One of my goals on our recent Spring Break trip, aside from visiting the 3 National Parks, was to really experience the keys. I love for my kids to experience different parts of our country and understand the lifestyle and food unique to that region. After our glorious day at Dry Tortugas, we drove north on Highway 1 to Marathon Key. Marathon is considered one of the middle keys. This is the part of our trip I had baked in some downtime and no real place to be type days. These down days allowed us to sample local seafood, eat key lime flavored things and generally embrace the relaxed vibe of the keys.
We arrived Sunday evening and checked into Banana Bay Resort. Our building (#1) appeared to be brand new. It had the smell and look of fresh paint and linens. The bathroom boasted a large walk-in shower with the rain head fixture. This was our nicest hotel of the trip.
It was well past my dinner time but the girls were complaining about their hair “feeling gross” from snorkeling all day and insisted they take showers before we go to dinner. While they did the shower thing, I read reviews on local restaurants that were still open at 7:30pm on a Sunday.
We drove a mile down the road to Marathon Grill and Ale House. From the outside, this placed looked like a standard dive bar in a strip mall. The food was far better than any bar. I had blackened Mahi, the kids had really good shrimp platters and my wife had a shrimp salad. What really made the experience, was the live band playing classics like Eric Clapton, Eagles and others. Even the kids were impressed and thought it made for a good experience. From what I gathered, live music is pretty standard here so check it out.
The next morning, I was the first one to awake. I grabbed a key and slipped out of the room to check out the coffee situation in the main building. There was no seating area so all your breakfast items had to be grab-n-go. You could either go back to your room or sit outside at one of two tables I found. It was 75 degrees with lush palm trees everywhere, so I wasn’t about to go back inside. I lingered over coffee and watched small lizards scurry though the leaf litter till my wife joined me.
My original plan for the day was to visit Sombrero Beach. I have read great things about this beach but I was given a tip from the girl at the front desk to visit Bahia Honda State Park. There is no lack of things to do in Marathon: The Turtle Hospital, Dolphin Research Center, Florida Keys Aquarium Encounter, Helicopter Tours and every water sport imaginable.
I just can’t say enough positive things about the Florida State Park system. Bahia Honda turned out to be a perfect choice for us. It cost $10 for the four of us to enter the park but that was cheap entertainment. There are hiking trails, bird watching, a beach area and snorkeling right off the beach.
Once again, the beach is very narrow and covered with a lot of sea grass that has washed up in places. However, this beach lacked the broken coral and rocks that Zachary Taylor State Park did. The decomposing grass on the beach gave off an odd, sulfur smell similar to what you smell in Yellowstone. It didn’t bother me but the kids complained about it. You can read reviews of this park on Tripadvisor.com and see where dopey people are complaining and asking why they don’t rake the beach. It’s really not a big deal, I just stepped over it.
Below is a sample of all the great things we found right off the beach while snorkeling. For people like us who live in Ohio, being able to see creatures like this off the beach is mind blowing.
Our skin told us all it was time to leave the beach by 2pm. We drove back to our hotel to enjoy the pool and the shade of the palm trees for a little while longer. This picture was taken later that evening but shows the expansive pool area.
Dinner this night was a place called Porky’s Seafood and Bar-B-Q. Most of you know my weakness for trying good BBQ. The waitress assured me the there is a smoker on premise burning hickory wood. I tried the pulled pork which was excellent. My son is a bottomless pit these days and is difficult to keep him filled. He ate a shrimp basket and was still hungry so he asked if he could order a side of conch fritters. I was proud of him. Trying conch was one of those experiential things I encouraged the kids do. I forgot to mention that we had all tried Conch Ceviche two nights before in Key West at The Hurricane Hole. Add that place to your list of places to eat while in Key West.
After doing some souvenir shopping, I hurried us back to the hotel in time to catch the sunset. One of the intangibles about Banana Bay resort, is the sandy area they have back by their marina. They apparently have wedding ceremonies there at times but it makes for a wonderful location to relax and watch the sun set. These pictures speak for themselves.
My next post will feature our time at Everglades & Biscayne Bay National Park.