Snorkeling and Lobster (Kind of)

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What a great time for a getaway. Between work, studying and more work, the Queen and I were more than ready to jump in the car and head somewhere stress-free. What better place than the Florida Keys? Or more specifically, Key West for the 2015 Lobsterfest.

We visited last year and had an absolute ball. You can read about last year’s trip here.

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Last year we hit Pennekamp and did a snorkel trip prior to heading off for KW to fill our bellies. This year, we decided to stay a bit closer to KW, as the drive back to the hotel in the Upper Keys – after very hot weather and lobster – was brutal.

We stayed in Marathon this time (which is a wonderful area) and stopped by a quaint little spot known as Sombrero Beach.

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Sombrero Beach is a smallish spot off the beaten path with a couple of rocky ledges that are good for snorkeling and clear water for swimming.

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With all the rain Florida has gotten this year, I was sure the water would not be as clear and I was correct. However, murky for the Keys means you only get to see 15-20 feet in front of you as opposed to 50 feet. ūüėČ

We nestled in under a big palm tree and hit the water for a couple of hours. Lots of fish and too many sea urchins to count, and quite a few ended up in the ol shell bag. I found this killer cone as well. He was occupied so he went back into the water. But dang! Look at the color of that shell! I thought it was mucky at first, but as I scraped I noticed that the color WAS the actual color. A camo cone shell. Definitely a first!

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After swimming and snorkeling for a while, we headed back to the hotel for a much needed shower and nap and then enjoyed a nice dinner at the Island Fish Company…we¬†enjoyed a wonderful view.

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After dinner, we fed some parrot fish and relaxed in preparation for our big day in Key West.

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The next morning, we got up, grabbed a bite of breakfast and headed to one of our favorite beaches anywhere – Fort Zachary Taylor in Key West.

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It is a stunning beach with crystal clear, warm water. We visited here two years ago as a¬†Florida Beaches Royalty Tour spot and were itching to come back. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it back last year, but the wait was worth it.

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There has been a considerable change to the beach on the West side, as the formerly rocky shoreline has been replaced by soft, white sand. So what did I do? I went North and tore my feet up trying to snorkel what? The rocks. I snorkeled from about that ship almost all the way up to the point. However, a couple of barracuda I encountered along the way forced me out of the water. So I climbed out, strapped on the GoPro and we hit the water.

In the first pic on the page, you can see the Queen conch we found after about 2 minutes in the water. It’s a no-take park at FZ (and the shell was occupied) so back in the water it went. But a cool way to start off the snorkel.

 

So many fish to see in the water….and many of them too fast to get snapped on cam. Twice I was buzzed by large fish. Once by a HUGE jack and the other, a hogfish – which was very cool, but scared the crap outta me.

Like, I said. I tried to snap the hogfish (above), but he was just too dang fast. You can make him out if you look closely.

Notice anything in the bottom of the picture above?

Yep, one of these guys:

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That’s a Caribbean Reef Squid.

I swam up on a little squad of these guys. They all took off except this one. He thought my GoPro was interesting, and he stopped to pose for a few shots. What a beautiful and amazing creature.

We hung out at Fort Zach for a couple of hours, showered off and made our way over to Duval Street for the festivities.

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Boy, was it HOT.

Hot hot hot.

So hot, I needed to buy a hat before walking the main drag.

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When it’s that hot, all we wanted to do was have a cold drink. But we came there for lobster.

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So it was time to find some lobster.

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After walking the main drag, I settled on a Maine Lobster Roll…just like last year.

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I was so thirsty that the Coors Light went down in two gulps.

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Queenie got herself a Lobster Slider. Well, ok I had one too.

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and we washed em down with a couple of SnoCones.

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We hung out for a little while longer until the heat was just too much. Good thing we packed up some cold drinks in a cooler.

We had a ball as we expected. There is just something about the Keys that screams “MOVE HERE BRO”.

Who knows? Maybe some day. Until then, we’ll just hafta keep coming back.

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We¬†sure don’t mind that.

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The Florida Beaches Royalty Tour ‚Äď November 2013

SKFRT 11

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Now that we have no immediate family members living near us anymore, the Queen and I are all alone here in South Florida. This makes holidays a little tough to plan and execute. So rather than brave the bitter cold like we did two weeks ago in New York, we decided to kill two birds with one stone – Thanksgiving and the November installment of the FBRT – at the same time. So we celebrated both in the beautiful village of Islamorada in the Florida Keys.

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After a night in Miami involving Dave and Buster’s, Sir Pizza and hot Krispy Kreme donuts at 10pm (you already know about our sordid relationship with donuts), we made our way an hour and a half South to the Keys.

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Islamorada is made up of five islands in the Keys (Tea Table Key, Lower Matecumbe Key, Upper Matecumbe Key, Windley Key and Plantation Key) and is world famous for sport fishing, calling itself the Sport Fishing Capital of the World. You realize that as soon as you enter the village, where there are bait shops, fishing shops and snorkel shops on both sides of the road from Tavernier all the way down to Lower Matecumbe Key.

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Let me make this very clear – unless you are planning on getting in the water – that beautiful, clear turquoise water – you shouldn’t make the trip to Islamorada. It’s all about the water there. I can’t emphasize enough at how unbelievable it is. Had it been a bit warmer, wild horses couldn’t have pulled me from it.

There are many places to stop off along the way. I recommend you do so when you visit. Pull over and get out of your car. Dip your feet in the water.

There are three key beaches in Islamorada. Founder’s Park, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and the tiny but amazing Anne’s Beach. We chose Anne’s.

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Anne’s is small and quaint with clear, relatively shallow water. Parking is free. It’s got a slew of rocks as you enter the water, but soon turns into a soft, mushy clay/sand mix. At the main entrance where we stopped, there is a place to set up, but it’s only about 50 yards long. If you’re planning on spending the day at Anne’s, bring your snorkel because I guarantee you’ll be at it all day. As a snorkeler, this is Paradise. Unfortunately, it was too cold out so we only got in about knee high.

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We only spent a short amount of time there, but came away with a ton of goodies. Out of the four or five true tulips we found, only one was empty.

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We found Dove Shells, Florida Worms, Pitted Murexes, juvie Cones and a handful of Baby’s Ears.

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I also found the broken tip of a juvenile Queen Conch as well as a handful of American Star Shells. I know if I had the chance to really get out deep, the things we could have found would be jaw dropping. We will be back to Anne’s when the water warms up. I can’t wait.

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Unfortunately, many had little guys in them so we put them back. Lots of marine life there at Anne’s, so be careful what you pick up and choose to take home with you.

Along with the wonderfully clear water, snorkeling and fishing in Islamorada, two places stand out as “must visit” attractions.

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One is the Theater of the Sea Marine Mammal Park at Mile Marker 84.

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 If you like Dolphins swimming alongside you, Sea Lions within reaching distance and up close and personal interaction with Sea Turtles and Stingrays, this is definitely a place to visit.

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It’s $29.95 for General Admission and worth every penny.

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The general admission show takes you on a lagoon ride, where dolphins Toby and Sherman swim alongside and inside the open bottomed boat. From there, it’s onto a meet and greet with Sea Turtles,

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a Parrot show,

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a Dolphin show

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and a Sea Lion show with Wilbur the Sea Lion.

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They also offer personalized swims and snorkels with the Dolphins, Rays, Sea Lions and Sea Turtles – and sharks too! Those are a bit pricey (between $65 and $185), but certainly worth it for the experience. If you have children, this is the place to take them.

The Second must stop is of course, Robbie’s of Islamorada. We stopped here before on our way back from Key West in August.

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At Robbie’s, you sit marina side and enjoy their fine food at the Hungry Tarpon and enjoy the view. Afterwards, you can take a walk around the open air shops that offer Marine wares and from there, a personal one on one hand feeding of the equally hungry Tarpon that gather at the dock.

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We finished off our wonderful trip with a delicious Thanksgiving dinner at Guy Harvey’s Outpost inside the Islander Resort where we talked about how much fun we’d had over the previous couple of days and were truly thankful for what we had experienced.

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So if you’re contemplating about visiting Islamorada, don’t think too long. So much to do. So much to see. So much to experience. If we ever came into a cash windfall, Islamorada would easily be our second home.