So I started thinking back to the Florida Keys. Last spring when planning our March Florida trip, I'd done a little initial research at possibly extending our trip to include the Keys. But at the time of planning, we were knee deep in wedding planning, and didn't think we could swing the expense and extra time off work, so I let it go.
But there's no reason we can't look at the Keys for next year! Especially since we could do a lot more activities there, spend two extra nights, for a decent amount less than the potential Bahamas trip I posted about yesterday.
Florida Keys with Lots of Activities and In-Boat Shark Tour
Vacation Length: 7 days, 6 nights
Time of Year: Early May
Tuesday: Fly out of Raleigh, NC early morning and pick up rental car in Miami, FL around 9am. Drive 33 miles to Shark Valley in the Everglades, stopping to pick up supplies for a picnic lunch on the way.
Enter the Everglades and rent bikes and take a 2-3 hour bike ride to view gators in Shark Valley to get a taste of the Everglades (be sure to give the gators plenty of space though!).
Eat the picnic lunch you picked up earlier, and then take a few short hikes of your choice (Bobcat Boardwalk, Otter Cave Hammock Trail, Anhinga Trail, Gumbo Limbo Trail, Pineland Trail, Pa-hay-okee Overlook, and Mahogany Hammock all look like good possibilities.).
By mid to late afternoon, say goodbye to the everglades and drive the 2 hours south to Islamorada. Check into The Moorings Village.
Unpack, change, and head across the street to Morada Bay Beach Cafe for dinner, after watching the sunset on the beach, of course.
Wednesday: Lazy day! Spent enjoying the beach and the pool, cocktail in hand.
Finish off a relaxing and lazy day at the Green Flash Lounge for dinner and drinks at sunset.
Thursday: Pack the car, check out of the hotel and begin the hour and 45 minute drive to Key West. But the first stop along the way is only about 4 miles south, to buy a bucket of fish to feed the giant tarpon fish at Robbie's.
Along the drive, pick out a restaurant to get some conch fritters for lunch.
After lunch, keep driving until about 40 minutes before getting to Key West, and stop in Big Pine at the National Key Deer Refuge. Stop at the visitor center for map, and taking the advice of a TripAdvisor.com review, "Drive down to the end of the road into the preserve. There is a culdesac at the end just past a subdivision. Park there and get out of your car. At this point you are being watched by the deer. Rattle a bag or crunch a water bottle and then get the cameras ready. Within seconds 4 to 10 deer will come up to you wanting to be fed."
Don't feed the deer, but have your camera ready for a photo op with the deer.
After seeing the key deer, continue to Key West, and check into The Harbor Inn. It sounds like there really aren't super nice beaches in Key West, and hotels on the water are insanely expensive ($450+ for a water view), so instead, we'd stay at this cute little bed and breakfast with gorgeous gardens and a nice pool for much less. This B&B is located only a couple of blocks from the best place to view the sunset on the Island, Mallory Square, near the happening end of Duval Street. Another perk of The Harbor Inn is that breakfast, as well as a complimentary happy hour from 4:30-5:30 six days a week, is included.
Spend the afternoon and evening wandering around Key West, having another wonderful seafood dinner and watching the sunset from Mallory Square.
Friday: Spend the morning and early afternoon on a snorkel and kayak tour with Danger Charters. Enjoy sailing, reef snorkeling, kayaking through mangroves, and a gourmet picnic lunch with beer and wine.
Return to the hotel to clean up and around early evening, again head to Mallory Square, check out the nightly art festival, and watch another gorgeous sunset.
Saturday: Check out Key West day! Sleep in and spend the afternoon walking down Duval Street, shopping for souvenirs, eating, having some drinks, and just wandering around wherever we feel like.
At 4:30pm, arrive at the marina for a Wine and Wind Sunset Sail. Enjoy the sunset with eight different kinds of wine, beer, and hors d’oeuvres.
Sunday: Spend a relaxing morning by the pool.
Then take a 2 1/2 hour Shark Eco Tour in the afternoon. Learn about the area sharks as they come right up to the boat, and enjoy drinks and snacks.
After returning to shore, enjoy one final sunset from Mallory Square, followed by a seafood dinner.
Monday: Check out of the hotel mid-morning, and drive the about 3 1/2 hours north to the Miami airport, drop off the rental car, and fly home.
The Budget Breakdown:
Airfare - $360.00
Car Rental - $331.86
Gas - $60.00
Everglades Park Entrance fee - $10.00
Shark Valley Bike ride - $30.00
Islamadora Lodging (2 nights) - $550.00
Tarpon feeding - $8.00
Key West Lodging (4 nights) - $780.00
Snorkel Tour - $200.00
Sunset wine and beer cruise - $140.00
Shark eco tour - $158.00
Dinner (6 nights at $75 each) - $450.00
Lunches (6 days at $25 each) - $150.00
Drinks (6 days at $50 each) - $300.00
Misc souvenirs, tips, extras - $150.00
Grand Total - $3,677.86
The main difference between this trip and the Bahamas trip from yesterday, other than the fact that it's over $1,400 cheaper and 2 nights longer, is the number of activities. Which I love doing, but my husband less so. So who knows what we'll choose! Or maybe we should take advantage of our new proximity to the Caribbean and go even further south to somewhere more exotic, like Antigua or Jamaica?
Which of these two vacations would you pick? Less days, more expensive Bahamas with less activities, or more days, less expensive Florida Keys with lots of activities?