On a sticky humid Florida afternoon, we took our life on wheels toward Key West, and Dry Tortugas National Park.
The drive from Homestead Florida’s took us on the Overseas Highway (it’s the only option). If you’ve seen the movie True Lies with Arnold Schwarzenegger, you’ve seen this highway. 😉
The drive was beautiful, and although it took an hour longer than expected (due to traffic), we were able to watch the sun sink into the Gulf of Mexico. It was breathtaking!
Coming from the Everglades, this was nice!
Our first stop was to load up on some groceries at this packed, poor excuse for a grocery store that we found on the way.
With our refrigerator full, we pulled into Boyd’s Key West Campground, which I had booked a few months earlier.
But… I apparently mis recorded (on our calendar) when I had booked the site so we pulled in a day early. Oops! Luckily for us, they had a site available (and we could afford it).
On our drive across the Keys we had noticed a trend for the campgrounds, they weren’t looking like our typical camping spots. Think rows of huge RV’s packed into spots like sardines. However, since we didn’t have the luxury of planning a year in advance there was no chance of nabbing a nicer state park site, which looked a little less crowded. Just a little though.
Tight Quarters (with a View!)
The first night at Boyd’s Campground we were on an inland tent site and it was a squeeze! The van barely fit in the spot and our neighbors were very very close, on all sides. But we knew this was only for one night and the next three nights we had what looked to be a pretty sweet waterfront site with a bit more room.
The next morning we drove the van to the local Key West Starbucks and spent the day working before heading back to commandeer our waterfront campsite.
The new campsite was 1 million times better!
Being able to open the rear doors and look out on the water was a real treat. A salty treat!
In the new spot we had neighbors who were in a newly converted DYI Ford Transit van, and we chatted with them and swapped van info.
Our camp spot also had amazing sunset views!
Exploring Key West
On Friday (our day off work) we opted to checkout the local CrossFit gym and grab a workout before heading out to explore downtown Key West.
At CrossFit Conch Pride we met the gym owner Eddie who was awesome and generous!
After our workout we caught a ride into town, where we had an amazing (and highly recommended) brunch at Blue Heaven. The place was packed, but we nabbed seats at the bar and had amazing food and coffee.
Blue Heaven is a definite MUST DO if visiting Key Weat, they make everything in house and even have a farm in Homestead where they raise animals and grow fruits and veggies!
After filling our bellies with deliciousness we walked around the cruise ship port, out to the state park, and then down to the “Southernmost Point” marker.
Along the way we picked up some delicious Cuban Coffee and enjoyed the quirks of downtown Key West. It’s an interesting place for sure!
Before heading back to camp we picked up some Cuban shrimp bowls at little restaurant we found on Yelp. Thumbs up!
Since it was such a nice day we walked/ran the 4.5 miles back to the van. And sat outside eating our delicious food while watching the sun sink over the water. It was the cherry on top of a pretty great day.
Sleepless in Boyd’s
That evening we were off to bed early since the next day (Saturday) we had a 5 am wake up call for our ferry to Dry Tortugas National Park.
That night was NOT one of deep sleep!
After finally falling asleep to the sounds of a fellow campers early 2000 rap mix… we were awoken by a different neighbor returning from the bar at 2am and blasting Stairway to Heaven. We were thrilled.
What we learned staying at Boyd’s is that it seems most “campers” in Key West are not your average “go camping to enjoy nature and explore the area” type of people. But hey, it was an experience and we survived and learned to never return. Haha!
Early Morning Run
5 am, up and at ’em. Because we we’re confining Joe to a boat for a whole day we chose to run 5 miles from Boyd’s to the ferry terminal.
Needless to say the roads were pretty empty, and we had a nice (very sweaty) pre boating run.
At the ferry terminal we grabbed a coffee before boarding. It was cold brew. Mmmmm.
The Ferry to Dry Tortugas National Park
Dry Tortugas National Park is the home of Fort Jefferson, and the majority of the National Park is water, as it sits many miles west of Key West in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico.
The ferry ride out to Dry Tortugas (and Fort Jefferson) was about 2.5 hours, and if you are prone to motion sickness bring Dramamine. The crew definitely did! And they did a great job passing out barf bags and ginger ale! Luckily Joe and I made it without needing either.
The ferry also serves you breakfast and lunch during your trip, oh and coffee and booze. Which was promptly thrown up by quite a few people.
The Dry Tortugas National Park
After the long ride, we arrived at Fort Jefferson, disembarked the boat and went on a quick twenty minute tour to learn about the history of the island.
Touring the fort was interesting and offered beautiful views of the surrounding waters. The blue color of the water was stunning!
In the fort, you can explore different rooms and even walk around the top wall. It was cool!
After we had our fill of the fort, we hopped on the boat to make sandwiches for lunch before grabbing provided snorkel gear to see some fish!
Turns out we picked the wrong beach and the water was incredibly cloudy so we didn’t see much. After 30 mins of swimming around in murk, which had you thinking a shark could be lurking anywhere… we opted to walk along the beach a ways and watch the pelicans dive into the aqua blue waters.
Back to the mainland
After a full day on Dry Tortugas we boarded the boat and set sail back to Key West. For another bumpy few hours.
Once back in town we grabbed some key lime pie (I needed to try it), and some delicious Caribbean food at Bien.
Back at camp we ate and showered before hunkering down to watch the Seahawks Playoff game.
The game didn’t go our way, but at least the campground had a TV we could use, so that was a plus. I think we were one of the few people at the campground that didn’t have satellite TV.
Seattle Reunion in Key West
Sunday we had plans to meet up with our friends Joe and Maraea (from Seattle) who were driving out from Homestead.
Side note: We didn’t know Joe and Maraea before leaving Seattle. But they were doing a similar RV trip as us, and we met them on a boat in Voyageurs National Park. Since meeting we have become good friends, and made a point to intersect each other about once a month.
We worked the morning at Starbucks, actually meeting up with the CrossFit gym owner Eddie and his girlfriend Margarita for a few hours to talk shop.
New Sprinter Friends!
When Joe and Maraea pulled in, so did another sprinter. I spotted it right away as it was nearly identical to ours (very pretty!).
Well! As it turns out the couple who owned the van, Thomas and Francis, were also from Washington! And we spent the next hour hanging out in the parking lot and showing off our respective vans.
Thomas and Francis are fantastic people! And we both have 144 Sprinters in tenorite grey!
As it was getting into the early evening, we all decided to head down to Mallory square and watch the sunset before grabbing some Cuban grub at El Meson.
The evening was full of fun conversation, good food and new friendship.
This wasn’t how we planned on spending our day, but we were so thankful it ended up going as it did. Before parting ways we grabbed one more slice of key lime pie (dipped in chocolate and on a stick for me).
We knew we would see Joe and Maraea the next day, but we hope to cross paths with Thomas and Francis again sometime on our journey (spoiler alert! We do see them again!).
Last Day in Key West
Monday morning we worked from our campsite before heading over to the CrossFit gym for one more workout. Gotta get tired before tackling the long drive.
After the workout we headed back towards the mainland with a stop at Fiesta Key.
More Random Awesomeness
It turns out Chuck and Bre (our friends from CrossFit Kenmore, who we ran into randomly in Yellowstone months ago) were staying on Fiesta Key for the month!
So, we stopped in and had a nice visit and happy hour food with them, catching up on life and where our travels had taken us both, so far.
We had one final drive on the Overseas Highway and back to Homestead to camp at Larry and Penny County Park for a few days.
Our Keys adventure was the perfect mix of sunshine, meeting friends (new and old), great food, and some outdoor activities.
We left this leg of the trip with a renewed sense of how much fun and joy this trip has given us.
Places We Camped
Boyd’s Key West Campground – Website
Places We Recommend Eating
Adventures We Recommend
Ferry to Dry Tortugas National Park – Website