Florida’s Lower Keys: Bahia Honda, Big Pine Key and Key West
By Kathrin Kana
There’s simply nothing like the tropical island feel of the Florida Keys. This chain of various-sized islands beckons visitors from around the world, especially the Lower Keys including Bahia Honda State Park, Big Pine Key and, of course, the famous Key West. The Florida Keys are a must-see vacation destination that you must tour on your next visit to Florida.
White-sand Beaches in Bahia Honda State Park
Many people are surprised to learn that the Florida Keys aren’t necessarily known for their beaches. In fact, Key West’s beaches are man-made! But don’t despair – beach lovers can find their inspiration at Bahia Honda State Park. We found the absolutely beautiful white-sand Sandspur Beach and Campground, where you can pitch your tent for world-class beach camping and feel like Robinson Crusoe. I learned that the large, round leaves of the seagrape tree were used to make playing cards and postcards, and how the posts of the Old Bahia Honda Bridge have withstood the saltwater for over 102 years!
Nature on Big Pine Key
Our next stop was Big Pine Key, where we observed the tiny, delicate and endangered Key deer at the National Key Deer Refuge. The only place in the world where this diminutive deer is found is here in the Lower Keys, mainly on Big Pine and No Name Keys, making its protection all the more critical. Your best bet for viewing the deer is at dawn and dusk, though they are also often seen at the roadside due to eager visitors illegally feeding the animals.
Big Pine Key is also a great place for snorkeling or diving. I saw some divers heading out on dive boats to see the wreck of the Adolphus Busch, Sr. as well as Looe Key coral reef, an area of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. I could hardly believe it when I learned that Looe Key is the site of an annual underwater music festival!
Sunset Celebration in Key West
Key West was the cherry on top! Awoken by a crowing rooster – you’ll find them wandering throughout the key – we spent the day walking around cute Emma Street, viewing the Keys villas, watching bicycle rickshaws, touring the Harry Truman Little White House, and finally ending up at Mallory Square to enjoy the amazing sunset. Filled with vendors, acrobats, street musicians and card readers, Mallory Square celebrates the sunset every night of the year. I enjoyed a delicious fresh pineapple smoothie and, to top the night off, we strolled on lively Duval Street. At Bo’s Fish Wagon, I had grilled mahi mahi for dinner to give me the energy to survive the legendary nightlife of Duval. Fantastic!