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Our round trip through Florida - with the family in the Sunshine State

Updated: Mar 27, 2023

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You can find some picturesque spots in the Keys if you're looking for something.


After four days of highlife in the Big Apple, we drove to Newark International Airport in the early hours of the morning on 5 July 2022. Again, we had an Uber come to us. We recommend this for all routes that you don't like to take public transport. It's cheaper than the long-established taxis, it's relatively safe for both sides and you always meet interesting people behind the wheel. Except for one time, it was always immigrants.


The flight to Orlando takes less than three hours and should be over quickly. You don't like to fly long distances in the cramped United Airlines planes anyway. I had the feeling that they were even tighter than in the planes of European airlines. Maybe I just got fatter. Anyway, don't think about it too much. After all, we are on holiday.

In Florida we immediately got a slap in the face. We thought it had been hot in New York, but there the air was boiling. My first thought was: how are we going to stand it for three weeks now. But to say it in advance, even if the feeling of heat never completely disappears, you somehow get used to it.


After picking up our rental car, an incredibly spacious Chrysler Pacific, we made our way to our first stop: Cocoa Beach (Beachside Hotel and Suites). For Florida, too, we had booked all the accommodation months in advance via booking.com - in each case with the possibility of cancelling at very short notice free of charge. You should always make a point of this in order to be able to change itineraries if necessary.






The drive to the hotel took about 90 minutes and we were glad to have a working air conditioner in the car. All the booked hotel rooms were also equipped with air conditioning. We know from experience: At such temperatures, it is impossible to sleep without "air conditioning".


The Beachside Hotel and Suites turned out to be a good choice. It has the charm of an aging surfer hotel, a small pool with a lazy river (we love it), good cocktails and, like almost all hotels in Florida, an ice machine and a laundry with washing machines and dryers. A (huge) load of washing, including drying, costs an average of 3 - 4 dollars. That's a bargain compared to the laundry services in larger hotels (where one item often costs that much).


The Beachside Hotel and Suites was our first hotel in Florida. A perfect introduction.


Here, too, I made contact very quickly and was invited for a cocktail by a hopelessly drunk businessman from Miami. He raved to me about the hotel that was still "real old Florida". Oh yes, I would have loved to have been in old Florida once.


The next day, a visit to the Kennedy Space Center was on the agenda. Man, was I excited. Before the trip, I watched the film "Apollo 13" again and indeed, there is more than one reference to this moon mission in the visitor complex of the Space Center. There is not much to write about the Space Center (it would be too long otherwise) except that it is breathtaking. Some of the effects of the exhibition are deeply etched in my memory. You have to go there, definitely, and you have to plan the whole day.

The next day we made our way to Jupiter. We stopped on the island off the mainland and drove along the A1A "highway". After a little over an hour, we stopped at one of the car parks and took a detour to the beach - the great beach. Right next to the road we came across a deserted paradise and probably for the first time consciously realised that we were in Florida.


Here are some impressions from the magnificent Kennedy Space Center.



After about two and a half hours of driving, we turned into the car park of our next hotel. We had booked "nothing special" for one night and actually thought more of a kind of cheap motel, but on arrival at the Jupiter Water Front Inn we immediately regretted having booked only one night here. Our room was wonderfully furnished, had a small terrace with a view of the pool and the jetty behind it that led directly onto the Indian River. Very quickly I struck up a conversation with a retired wine merchant who raved to me about his time and Europe and Germany (and the opportunity to enjoy wine here in public). I gave him my card and invited him to contact me if it ever came to Vienna.


In Jupiter (and along the way), Florida won us over.


In the evening we strolled to Tiki 52, a restaurant near a small marina that magically attracted us with live music. The band was cool, the food good and the beer cold - a perfect evening for the whole family. What more could you want.


The next day we spent almost entirely in the car. The way to Islamorada on the Keys took much longer than announced. We had to drive once completely through Miami and chugged through the outer city area for what felt like 3 hours until we were finally on the Overseas Highway. To wait out the traffic jam, we stopped at a McDonald's and visited a Skechers store with an incredibly large selection.

Finally! Later in the afternoon we finally reached our hotel. Here we were going to spend three nights. The entrance to the Islander Resort was already promising: tropical plants lined the path and ended at a picturesque fountain. Oh is this beautiful, I thought to myself, until I got out of the car and a nauseating sulphurous smell hit my nose. What a contrast.


On the Keys you can find the most beautiful places by boat (e.g. sandbanks).


After checking in and moving into our beautiful room, we also found the solution to the stink mystery. We had not caught the best day, because the sea just had a seaweed problem. Fortunately, the smell was hardly noticeable the next day and we could really enjoy the days on Islamorada. Those who dream of the Keys as a beach paradise, however, will be disappointed. Most of the beaches are private, so the best chance for great water fun is to rent a motorboat, take something to drink and drive to one of the sandbanks to anchor there. There the boats park next to each other in the middle of the sea, people stand in the lukewarm water, chatting and drinking beer in pods. We saw a floating hot dog stand there for the first time. There are things you can only find in the USA. For a day on a motorboat, however, you have to reckon with around 500 - 600 dollars, including a full tank of gas.


On the way to our next accommodation, something very special awaited us. Something my wife in particular had been looking forward to for a long time: we went swimming with dolphins, or the dolphins with us. We had always wanted to do this, but were sceptical about the keeping of these wonderful animals, so we asked around. An acquaintance of my wife worked for a few months in a similar "dolphin school" in the USA and was herself unsure at first. Over time, she told us, her insecurity subsided. Dolphins are very intelligent animals and quickly get used to us humans. Similar to dogs, they love to be encouraged. They seem to love learning their tricks and performing them. They like the applause and even on days when no demonstrations are scheduled, they come and demand their practice sessions.





We like all animals, but dolphins are really something special.


Yes, the facility we visited is of course made for tourists, but the animals there have the possibility to swim into the open sea, but they always come back voluntarily. The fact is, dolphins under human care normally live twice to three times as long as those without human contact. The hours spent with these magnificent animals were definitely an unforgettable experience - one of many on this trip.


The second stop on the Keys was on Little Torch Key. We had booked two nights at Parmers Resort. It's a slightly off-the-beaten-path resort that's getting a bit long in the tooth, but we didn't mind at all. There was a pool, some lawn games, a laundry, a small breakfast and delicious cookies that were in the dining room all day for free pickings. The staff at Parmers Resort were, like most Americans, very welcoming. We liked it, even though the pool was again way too hot and not cooling at all.


From Parmers Resort, we visited Key West and Bahia Honda State Park.


Within a 10-minute walk from the hotel is Kiki's Sandbar Bar & Grille, a nice waterfront eatery with a wonderful menu, great tacos and a Key Lime Pie that you should try. From here we also took an evening trip to Key West, the rearmost island of the Florida Keys. A good hour's drive brought us to this lively and crazy little town, which is also home to the Southernmost Point of the United States - the southernmost point of the continental USA. Of course you have to visit this point and you can only hope not to have to wait too long for a photo. We only had to wait 10 minutes. Good thing.


Key West is closer to Havana than to Miami and has more Caribbean flair than other American cities. Its location at the end of the Overseas Highway also makes the city a kind of place of longing. In the 1950s and 60s, Key West was still a stronghold for hippies and eccentrics. Today, the cityscape is dominated more and more by cruise ship tourists, but a sunset on Key West or a visit to the Hemingway Villa is still an experience. We really enjoyed the excursion to Key West.


After our stay at Parmers Resort, it was time for us to say goodbye to the Keys, but we didn't mind, after all, we were going to one of the most famous and popular metropolises in the USA: we went to Miami Beach. I'll tell you how we liked it there in our next blog. But one thing should be said in advance: Nowhere before have we seen so many and so expensive villas of famous stars as in Miami. Not for nothing (not at all) did Elon Musk buy an island there!


We look forward to your feedback and are open to a lively exchange. You also want to travel and like to travel often and have a question, just write us and comment.


Kind regards,

Steffi, Max and the kids

(Author of this blog: Max)

 
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