Mar 23, 2019

Robbie's Marina, Islamorada, Florida

Before our Florida trip we told our son he would be feeding tarpon. He was so excited and could not wait to get there. It was a long drive and after our stop at Turtle Hospital, this was definitely what he was looking out for. Florida weather was perfect for November and it was a great decision to get here.

Robbie's Marina had so many ratings we could not pass by to Key West without stopping by. And we are glad we did. This is a little colorful village which has a few stores to pick up memorabilia . Once we cross that you either head over to the waterfront restaurant or if your just looking to feed the large tarpon then stop by the counter and for a few $s you get a bucket of fish.




Tip: Do not feed the hungry pelicans or the egrets. They wait eagerly to snatch it from the bucket and are not afraid of humans since there are so many people who visit this place. If you need help ask the attendant how to feed the tarpons. She will demonstrate and its worth noting that as much as it seems easy, the tarpon do jump out of the water and try to snatch the fish from your hand. You have to get on your knees and dangle the bait a little over the water if the tarpon are not nearby. This will attract them and they literally pounce out of the water to snatch it. Its a lot of fun specially for kids. However do keep them within arms reach as it is a little pier.

Hand sanitizer is available after you finish feeding the fish.

Time to allocate: about 20-30 mins.
Restrooms available.
Picture spot: Village, Tarpon feeding and the cute little manatee mailbox that is available just on the right when you head out back onto the overseas highway.
Free parking.


Turtle Hospital, Marathon, Florida

While we were driving to Key West, we planned to stop for 90 mins at the Turtle Hospital. Visiting the Turtle Hospital was a great educational experience for the entire family. We called them the previous day and reserved seats for the family. Since this is an active hospital, it was mandatory to be part of a guided educational tour to visit the grounds.


It is a 90 min visit start to finish. After signing the liability form, there is a short 20 min video and a few details on the survival and rehabilitation program . There is a room adjacent to the video room where actual operations on turtles take place. There was a small play area at the back where they can be ket entertained whilst you still are present for the presentation.


Next we headed into an enclosed area which has all the turtles that were injured have been rescued and are permanent residents. You cannot touch or feed the turtles. Video and photography was encouraged without the flash. The permanent residents are unable to return to the waters and hence are given names to identify: Bubblebutt, Bender, Montel, Rebel and April, Coastie, Sekoi, Kent, George, Chance, Bernie, Corrie. You can see them here.


We were introduced to large turtles and baby turtles that have been rescued. Many turtles bounce back after their capture \ injury and can be returned back to the ocean. Turtle Hospital updates release dates on their Facebook page. We missed this by a day :(


If your going and would like to be part of the rescue effort contact The Turtle Hospital. It is a wonderful experience, oodles of learning specially for school going kids and adults alike.


Miami to Key West in 3 hours


The Florida Keys is one of the most iconic and beautiful group of islands on the west coast comprising of 5 Keys. The word Keys is derived from the Spanish word Cayo meaning "Small island". Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, Lower Keys & Key West. There are over 1700 islands in the Keys however only 43 of them are connected with bridges. It takes about an hour from Miami to Key Largo along the overseas highway. Whilst there are many activities to keep you busy around the Keys, we decided to just stick to our itinerary below. Snorkelling, fishing eco tours and beach, dolphin encounters are some of the activities that are available.

You can either take a flight that gets you right into Keywest or touchdown in Miami and then drive all the way here. It is an easy 3 hour drive from Miami via US 1 South or the Overseas highway that starts from mile 113 in Key Largo. Acquaint yourself with the gulfside and oceanside so it is easier to figure which side your destination would be.

Below I compiled a list of the stops we made on the way. Many of the addresses are best known by which mile it is. You can view all the MILES here depending on your interest.

Jewfish Creek: This creek is the actual bridge connector between the mainland and the Keys. It is on the right side of the creek heading south to Key West and is on the southern part of Key Largo the first main island on the Overseas Highway. There was no way to stop here as it came in immediately on the turn and I wasn't expecting it. So I just took a picture from the car. The sign here looked way off a sure indication that it had just survived the last hurricane in the summer of 2017.


Mile 101.7: Hobo's Cafe: 
We stopped for lunch here. The seafood sandwich was great. Highly recommend. We planned to picnic outside and enjoy the warm weather alongside the waters. So we headed to Mile 102. picnic area.

Mile 102
A small shaded picnic area which has a few picnic tables. It is a nice place to stop and stetch your legs. I didn't notice any restrooms but from what I read, this place doesn't have one. The location is behind Key Largo Government Centre on the opposite of the highway ( bayside ). Drive to the back of the building. There is a parking lot and a little park with picnic tables.

Mile 86.7 Giant Lobster. 
Get a picture with the Giant Lobster at Rain Barrel Artisan's Village. It is a huge towering 30 ft high and you can't miss it! Bay side location just off the highway.


Mile 77.5 Robbie's Marina located Bayside. 

Mile 48.5: Turtle Hospital:
This is a working hospital that educated the public on the dangers that face the turtles, their survival, rescue and a walk to see the rescued turtles.

Mile 47.0 & 7 Mile Bridge: 
This bridge comes almost immediately after Turtle Hospital. Take a pic of the Pigeon Key visitor centre located oceanside. It is a unique picture spot. The old bridge is closed. There is a good picture spot before you head on the bridge however we did'nt have time so drove past and just took pictures from the car. This is one of the most photographed and videoed bridges on the Keys. It is a little shorter than the old Bridge about 6.79 miles.

Mile 38.7: Bahia Honda Channel Bridge
The weather was gloomy that morning. And with the clouds hovering on one side and raining on the other end. It made for a nice picture stop. We saw a multitude of iguanas scurring beneath the twigs and nearby shrubs.


Mile 36.8: Bahia Honda State Park. 

Mile 35.0: Old Camelback Bridge located oceanside

Mile 3.9: Welcome to Key West Sign board: 

Location: Between North and South Roosevelt Junction at the end of Stock Island and the beginning of Key West you will find the Welcome Sign located on the divider at the "T" junction.

Mile 0: End of the highway. You are in Key West, Florida!

How to spend 7 days in FLORIDA


It has been almost a year since we visited Key West. I had just finished watching the Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. What a great program to get your digital life, your home and all that surrounds you back in order. It helped me a lot and I started working towards getting my clutter organized once and for all after years. Bags of old clothes ready to be recycled or donated, loads of emails and house trash all cleared up and organized. It made me realize how much we hoard. 

So coming back to my pictures, I organized my albums and trashed all the unwanted ones. You never realize how many pictures we now take with digital cameras. During this time I fell upon Hawaii  and Yellowstone National Park pictures that showcased my toddler and naughty tactics while we struggled to get family pictures. 

This Keywest vacation was with baby no.2 who just turned two and was the spark of our lives. Her second trip with us and we thought we had some idea how it would all turn out. Not at all easy but we survived the entire trip without any problem. On our todo list: KeyWest, Miami, NASA and Everglades National Park. We hired a rental car and drove all the 7 days around. 

Wanderthemap  and Florida Rambler have great content I referred to. They had such great content which I referred to and hence I recommend checking them out for other planned getaways. 

Below is our itinerary. 
  • Day 1. Arrive at night. Stay in Miami.
  • Day 2: Drive to Key West. Spend 2 nights.
  • Day 3: Explore Key West
  • Day 4: 1/2 day in Key West. Drive to Everglades NP, Second half day spend in Everglades NP. Finish boat tour. Stay night in Miami South
  • Day 5: Morning 1\2 day in Everglades NP. Drive to West Palm Beach. Spend 2 nights 
  • Day 6: Explore NASA (all day )
  • Day 7: Visit Miami Beach, Wynwood Art Walk. Fly back home

Dec 1, 2017

4th Grader FREE Annual NATIONAL PARKS PASS

I stumbled on this website in 2016. It was one of the best links I saved. When my son started 4th grade, we decided to let him make choices for our vacations or at least be part of where he wanted to go and take all of us on an excursion. On his list was camping, national parks and visiting some federal lands. Indirectly it gave him a chance to be part of the NPS Celebration of 100 years. President Barack Obama started this program in 2015 and it has been extended for the 2017-2018 school year. I am not sure how long this program will be around but I know its there till 2018!

He was so excited, intrigued at a Free pass and that exhilarating feeling that he would be instrumental in taking the entire family to one of his favorite parks for FREE !! So with a click of a button and an easy 3 questions on Every Kid in a Park, he got a print of his Free Pass that we recently utilized. Here are a few things to keep in mind for getting the pass.

  1. This pass is ONLY for 4th graders. Home schooler equivalent and 10 years old.
  2. You can visit National Parks, Federal Lands, Forests.
  3. The paper print needs to be given to the ranger who will then exchange it for a plastic card. This is a great keepsake once the card is expired. 
  4. The child needs to be with you in the car when exchanging. His/her signature or name will have to be written on the back of the card.
  5. The child needs to be with you every time the card is used.
  6. The child and the family is entitled to a FREE PASS for an ENTIRE YEAR!! 
  7. It starts on September 1st 2017 and runs till August 31st 2018 of the 4th grade school year.
  8. The Printed letter should be carried with you. If you lose it a fresh one will have to be printed. 
  9. No electronic copies are allowed.
  10. The card has a unique code so you cannot make copies and distribute it for others. 
  11. Each child is encouraged to make his/her own.
  12. Check the number of possibilites you can make use of with this card. 
  13. There may be other exclusions, please check Every Kid in a park for more details.
  14. Not all places on the list may accept the pass so you might want to call ahead just to make sure. Link HERE to check locations in your state.
Isn't this a great way to spend time with your kids and loved ones on an adventure? With so much going on in our lives, cell phone addiction, TV addiction and the social media that comes in between, this is a wonderful opportunity to get away for a few days and enjoy, learn about nature, breathe in some crisp fresh air, rejuvenate and come back whole hearted revived after a few days off from these worldly activities.

I believe, we would talk more with each other instead of being so engrossed with our heads lowered into our phones. A small life change in making sometime for ourselves with outdoor trips, make walking a necessity in life to be healthy and fit and to have a great relationship and rapport with people around us. Let us enjoy the natural surroundings that we so often tend to ignore.

If you like this post, please share it with your friends and family. It will surely make a difference in someones life and bring happiness and a Big Smile on your 4th Graders face. Please comment in the form below if you have utilized this Pass and do share your blog / or mention the place you visited with the Pass. I would love to read all about it.

BUT...

What if you don't have a 4th grader? There are fee free days allotted during the year. The only downside is the crowd that usually visit the park on that day/weekend. Free entrance days / week are available HERE.

So Long,

Savsmich