I’ll admit- it’s extremely presumptuous to assume you can do Key West in a single day…less than a single day if I’m being honest. It’s so presumptuous that I can just flat out say it- you can’t. But we did.
Mike had wrapped up his third and final day of fancy-pants yacht engineering and was all starry-eyed about the high life of boating about with millions of dollars that we decided a bit of fanciful over-exertion was the way to go. So, after sleeping in, we hopped on the road at 11am and made our way to the Keys of Florida for a few drinks, some six-toed cats, and charm.
We stopped a little over halfway down in Islamorada for stone crabs on the beach. Stone crabs are pretty much advertised nonstop in Fort Lauderdale and we had yet to try any. I’m partial to the Maryland variety, having spent the majority of my childhood summers in Baltimore and on the beaches of Delaware eating seasoned crabs and sandy fries. These are totally different animal (er, crustacean) altogether. First, stone crabs are, by law, cooked and chilled on-board the ship (so if somebody tries to sell you some hot stone crabs, give them some serious side eye). They’re typically sold by size and weight which is a bit of a drawback as the shells are seriously thick. If you think along the lines of buying bone-in meat with the intention of deboning at your leisure, it’s a similar waste of money that could have been spent on…well…more meat. Secondly, you are only ever buying the Pop Eye legs. Hopefully the rest of the little guy is being used for something (anything, please, except tossing him overboard). They almost always come with a mustard sauce and some lemon vs. the clarified butter that you get further north.
Our four little legs cost of $17 and they were the most economical we had seen. Were they worth it, considering the fairly hefty price? Maybe. I’m still partial to the Maryland variety but biases run deep. Mike didn’t know any better and he was perfectly happy.
Having lounged beachside long enough, we continued on south, passing up the ever present touristy beach shacks before we meandered our way into a rainy Key West (note, this is about a 3 hour minimum from Fort Lauderdale, all you trip crammers). First stop: Ernest Hemingway’s estate and his polydactl cats. I’m not sure what it was about these particular cats that had me acting like I was seeing my favorite celebrities (granted, they are named after celebrities) at every turn. I think I tried to photograph and/or pet every cat I encountered. Lucky for everyone, these cats are used to people like me and are happy to indulge the crazy cat lady in all of us.
We wandered town in the rain, drinking so-so house margaritas on Tennessee Williams’ beach, passed cheery Victorians, ogled Zillow for shoeboxes masquerading as homes in the $700ks, and flirted with drag queens as the nightlife picked up.
One of our highlights was a stop at Flamingo Crossing Ice Cream. Totally unassuming, it packs a ton of tropical flavor into its ice creams. I opted for passion fruit and guyabana- a perfect distraction for all the frizz the humidity was transforming my hair into. Creamy, bright, and cool, it was a welcomed finish for the evening.
Would I do it again? Probably. But I like to milk my vacations for all they’re worth, even if it’s highly impractical. For non-cramming, I’d rent a place for two or three days and see all that we missed like the Audubon Society, Harry Truman’s Winter White House, and the rows and rows of tiny art shops on the main drag. But when we rolled into our little AirBnB driveway at 12:50am, we were still content and happier for the trip.