We're headed to the Keys!!! Any recommendations? - Fiberglass RV


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Old 11-13-2017, 10:30 PM   #1
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We're headed to the Keys!!! Any recommendations?

We lucked up as there was a cancellation and we got into John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo! Booked 3 days for $135 with hookups! Its about 11 hours drive according to Google Maps so we will go at least halfway maybe more then drive the rest of the way the following morning. Planning to stay in one of the rest stops on the turnpike long enough to get 8 hours sleep. Google suggests several routes, but anything we need to know about? We want the quickest route to get us there.

How much are the tolls?

How are the bugs this time of year down there?

Any recommendations of things to do and places to eat for the budget conscious?

We plan on doing the glass bottom boat ride in the state park to explore the reefs. We wanted to visit Key West too but its 2 to 3 hour more drive time and we only have 3 days there. Planning on mostly beach time. Any other suggestions or helpful information is very much appreciated!

We're going to the KEYS!!!! (as I do my happy dance)!!!
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Old 11-14-2017, 05:42 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by Johnny M View Post
We lucked up as there was a cancellation and we got into John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo! Booked 3 days for $135 with hookups! Its about 11 hours drive according to Google Maps so we will go at least halfway maybe more then drive the rest of the way the following morning. Planning to stay in one of the rest stops on the turnpike long enough to get 8 hours sleep. Google suggests several routes, but anything we need to know about? We want the quickest route to get us there.

How much are the tolls?

How are the bugs this time of year down there?

Any recommendations of things to do and places to eat for the budget conscious?

We plan on doing the glass bottom boat ride in the state park to explore the reefs. We wanted to visit Key West too but its 2 to 3 hour more drive time and we only have 3 days there. Planning on mostly beach time. Any other suggestions or helpful information is very much appreciated!

We're going to the KEYS!!!! (as I do my happy dance)!!!
Use one of the 3 days you have and drive on down to Key West. IMO, the reef boat tour is worthwhile, but Key West is far more interesting than Key Largo and you donít want to miss the scenic drive to get to Key West.
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Old 11-14-2017, 09:37 AM   #3
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Hey Johnny, greetings from Miami. As far as the routing, it depends where you're starting from - eventually you're going to end up on the Turnpike, and stay on it until it dumps you onto US-1 near Homestead. I recommend getting a Sunpass once you get into FL, it saves a lot of time and hassle. It's also cheaper. The transponders are about $5.00.

Personally, I'm not a fan of glass bottom boats. Of course it all depends on weather and conditions, but you may want to book with an operator that takes you out to the reefs so you can actually snorkel rather than look at stuff through an inch of plastic.

Keep in mind that we just had a major hurricane down here, and the further south you go, the more damage you'll encounter. Key Largo to Islamorada was relatively unscathed. If you only have three days, you may want to consider skipping Key West, it's pretty far and traffic can get snarled. It's worth a visit, but takes more than a few hours to scratch through the touristy veneer.

We like to kayak, and I always recommend taking a trip out to Indian Key. Robbie's Marina rents kayaks, it's a 45 minute paddle to I.K. and you can explore the ruins of the old settlement and read about the Indian attack. There's no reef, but there are some rocks nearby with a good fish population.

If conditions are more windy, you can rent kayaks at Pennekamp and paddle around Largo Sound.

The best beaches (imo) are at Bahia Honda, which is pretty far south, and Sombrero Beach in Marathon. The beach at Pennekamp is a bit of a zoo (as is Pennekamp itself at times.)

This is a great time of year, weather has just started to get less humid and the bug population is on the decline. Always good to bring something to spray on your ankles if you're going to be outside at dusk, that's no-see-um time.

Have fun, and feel free to dm me for other recommendations.
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Old 11-14-2017, 09:58 AM   #4
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Avoiding tolls is possible, depending on which way you drive down there. BUT it makes the drive so much nicer to just suck it up and take the turn pike. $20.66 for 2 axle w/SP, $26.61 w/no SP. $35.14 for 3 axles w/SP, $44.97 w/no SP. 3rd party Calculator

Ditto on SunPass. BTW - when we got ours there was a 24hour delay before it became active. Need to see if that's changed. Also they SunPass toll rate is cheaper than cash. They did start a new system where they just read your plates, but I believe there are extras fees for that service.

I have family heading down from Jupiter (West Palm) to the Keys for turkey day. You will probably see lots of damage in certain areas and almost no damage elsewhere. I would check with chamber of commerce to see if they have a list of what's open and not.

Jason
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Old 11-14-2017, 10:06 AM   #5
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Yes I have a setting on my GPS to avoid tolls and looked at routes on Google Maps to avoid them as well. Does it add a lot of time to avoid the tolls?
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Old 11-14-2017, 10:30 AM   #6
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Look into the FERRY.... I think it is from Venice Florida to Key West. I hope to take it the next time we go to the keys. It will shave off many hours of drive time unless you want to drive thru the everglades and the entire route of the Keys. I am not totally sure it will take a camper... so check it out! They say to bring a picnic lunch with you for the trip... I think it is either two or three hours.
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Old 11-14-2017, 10:31 AM   #7
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Bahia Honda is the most exquisite state park 2/3 of the way to Key West.
You can stay here and travel for day trips. You can rent boats right there at Sunshine Key.


A little bit of heaven. Go out to Barracuda Reef and snorkel or scuba.
You will find out how the reef got its name.
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Old 11-14-2017, 10:57 AM   #8
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I appreciate everyone's input. I checked with the KOA in Key West thinking we might stay an extra day there if a site was available but they are closed until October as they took a direct hit from the Hurricane and are completely rebuilding.

Also for anyone else going to the Keys I found this mile marker info that may be useful:

Mile Marker Chart
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Old 11-14-2017, 11:03 AM   #9
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Bahia Honda is the most exquisite state park 2/3 of the way to Key West.
You can stay here and travel for day trips. You can rent boats right there at Sunshine Key.


A little bit of heaven. Go out to Barracuda Reef and snorkel or scuba.
You will find out how the reef got its name.
They didn't have anything open when I checked. I have been checking with the private RV campgrounds and they were pricey to me, so I had been checking with the all the state park campgrounds in the keys frequently looking for a last minute cancellation to open one up and I got one just at the right time at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park so I grabbed it. Total cost was $135.70 for 3 days or $45.23/day so I was thrilled at that price. I have heard JPCRSP is awesome from a friend but someone else said it was boring, not sure why though.

I seen a preview of the campground on youtube where someone did a review and another that showed each site and I like what I saw.
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Old 11-14-2017, 11:03 AM   #10
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Thumbs up Keys

Iíve been in Florida 55 years and to the Keys dozens of times. Do not take I95 from Palm Beach County and southward. Turnpike is worth every dime! You donít need a sun pass as you will only be hitting the toolboth on way in and way out.

John Pennekamp is fabulous. They have a full and a 1/2 day snorkel trip that will make your entire trip worthwhile. Try and only go on a calm day. Wind makes it hard for you to float/swim and stirs up the sand in the ocean making it harder to see. Other independent operators in the vicinity will also take you out to the reef to snorkel but I have always been happy with the parks trip.

The drive to Key West is a vacation in itself. The views and history are remarkable. There is a guide that gives you a brief history of each key as you drive through them. Great if you have a passenger to read it to you as you drive. Maybe you could pick it up on Amazon?

Key West is an adventure in itself. Maybe you could pick up a night or 2 at Boydís Camground right outside of Key West and extend your trip? Or the KOA (pricey) nearby. Would be worth it when you are already so close.

The minimum requirements for a Key West visit are: eat/drink/buy a shirt at Sloppy Joeís, sunset party at Mallory Square, stroll up Duval Street. Other than those there are SO MANY fun things to do! I could never stay long enough.

There is so much to see and do down there but donít forget to relax, soak up the sights, and enjoy! Oh and we never eat at chain restaurants when we go down there. There are so many unique independent places to eat.
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Old 11-14-2017, 11:04 AM   #11
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Key West Tours

In Key West, park your car in a car park and take one of the trolly or train tours to get a good overview of what's there.
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Old 11-14-2017, 11:54 AM   #12
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Great ideas here, but keep in mind that a LOT of things are still closed and/or damaged from Irma. Check ahead, many parks and beaches are still closed, as are many bars and restaurants. Damage is worse the farther south you go, although I'm sure you can still buy a tasteless t-shirt on Duval St.
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Old 11-14-2017, 12:35 PM   #13
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Best if you can be lucky enough to get a spot in one of the state parks. Bahia Honda, Long Key, or Curry Hammock. Sometimes you can luck our by stopping in because they often hold back a coiple of places...which can't be reserved but will take a walk in..Good Luck..enjoy. Also a nice park/ beach. is at the end of Sombrero Rd. In Marathon..between Publix and Winn Dixie shopping center. Jan
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Old 11-14-2017, 01:13 PM   #14
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Key's visit

I've been to John Pennecamp twice to snorkle around off-shore, and both times winds prevented any boat travel so spent time kayaking around mangrove sloughs inside the park.

I've used glass bottom kayaks in NW coastal waters; OK if it's very shallow, but if deep or silted windy water, you'll only see life close to the surface.

Suggest you visit Everglades National Park on your way; you can rent kayaks and canoes - check outfitters online.
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