JOURNEYS

Commune with the Natural Wonders of the Lower Keys

Lower Keys is perfect for nature lovers

Nature lovers should look no further than the quiet Lower Keys for their next wintertime escape. The area will shatter any preconceptions of the Florida Keys—you won’t find any signs of raucous nightlife here. Instead, there are two national wildlife refuges, a national marine sanctuary, and a state park.

So if you’re searching for outdoor activities and fun in the sun, the Lower Keys are home to some of the most magnificent wilderness areas in the Floirda Keys. Paddle around a deserted island, search for endangered Key deer, or discover your own private sandbar. The possibilities are endless.

Bahia Honda State Park

TRIP HIGHLIGHT

Bahia Honda State Park

This gorgeous island is ideal for swimming, birding, beachcombing, snorkeling, or simply laying on the beach. Plus, you can learn about local history here too.
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TRIP DESIGNER

The Florida Keys & Key West

With miles of beaches, an abundance of eclectic cultural riches, and communities known for welcoming, laidback attitudes, The Florida Keys & Key West invite you to “come as you are.” Enjoy tranquility and relaxation; fishing, diving, and boating; and top-tier dining, plus museums, artists and history, in island settings of stunning natural beauty.
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Day 1Arrival in the Florida Keys

Your journey to the Lower Keys begins at Key West airport. After securing your rental car, drive east to check in at The Perry Hotel & Marina, where you’re greeted with a glass of champagne. It’s just a short drive from Key West airport and outside the hustle and bustle of Key West. But, even though it’s only a few miles from Duval Street, it feels a world away on this hidden corner of Stock Island.

After settling into your elegant room, take a moment to enjoy the balcony. Each room at the Perry Hotel has one, and many of them overlook the marina. Then head down to one of the two waterfront pools. Or rent a bicycle from the front desk to explore the surrounding area.

As the sun sets, drive about eight miles east across the Overseas Highway for a genuine Keys dining experience at Geiger Key Marina Fish Camp. Hogfish is the focus here—a moist and delicate fish local to the area. Grab a seat at one of the picnic tables overlooking the water and try it paired with grits or folded into tacos or sliders.

A refreshing morning walk to Stock Island Marina

Day 2 Search for Sandbars



After breakfast at the hotel, take a refreshing morning walk to Stock Island Marina to board your charter boat. Today you’ll discover sandbars, the hidden gems of the Florida Keys. Sandbar-hopping, where a boat delivers you to a strip of sugar-fine white sand rising out of the turquoise waters, is a beloved pastime in the islands. You’re sure to have some thrilling wildlife sightings away from crowds. Keep an eye out for colorful fish, crabs, dolphins, or even stingrays.

After being out on the water all day, you’ll be pretty hungry. You can easily pop into Hogfish Bar & Grill on the walk back from the marina to the hotel. The setting on a covered dock overlooking the marina is ideal for diving into the eponymous fish stuffed with crab and shrimp, smothered in a mango cream sauce.

Bahia Honda State Park

Day 3Explore the Park

It’s an early morning today as you prepare to make the 45-minute drive to Bahia Honda State Park for a day full of outdoor exploration. You’ll stop at Galley Grill about 25 minutes into the scenic drive over the Overseas Highway. Coffee lovers will feel energized for the day after visiting this unpretentious local spot known for stacks of pancakes fresh from the griddle or ciabatta French toast.

Bahia Honda State Park, located on Bahia Honda Key, beckons with three beaches, including a secluded white sand beach with clear waters on a spur between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. You’re welcome to set up a lounge chair and stay there all morning.

Do you need to get the blood pumping a bit more? In that case, the park is home to three different hiking trails, each offering a chance to spot some of the over 150 species of flora, including the largest known stand of Florida silver palms. Birders will want to keep an eye out for endangered, white-crowned pigeons. Snorkeling trips with a chance to spot yellowtail, angelfish, barracudas, and eels also occur multiple times daily.

Stop at Cudjoe Key on the way back for a relaxed dinner at the Square Grouper for innovative Florida Keys cuisine sprinkled with global influences. The flash-fried conch with wasabi and ponzu drizzle, and almond-encrusted group with warm Caribbean pineapple relish, are not to be missed.
No Name Key

Day 4Visit the Key with No Name

As you venture towards a remote corner of the Keys, more fun in the sun lies ahead. During the drive to No Name Key, make a point to stop at Baby’s Coffee on Saddlebunch Key. This shop has been pouring some of the Keys’ best coffee and roasting their own beans for over twenty years.

Continue on your way now that you’re fully caffeinated. The sparsely populated island of No Name Key has only around 40 homes. It has a reputation for literally being off the grid. For decades, the homes on the island weren’t connected to the commercial power grid, and residents relied on generators for electricity if they used any at all. However, there are a few spots for renting kayaks near the bridge. No Name Key is accessible by a narrow bridge from Big Pine Key, but it’s also fun to explore by rental kayak from one of the vendors near the bridge.

Stopping at No Name Pub in this quiet corner of the Florida Keys is practically required. The pub’s history goes back more than 90 years when it sprang up near the ferry to Key West, which the Overseas Highway has now rendered obsolete. However, people still make the trip to this local institution for cold beers paired with pub pizzas, burgers, and fried seafood.

It would be a shame to drive all this way and not visit the National Key Deer Refuge Nature Center in Big Pine Key. There are only about 700 left of these endangered species in the world, and you won’t find them anywhere except in the Lower Keys. The Florida Key deer are the smallest of all white-tailed deer and are easiest to spot at dawn or dusk.

In the center of the refuge, you’ll find Blue Hole–an abandoned rock quarry that is now one of the Keys’ few sources of fresh water. This oasis attracts all sorts of wildlife like the Key deer, but also birds, snakes, alligators, and iguanas.

Tonight you’ll mark the end of your Keys vacation with dinner at Matt’s Stock Island Kitchen and Bar in the hotel. The menu’s version of American coastal comfort food includes crab and andouille sausage hush puppies served with a roasted jalapeno remoulade and grouper gnudi featuring pink shrimp, tomato cream, and kale.

From the unique flavors of the local cuisine to the abundant natural beauty, the power of the Florida Keys is undeniable. As your trip comes to a close, you’ve undoubtedly experienced it for yourself during your remarkable time off the beaten path in the Lower Keys.