Asses In The Sand & Upcoming Webinar – Florida Keys, FL
So we finally made it to the Florida Keys!! After planning for and dreaming about it for what seems like an eternity, this is the first time in my life I’ve ever been here. And this despite the many times I’ve traveled to Florida over the past 20 or so years.
What took so long?
Well partly it’s that all of Paul’s family is in Miami proper so when we’re in this area we generally end up hanging there and doing the “family rounds” rather than taking off elsewhere (when we’re here, we’re mostly here for them, after all). But it’s also because it’s near-frikkin-impossible to get an RV reservation down here. Or, to be more specific it’s near-frikkin-impossible to get any kind of reasonably-priced RV reservation down here.
There are actually lots of RV park options along 113-mile (181.9 km) Hwy 1 that spans the coral cay archipelago known as the Florida Keys…..around 20 in fact. But, unless you’re Military or DoD civilians (in which case you can stay at the AMAZING Key West Naval Air Station for only $13-$25/night!!!) you are looking at paying anywhere from $36-$38.50/night (at State Parks) to between $65-$230 (!!)/night (at Private Parks) for the pleasure of parking your “beastly” backside on the islands. Oh, and there’s literally ZERO free overnight camping here. These are no small $$$$.
On-top of that you’ve got to mix in a bit of magic to get in here too.
The 4 State Parks (John Pennekamp, Long Key, Curry Hammock, and Bahai Honda) that allow camping in the Keys only have ~150 sites TOTAL, and given what a $$ deal they are (compared to anything else down here) they are VERY popular indeed. Reservations to book open up 11 months ahead of time and they sell out exactly 10 seconds after open every single day. Starting last January (2016) we tried for months to get a site for this winter, waking up before 5AM PST (= 8AM EST) every day to check availability, but we literally never found a single open site. Insanity! After a few months we simply gave up, and if it hadn’t been for a blog reader generously offering us his reservations just last month (we did a cancellation/rebook on the reserveamerica system) there’s literally no way we would be here today. We are well aware of how lucky we are.
Thanks to this total serendipitous deal we are spending the next 5 weeks along this line of islands, starting with a week at John Pennekamp followed by some in-between days at a Private Park and ending up with 2 glorious weeks at Bahai Honda. By the time we leave the Keys it’ll April and we’ll be well into Spring. Hard to believe.
During this time we’ll be sure to check out some of the best spots to explore both on land and in the water, including (of course) the best places to take doggie. Plus we’ll endeavor to put our asses in the sand (well, it’s really more like silt down here) as often as possible, preferably daily. And then we’ll be releasing all these gems to our fabulous readers on the blog. ‘Tis a fine goal, don’t you think?
While all this is going on, I want to announce another little exciting upcoming event and that’s the Webinar I’m doing with Escapees/Xscapers this coming Monday 3/13 at 5PM CST. If you haven’t already heard of the SKP Webinars, I definitely recommend a look-see. They are a FREE collection of interesting topics for RVers to learn & share about their lifestyle. The series started just over a month ago and covers a new subject every week. My particular webinar will be focused on workamping and I’ll be delving into the various volunteer jobs we’ve done at state parks over the past 5 years. It’ll be a short 15-min video presentation followed by a LIVE open Q&A where I can (hopefully) answer all your questions. If you’re at all interested in this topic definitely sign-up to attend. Should be fun & hope to see you there!
WHEN: MONDAY 3/13, 5PM CST
That about wraps up today’s blog. Once we’ve sufficiently soaked our butts in the Keys we’ll report back. In the meantime you’ll know what we’re up to 🙂SPONSORED LINK:
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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do
Stefani Gebo says
I hope you are enjoying it. Being a native Floridian the keys is NOTHING like it was when I was younger 25 years ago I went every weekend and the Reefs and sea life was amazing. Key West becoming more “corporate” was sadly the end of the beautiful Reef Life. I hope you are able to see some of it though and don’t forget to pound on the sunscreen. When overcast that is when everyone gets burned.
Oh I can totally believe that! Even Miami has changed TREMENDOUSLY in that time-frame (Paul remembers when South Beach was not a place you wanted to go), so I can just imagine how different the Keys were. I’m sure we’ll get a bit overwhelmed with the “commercial” side of the Keys, but hopefully we’ll manage to find a few hidden gems too.
And yes, no worries on that sunscreen. This pasty white Scandinavian gal is an SPF 50 ALL DAY kinda gal 🙂
Steve Hall says
We were in the Keys last year and enjoyed our visit to the Turtle Hospital.
OOOOO….I LIKE the sound of that! Plus it’s something that didn’t show up on my research radar. I’ll definitely be looking that up!
Do a snorkel tour out to the Christ of the Deep while at Pennekamp. I suggest the 1/2 day trip that goes to 2-3 locations. Take water and snacks.
Great tip! We just signed up for a snorkel trip tomorrow AM, so hopefully we’ll get to see some good stuff. Looking forward to it!
Allan Kirch says
Probably already on your agenda, but you just have to hand feed the tarpon at Robbie’s Pier.
Jazz Jaeschke says
Thanks! I’d heard the Keys were difficult to reserve, but you’ve shed some new insight that makes me think a SP spot is not worth even attempting. If we go, it will be for less than a week, and we’ll have to budget for the higher fees. Guessing even those must be booked way in advance? We won’t be doing this for a couple more years, but the Keys are on the destination list for sure! I lived in West Palm Beach for 17 years and got to the Keys several times (hoteling) … you’re there at the IDEAL time of year. Enjoy!
I think getting reservations at Private Parks is much easier, especially if you have a more flexible budget and only plan to stay a short(er) time. I don’t know if it was just dumb luck, but we were able to get some days at a Private Park (to connect our time between SP reservations) with just a few weeks advance. It’s not a “prime” waterfront site, but it’s good enough and doesn’t cost $100/night like many of the other spots. At the time we looked a few other parks still had availability too. So, I do think it’s easier.
Hope you explore the fort and the great Coast Guard ship that served the most years. Also hope you show me your wet butt….. The Diving museum is worth seeing also. I was told I could sponsor a camper at Bissbee, if I was staying there, perhaps it could work out, just a long shot. Also wondered what your husband thinks of ‘ DENT Research’ as a finance adviser.
We just left Sunshine Key. It was great. We are Twentyfeetonthemove…you can see pictures on our Facebook page. We crossed paths with you in Portland, Oregon. We have two huskies.
A comment on the military camping at Key West…the wait time for a site with hook ups is 30-45 days. You can dry camp for $13 a night. The turn to get onto the base is very tight for the big rigs…
Be sure to go to the following….
1. No Name Pub on No Name Key. The ambiance is worth the visit.
2. The Blue Hole on Big Pine Key.
The beaches are coral. The reefs around the islands are coral.
Enjoy your stay. I known we enjoyed ours.
Cheers for the tips!
Welcome to the Keys, Nina!! I hope you enjoy them. I have been following your blogs for quite some time and always love your perspective and are especially enjoying your perspective on Miami, Coconut Grove and now the Keys. As a Miami/Coconut Grove native, the Keys has been our get away place since I was a child. Sometimes we just drive down for lunch. All we have to do is cross the Card Sound Bridge, see that view and the stress of everyday life seems to roll right off of us. It is the vibe of getting away and the particular vibe of the Keys themselves. Yes, it has changed as things will do, but for us the essence is still there. I truly hope you feel it too. Warmest, Leigh
It definitely feels like a different world down here. All that turquoise blue water is sooooo relaxing. It’s much colder (in the water) than I expected, but it’s so worth it.
Lee and Shelia says
Oh My 5 weeks!!!!!!…. Jealous? Me? Us? You bet ya. Can’t wait to see your writings and I’ll do my best to be at the Webinar it will be at 3:00 west coast time. I am assuming it will be Day Light Savings being we “SPRING” forward on my birthday the 12th….. I’ll lose an hour of age can’t help but wonder what “Extraterrestrial Beings” will think… Will I be my age (Only and hour late?) ha ha ha…….
Enjoy Lee and Shelia
I’m actually really glad you reminded me of the time change! I might have been late myself!
Hi see you did not answer me. Perhaps my comment offended you.
No, believe me I’m not offended by these things and if I were I’d have deleted your comment. I just don’t get around to responding to everyone right away.
I do believe you’re right in that you can get into the Military Campground if you’re traveling with someone who’s eligible and willing to invite you as a guest. At least I recall someone telling me that a while back. We’ve just never experienced it ourselves.
The Fort is on our list, but you’ll have to keep dreaming on that butt shot 🙂
I will help if I can and will ‘ keep that fantasy.’
Diana and Jim says
We were there last year and stayed at Grassy Key RV Resort, which was nice. One thing we did that was fun was riding out on the first part of the old Seven Mile Bridge from Marathon with our bikes. Be sure to take a look at the guard rails…they are the actual rails from Henry Flagler’s old railroad. 🙂
Lynne Bryant says
There is an aquarium at Key West and check out sunset at Mallory square and crazy cat man. He actually makes the cats jump through hoops of fire and the entertainment there changes nightly. Check out brunch down at the Southernmost. I have never seen such a bloody mary bar. Amigos for lunch. I could go on about KW forever. that island is only 4 miles long and approx 1 wide but what an amazing place. Always something going on there. Loved my year in the keys. Have a blast!
Dennis Hunt says
We just got back from Pennekamp SP and got another reservation for next year. Key is to go onto Reserve America at 7:55am est, pick a site that will be available, usually highlighted, and start clicking the mouse around 7:58 or so and keep clicking until notified that the “no inventory” on your site or instructions to enter credit card info. While in Key Largo go to the Key Largo fish co. The owner will give a tour that was pretty neat and they have great lunches. Also the Lazy Lobster across from the campground. We also did a bi plane ride down on Marathon, glass bottom boat ride at the campground and the proverbial trip to Key West. Been there many times starting back in ’74 while in the Navy at the air station and Truman Annex before all the tourists hit. Between the fresh seafood and Key Lime Pie I was in heaven.
GREAT tips on how to handle the reservation system. Thanks Dennis! Cheers for the other tips too.
Jim & Nancy Mchenry says
My husband and I are going to go full time June 8th, 2017. We are newbies. So many questions going thru my mind. We are seniors and retired. We are having an auction and getting rid of everything. 2000 38ft Winnebago Motorhome, and 2016 Jeep Wrangler to tow behind. 4 little chi dogs, 2 electric scooters as we are disabled. I am on oxygen. So any words of advise will be appreciated. We are both on meds that are mail order. I am 70 and he is 67. We would like to go warm in the winter and cool in the summer. We are in oklahoma now and we hate the weather. My name is Nancy and in need of some 101 on how to go about this. Thanks in advance.
Neil Laubenthal says
Jim/Nancy…go check out Howard and Linda Payne’s blog at http://rv-dreams.com for tips on full timing and how to. They got started 11 years ago or so and have many great how-to articles on their site. My suggestion for winters…unless you can afford a spot in the Keys…is go get somewhere up on the FL west coast but south of Sarasota. We winter in North Fort Myers and the going rate for 6 month stays here is 900-1000…there are a few cheaper places but you get what you pay for. If you’re willing to be further out in the boonies…Arcadia is 40 miles NE of us and it’s about 500-600 a month there…but the drawback is that you’re out in the country, nowhere near water, and it’s 20 or 30 miles to anywhere. Once you get south of Naples…the rates start to go up. West coast of FL is so much more laid back than east coast…we’ve been coming here to Seminole Campground for 5 winters now. Summerwise…if you want to continually travel just head north until it’s cool enough for you and chase the weather…if you want to mostly sit during summer then Minnesota or Michigan Upper Peninsula are great that time of year.
Fulltiming is what you want it to be…we know folks that literally travel twice a year between a park down here and one up north…we know folks that have a summer cottage on the lake somewhere up north…we know people that winter down here and travel Easter to November like we do…and we know folks that never stay in one spot more than 10 days. Don’t rush the traveling part…figure out what you like to do and how you like to travel and keep doing it. Join the Elks…lodges all over the country and your membership gets you in all of them…cheap beer and pretty good good…and about 25% or so of lodges have at least limited campsites for less than commercial parks.
Jim & Nancy Mchenry says
Thank you so much!!! Love your blog also. Have learned so much.
Great tips from Neil already (thanks for chiming in!) so I’ll just add a few points.
We’re also big fans of RV Dreams (Howard & Linda). They have a great website & regularly hold Education Rally’s which would be well worth attending if you’d like to meet-up with others & learn some RVing basics. You can attend even if you don’t have an RV yet, so they’re great for pre-RVers too. Escapees does a similar thing too (education & boot camp rally’s), so check them out as well.
I really like the RV forums (the RV Dreams forums, the Escapees forums, and iRV2.com) as places to learn and ask questions. I used to ask ALL my questions there when we first started out and got so much valuable info. Facebook has some very active RV groups too (e.g. the Full-time RVers group) so if you prefer Facebook check them out as well. You’ll be able to get feedback on handling meds and such through these groups. Plus just about any other question you might have.
As for following the weather that’s what we like to do too. We go south in winter, north in summer. Personally we prefer the SW desert in winter (although we’ve done Florida a few times too) and the Pacific Northwest (OR, WA) in summer (although we’ve done Colorado and some other places too). Having wheels is great! I have a 3-part blog post series on planning RV travel that covers how we manage our travel that you might enjoy here:
Planning RV Travels Part I -> 4 General “Rules” For Planning Where To Stay & When To Go
Planning RV Travels Part II -> Selecting Pace, Map Routing & Campsite
Planning RV Travels Part III – Maps, Resources & Links
Hope that helps you get started!
Cheshire Cats Capers says
If you get chance a trip out to the Dry Tortugas National Park it’s absolutely magical, although I don’t think you’d be able to take the dogs along. Have fun!
It’s on our list! It’s a full day trip so I think we’ll have to go individually (one of us stays home with the dog) since we don’t like to leave her that long. But I think it’ll be worth it.
Cheshire Cats Capers says
Oh I definitely think you’ll like it, the place is fascinating and the snorkelling is great. Enjoy!
Jodee Gravel says
You really did score some sweet time!! We have little desire to see Florida proper, but definitely want to spend some time in the Keys. Looking forward to wonderful pics from your adventures there!
Karen Lueck says
It’s great you finally were able to get some time in the Keys. We used to stay at Sunshine Key and always enjoyed it during the winter months. They used to have deals through Thousand Trails and we were able to stay there pretty inexpensively. We have a lot on Cudjoe Key (milemarker 24) and are very familiar with the lower Keys, so if you have any questions, please feel free to ask. While in the lower Keys, I would recommend you go to Geiger Key Fish Camp and Marina. It’s a beautiful waterfront restaurant/bar with the best hogfish/snapper sandwiches. You can’t leave the Keys without trying hogfish. It’s a white meat fish, with no fishy taste/smell.
Definitely go to Key West for the nightly sunset celebration on Mallory Square. Someone in a previous comment recommended seeing the cat show. Personally, I have an issue with cats running loose near the Atlantic ocean on the pier and jumping through fire hoops. I couldn’t watch. 🙂
The Dry Tortugas is beautiful and you should definitely plan on snorkeling. It would be a shame for you two not to enjoy it together. We would be happy to help with your dog so you could spend the day together. We aren’t far from Bahia Honda. We went to the Tortugas on the ferry years ago, but recently saw where they have half and full day seaplane trips. We would LOVE to do that, but it’s not in the budget this trip.
Hemingway House in Key West is pretty interesting. Please let me know if we can help in any way during your stay in the Keys. We plan to be here till mid May or so.
Awesome tips and a lovely offer too! I’ll send you a note when we get down to Bahai Honda and maybe we can meet-up.
Jim & Nancy Mchenry says
Wondering where my best bet would be for summer camping in Colorado? Have not reserved anything because do not know exactly when we will be heading out. All I know for sure it will be mid June.
It depends a bit on the weather. If it’s an early Spring then mid-June can start to get HOT at lower elevations. So I recommend looking for something 8,000 feet or above if you can. We really enjoyed our time near Rocky Mountain National Park several years ago (we stayed at Winding River RV Resort) and also up around the Lizard Head Wilderness (near Telluride – we stayed in National Forest there). I’ve heard great things about Leadville too, but that’s very high elevation and we’ve never personally been. Also the area around Ouray is fantastic (we stayed in a State Park near there). Lastly the area around Pagosa Springs over to Mesa Verde is gorgeous too, but that area is lower elevation.
We stayed the month of November at Grassy Key RV Resort. We knew it was a once in a lifetime visit so we sprung for the best site. OUCH!! I don’t regret it at all. The Dolphin Research Center on Grassy Key is a great place to visit. Also, if you don’t already know about the screw worm problem down there do a Google search. It is a concern for dogs but I’m not sure about cats.
I learned to snorkel at Bahia Honda SP. So much fun!
Have a wonderful time!
Yes, thanks. We’ve read up on screw worm and know what to look for. Plus we’ll be sure to stop at the checkpoint on our way out of the Keys. It should be OK now (there have not been any outbreaks recently), but it’s important to be aware of.
Nancy and Bill says
AHHHHHHH…The Keys…one of our favorite places. Bahia Honda SP is our absolute favorite place in The Keys. Sunset from the Old Bridge and the most beautiful beaches in The Keys!!! Another beautiful beach is back over 7 mile bridge in Marathon called Sombrero Beach Park and it is dog friendly:o)) Be sure to check out the Key Deer on Big Pine Key. If you have bikes, it is fun to ride early or late in the day on the far end of the Big Pine Key and you will probably see many Key Deer. But in our opinion, the best thing to do in The Keys is just chilling:o))) Enjoy, Enjoy, Enjoy!!!
Sombrero beach is ON our list! As are the Deer! Can’t wait!
Nomadic RVers says
Hi guys love your article.
We are going to do a little bit something different in Florida this May We’re going to store the motorhome and spend some time in our timeshare. Two weeks in Orlando and one week in Miami then start heading north.
Kathy loves her bath time and we don’t have one on our in our home on wheels.
Next time we’re in Florida we will explore the state more.
Oh you’ll love it! Good RV friends of ours (Watsons Wander) rented a house in the Keys for several months this winter and really enjoyed the change of scenery. I think mixing it up sometimes is a great idea. And I totally understand that bath thing….one of the things I miss the most about a house .
Don’t know if this is something that you’d particularly be interested in, but when we were in the Keys a couple of years ago, I really enjoyed taking a tour through Hemingway’s home in Key West. It was beautiful and very interesting. There are descendants of his 6-toed cats prowling all around the property!
Yes!!!! I am super excited to visit Hemmingway’s Home and the multi-toed cats. Definitely one of my “must sees” when we get down further south.
Sandy Krueger says
I just need to tell you how your blog has influenced our decision to RV full time. We sold our home in Utah last March and hit the road in June and loving it everyday. So, we played the book the Keys game, up at 5am with three computers set to hit the reserve button and out of pure luck we will be in Curry Hammock in just two days. For two glorious two weeks. We have one night March 31 at Bahia Honda and then back to curry hammock and John Pennekamp until mid April. Maybe will run into you two we are the ones with smiles on our face’s and riding the Harley in the Keys.
Sandy and Paul Krueger
Oh awesome!! You will actually be very close to us. We just checked into Jolly Roger today which I think is just down the road? I’ll send you an e-mail and maybe we can meet-up to say hi.
Sandy Krueger says
We would love to meet you and Paul! Maybe over a beer
I also played the Reserve America Florida Keys reservation lottery getting up at 5 AM (3 AM while on vacation in Maui). I was never able to get a site at Bahia Hondo SP but did get two 14 day reservations at John Pennekamp SP for Jan 12th and Feb 9th 2018. I’m not sure what I will do for the two weeks between the reservations. Just to let everyone know Long Key SP campground is closed for one year starting October 15, 2017 for shoreline restoration. It was X out on Reserve America so I called the park to see why.