The cool dark of the bar furnished respite from the recent afternoon sunshine, and it became a minute or earlier than our eyes adjusted to the scene inside. Settling onto multiple stools, we ordered beers and took in our surroundings. Dollar payments, maximum bearing messages penned in magic marker, blanketed each inch of the walls and ceiling, three and four layers deep in a few places. Two sunburned couples across the bar ordered any other spherical, tapping their plastic cups in a toast even as Johnny Cash crooned overhead.

“I type of experience like we’re within the Twilight Zone,” my husband said as the bartender set baskets brimming with french fries and fried grouper in front of people. We’d landed in No Name Pub, an established Florida Keys organization some distance from the overwhelmed path. A few hours in advance, we saw a part of a distinct Keys tableau – sipping our espresso while staring at the Atlantic throughout a lawn dotted with swaying fingers. The ocean and a busy woodpecker have been the handiest sounds we should hear.

A power-down Florida’s Overseas Highway from Key Largo to Key West offers the perfect mixture of eccentric bohemia and sublime joie de vivre. As the mile markers lower, the Old Florida charm sharpens into awareness. Strip malls hawking seashore sundries and snorkeling excursions along the higher reaches of U.S. 1 supply manner to amazing turquoise flashes as the road turns into a greater bridge than a motorway. The route south is adorned with the Keys’ ubiquitous kitsch — a giant, spiny lobster presides over a nearby arts village, lipsticked manatees grasp mailboxes, and hand-painted mermaids tempt passersby with the promise of sunset cocktails.

Though Hurricane Irma, which ravaged the archipelago in September 2017, is not a faint reminiscence for people who call the Keys domestic, the place has made high-quality healing. Most accommodations and motels have reopened—many after completing big renovations—and a few new spots have joined the roster. Restaurants, seaside bars, country parks, and legions of watersports outfitters have also rebounded, leaving visitors hard-pressed to discover proof of the storm’s Category 4 destruction.

You may want to drive the 113-mile stretch in over three hours, but why would you need to? Road journeys, specifically ones as iconic as this, are all approximately the stops along the way. So put the top down and cue Jimmy Buffet. Here’s our guide to the fine the Florida Keys has to offer.

Key Largo

Ease yourself into the Keys’ laid-lower-back vibe just south of Homestead with a detour onto Card Sound Road. A stop into Alabama Jack’s is an ought to, especially if you’re a primary-timer – the scrappy, waterside seafood shack has been the Keys’ unofficial welcome wagon for the reason that 1947 and serves some of the exceptional conch fritters round. Live tune and the road of Harleys out of doors add to the honky-tonk scene.

With your inner clock synced to island time, cruise over Card Sound Bridge and into Key Largo, where you’ll find John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park at mile marker 102.Five. Explore the park’s prolific marine life and a part of the 360-mile Florida Reef Tract—North America’s best-dwelling coral barrier reef—on a guided snorkeling excursion. Or rent kayaks and head out for a paddle through miles of mangrove-covered desert trails.

Key Largo is at the epicenter of sustainability efforts within the Florida Keys, particularly regarding reef health. Researchers at the Coral Restoration Foundation are rearing and planting corals in undersea nurseries. For a unique enjoy, snorkelers and divers trying to upload an eco-tourism stint to their travels can help scientists without planting and reef tracking at lively restoration websites.

After an afternoon of the sea and solar, test into the breezy Baker’s Cay Resort, a lush retreat tucked right into a secluded setting with fantastic Florida Strait perspectives. Formerly the Hilton Key Largo, the thirteen-acre assets were undergoing complete maintenance while Irma struck. Rather than rebuild, Hilton created Baker’s Cay, which opened in late January to sign up for the brand’s costly Curio Collection. The resort’s beauty isn’t only skin-deep. Baker’s Cay has committed to becoming a leader in sustainability, partnering with neighborhood environmental businesses to create green visitor programming and primary hotels within the Keys to enroll in Reef Relief’s “Skip the Straw” campaign. Islamorada
You may want to easily spend some days hopping around the string of tiny islands that make up Islamorada, and even as you do, The Moorings Village is the correct area to call domestic.

Built in 1936 on a former coconut plantation, the motel is home to 18 beachy cottages nestled amidst tropical landscaping, simply steps from the Atlantic. Eight hundred palm bushes dot the property, and there is no shortage of hammocks for lounging underneath the verdant fronds.

Grab a paddleboard and head out for an ocean tour, watch the world cross from the cool shade of your porch, or at the same time, spend some hours through the splendid pool — newly refreshed post-Irma. If you could tear yourself away, unmarried-speed seaside cruisers are to be had for a pedal around town. Check out the galleries around the corner inside the Morada Bay Arts and Cultural District —each third Thursday is the district’s night artwork walk — or pop into the beer lawn at the Florida Keys Brewing Company for a hyper-local tasting flight.