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Touring the US East Coast - Day 5

Written By:
Alain Kasteleyn
February 6, 2014

We have a day to spend in Islamorada and Key Largo, and we know we’re in for a treat! These two areas are a part of The Keys that so many people just drive through on their way to Key West. Once leaving Miami, passing through Homestead and joining the ‘Overseas Highway’ (the famous US-1 east coast road), there are actually four very different and distinct areas before reaching Key West. These are Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon and Big Pine.

We started the day with some fresh fruit and coffee for breakfast. A good healthy start plus a boost from some coffee!! Our first plan was to visit one of the State Parks near to our resort. The one we headed for was the John Pennekamp State Park, just a few miles back up the road in the Key Largo area.

There is a small entry charge, but the facilities are pretty good. There are rest areas, car parks, bbq stoves, toilets and shower facilities. There’s also a small beach area where you can venture into the shallow waters, and a few trails that allow you to wander through natural mangrove areas. Various signs tell you what the flora and fauna are, and we found all was well organised and in good order. If you wanted to you could hire kayaks or even take a tour on a glass-bottomed boat.

After this little trip out we returned to the Cheeca Lodge and met up with Susan, the Sales Manager of the resort, for a site inspection and guided tour. We were shown various categories of rooms and suites around the resort, as well as the three restaurants, pool areas, fitness facilities, spa and meeting rooms; all were amazing, and to be honest we would recommend spending a few days here just for the pampering and relaxation aspects of the place. Perhaps also for the fact that there are countless restaurants nearby serving excellent fresh seafood, fish and local dishes that virtually every local we met told us about. There was no way we could visit all of these during our time in the area!

After our tour of the resort we headed to the beach area and plonked ourselves down on a couple of sun loungers and sat and lazed in the sun. Another hard day in paradise!

The next item on the itinerary was to meet Jeremy, who operates a DMC (Destination Management Commpany). Jeremy’s company offers hotel rooms at many of the boutique hotels throughout The Keys, as well as tours, fishing trips and activities, again, throughout The Keys. We’d planned to meet up at a bar called Pierre’s, just across the US-1 on the ‘Everglades’ side of The Keys. The plan was to meet up at 5:45pm, grab a drink, watch the sunset and talk about business. The sunset did not disappoint! It was amazing; the colours, the silence and the reflection on the water and trees blew our minds. Business had to wait a while until dusk was well and truly upon us.

Jeremy’s advice, hints and tips were appreciated, and gave us lots of food for thought. This was duly added to the ‘to do’ list for when we get home. We said goodbye and then headed over next-door to a restaurant called Morada Bay, which is linked to Pierre’s. The tables were all set out next to the water, on a quiet sandy area. The stars were out and the setting was perfect. What an end to the day. Very memorable! All too soon it was time to return to Cheeca Lodge, and start packing for our departure the following day.

**Alain’s top tips**

  1. Listen to the locals when they suggest bars and restaurants to visit.
  2. Take time to relax and switch off a bit. We found we could do this at Cheeca Lodge, and this meant we did not tear straight down to Key West.
  3. Resort fees! Many resorts and hotels in Florida and throughout the USA have started to charge a ‘Resort Fee’. This is basically an additional charge (approximately 10%) and includes use of the gym, bottled water in the room, access to the internet, use of sun loungers, free newspaper, and things along those lines. We’ve heard a few nightmare stories where people have come to check out from their hotel, and suddenly find that their bill is higher than expected.
  4. Prior to leaving home be sure to check your itinerary (destinations, hotel names and addresses). Also, note what has and has not been paid. Print everything out if you can.
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