We had SUCH A GREAT TIME!!!!!!!!!
I put quite a bit of research into this and I am very happy with how our trip turned out. We had heard that the Keys are not incredibly family friendly and that they are also really expensive. But we wanted to experience the Floriday Keys while we lived here because we only live an hour and a half away. I am so very glad we did. First, we decided to camp because the cheapest hotel I could find (over a month in advance) was $400 for Key West and $200 for Key Largo (this is due in part to having three kids and that makes us have to pay for a bigger room, ruff) for one night. We tossed around the idea of driving home every day, but Florida traffic is miserable and that would make it feel like less of a get-away. We decided to camp. The only thing I would change is maybe next time I might camp closer to Key West. We talked with a few fellow campers and found that there is a KOA and another site by Bahia Honda Key and Ohia Key (much closer to Key West) that are very nice. Downside, they are twice as expensive as our campsite was, so I am still happy with our choice.
The first day we decided to check out John Pennekamp State Park because we had heard it was fun and we couldn't check in to our campsite until noon. Ummm...I wouldn't recommend it. To anyone. I hear they have great glass bottom boat tours, which we did not do, but the state park itself was a pretty big letdown. I'm glad we had only planned a couple of hours there. Also, the mean lady at the desk told Ruth she was "too little" to answer questions (without even letting her try) and wouldn't give her a Junior Ranger Badge, which is our favorite thing with state parks. I was probably more disappointed than Ruthie, but really! Also, the mangrove trail we wanted to hike happened to be closed for repairs.
We did learn some interesting things though, so here we go! We went on the Grove Trail--which led us, predictably, to a fruit grove.
When pioneers settled here they had to blast the coral with dynamite to create holes to grow trees in. These are the remaining trees. Some mangoes, key limes, avocados, and I can't remember what else. It was a beautiful little grove.
|Ruthie picked me a bouquet. So sweet.|
|Molly fell asleep with a death grip on the water bottle, haha.|
Then we went on another hike that gave us all sorts of information on the trees that grow on the key islands. One of which is called Poisonwood and touching it gives basically the same effect as poison ivy. It was growing right along the path the entire way and I had a heart attack pretty much every time my kids touched anything.
|Poisonwood. At least it's all mottled so it is easily identifiable.|
|We saw all sorts of cool trees, like this cinnamon bark, wild coffee, mahogany, that's all I remember.|
|Walking along a bridge.|
After the letdown of the state park, we were happy that our campsite was a huge success!!!!
We camped at Key Largo Kampground and everyone was SO kind and SO helpful and it was beautiful. We had showers, laundry facilities, grills, and a heated pool complete with a kiddie pool. Ruth was so ecstatic to set up our tent, it was adorable.
|Molly the escapist. I thought that seat would keep her contained, but boy was I wrong! She could twist out of that seat until her feet were standing, bend completely over, and grab a handful of rocks.|
Our beautiful little campsite. We didn't have ANY mosquitoes (yay!) and just a few noseeums (sp?) that hurt a bit when they land on you, but it goes away when you brush them off. No big deal. We did, however, live underneath a GECKO tree and I had no idea they made noise. Not only do they make noise, but it is LOUD! It was pretty cool though. We learned after the first night that rain fly's are heat traps and the second night we left all our windows open with the rain fly off. Much, much better. We even saw a tent where they didn't even have walls, just netting all the way around. Florida camping is definitely a new experience for us. But very nice. I feel like we didn't have to pack anything at all. The kids slept in diapers and on top of sleeping bags!
After hiking, the kids couldn't get in the pool fast enough. It was gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous. The water was warm and clean and just so perfect for the kids. We had a lovely day.
|Our little slice of paradise.|
|I tried to keep Molly out of the rocks by putting her in the tent. Again, Molly the escapist. I thought it was hilarious every time I turned around and saw her little arm reaching out.|
Our campsite was also right down the street from a Publix and Kmart which was great for buying ice, milk, and of course some treats. The first night we gave up on trying to put our kids to sleep and just drove them around for twenty minutes until they all fell asleep and then transferred them. Luckily, they were all exhausted from swimming, so they fell right asleep and stayed asleep. It was a great first day! The kids asked for the pool every day after that, but when given the choice between the beach or the pool, the beach won out. That kiddie pool though, it was perfect for us!