There is so much to do in the Keys.  Here is a summary of some of the ways to pass your time.

1. Getting to the Keys/Alabama Jacks & Card Sound Road After you pass through Florida City, you’ll have a chance to turn left onto Card Sound Road. The “Last Chance Saloon is on your right as you are making this turn. It’s not a big deal if you miss it, but you will probably enjoy this drive a bit more than the 18 mile stretch into the Keys. If you are ready for a lunch stop, then pull into Alabama Jacks. It’s right past the ramshackle boat area and right before the $1 toll. Very much an intro to the Keys! Try the grouper sandwich. Once through the toll, you’ll head over a nice, high bridge and eventually, the road will dead end at a 3 way stop. Turn right and you’ll be heading into Key Largo. This road will join up with "US" 1 in about 10 min. drive time.  

2. Mile Markers. Everything in the Keys is along "US" 1 and addresses are given by mile markers, shown on green markers. The signs only give whole miles but you may get directions for something in between. Key Largo starts around MM 114 and ends around MM 94. Islamorada (forget your high school Spanish and call this Eye-la morada) is MM 88 to 82 or so. Key West is MM 0. You also get directions for “ocean side” or “bay side.”  

3. Places to Eat. Too many to choose from but here are some favorites –             

Morada Bay This is MM 81.6 bayside. Outdoor dining. No reservations so get there a little before sunset, have a drink and then enjoy dinner. The yellow tail snapper here (and elsewhere) is great. Next door to Morada Bay is Pierre’s. It’s upscale and is about the only place in the Keys where you would not feel comfortable in shorts and flip flops.            

Fish House. 104.3 oceanside. Again, no reservations and this place gets packed. It’s also a fish market and has fresh, fresh seafood. The sister restaurant, Encore, may take reservations. If someone is celebrating a birthday, be sure to let the waitstaff know – it’s very funny.             

Ballyhoo’s. MM 97 in the median. Indoors dining; will often take a reservation. Ballyhoo’s, like many local places, will cook your catch for you for which they charge a plate fee of about $10. What a deal!             

Pilot House 13 Seagate Boulevard, MM 100. This is one of few places not on "US" 1. Ask for directions. Indoor seating is a good choice if there’s a bit of a cool or rainy day.   Good seafood but also non-seafood options. The outside menu is different – nice view of the boats.

Snappers - mm 94.5, oceanside. The main restaurant is fine (and has a great Sunday brunch) but the real action for the locals is the Turtle Club bar waaayyy out back. Walk through the main restaurant, the main deck and keep going. There are lots of TVs here if there is a sporting event you are interested in. Good for weekend lunch and they are open most week nights. Sit outside, have sandwiches (grouper, burgers and more) & relax.  

4. Things to do.             

Pennekamp State Park MM 104 oceanside. The best part of the Keys are the reefs several miles offshore. Plan a snorkel trip or glass bottom boat trip. Pennekamp also has a large aquarium and you can rent kayaks and canoes here. 

Fish Mural Building. Just a quick stop at MM 92.4 in the median to see the new mural by the artist Wyland.             

Robbies Marina. MM 77 bayside. Pay a few bucks for a bucket of dead fish and feed the giant, prehistoric looking fish that hang out at the docks on most days (they aren't around when its cold and windy). You can also rent kayaks here for trips to Indian Key. Don’t go to Lignumvitae Key. It’s too buggy. The Hungry Tarpon restaurant here is adequate for lunch.              

World Wide Sportsman. A big warehouse building next to Morada Bay (mm 81.5 bayside). This is shopping but like you’ve never seen it. They have the sister ship to Hemmingway’s boat in the middle of the store. The Islamorada Fish Company next door is a good lunch spot.             

Wild Bird Sanctuary. 93.6 bayside. Lots of birds – there is a little blind area along a shallow marshy area that makes for good bird peeping.             

A day trip to Key West. MM 0. Maybe start with the train or trolley to get an overview of the town and then go back to what interests you. There is a big sunset celebration.             

Fishing. Charters, party boats, night party boats – there are lots of options. The folks at Snappers can help with back country and deep sea trips. For a party boat, try Bud ‘n Mary’s mm 79.8.             

Dolphin Research Center and/or other spots for dolphin swims. If you just want to see dolphins, then go to the DRC (mm 59, bayside, near Marathon) or Theatre of the Sea (mm 84.5). You can swim with the dolphins at those places or at Dolphins Plus in Key Largo.  

5. Tips, Do’s and Don’ts.            

 Grocery Stores. There’s a Publix and K Mart at MM 101.5 oceanside. It’s in the Tradewinds Shopping Center. There is a Winn Dixie at Tavernier Towne Center MM 91.3 Bayside. Tavernier Towne also has a movie theatre and a book store. If you shop at Winn Dixie, sign up for their frequent shopper program. It’s free and you save lots.            

 Fishing. Non-residents need fishing licenses unless going out on a charter boat. You can buy them at the fishing stores or on line. Yellow Bait House is a good resource for fishing info. MM 101 oceanside.             

Local Seafood. Yellowtail snapper, dolphin (aka Mahi-mahi), grouper, stone crab, conch (okay, it comes from the Bahamas but it is local enough). Florida lobster season ends 3/31. Don’t forget the Key Lime Pie!             

Bug Spray/Sun screen. Buy some extra and leave it in your car. You will want it for all the outside dining!             

Dress code. There isn’t one. Only if you go to Pierre’s do you need something more than shorts and flip flops. Seriously. This is not a fancy place. You may want long sleeves/pants if it is cool or to avoid sun or bugs. But never jackets, never ties, never dark socks with sandals.             

Local Writers. Okay, Hemmingway is obvious. But also check out Carl Hiassen. In addition to Carl H’s more famous adult books, he wrote Flush, a children’s book set in Key Largo. It has a nice sense of place. James W Hall has several books set in Key Largo and environs. For non-fiction, the Last Train to Paradise by Les Standiford is a good history of building the overseas highway. There is a memorial to the Labor Day hurricane victims at MM 82.             

Designated Driver/Speed Limits. When there is only one road, you can bet they patrol it. You don’t want to come on vacation and leave on probation.  

And to close with some excellent advice from Jimmy Buffett on how to live in the Keys:

'Bought a cheap watch from a crazy man Floating down Canal

It doesn't use numbers or moving hands It always just says Now

Now you may be thinking that I was had But this watch is never wrong

And If I have trouble the warranty said Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On '