Instead of turkey and a big family gathering, I decided to take the family on a road trip in a borrowed Airstream Land Yacht to the Florida Keys. With toddlers, one quickly learns that there are two types of travel: with kids and without kids. We were fortunate to be traveling with our kids on this trip. However, the secret to traveling with kids is to slow down and make it fun, which is always a good guide for vacation.
The average temperature in the Keys is 70s this time of year making it a great tropical getaway before the winter busy season starts. With nice, warm temperatures and less visitors, you can take part in all the water sports the Keys have to offer such as: fishing, snorkeling, paddle boarding and more! Also, we can’t forget about the quirky culture of the Conch Republic!
Our first official day of the tropical road trip, we woke to an early morning shower in the Long Pine Key campground in Everglades National Park. After a long day of travel, I was not arguing with the opportunity to sleep in a bit later than normal. We had arrived late the previous night and were anxious to explore the park in the daylight. With a late morning start, we found the Everglades full of adventure. We discovered a lake with limestone banks, found a few of egret fishing and even saw an alligator sunning in the marsh. We saw the alligator from the comfort of our RV on the Main Park Road.
My wife wanted a closer experience with an alligator. So, we stopped at Everglades Animal Farm. We experienced a short demonstration of alligator wrestling (the alligator did not seem too amused as being the entertainment). Still, the alligator wrestler showed us many techniques that the earlier Everglades settlers used to capture alligators. After the show, we donned our ear guards and went for an airboat ride.
Leaving the Everglades for the Keys, we stopped in Homestead. As the tropical fruit headquarters of Florida, Homestead also produces nearly half of the US winter vegetables. No trip to Homestead is complete without a stop at the fruit stand, Robert is here. Founded by Robert Moehling in 1959, the stand is full of surprises. Not only does this place have every tropical fruit you can imagine, it also has great entertainment for your kids ranging from farm animals to a splash pad. Robert is Here is especially known for amazing smoothies; I recommend the banana passion coconut.
Leaving Homestead, we set our sights for the Keys. When you navigate the keys, you discuss destinations by the mile marker. Driving across the many bridges and through tropical towns, we finally reached our destination: the extraordinary key of Bahia Honda at mile marker 37. Known for its beautiful sandy beaches and photographic sunsets, Bahia Honda is an iconic, uninhibited key that housed workers during the building of the Flagler railroad.
At Bahia Honda, the constant, warm breeze and calm waters created an environment to swim, grill, and to explore the hidden gems of the key. With the surplus of palm tress, coconuts covered the island. And, my daily run at sunrise to Sandspur Beach is an experience unlike any other.
Beyond Bahia Honda, we took a day trip to Key West. Since exploring the small key in an RV is pretty tight, we parked in the northern part of the city and biked into the old town area. There is much to find as you follow the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway. After a fun ride through the Truman Annex neighborhood, we settled with a tour of the Key West Lighthouse and a nap in the grass with the sounds of the wind blowing through the leaves.
Leaving the city, we stopped for a bite at at Hogfish Bar & Grill. Famous for the tasty hogfish and local flare, Hogfish was a great setting for us to take a stroll down the pier and for a perfect view of the sun setting over the Keys.
On our last stop before leaving the Keys we were able to experience active tarpon at Robbie’s of Islamorada. A fun little tourist stop, Robbie’s offers many souvenirs from the Keys and has a restaurant, but the active tarpon are the really, exciting feature. It was not unusual to see tarpon 4ft – 5ft long, swimming and taking the cut bait from your hand. Tarpon have one of the longest lifespans (up to 50 years on average) and need to be near the water surface to breathe, which makes this a tarpon haven. The kids were surprised by the huge, animated fish and the adults were able to experience a close-up brush with the tropic culture.
In our busy lives, it always good to have a reminder to slow down and enjoy the trip. This trip with my family was just that. Although at times frustrating, I was grateful for the experience to road trip with the toddlers this Thanksgiving holiday.