Key West Adventure-A1A Walk, Smathers Beach, Butterfly and Nature Conservancy visit, Key West Garden Club

Monday, January 17 A1A Walk

We’re up pretty early and head over to the lobby for the Hampton Inn's "included" breakfast. They had coffee, juice, cereal, yogurts, scrambled eggs, potatoes, sausage patties, biscuits and gravy, toast, make your own waffles and fruit. We did not go hungry.

After a quick freshen up, we cross A1A and head west down S. Roosevelt towards Old Town. The first thing we notice is like 25 shrimp boats anchored out across from the beach. 

We were later told the boats come around to the south side of the island when there’s strong north winds. 

We walk along a really wide sidewalk for bicycles and pedestrians. Some bikers are good about letting you know they are coming up behind you but most are not. I was constantly looking over my shoulder.

Smathers Beach is a half mile long public beach facing the Atlantic Ocean that starts at the famous Mile Marker 0. This morning it’s quite empty. It’s a bit chilly for the natives-70 at 10 a.m. with strong winds. The beach is open to the public from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m..

We walked past Margaritaville Beach House (our second choice of places to stay on island) it was twice the price of the Hampton Inn but not as crazy expensive as our third choice The Reach

Key West is NOT a cheap Caribbean Island. You will be paying big bucks to stay here-it may be why a lot of people only stay one or two nights and travel north to visit the other Keys on their vacations.

There are lots of beach access paths and at this time of the morning, plenty of parking places. 

A few houses still have up their Christmas decorations. Some folks have quite the sense of humor, hard to tell if they set up the skeletons for Halloween and then left them through New Year, or what.

The unofficial Key West Wildlife-free roaming chickens and roosters greet us in the park before the pier.

We stroll out on the Edward B. Knight Pier (White Street Pier) to watch the waves crashing over the sea wall. To get to the pier, we pass through the Key West AIDS Memorial and the Key West African Cemetery. 

We pass Dog Beach on our way to the Southernmost Point.

Southernmost buoy marks the southernmost point in the continental United States, the lowest latitude land of contiguous North American states. It is 18 feet above sea level. And 90 miles from Cuba. 

There was a HUGE line waiting to take photos and selfies (we later found out there was a cruise ship in town). 

So, I took pictures of the cruise people waiting for their obligatory photos.

The concrete buoy was recently vandalized. Two men, according to Key West police, vandalized the island’s famous Southernmost Point buoy by setting a fire next to it on New Year’s Day. Police obtained arrest warrants for David B. Perkins Jr., 21, of Leesburg, Florida, and Skylar Rae Jacobson, 21, of Henrietta, Texas. Both face charges of felony criminal mischief with damages over $1,000.

I've visited Key West maybe 6 or 7 times before, usually doing the Parrothead thing. My plan this trip was to do things most people might not consider doing. Mostly eco-tourist things, less drunken tourist things.

Our first stop is The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. It’s Martin Luther King Day so there are a lot of children with parents visiting too but overall, they were well behaved and actually added to the excitement of seeing all the butterflies.

And when I say all the butterflies, I mean hundreds and hundreds of them. They are everywhere and they love to land on you. I had one of the blue ones land on me and stay with me a good five minutes. This was a delightful visit. One caution, it was hot and humid in the conservatory to keep the butterflies and birds happy. 

Oh and you get to meet Scarlett and Rhett the resident pink flamingoes and a couple of turtles.

After our long walk from the hotel to downtown (a little over and hour) and playing with the birds and butterflies, we were getting hungry. We tried the Southernmost Point Bar but they are drinks only, so we crossed the street and ended up in the Duval Street Pocket Park.

We decided to hit Louie’s Backyard-Afterdeck Bar for lunch. It’s right next to dog beach so you can watch the dogs and their people playing in the surf. I had a lovely glass of sangria with my snapper sandwich.

We decide to walk back to the hotel and make a few stops along the way. We check out the tourists baking on Higgs Beach. Then make our way to the Key West Garden Club at West Martello. It’s free to enter but they accept donations. Their orchid collections are magnificent. And the little garden rooms are beautiful. They have quite the collection of statues and even a labyrinth.

There are a couple of Key West Nature Preserves along the walk up A1A, we visit both by boardwalk and dirt path.

Back at the hotel, my Fitbit tells me I’ve walked over 8 miles today. My feet feel it. So, I jump into the pool to cool me and my feet off.

The local Publix grocery store let’s you order online groceries and they delivery to you for a modest fee. Beer, wine, cheese and crackers and we have a carpet picnic in the making. But first we use our drink coupons at the Cheekie Bar-their Sea Breeze was yummy.

More photos from today's adventure: CLICK HERE

Tomorrow, I try "Yoga on the Beach" and we catch a sunset cruise looking for dolphins with Honest Eco.

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Nancy Nutile-McMenemy is an Upper Valley freelance photographer and writer who loves to paddle, hike, attend concerts and local events in and around Weathersfield and the Upper Valley.

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