Key Largo, The Place to be in the Keys

Key Largo is known as the Diving Capital of the World, and most of us don’t go to the Keys to spend time on a beach. But when your resort has its own little beach to lounge and watch the sunset, your day of diving, boating, or day drinking at the bar down the street is complete.

But before you settle in on “your own” private beach with a sunset-hued cocktail, explore Key Largo’s fun activities that range from the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park – the first underwater park in the US – to the iconic vessel The African Queen which you can book for a cruise or cruise and dinner.

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park may still have limited park activities due to Hurricane Irma related repairs but is currently offering glass bottom boat tours, paddle sports, scuba instruction and more, check their site for continued updates.

The African Queen, built in 1912 and made famous in 1951 by the Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart movie of the same name, is once again offering tours after some years of sad and surprising neglect (in 1982 the boat was found in a cow pasture in Ocala!?!) and an engine failure in 2001 after which she remained on display but wasn’t operated. In 2012 she was restored to her original health and is registered as a National Historic Site, just in time for her 100th birthday. There is much more to her colorful history, read more – you’ll be entertained, we promise – here.

The African Queen is smaller than we imagined, but just a perfect size for an intimate cruise. Book early though to make sure they have room for you on board!

Anyone else have that song “Key Largo” swimming around in your head right now? “Here’s looking at you kid…” If you didn’t, you do now! Bertie Higgins did a good job giving us a song that has lasted way longer than us remembering his name (sorry, Bertie, had to look you up!)

Keeping with the Bogie and Bacall theme, your last stop before settling into your tiny home resort or cluster of vintage cottages should be The Caribbean Club, Key Largo’s favorite dive bar where the famous movie was partially filmed. Opened in 1938 and operated by the same family since 1963, you’ll need to check out this place’s history as well: suspicious fires…. gambling…. And you may have watched scenes filmed here for the series Bloodline. Dog friendly, with epic sunset views, The Caribbean Club is a must-visit while you’re in Key Largo.

After a long sunshiney day of exploring, it’s time to settle in to your cozy cottage.

Florida’s Withlacoochee

Withlacoochee is definitely Worth a Re-visit! We spent a day this past holiday weekend out exploring some more of the Withlacoochee River near Dade City.

To beat the heat we arrived early in the morning, but the heat was already there! We did find a nice shady spot along the river and I painted a quick little study of the river while Rick fished the dark stained water. The river was up only slightly from our recent summer rains, and it was just floating along at a slow mesmerizing pace. It wasn’t empty though.

The painting went super fast and the fish weren’t biting, so we decided to take the nearby trail into the Green Swamp and along part of the Florida Trail. I’m crazy for some Florida native wildflowers and there were many different types of flowers along the trail. I’ve only posted photos of a few of the species we saw! We also saw many butterflies, but they were too quick to get any good shots. I watched a “Cow Killer” busily scurry on the dirt. It is actually a type of wasp, but some call it a Velvet Ant and others call it a Cow Killer because it’s sting is so bad it can supposedly kill a cow! I didn’t get too close because hey – it’s called a Cow Killer, and thats reason enough!

There were some beautiful scenes of the cypress lined river, and many live oaks along the trail just twisted and turned up to the sky. I could’ve walked and explored the trails all day, but the sky was getting darker with an impending summer storm. We beat the rain and made it back to the car, but we were still drenched – with sweat! These first few days of July are just steamier than I can remember summer being.

We drove into town and had a delicious meal at “Lunch on Limoges”. It’s an old southern style cafe inside a store with tables nestled among the clothing racks. The food is classic and the raspberry iced tea was just what we needed. (not to mention the air conditioning!)

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