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Appreciate Some Florida Guidance
Old 02-21-2012, 11:38 AM   #1
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Appreciate Some Florida Guidance

Florida trip coming up shortly, and despite reading the wealth of info search provides, I still have questions. Our lodging is locked in, but activites are a question mark--somewhat.
Our first stop is The Villages, and then on to Naples for 2 days. The goal there is to see a bit of the glades and catch an airboat ride. Got the name of an airboat operator already, but if anyone has any ideas on how to enhance the everglade experience I'd love to hear them.
Also wondering about the beach situation at Naples.
After Naples we are off to Key West. We have quite a lot of literature for there, but thoughts on "must do's" are welcome.
The last segment is the Sarasota area. We will be a few miles east of Siesta Key so we will go there, but would like recommendations on other beaches close by. Our idea of a good winter beach day is being able to walk miles and miles without seeing many other people. Also heard there is one particular beach that is a premier shelling location.
Any ideas on great (causal) seafood places at any of these stops would be very helpful as well.
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Old 02-21-2012, 11:43 AM   #2
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Key West: Hit Duvall St and don't miss the show down at water's edge for sunset. Every crazy in Key West is there!!
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Old 02-21-2012, 12:15 PM   #3
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The last segment is the Sarasota area. We will be a few miles east of Siesta Key so we will go there, but would like recommendations on other beaches close by. Our idea of a good winter beach day is being able to walk miles and miles without seeing many other people. Also heard there is one particular beach that is a premier shelling location.
Any ideas on great (causal) seafood places at any of these stops would be very helpful as well.

The beach that is known for it's shells is Sanibel Island but frankly almost all the beaches have tons of shells . The only beach that would possibly have less people is Casperon beach .Its a state park. It's at the end of Venice and has a boardwalk over the dunes very pretty beach that has decent parking . Florida gets congested between January till May so all the beaches are in use unless we have a cold snap and so far it's been a mild winter .Downtown Sarasota has tons of good restaurants at all price points . It's a great place to spend some time . Key West has a trolley tour that is worthwhile . It gives the history of the area . Also do not miss the sunset celebration on Mallory Square .
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Old 02-21-2012, 12:47 PM   #4
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Check out Lido Key when you are in the Sarasota area...............
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Old 02-21-2012, 01:47 PM   #5
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Old 02-21-2012, 03:31 PM   #6
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I've never been to Key west, but the Hog's Breath Saloon is apparently a touristy spot. They have 3 real-time webcams running, which you can watch from this page: Hog's Breath Saloon The Stagecam lets you see the nightly entertainment.
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Old 02-21-2012, 03:50 PM   #7
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Key West has the Butterfly Conservatory. You can walk through the tropical gardens while butterflies land on you. There are also birds and a little steam meandering through the conservatory. It was very relaxing and amazing how the butterflies and moths will light on you. Definitely enjoyed it!
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Old 02-21-2012, 03:51 PM   #8
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In Naples, you have to go to Sharkey's on the pier. Take your swim stuff, and large sieve, and look for petrified shark teeth. They are all over the place. It just takes a little bit of effort. Kind of like panning for gold in the surf.
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Old 02-21-2012, 04:02 PM   #9
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We really enjoyed Bahia Honda beach on the way to Key West.

We also took a jet ski tour around Key West and enjoyed it very much. 2-3 hours as I recall. The west side was nice and calm but the east side was a bit rough. Stopped for a break on a sand bar and did a bit of swimming.

We enjoyed it so much that we bought a jet ski that following summer to use at home.
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Old 02-21-2012, 04:42 PM   #10
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If you're driving to Key West, another vote for Bahia Honda State Park (nice long beach to walk on or to go swimming, kayaks to rent, a nature walk), near Mile Marker 37. Bahia Honda State Park, Florida Keys Beach, Beaches in the Keys, State Park in the Keys, Florida Keys State Park, Public Beach Florida Parks It has won the best beach award several times. It's popular on weekends when the weather is nice, so plan to get there early on a weekend.

Key West has many activities, so it depends on what you like.

Personally, I'd skip Mallory Square at sunset, as it is filled chock-full with tourists who are there to watch the same old locals who are putting on the same lame shows every night.

If you like history, the Hemingway House and the Truman Little White House are interesting. Just walking through the neighborhoods is fun. If you like art, check out the many nice galleries on Upper Duval St. The beach at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park is nice.

I always enjoy riding a bike around the perimeter of the island.

From WikiTravel Key West travel guide - Wikitravel :

Do


Ernest Hemingway House


Key West is a great place for the family. There is plenty to do during the day...for those that are awake. Enjoy an early night and prepare for the next day's adventure. However, if you are traveling with young ones, stay in a hotel off the main streets. For those who stay out all night you may not get to do these things but you should try.
  • Key West Nature Preserve Two entrances on Atlantic Blvd., Ocean front property that has been turned into an accessible natural area. Enjoy seeing local Key West wildlife such as lizard butterflies and maybe even a snake.
  • Astro City Atlantic Blvd. A popular stop for families on their way to and from the beach. Located directly across the street from Higgs beach.
  • Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center, [10] Truman Annex Waterfront. With its touch screens, stunning photos, and roomy theater showing a short high-definition film about the Keys ecosystems, this educational center has become a hit with families. It's a fun way to learn about reef and mangrove habitats before or after an excursion. The newest addition is the Living Reef exhibit, which fetures a 2,500-gallon reef aquarium. Free admission and parking on-site.
  • Ghosts and Legends of Key West, 90 minute walking tour of Old Key West. [11] "Old Town Key West" Area. The most informative and historically correct versions of Key West ghostlore.
  • Sebago Watersports, Waterfront Area, [12]. Reef snorkeling, sunset sails and much more. All things water. Sebago trips are always full of fun and a wonderful crew that will take good care of you. Sunset sails, parasailing, all day adventures from the tame Island Ting to the active Power Adventure. The parasailing tends to be a bit brief (13 minutes), but the crew is friendly.
  • Swim With Dolphins, for ages 5 and older. [15] Key Largo / Key West Area.
  • Conch Tour Train, 201 Front Street, 305-294-5161, [16]. The World Famous Conch Train sightseeing tour of Key West focuses on the historic Old Town area of the island. Highlights include the Hemingway House, Mallory Square, Duval Street and the Historic Seaport. Stops in Mallory Square and the Historic Seaport.
  • Glass Bottom Boat, Snorkel, and Dolphin watch, For ages 5 and older. Key West/ Key West Area.
  • Diving in Key West, [17]. Offering Daily Dive trips to the reefs near Key West.
  • Sunset Watercraft, [18]. Key West offers a host of sightseeing opportunities, including romantic sunset cruises. At Cow Key Marina on Stock Island. Reasonable prices for the 28 mile round-the-island jet ski run (1.5 hours). The jet skis themselves are a bit beat up, but the motors hum right along at high speed. Guides are safe and knowledgeable, but give the renter plenty of rope to enjoy.
  • Key West Fishing, [19]. Offers charters, guides, and fishing information for Key West. Includes private and group fishing charters.
  • Sunset Celebration, at Mallory Square in Key West (where Duval Street meets the Gulf of Mexico). This event begins every evening a few hours before sunset and is much like a street carnival, with vendors, performers, food, and fun. Also a great photo op for some of the most beautiful sunsets.
  • Trails of Margaritaville Tour, Jimmy Buffett spent his "formative" years in Key West, and this tour will regale you with tales of those days. I suspect you'll hear some Semi-True Stories (believe it or not), but it's a good time for Parrotheads and non-Buffett fans alike.
  • The Southermost Scavenger Hunt Phone (305)292-9994 [20] Since winning the prestigious "Venture Award" from the Key West Chamber of Commerce, The Southernmost Scavenger Hunt has expanded to offer a wider variety of custom designed features to their ever-popular scavenger hunts. Participants are able to enjoy all the sights and sounds that make the "Southernmost City" such an unforgettable destination.
  • Fury Water Adventures, [21]. Fury Water Adventures is a water sports company that has been in Key West for almost the past three decades. It offers snorkeling, parasailing, jet skiing, kayaking, rock climbing, water trampoline, sunset sails and cruises, reef eco tours, and glass bottom boat tours. Fury also offers combo packages such as the Ultimate Adventure, the Rum & Reggae, and the Commotion on the Ocean.
  • Ernest Hemingway House, 907 Whitehead Street, [22]. 9AM-5PM daily. Hemingway lived and wrote here for a decade. He also raised cats, the descendants of which still roam the grounds and have extra toes. $12. edit
  • Restless Native Charters, (KeyWest bight marina at historic waterfront seaport), ☎ 305-394-0600, [23]. Luxury sailing catamaran for sail/dive, sunset sails, private partys, weddings/proposals. Upscale food and drink and a great adventure on the water. edit
  • Dolphin Tours (Wild About Dolphins), 6000 Peninsular Ave, Stock Island FL (Key West Harbour Yacht Club), ☎ 305-294-5026, [24]. An absolutely wonderful private boat tour to snorkel and dolphins sightings. Capt. Sherry is the best! edit
  • Harry S. Truman Little White House, 111 Front St., [25]. A historic retreat used by President Harry S. Truman. Guided tours are available, as well as a gift shop. It's still used as a retreat and place of business by US government officials today. edit
  • Honest Works Island Pottery co, 929 Truman Ave (mile marker 1), ☎ 4193089221, [26]. 9 - 6. Honest Works Island Pottery Co. is a vibrant art gallery and active studio space in Old town Key West. Stop on by and watch the pottery in the making or make it yourself. Honest Works offers pottery classes, as well as, paint your own pottery for locals and tourist alike. In this dynamic studio space artists, Adam Russell and Kelly Lever, create and display their own colorful island pottery. Come on in and fell the artist energy flowing! edit
  • Fort Zachary Taylor, 601 Howard England Way (end of Southard Street on Truman Annex), ☎ 3052920037, [27]. 8AM - sundown. The perfect romantic place to cuddle up with someone special, unwind, and watch the sun set as sailboats glide by...all without the crazy circus of Mallory Square. It doesn't get any more romantic in this crowded city. Nature trails, 1866 fort with a real moat, beaches, snack stand. $2-$4. edit
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Old 02-21-2012, 04:51 PM   #11
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In Naples, you have to go to Sharkey's on the pier. Take your swim stuff, and large sieve, and look for petrified shark teeth. They are all over the place. It just takes a little bit of effort. Kind of like panning for gold in the surf.
Sharky's on the pier is in Venice ,Fl . That is also where the shark teeth are .
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Old 02-21-2012, 05:54 PM   #12
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My favorite place in Key West was the rum bar, but I think it would really depend on what you're in to.
Speakeasy Inn and Rum Bar (Key West, FL) - Inn Reviews - TripAdvisor

We found the food in Key West to be quite pricey (and we're from San Diego). We found that there's a lot of good Happy Hours in town, and are a great way to eat dinner. I think we ate at Kelly's for Happy Hour multiple times.

I also wouldn't go to Florida without visiting the Mai Kai in Ft. Lauderdale area, but I really like that kind of stuff.
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Old 02-21-2012, 06:37 PM   #13
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I don't know Florida but I've been here, on Sanibel:

J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge

Awesome place, and the baseball cap with Ding Darling on it is fun to have.
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Old 02-21-2012, 06:47 PM   #14
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Sharky's on the pier is in Venice ,Fl . That is also where the shark teeth are .
Oops! it has been along time. Still it is worth the trip.
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Old 02-21-2012, 08:57 PM   #15
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I lived on Ft. Myers Beach for four years and one of my favorite beaches was Lovers Key. It's just south of Ft. Myers Beach. You cross the bridge over Big Carols Pass and you are on Lovers Key. Just south of Lovers Key is Bonita Beach. You don't see a lot of people an any given day; however, there will be more people in the winter (season time) than in the summer. I think the name of a great beach park there is Carl Johnson State Park.

If you're driving Down I-75, it's worth your while to exit over to Ft. Myers Beach at Daniels Parkway (International Airport Exit) and take that little drive along the Gulf. That would also be the exit over to Sanibel Island. If you decide to take this side trip, you have to go to Sanibel. So quaint. Great side trip.
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Old 02-22-2012, 05:54 AM   #16
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We just finished a very similar trip in So Florida last week. Some of our favorites:

1) Everglades National Park -- recommend taking the Mangrove Boat Tour out of the Everglades City entrance to the national park while you are on the gulf coast. Airboats arent allowed in the NP. The small six-person boat really got into some beautiful (and small) mangroves and saw some great wildlife! You wont see as much wildlife in the louder airboats. Also recommend going to the NP from the Homestead Entrance. We loved the Anhinga Trail! Its only about 15 miles off of Route 1 down to Key West.

2) While in Naples/Ft Myers area, we enjoyed Marco Island and Sanibel Island -- both are great for shelling. Plan on paying for parking for the beaches in both locations. We loved the Ding Darling NWR (go earlier in the day or at sunset)

3) Key West -- We did take a trolley tour around the city the first day (hop off/hop on). We learned a lot about the history and architecture of the city. Plan on walking (or if you have/rent bikes) everywhere. Much easier to get around. We enjoyed the Eco Discovery Center and the West Martello Tower (Garden). Both of these are free and dont take long to do. We also Kayaked at Boca Chica. Also, long sidewalks along the beach/Atlantic if you want to walk. Food was a little on the expensive side as noted previously. Sunsets at Mallory Square are fun -- probably see it once.

4) If you dont already have a Florida SunPass (for toll roads), stop at Publix Grocery store or CVS and purchase one ($4.99) . You'll need to register it online and add a little money to it. You'll save yourself some $ in the long run. Many of the roads/bridges you will be traveling on are toll roads. Also, no toll booths in Miami area any longer. They'll bill you full toll charge + admin fee based on license plate if you dont have a SunPass.

Have a great trip!
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Old 02-22-2012, 06:05 PM   #17
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Thanks Everyone!!

I appreciate the help. Got some great tips that we plan to check out.

And....the packing has begun.
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Old 02-22-2012, 06:58 PM   #18
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Thanks Everyone!!

I appreciate the help. Got some great tips that we plan to check out.

And....the packing has begun.
It has been a real mild winter so pack shorts and maybe a sweater or sweatshirt for the evening . I have only worn sweaters a few times this winter and have never worn a jacket .Pack like May in your area and you will be fine . Florida is ultra casual so shorts are worn in most of the restaurants .
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Old 02-28-2012, 12:30 PM   #19
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definitely hit the Everglades Natl Park and do the sunset cruise in FL Bay
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Old 02-28-2012, 04:51 PM   #20
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We've only visited southern Florida once, so I can only offer a liitle bit. Like others have said, definitely a visit to Everglades NP, along with the boat ride!!! We loved it!!!

We also took one of the sightseeing cruises through the canals/waterways in Ft. Lauderdale. You see all of the huge homes and boats of those who have absolutely NO clue about the term "LBYM"! lol

We also enjoyed our visit to Key West. We bought an all-day pass and took the tram tour around town to gain an overview of the history and what there was to see. Then we were able to take it again for 'hop on hop off' exploring at our leisure. We capped off our day at Mallory Square for the sunset, but enjoyed 'people watching' there even more than the sunset!! There were some rather "interesting" folks to be found there.....OK....some really strange folks....but we had a blast!!!
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