Exoset

First time in the Keys, need some advices :)

15 posts in this topic

Hey Guys,

next 8 July I am leaving Quebec (Canada) for 4 weeks and I am heading to Florida Keys (More specifically to 38801 Overseas Hwy, Big Pine Key, FL 33043). Sunshine Key RV Resort & Marina.

Well, since it is the first time I am going to Florida, I was wondering if some of you had some advices. I am planning to boating / snorkeling and most of the time REST.

My targets will be some sweets spots where I could beach the boat and stay here with my family. I am looking for peace and quiet spots, I am really not a party guy. When I chose Big Pine, it was because I read that it is also called natural keys. Could you confirm ?

First I was planning for Miami but even if I will go there for shopping etc, it seems that there is a little too much activity for me to stay there. Do you think it is true ? Read too that there is a lot of boat in the Miami gulf, not really what I am looking for if it is true :p.

If you guys have any advices to give me, about the place in Big Pine, or things to do, place to go, please feel free to share it, I have planned a lot of things but I suppose there is never too much things to know/do.

See you on the keys this summer perhaps :P

Thks

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Florida keys are a great place to visit.   Big Pine is very quite and laid back with lots of hiking trails. Take plenty of sun screen because the Key's sun will burn you quicker than you think. Allow yourself plenty of time to drive down the Keys' highway, there is a lot of traffic and many interesting place to stop.  When you get there forget your cell phone and watch, go to,the bar.

F06C3D3F-9E0A-43DA-A229-9C8FA8466EAF_zps

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Thanks BF.

I was more thinking of driving the boat than the truck :p, Big Pine and Keywest seems pretty near so it should be easy to go there by sea instead of road.

Planning to go to Dry Tortugas too but I am a little chicken with a single engine :s. If I get used to the region, perhaps try to ride up to Miami, should be doable in 2-3 days, what do you think ?

Sun Screen and shirt for all the family already done but thanks for the advice ;).

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Wow can't believe I didn't see this thread! Congrats and good luck. Boating in the keys is amazing. I just got back from boating from Miami to big pine and back. Other than almost spending a night on a sandbar in the content keys, we didn't have too much trouble. Tallied 350+ miles in all and made many great memories. From Big Pine, you will have to check out Looe Key. The content keys are also amazing for relaxing, but you have to watch the tides. I also recommend exploring Bahia Honda State Park for a day and heading south to Key West torelax. Not sure what boat you have, but I don't know if you should make the trek to the Tortuga's. The biggest concern is obviously a breakdown at sea and having enough gas for the trip. I have a 24' single engine craft that holds 75 gallons and gets around 3mpg in most sea conditions. Still I'm not sure if I could make it without an auxillary tank. If you are still there in August, I would consider making the trip with you possibly!

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A few more thoughts that I forgot to share: first, make sure you NEVER anchor on living coral. At all the main reefs there are mooring buoys. Tie off to one of these with a rope instead of dropping anchor. Next, the keys are very tricky with seagrass beds, reefs, bars, shoals, etc. Always check your charts and pre-plot a course. You will run aground down here if you are here long enough. Just cut the motor and drift off. Never motor through sea grass or a reef as it does major damage and can land you in jail and/or a huge fine. Last, this is paradise so enjoy! It's not the end of the world if something happens, the coast guard and tow boats are all around ready to help! My final recommendations have to do with restaurants: Leigh Ann's in Key Colony Beach is amazing for breakfast, Lazy Days South in Marathon is great, and Snook's Bayside in Key Largo is out of this world good! Get the coconut crusted mahi and enter heaven haha! Hope you have a great trip and I wish I could spend a month down there!

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Wow Drew, thank you so Much for the feedback, this this exactly what I expected when I ask for advices.

I have a 270 Sig from 2007, gas tank is a 110 Gallons, I was thinking about an extra tank if I really go to Dry Tortugas.

So far I have noted : Looe Key/content keys/Bahia Honda State Park but be careful with the anchor. I definitely put these location on my GPS Charplotter, I especially bought this one to be sure : http://www.thegpsstore.com/C-MAP-MAX-N-Wide-NA-Y022-East-Coast-and-Bahamas-for-Navico-P4379.aspx. Also bought a real MAP just in case so I should be ok with that.

I am also thinking to go from Miami, Florida to Bimini, Bahamas, it seems to be an easier/closer trip than Dry Tortugas since we can refuel on the Island. Anyway I am planning a lot of thing I suppose I will not be able to do everything in 3-4 weeks :).

Thanks again !

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Good stuff! Looe Key is the most beautiful reef in the Florida Keys with the exception of the Dry Tortugas. Content Keys are a set of mangrove islands about 10 miles off Big Pine on the Gulf side. Very pretty and nice spot to relax, but if you don't go at high tide, you will end up a beached whale for the night LOL! Bahia Honda has beautiful vistas and beaches, but at dusk the bugs are terrible.

I think you could make the Tortugas and honestly, I would 100% rather go there than bimini. The reefs are amazing, the lighthouse is beautiful and so is the Fort. The Bahamas are much more of a tourist spot. BTW in the keys you just need to get in the habit of not using the anchor.Just pull right up to the buoy and fish the line out of the water and tie another line to it. Everytime I try to set and anchor in the usual seas near the reef in sandy bottom, it drags and gets close to the reef, so now I always use the provided and complimentary mooring buoys.

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The more I am reading the more I am feeling worry about July in the keys,

A lot of people says that there is a lot of rain/bugs/lightstorm/hurricanes in July, they also talk about heat/humidity but I suppose I can deal with that since that's why I am coming to Florida :p.

Anyway, it is too late to turn back, I am leaving in 2 weeks.

#%^$&%$ it is always the same thing, when you are waiting for something, you read, you read find stuff you didn't notice before but it is just because I can't wait no longer :D.

;)

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You're going to have a blast. Just be aware and pay attention/follow the charts and local regulations and you will be fine!

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Well, Drew was right, I had a blast like he said.

On the road I have crossed PA I just stayed on I81, the road is a little tough until you are on the I95, but after that, everything should be ok.

Arriving on the 7 miles bridge with your own boat behind you is priceless.

I was at Marathon because I am not a party guy, I was looking for tranquility and calm, I found this in marathon.

We have been to Looe Keys (best place I have seen in my life, including 30 years in Europe (Mediterranean Sea and almost all river/lake in France/Italy), a small cruise to Key West but mostly, we stayed 30-50 Km around Marathon to explore since I found the Keys pretty tricky to navigate, be sure to have your GPS Up to Date, very hard to boat without it down there. A paper map is clearly not enough, lot of sandbars, and like Drew said, we have to respect the environment, which means, you can't drop the anchor everywhere you want to stop, I did it a couple times but I always jumped in the water and put the anchor manually.

We were in Marathon between the 4th of July and the 1st of August last summer, and despite what everyone told me, it was not THAT hot, with AC for the nights at least. My wife, my 2 years old son and our 2 dogs (Beige Labrador and Black Chow Chow) were a little cramped in the Sig 270 at night but no problem during the day (mostly outside).

Since then I have upgraded to a Sig 290, should be better next time.

I don't know what you are planning during your trip, but we just boat every day except 2 times (One to go to visit Miami, the other to go to Key West by the road), spend a lot of time to Bahia Honda beach, we found a spot where we were just ... alone, that was magic. No bugs at all, even at dusk, but again, we stayed in the boat, perhaps that's why.

What can I say, when people down there told us that this is the closest place of paradise, they were just... so #%^$&%$ right...

If you need anything, let me know, I will share my experience with pleasure :).

If you go to Key West and looking for a good place to eat a Key Lime Pie, I do recommend Blue Haven restaurant :

https://www.tripadvisor.com/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g34345-d447631-i24381736-Blue_Heaven-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

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2 examples of the diversity you will find in the Keys, the first is Bahia Honda, the other is Looe Keys (no Photoshop on the pictures)

762274GOPR0304.jpg

483792GOPR0131.jpg

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That sounds great Exoset!

Yes, we are not novices to Key West or Blue Heaven for that matter.  A key lime pie for $30 but worth every $.  :)

We recently rented a boat and traveled around Key West and very slightly up the Atlantic Coast.  Beauty everywhere and some of the nicest, laid back people.

We used to travel annually to Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Cancun, etc until we discovered KW. 

We have been there 11 times now in the past 5 years and still feel we have discovered less than 25% of the culture on the small 4 sq mile island.

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Haha I feel dumb, my bad, I was thinking you were going for the first time like me last year, but you seems to know the place a lot better than me :P

I don't know if you towed you own boat to the keys but if you don't, I strongly recommend to do it one day. Here in Canada, everyone told me to rent a boat down in FL, more convenient, etc.

I am so glad I didn't listen... We live aboard for 3 weeks and it would not have been the same without our boat, be it on the road or on the water, both were an awesome experience :)

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Exoset, that is a dream of ours- to drive our motorhome down and tow the boat.

One day!

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