Jan 5-10 2014 (Miss Zanzibar at Longwood, FL-Betty/Denny’s pad while John and Trish are in Marathon, FL)
Marathon Key (MM 61-48)
Eating: Keys Fisheries (at the end of 35th on the Gulf side) for Lobster Rueben sandwiches as well as conch (konk) chowder and conch fritters. I had a hog fish sandwich (minus the bread) with double steamed veggies and loved it. John’s much cheaper conch (Key style: red) chowder was not a winner for him. I enjoyed my taste of it. Burdines (recommended) at end of 15th, ocean side; for chips and salsa and fried key lime pie. Didn’t try. Sparky’s (recommended) (MM 53.5) for $.25 wings, $.25 peal & eat shrimp and $1.25 draft beer, family style-live music Friday. Didn’t try. Stuffed Pig (gulf side). Recommended; didn’t try.
Sombrero Beach (turn to the Ocean side on Sombrero Beach Road) A beautiful city park with nice restrooms, pavilions with picnic tables, playground, volleyball courts and about a ½ mile of beach. Dog friendly. The sand is like sugar and the water was comfortable. Really helped us sink into a peaceful spirit. Great place for sunsets. (Winter sunsets on Ocean side, Summer sunsets on Gulf side) Great for snorkeling too, we heard.
The Turtle Hospital (S of Sombrero Beach on Gulf side) ($18/adult) Richie Moretti left a job with Volkswagon sales in Orlando buying a 1950’s motel with a saltwater swimming pool in the 1980’s. After installing a new freshwater pool, he decided to make a aquarium of the saltwater pool. During the “Mutant Ninja Turtle” days a young boy asked why there weren’t any turtles. Richie looked into it, discovering that sea turtles were protected by law, keeping them required permits. One way to a permit was to take in injured turtles and rehabilitate them. He did, then as his patient number grew he bought the nightclub next door, converting it into a hospital. Establishing the world’s first certified hospital for sea turtles. Revenue came from funds from the Motel, then that was converted into rooms for hospital staff to stay in, so now they get their money from us tourists!
The second last turtle is missing his front left flipper. The last turtle has “bubble butt”, when gas gets trapped in their intestines so their rear end floats. Without the weights he wouldn’t be able to dive to get food. The majority of their turtles are Green Turtles, then Loggerheads (the 3rd last turtle). The Loggerhead had propeller damage but it was so yucky looking I couldn’t take a photo of it-like an open sore. The swimming pool (left of blue individual tubs) has salt water from the bay constantly flowing into it, so fish come in that pipe, stay and get too big to get out.
Knights Key/Pigeon Key (MM48) At MM 48, on Knights Key, is the Pigeon Key Visitor Center, in a rail car. You can get to Pigeon Key via bridge (no cars allowed-2.2 miles one way) or via the small boat (ferry). ($12/adult includes ferry) 4.5 acre island that Henry Flagler used to house his workers on his Florida East Coast Railroad. It was just rock (calcified coral), but they housed 64 men in each of the 4 barracks (large white building). By the way, some of these buildings still exist today. When they know a hurricane is coming they just move the pocket windows into a safe place, leave the whole building open and the water/wind washes through. We learned lots about how much Flagler did for Florida as well. That this whole state had few people, most of whom lived in Key West. At 55 years of age he had a vision of agriculture and bringing tourists to the east coast which was considered to wild and swampy for people. He used his wealth and his railroad to bring his dreams for Florida to fruition. After the hurricane destroyed parts of his Keys railroad, around 1935, the State of Florida got the tracks for $460,000 (Flagler spent over $80,000,000), put concrete over the rail parts and had itself a highway until 1982, when the state completed the Overseas Highway (took 4 years) that we travel on now. Most of the original railway has deteriorated, I think. The yellow houses are for student groups of the Marine Science Center, who may be there to learn swimming, scuba diving or marine biology. At some point along the years someone left a duck. This is a Muscovy duck. They are from Peru and don’t quack. This one sure didn’t, just sweetly curious. Love it’s looks. You can even picnic and snorkel (if you have your own equipment and a dive flag) here, when the weather is inviting. Winter brings rain and gloomy skies which we had plenty of during our week in the Keys. Thus we didn’t snorkel as we had planned. Wimps that we are. Good by sweet island.
The first images are of the old railroad track/bridge where it’s too dangerous for cars, but people can still walk or bike on it. The 3rd image is of Pigeon Key from the new Overseas Highway. After those is the Visitor Center you’d see from US 1 is Flagler and the first camp there of railroad workers.
Seven Mile Bridge (begins at S end of Marathon and ends at Knight Key where you will find the Pigeon Key Visitor Center) is paralleled by the original railroad bridge.
Veterans Park (MM 40)
Another lovely beach on the Atlantic side.
Ohio Key (MM 39-38.5)
Also at the S end of Seven Mile Bridge is “Sunshine Key RV Resort”, available if you are a Thousand Trails member or through Encore (www.readycampgo.com). This campground has 399 campsites. We were told they always have spaces available. There is a marina in here as well, where Magic Cat Charters operates. Captain Rich will take 6 people (optimum number) for a great boat ride with wonderful information and snorkeling.
Bahia Honda SP (MM 37) Didn’t stop – great beach for snorkeling. Has it’s own sand, not brought from the Bahamas.