Last year we came down to the Keys in our RV and loved it so much that we decided to make a return trip this year. We made our reservations 11 months ago and we must have had very lucky and fast fingers for we were able to secure a highly coveted spot at Curry Hammock State Park for the entire 2 week period. We love this state park that has only 28 sites, half of which are waterfront with its own beautiful, private sandy beach.
There is a convenient canoe/kayak launch area and from there you can go through a mangrove tunnel to the opposite side of the island and explore many of the surrounding mangroves. The water is wonderfully clear and appears very clean, which is such a pleasure. While talking to other campers we learned of a large sandbar located offshore that we set off to explore during low tide. The water was low enough that we could get out and walk and pull the canoe around with us. We loved it out there and named our walks ‘The sandbar shuffles’ due to the fact that you had to be careful where you stepped. I nearly stepped on a large stingray that was almost completely obscured by sand. Only a small amount of black was exposed, which I poked with my toe to see what it was. Out of the sand shot the ray, right in front of me, and it scared the crap out of me and I had to keep from falling backward on my butt. Leonard just happened to be watching the whole thing and we got a big laugh out of it.
There were dozens of red, purple and orange starfish, conch, a medium size whelk, a small bonnet head shark and lots of different types of rays. As we were paddling back something else caught our eye. It was an old wooden lobster trap that had a small nurse shark sleeping in it along with lobsters, tropical fish and coral attached to the sides of it. They didn’t move as we passed over them half a dozen times while the waves pushed us around.
Leonard spoke with another camper who was an avid kayaker and he was kind enough to give us a huge number of GPS tracks that he had done in his kayak. One day we put in at Sombrero Beach during high tide and headed for the mother lode of mangrove tunnels. This is a massive undeveloped area of mangroves with tunnels weaving in and out of it and shallow lagoons in the center. Even though we were well armed with GPS data we still managed to get off track in a very shallow area for a short amount of time, but Leonard persevered and got us out. It’s kind of spooky but beautiful at the same time and easy to get lost. I couldn’t imagine doing it without a GPS.
We had our bike with us and did some of our exploring by bicycle. We rode across the old portion of 7 mile bridge out to historic Pigeon Key, where Henry Flagler had housed 400 workers while constructing the overseas railway in the early 1900’s. There are 11 remaining buildings and a wooden exit ramp leading from the bridge down to the island. This incredibly narrow bridge remained in use until the mid 70’s when the new bridge was built. Another camper and his wife talked of driving the overseas highway down to Key West in 1971 and how scary it was. These days the old portion is heavily used by bicyclists and walkers who peer over the side to see what marine life is going by below them. We saw a shark and a very large ray while others saw tarpon and turtles as well.
We found a great dog beach a couple of miles from here where Laia discovered a new skill in retrieving coconuts floating in the ocean. She loved it!! We also discovered a great local seafood restaurant about 1.5 miles from here called Island Fish Co. We ate dinner there twice and road our bike there for breakfast one morning and watched a manatee right from our table. Parrotfish and Sargent majors gathered at the dock hoping to be fed. Our other great find was a beautiful hidden restaurant/bar called Morada Bay with killer mason jar size drinks. It was laundry day and a fierce line of storms was headed toward us, so we began our storm preparations.
Alas, our 2 weeks has now come to an end and we have to depart tomorrow. We’re already thinking about next year and hoping that the reservation gods will be smiling upon us when we try to get one of those coveted spots.