are worth stopping at, although none are anywhere near as cool as the Anhinga Trail. That definitely takes the cake.  Down at Flamingo there’s a big parking lot, marina, visitors center and a small café that didn’t look too appealing. There are boat trips from the marina that sounded pretty cool (reservations required, I think) but we didn’t have time for that. Maybe next trip! Oh yeah, the parking lot was mostly empty and we didn’t see any vultures until we went back to our car and there was one picking away. :O No visible damage though. Another thing, we didn’t see even one mosquito! Park Lady told us they appear in April, stay through January (or something like that) and can make the park unbearable.
Day 4 we headed down the road from our condo to Anne’s Beach on Lower Matecumbe Key. I’ve read that it’s horrible in the summer, but it was lovely in March! Low tide is the best time to go when the water goes way out and leaves a huge beach with really shallow water. When it’s high tide there’s not much beach there, but in between it was fine. It’s a great area for kids. The water is shallow and clear, no waves to speak of and lots of crabs around. There’s a boardwalk through the trees along the beach with picnic tables along the way. After the beach we went to Robbie’s Marina to feed the tarpon. What a hoot! $1 to go on the dock, $3 for a bucket of fish and well worth the money. We stayed for quite a while and went through several buckets. What fun!! Last stop of the day was Morada Bay restaurant. We sat outside by the ocean in the sand. Kiddo had fun playing in the sand while we waited for dinner.
Day 5 we went to Key West. It was packed! Traffic was a mess from the moment we got on the island, no parking, people everywhere. We parked by the southernmost point and were really surprised to see people queuing to take pictures. The Hemingway House had a long line so we went to the lighthouse across the street which thankfully wasn’t packed. Nice views from the top. Back to the Hemingway House where we braved the crowds to look around and play with the cats. There was one tour group after another, everywhere. Too many people!! From there we walked down Duval Street to Mallory Square. Every sidewalk, every shop, every restaurant was crowded. There was a cruise ship docked so maybe that’s where all those people came from. Oh yeah, and spring breakers were packed in the bars.
Day 6 we went back to Anne’s Beach and Robbie’s, then to World Wide Sport on Upper Matecumbe Key. That’s a pretty cool store with a big fish tank, lots of fish on the walls and a marina out back, and restaurant.
Day 7 was our last day so we on the way to FLL we went back to Everglades National Park and the Anhinga trail. No vultures in the parking lot that time. 

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