Miami International Airport To Seven Mile Bridge
Last week we flew from Maryland’s BWI Airport to Miami’s International Airport, rented a car and drove 161 miles to Key West. Despite a small snafu getting away from the airport, it was an awesome adventure. Along the way we stopped at many places, some of which we had planned, some of which we learned from the local folk, and some that we just stumbled upon. All in all I believe that it took us about 8 hours to make this 3 hour and 15 minute drive.
Our first stop leaving airport was the Key Largo Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center to pick up the requisite tourist maps. At the Visitors Center we met a older “Fanny” type lady who suggested we visit to The Glass Bottom Bar. I know that not everyone reading this knows our Fanny so grant me this aside. For those of you who do know Fanny, let me just say this; if anyone slightly resembling Fanny advises you to visit a local drinking establishment you should drop what ever it is you are doing and go there immediately. Just the comedic relief alone will brighten your day. Back to the story… The lady said her friends owned the bar and that it was a nice place to visit. “Okay, we’ll give it a try.” I don’t know why she pointed us towards the bar and everyone else that was there towards the dolphin show …?
Before heading off to The Glass Bottom Bar, one of the places that I wanted to stop at was coming up. Jimmy Johnson’s Big Chill located along Route 1 in Key Largo. The Big Chill has a restaurant, sports bar, pool and cabanas, tiki bar and offers waterfront dining along Fisherman’s Cove. The Mahi Bites are really good and the Jumbo Steamed Shrimp are, without a doubt the best that I have eaten. The old bay seasoning that they use is not the run of the mill Old Bay we get out of the can, up here in the northeast. Rather, it is a freshly prepared spice with larger pieces of bay leaves that give the steamed shrimp a wonderful sweet spicy flavor. If you are in the vicinity I highly recommend this establishment.
From the wonderful bar staff at the Big Chill we learned of a couple of other “must see” places that we added to our itinerary. The first was Hog Heaven Sports Bar and the second was the Dead Animal Bar. Our bartender told us that both of these bars were further south along our route and he assured us that these were worth stopping at. “Okay, we’ll give em a try.”
Leaving the Big Chill after our first seafood lunch on the Keys we set out to find The Glass Bottom Bar. We had a little difficulty finding it but after we did we learned that The Pilot House Marina/Restaurant/World Famous Glass Bottom Bar does in fact have a glass bottom walkway around it’s bar area. Unfortunately is was so dirty and scratched up that we could barely see through it. I don’t believe that either Robrandi or myself bothered to snap a photo of it (Update: I did find a picture on my cell phone 5/18/2012). The rest of the place was nice and “Fanny Like” that is if Fanny ever owned a marina bar.
After the Glass Bottom Bar we came across The Rain Barrel, A Village of Artists. You can’t miss this place, it has a giant lobster in the parking lot. It is pretty much the typical tourist type gift shop however sprinkled between the typical stuff are some really talented local artists. There were actually some pretty unique sculptures and some awesome hand made jewelry makers. The village itself is nestled in the trees and nicely landscaped. It was worth the stop. Robrandi liked the stuff she bought so much that we had to stop a second time on the way back home for more stuff.
With Robrandi’s shopping spree in check and our bladders empty we jumped in the car and continued south. After several miles up ahead on the left we saw a big sign with four big ole pink pigs. Hog Heaven, indeed. Off to the left we went. As it turns out this place is a kind of a strange mix of a biker, sports, beach, harbor bar. Tra-La-La who could ask for anything more? It was quite nice.
The next stop in our journey to Key West was the Dead Animal Bar, as the locals call it. The Safari Lounge, it’s real name, is located on Islamorada, on the waterfront near Caloosa Cove Resort. The lounge is filled with all sorts of big game hunting trophies, skins, horns, antlers and artifacts from the original owner’s numerous hunting trips. It’s the kind of place you’d expect to see in northern Pennsylvania but not in the Florida Keys. In fact I didn’t see one mounted fish in the entire place. The bartender and the three drunk guys on the corner of the bar all said hello to us on the way in. One of the drunk guys even tried to take our picture but he only managed to get the ceiling. I must say that it seemed pretty unique for the area.
We left the Safari Lounge, did a time check and decided not to stop again until the Seven Mile Bridge. The Seven Mile Bridge starts on the southern end of Marathon and runs 7 miles (dah) to Little Duck Key. Actually there are two bridges: a New Seven Mile Bridge and right along side it, an Old Seven Mile Bridge. The New Seven Mile Bridge is the driving bridge. The Old Seven Mile Bridge is closed to all traffic except walking and bicycling. On the old bridge you can walk out 2 miles out to Pigeon Key. Pigeon Key was an old work camp for the workers who helped build the Flagler Railroad which ran from Miami to Key West. The walk to Pigeon Key was one of the things that we had planned to do. The sun was pretty intense, the water was very choppy and we couldn’t see any sea creatures so halfway out we decided to turn back. Oh well, on to Key West.
After returning to our car from the Old Seven Mile Bridge we drove the remaining way to Key West and our hotel, the Pier House Resort & Caribbean Spa.
The map below shows the stops we made along Route. 1 on our drive to Key West.
Stay tuned, more to follow…