If you've never heard of 'glamping', it's time you learned about this global trend that has caught fire with outdoor enthusiasts and luxury holiday seekers alike. A fusion of glamour and camping, glamping is the ultimate upgrade on rest and recreation, without the five star ticket price.
It's officially summer in South Florida. If you're a local, this means one of two things: get out of town, or embrace it! Last week we partook in the latter. Hitching an airstream to the back of her car, she and her husband made the trek down to the coral cay archipelago, the Florida Keys, to try glamping for the first time.
Generally speaking, the easiest way to get to the Keys is still by car. The thin stretch of islands don't make much room for airstrips. Key Largo, the largest of the Keys, does have an airport, though with limited use. If you're coming from out of state, you can easily fly into Miami International Airport and rent a car. Key Largo is about an hour drive south, depending on traffic.
Key Largo is the first big Key to stop at and is an oasis of gorgeous beaches, cool bars, and great restaurants. While it is the most accessible Key, immediately upon arriving you know that you are in a unique tropical paradise with a much slower pace of life.
Right from the start, you’re afforded the lifestyle that the Florida Keys have to offer. With plenty of day and night time activities, this little slice of paradise is an ideal first stop on your glamping journey through the Keys.
Where to Stay
In Key Largo, hitch up your tent, RV or camper at the brand new Key Palms Luxury Resort. With plenty of amenities like a pool and club house with flat screen TVs, cable, a fitness studio, and laundry room, this unique camp site makes glamping easy in Key Largo. Just off the main highway, Key Palms Luxury Resort is close to many of the local attractions.
After spending a few amazing sun-soaked days here, we drove down to the lively and colorful Key West where we stayed at the Bluewater Key Luxury RV Resort. Like the Key Palms, this resort has plenty of terrific amenities and is equipped with boat slips if you decided to trail a boat down with you.
Having a car in the Keys is a near necessity as many visitors 'Key hop' rather than stay in one location. The Keys is also part of the Uber network, and most islands have local taxi companies for those who don't want to drive.
What to Do
John Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo encompasses approximately 70 nautical square miles. Bring your snorkel gear, or sign up for a snorkel tour, and go see the famous Christ of the Deep. This nine foot, 4,000 pound bronze statue of Christ was installed underwater in 1965. The statue, known as the Il Christo Degli Abissi (Christ of the Abyss), is world famous and a must do in Key Largo. The expansive state park also offers a range of other activities, from scuba diving trips to see the famed coral reefs, to kayaking experiences, paddle boarding, glass bottom boat tours and much more.
Other things to do in Key Largo: swim with dolphins, visit the Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center, try parasailing, rent waterskis and boats, and of course, go fishing. The Keys are also home to unique animal species, including the Key deer, many tropical birds and fish, and the Florida Key Lime. Pick key limes fresh off the bush and juice to make your own authentic key lime pie!
On your way down to Key West, stop off in Islamorada. Meaning 'village of islands', this quiet and beautiful string of Keys is just that. Known as one of the world’s best sportfishing destinations (saltwater fly fishing and backcountry sport fishing were pioneered on Islamorada), stop off at this Key to catch fresh seafood to prepare for dinner! Before continuing south, stop by Lorelei Cabana Bar at mile market 82 on your way out of town for some excellent fish dip and draft of Key West Sunset Ale.
Just 45 minutes down the road you will find the famous seven mile bridge. The longest bridges in existence when it was built, The Old Seven was originally constructed in the early 1900 as as part of Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway’s Key West Extension, also known as the Overseas Railroad. In the early 1980’s this old bridge was no longer used for vehicular traffic when the new bridge was constructed. Stop off before you cross to take in the views or sunset.
Key West is the most developed of the Keys, and is officially regarded as the 'southern most point of the continental United Staes'. Marked by the Southern Buoy, this spot in Key West is just 90 miles from Cuba. As with all other Keys, you will find plenty of oceanic activities, and can take a short boat ride to the Dry Tortugas National Park. The 100-square mile park is mostly open water with seven small islands, and is the home of magnificent Fort Jefferson.
In Key Largo there's also plenty to do on land! Stop by the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum, head to Mallory Square for the sunset celebration that takes place every day, and check out the world famous Duval Street packed with plenty of fun bars and restaurants.
Where to Eat
Skippers Dockside: With a tiki bar outside and the postcard-like view, you can enjoy Key Largo's finest. Try their fish tacos and yellowtail snapper sandwich with a piña colada in true Floridian fashion.
Keys Fisheries: Barely north of the seven mile bridge is one of our absolutely favorite spots, Keys Fisheries in Marathon Key. While it might not look like much, this tiki shack, market and marina serves up some of the freshest seafood in all of South Florida. With several boats hauling fresh seafood into their marina each day, Keys Fisheries supplies many restaurants throughout South Florida. Must have menu items: stone crab claws (in season October 15 - Mat 15), conch salad, famous Lobster Reuben, original Knockwurst, and delicious key lime pie.
Hogfish Bar & Grill: Hard-to-find but definitely worth trying, this tiki bar tucked into the busy commercial harbor on Stock Island is a favorite with locals for its funky, friendly vibe and its fresh seafood.
No Name Pub: Somewhat of a secret, this tiny pub is a place to experience a piece of the "original" Florida Keys. Off the beaten path, No Name Pub is located two miles off US 1 in Big Pine Key. The rustic building has a sign outside stating "No Name Pub…You Found It!", and has walls littered with dollar bills. Generally considered to be 'the best pizza in town', No Name Pub offers an a break from the never ending list of fresh seafood restaurants.
Garbo's Grill: This food truck gives new meaning to street food. With amazing and cool menu items like the Yum Yum Shrimp Taco, the Mango Dog, and the Umamiburger, Garbo's Grill is the perfect delicious lunch stop for a busy day of walking the colorful streets of Key West.
Sloppy Joe's: A Key West tradition, Sloppy Joe's features locally crafted draught beers, live entertainment, and of course, amazing sloppy joes! In July, the beloved local bar and restaurant is also host to the annual Papa Lookalike Competition. Each year locals and tourists alike dress up like Hemingway and celebrate his birthday in style.