Yep, you have guessed, this is the second part of my blog post about a trip I took down the Florida Keys, to Islamorada, the Purple Island.
I was going to call this post, ‘Tarpon, Hogs and Sundowners’, but then you may not have connected it with the first part of the story, so I settled for simplicity over creativity… on this occasion.
Part 2 starts with a drive out, from Cheeca Lodge, the hotel where we are staying for the duration.
As I mentioned in my last post, when leaving the hotel, you are faced with two choices, turn right to head North, turn left to head South.
There is only one road which takes you anywhere. The others, the smaller side roads, are simply for access to the homes, stores and restaurants and such, on the various keys. They do not lead anywhere, except back to wherever you first joined them.
The Overseas Highway (US1), is the only road that really matters here. Oh, it’s called the Overseas Highway because that is where it takes you for much of the time, over the sea.
Large sections of this road is built on bridges, 42 of them are drawbridges, raised to let the boats pass to and fro.
Want more facts? Okay, here goes.
The US1 Highway runs from Fort Kent, Maine to Key West, Florida. That’s a total 2,369 miles.
The section known as the Overseas Highway, the part of US1 which runs from South Miami through Key Largo, down to Key West, is 113 miles long.
Okay, that’s enough of that.
We turned left out of Cheeca Lodge and drove, nonstop, the amazing distance of one whole mile.
Today, we were stopping at Robbie’s.
Why here? You may ask.
Well, it is right here where you can hand feed the huge fish called Tarpons.
They even named their restaurant the Hungry Tarpon.
It all started about 18 years ago when Robbie and his wife Mona saved the life of a single Tarpon they called Scarface. (See Robbie’s website for the full story). After recovery, Scarface continued to frequent Robbie’s dock, often accompanied by other Tarpons.
Soon more and more of the fish began to appear. These days large school of more than 100 tarpons come here every day and linger for hours. Now, it has become a tradition, with visitors from across the world, coming to marvel at the spectacle and hand feed these magnificent creatures.
Recently Robbie’s has become a fashionable place to be seen too, with ‘Abercrombie & Fitch’ and ‘Boston Proper’ both choosing this location for their catalogue fashion shoots.
Probably because they heard I have visited.
We could have eaten lunch at Robbie’s, They serve a mean grouper sandwich, but as it was so near our hotel, we decided we would return to eat there another day.
Instead, we headed back the way we came, but drove on past Cheeca Lodge and kept going until we reached Windley Key.
On this key is a great fun place to eat, they call it Hog Heaven.
By day, Hog Heaven masquerades as a relaxed Florida Keys sports bar with some of the freshest seafood and best house smoked bar-b-que in town.
BUT, Hog Heaven is also the hottest local sports bar and Islamorada oceanfront restaurant and a late-night spot in the Upper Florida Keys. Once the sun goes down, Hog Heaven transforms into the wildest party destination in almost 100 miles. With a live DJ spinning every weekend and countless bands from across the globe.
Not in the mood for dancing, that’s fine too. You can enjoy a cocktail under the stars on Hog Heaven’s own private beach, or a late-night bite on the oceanfront pier.
Then it was a lazy afternoon by the pool, sleeping off the huge plateful of House-smoked Ribs served with all the trimmings and a cold sandbar Sunday, an American craft wheat ale… just one of these, as I was driving this lunchtime.
Sounds mean, but I would not be behind the wheel tonight, when we headed ‘Down South’ the Key West for Sundowners.
Turning left out of the hotel we joined ‘The’ road and headed South.
It was a case of wearing blinkers, because there is so much to see along the Keys, each one having offerings as unique as each individual Keys character.
One structure you cannot help but see is the Seven Mile Bridge, which forms part of US1 and therefore part of the route you must take when travelling further South than Marathon.
The bridge runs from Marathon to the lower Keys. (In truth, the bridge runs from Knights Key to Little Duck Key and is only 6.79 miles long, but what’s a few feet between friends?)
Okay, so we arrive in Key West, with enough time to wander through the streets which are lined with colourful ‘gingerbread’ style houses, poke around a couple of art galleries, while dodging the odd chicken running between our feet.
Many folk head for Mallory Square for the sunset. While it is a great and popular spot it can get overcrowded and noisy.
Most places can and often do.
Yet I enjoy The Tower Bar at Turtle Kraals. I think this is more of an intimate spot to watch the sunset from and it has the advantage of being upstairs, overlooking Key West’s historic seaport, so you get the striking sunsets and a picturesque view of the harbour combined.
As I was not driving I decided I would imbibe a beer or two…
That’s about all I remember about that. (Please, read that again, using a Forest Gump accent.)
Thanks for reading Wild Geese, in my next post I’ll tell you about our amazing day Troll fishing off Islamorada and what we ate in the Cheeca Lodge restaurant.
Don’t forget, grab yourself a copy of my book to read when you’re on vacation.
I know you will love The Abduction of Rupert DeVille
Keep happy, Paul.