Bahia Honda State Park

Bahia Honda

Bahia Honda

Bahia Honda, Spanish for “deep bay” is not located on Key West, but it is just a 40 minute drive away. And it is by far my favorite beach in all of the Florida Keys! Bahia Honda State Park has a lot of history. Today, the park encompasses 292 acres of land housing three camping areas, two boat ramps, a marina, a nature center, several picnic areas, and a concession area offering snorkel trips, kayak rentals, snacks, and souvenirs. All of this, along with the amazing beauty of the park makes it a popular destination for campers, boaters, photographers, sunbathers, and snorkelers.

History
Old bridge at Bahia Honda

Old bridge at Bahia Honda

In 1908 Henry Flagler’s Key West Extension of the Florida East Coast Railway began building the Bahia Honda Bridge, one of the most difficult to construct in this project due to strong tides and currents as well as the water depth.  In 1912 when the railroad finally opened, Bahia Honda was one of the stops on the way down to Key West. That is until the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 which wiped out the railroad. The railroad was replaced with the Overseas Highway which opened in 1938. Now people can drive to this majestic park and enjoy the stunning scenery and other activities anytime!

Beach Activities
Bahia Honda beach

Bahia Honda beach

Bahia Honda has several picturesque, award winning white sandy beaches. Calusa Beach is the smallest. Loggerhead Beach is the shallowest. You will find small pavilions and a restroom with outdoor fresh water showers between these two beaches.  Sandspur Beach is the largest beach. There are several pavilions and a restroom with outdoor fresh water showers here.

Bahia Honda’s gorgeous, clear waters bring visitors from all over to enjoy swimming and snorkeling here. Typically, the water temperature can vary from the high 80s to the low 70s. And you can see a variety of sea life close to shore, such as corals, tropical fish, and lobsters.

Other Activities
Walking to the beach at Bahia Honda

Walking to the beach at Bahia Honda

Bahia Honda has 3.5-miles of paved road to bike along. Bicycles are only allowed on the roadways; they are not permitted on footpaths, boardwalks or other trails. This is a fun and non-strenuous ride.

Birding and wildlife viewing are popular in the Florida Keys. At Bahia Honda, spotting animals such as dolphin, shorebirds and ghost crabs delight visitors. The flats are a great place to view a variety of shorebirds including Willets, Sanderlings, Ruddy Turnstones, Short-billed Dowitchers and Plovers feeding and resting. And it is not unusual to see Great White Herons, Great Blue Herons, Tri-colored Herons, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets and White Ibis as well. During the fall, hawks are a common sight. And in the summer, White-crowned Pigeons are found in the Poisonwood trees growing throughout the park.  You can also find some great wildlife viewing when hiking on the three nature trails at Bahia Honda. The Silver Palm Trail is self-guided with a brochure available. The other trail is located in the Calusa area and leads to the top of the Old Bahia Honda Bridge.  From here you can see the entire island and the water below where you will likely see sharks, rays turtles and other fish swimming, jumping, or feeding. The Wings and Waves Butterfly Garden located near the Loggerhead parking lot is a small garden and you will see several butterfly species.

Here is a serious photographer taking photos at Bahia Honda.

Here is a serious photographer taking photos at Bahia Honda.

With a marina, two boat ramps, boat tours and kayak rentals offered by the concessionaire, boating is a popular activity at Bahia Honda Stat Park. So, bring your own boat or take a tour and experience some of the most amazing waters that the Florida Keys have to offer.

Picnicking is a fun family activity at Bahia Honda. The Calusa area has many small pavilions with barbecue grills available to rent. The Sandspur area  has three pavilions with barbecue grills, as well.

Bahia Honda Park has many camping options. Not exactly camping, the park has three duplex cabins on stilts overlooking the bay that they rent out. I can attest to the fact that the road to the cabins has a very low clearance under the Bahia Honda Bridge; I felt like I might hit my head on it as I bicycled beneath it one day. Actual camping sites are plentiful, but they do sell out well in advance most months. The sites can accommodate large RVs to small tents. All sites have electricity, water, a picnic table and grill. Bathhouse with restrooms and hot showers, and a dump station can be found for campers as well. And with a full marina, you can camp on your boat too! Campers are welcome to join a park ranger at the outdoor amphitheater near the Old Bahia Honda Bridge for campfire circles.

Here is Island Genn (me) and by friend Pam taking a selfie at Bahia Honda.

Here is Island Genn (me) and my friend Pam taking a selfie at Bahia Honda.

Fishing is probably the most popular activity that people visit the Florida Keys for. And you will find good areas for fishing in Bahia Honda State Park. Fly-fishermen can wade the flats on the Atlantic side for species such as  permit, bonefish, tarpon, and barracudas. And bottom fishing for snapper and grouper can be done from the Old Bahia Honda Bridge sea wall.  Just make sure that you know the local fishing regulations and that you are properly licensed. Or, if you prefer, give Dream Catcher Charters a call and they will be happy to hook you up on a charter.

Because you won’t find many more places with such amazing scenery, you will often find both professional and amateur photographers at Bahia Honda State Park.

Park Amenities & Information
Indiana Bones hanging out in one of the areas of the park that he is welcome.

Indiana Bones hanging out in one of the areas of the park that he is welcome.

Only limited access is available for pets. Unfortunately, they are not  allowed in the rental cabins, bathhouses, pavilions, the concession building, on beaches or in the water. However, service animals are welcome in all areas of the park.

There are several interpretive exhibits located throughout Bahia Honda. You will learn about the local plant and animal life as well as the rich island history. And you can also visit the Sand and Sea Nature Center everyday from 10:00 a.m. until 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m.

Bahia Honda State Park is open 365 days a year from 8:00 a.m. until sundown. There is a nominal fee for entrance into the park, and it is well worth the money.

To see what is happening in Key West during your visit, check out our Key West Events Calendar to see  upcoming special events. For more information about the fun side of Key West… things to do and see in our island city, go to our Key West Web Site.

Before deciding where you are going to eat while visiting Key West or any of the Florida Keys, be sure to read my  restaurant reviews; check out our restaurant review section of this blog.

Feel free to Email Me if you have any questions about Key West!!

Island Genn – Your Key West Concierge

Key West Lobsterfest 2016

Key Wes Lobsterfest 2016The dates of August 11 – 14, 2016 should have lobster lovers excited. That is because spiny lobster season is now open and in celebration Key West will host the annual Lobsterfest event. This year marks the 20th anniversary of this popular festival celebrating the lobster, benefitting the Key West High School Scholarship Fund.

Not only do the locals love to attend, but Lobsterfest draws about 20,000 visitors each year as well. So, if you have not already booked your hotel rooms, you better do it now!

The highlight of this event would have to be the local chefs creating delicious recipes with the spiny lobster for us to sample and enjoy. But there are many other events happening during this festival as well:

THURSDAY, AUGUST 11th, 2016

  • LOBSTER BOIL AT THE SUNSET TIKI BAR & GRILLE @ 617 FRONT ST.

FRIDAY, AUGUST 12th, 2016

  • REEF & RITAS  3 HOUR CATAMARAN SAIL AND SNORKEL TRIP SPONSORED BY MARGARITA LIFE.
  • DUVAL CRAWL JUST $20 FOR THE T-SHIRT, LANYARD & DRINK SPECIALS

SATURDAY, AUGUST 13th, 2016

  • STREET FAIR – ART, CRAFTS, MERCHANDISE AND OF COURSE, LOTS OF LOBSTER!
  • FREE CONCERT INTERSECTION OF DUVAL ST. AND GREENE ST

SUNDAY, AUGUST 14th, 2016

  • LOBSTER BRUNCH – A SUMPTUOUS BRUNCH WILL BE SERVED AT THE KEY WEST MARRIOTT  BEACHSIDE

And when you have had enough lobster (is that even possible?) visitors can enjoy so many other fun aspects of the island. We have several beaches, fun fishing charters, snorkeling trips to the gorgeous reef, and plenty of museums about Key West’s rich history.

It is hot outside, so please remember to wear hats, lots of sunscreen, and drink plenty of water while you are walking around Duval Street.

Before deciding where you are going to eat (besides at Lobsterfest), be sure to read my restaurant reviews; check out our restaurant review section of this blog as well as our previous restaurant reviews.

For more information about the fun side of Key West… things to do and see in our island city, go to our Key West Web Site.

Feel free to Email Me if you have any questions about Key West!!

Island Genn
Key West Concierge

 

 

Family Friendly Key West

custom charter key wests

Capt. Steven Lamp poses with a barracuda and a group of kids on a custom charter.

Many people think of Key West as an adults only destination. When one considers all of the bars that dot the island it is no wonder why they think that. But many people do not realize that there are a plethora of other things to to in Key West, many of which are family friendly! (I would just avoid bringing children to the island during Fantasy Fest in late October as this event is a bit risqué.)

  • One of the first things that I suggest that people do when they visit our island Paradise is the take a tour on the Old Town Trolley or the Conch Tour Train. These narrated tours highlight points of interest around the island and really help visitors to come up with a game plan of what they would like to see on the island.
  • Children love adventure. So take advantage of the island life and take them out on an excursion on the water! SO many options here!
    • Dolphin Watching charters are offered privately and publicly. You can view these beautiful creatures from the boat, watching them play in the waves.
    • Fishing is a great way to keep the kids entertained. Dream Catcher Charters offers an amazing Family Fun Fishing charter. You can incorporate sightseeing, beach combing, dolphin watching, and snorkeling if you wish as they are very open to customizing a  trip just for you!
    • Kayaking and Paddleboarding are a bit challenging, but it is good to be challenged. Take a tour with Lazy Dog and experience the beauty of the Key West backcountry.
    • Watersports activities like parasailing, wave runner tours, snorkeling, and banana boat rides are always a blast with the kids. And hopefully they will be tuckered out by the end of the day on one of these excursions!
  • All kids love animals, right? At least I sure did growing up! Well, there are many places on the island that will surely give your children their animal fix.
    • Key West Aquarium located at Mallory Square does an amazing job of showcasing local species. You can even pet a stingray!
    • Butterfly Museum on Duval Street is home to many amazing butterfly species as well as birds. Come here to relax while your little one’s enjoy skipping around trying to catch a butterfly by it’s wing.
    • Sheriff’s Animal Farm is only open the 2nd and 4th Sundays of the month from 1 – 3 pm. But it  houses some of the cutest rescued animals that the children will enjoy petting and feeding.
    • Key West Nature Preserve has two entrances on Atlantic Blvd. Wooden walkways and trails take visitors through mangrove forests to a quiet strip of beach. Children can have fun seeing butterflies, lizards and birds along the way.
    • Key West Marine Park in the Atlantic Ocean from White Street to Duval Street is a shallow area of waters along the southwest end of Key West cordoned off with buoys to create safe areas for swimming and snorkeling. Your children may view several species of coral, tropical fish and seabirds.
  • Other fun areas for children to roam are also plentiful.
    • Astro City on Atlantic Blvd. is a well-equipped playground just across the street from Higgs Beach. It is a popular stop for families on their way to and from the beach.
    • Bayview Park at Truman Ave. and Eisenhower St. offers a fully-equipped playground, basketball court, bathrooms and tennis courts. Los of family friendly community events also take place here.
    • Mallory Square on Front Street is a waterfront site  and home to the island’s nightly Sunset Celebration. Your children will really enjoy watching the licensed street performers, sampling food from the vendors, and shopping around for cool finds peddled by local artisans.
    • White Street Pier is a pedestrian pier that extends out over the Atlantic Ocean. This is a great place to take a relaxing walk while enjoying the beautiful surroundings. You may even spot some cool fish at the end of the pier!
    • Historic Seaport District on Caroline Street, aka “the Bight” is a great place to take a walk with your children. You may even find a sea turtle being rehabilitated at the free Turtle Kraals Museum.
  • Art Galleries are not just for the cultured art history major. Kids can enjoy looking at some of the more creative works found at many of the eclectic little galleries.
  • And speaking of culture, there are plenty of museums in Key West as well. My favorite is the Hemingway House which I was enthralled with as a child and still am today. But places like the Wreckers Museum and the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum can really capture the little ones’ imaginations while teaching them of the local history.
  • Kids and adults alike always enjoy a visit to the Florida Keys Eco-discovery Center. With interactive exhibits utilizing touch screen technology, stunning photos, and even a theater, what is not to like? It’s a fun way to learn about reef and mangrove habitats and it is free!
  • Key West is not known for its beaches, but there are several to choose from that the kids would surely enjoy. I mean, who does not enjoy a beach day?
  • Kids always love it when you buy them presents. So, take them shopping! There are so many stores on the island that you are sure to find them the perfect present for them to take home as a souvenir of their fabulous Key West vacation!
  • Visiting a cemetery may be a little creepy, but some kids adore the spooky. The Key West Cemetery is open daily for self guided tours. And guided tours can be put together upon request.
  • Take a trip to the Dry Tortugas! It is the only National Park that can only be gotten to by boat or seaplane. But be sure to reserve in advance as these trips sell out up to a month in advance.

As you can see, Key West may not be thought of as a town for kids, but it sure does have a lot for them to explore and to enjoy!

No matter what you decide to do, make sure that you make advanced reservations! If you don’t you will be sitting alone in your hotel room wishing you had planned ahead.

For more information about things to do and see in our island city, go to our Key West Web Site. You can also visit our Key West Events Calendar to see more details on upcoming special events.

And for more restaurant reviews check out our restaurant review section of this blog as well as our restaurant reviews at www.gotothekeys.com.

Island Genn – Your Key West Concierge

East Martello Fort & Museum

A cannon at the East Martello Fort.

A cannon at the East Martello Fort.

I have lived in the Keys since the 1990’s, and in all if this time I had never been inside the East Martello Fort and Museum until this past weekend. Located next to the Key West International Airport and overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, it is easy to find. Before I visited the only thing that I new about the Fort was that it was built during the Civil War and that it houses the creepy Robert the Doll, and that fact did not excite me.  But I decided to check it out with my Dad this weekend before he flew back home to New Jersey. It was Halloween after all, and what better time is there for creepy than that!?

The East Martello Fort was actually built in 1862. It has walls that are eight feet thick made of brick and granite. Like the other Forts on the island, this one never experienced a hostile assault, and it was already rendered obsolete even before the Civil War was over due to new munitions that would be able to go right through this brick and granite edifice.

The courtyard of the East Martello Fort and Museum.

The courtyard of the East Martello Fort and Museum.

I love the old, brick facade. It really draws one’s attention. Inside it is an old Fort that now houses (besides Robert the Doll) many Key West artifacts and lots of historical island information. There is also a cute little gift shop that sells books and other trinkets including Robert the Doll replicas that you can all be sure that I did not purchas

Exhibits were wide ranging in subject matter, all relating to Key West of course. Key West’s military history with the Spanish American War, WWI and WWII, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Sponging. Salting. Diving. Fishing. Wrecking. Cigar manufacturing. Aviation. And then there is the weird with not only Robert the Doll but also Count Von Cosel (aka Carl Tanzler) and his Norman Bates-like obsession with the beautiful local girl Elena.

The Fort also serves as an art gallery, displaying some of the folk art of Mario Sanchez and a sculpture garden filled with works by Stanley Papio.

Here are two of the many sculptures located outside at the East Martello Fort and Museum.

Here are two of the many sculptures located outside at the East Martello Fort and Museum.

I found that while interesting, the “exhibits” lacked any orderly displays. It was basically like walking through a hodgepodge of Key West history all mixed up along with modern things like pressure washers that were left laying around by the museum staff. I was not really disappointed with my visit, but perhaps wishing that it was set up more professionally to draw in more folks.

East Martello Fort and Museum is open daily from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm and it is closed on Christmas. Cost is $9 per adult and $5 per child. Discounts are available for students, seniors, and locals.

See what is happening on the island during your visit by checking out our Key West Events Calendar, and for other things to do and see in our island city, go to our Key West Web Site.

Before making your dining reservations for while in Key West check out our restaurant reviews!

Feel free to Email Me if you have any questions about Key West!!
Island Genn
Key West Concierge