Sunday, June 23, 2013

Our day on Big Pine Key & No Name Key

Sometimes the journey is as fun as the destination...                                                           

Florida Oldscool Campers renting out vintage VW buses :)

Big Pine Key hides a key that you have to kinda know about to find. No Name Key is a very unique area, and it's how I imagine the keys use to look like. Random homes that range from well kept to barns, driveways of vegetation where you see no houses, and huge gates that look like something out of Jurassic Park.

Back in the late 90’s when staying on Sugarloaf Key, up early before the rest of my party. I grabbed the keys and headed for Big Pine Key in search of the key deer. They were easily spotted while driving down the main stretch on Big Pine Key. All but one was numbered. This time, I have not seen any numbered, which must mean their numbers are on the rise. 

We stayed at Big Pine Key Fishing Lodge for one night after Bahia Honda. It's family owned and has been in business for over 40 years! They have a combination of rooms on the canal. All types of boats and a large camp ground. We stayed in the Rustic Area as it was cloudy with a nice breeze. They have a cool game room with some old school games. Some reviews say you can hear traffic on US1, but we did not.        

Our journey just a little south brought us to the center of Big Pine Key. If traveling south, you will take a right. The road splits shortly after the turn. No Name Key & Pub is the street on the right. If you take the long old bridge to No Name Key you have gone to far. It is actually on Big Pine right before the turn off. 

Our mission to No Name Pub was to look for the dollar bills that our renters hung with our buses names. This was much harder than we ever imagined. We would need a map of where in the pub to start looking, as I have never seen so many dollar bills! All I can say is the owner has a nice nest egg if he ever closes his doors.

We passed right by the pub without seeing it. We drove across a cool old bridge with a few locals fishing. We drove along this forgotten part of the Keys. I am shocked it still exists. With dirt roads running in one directions and a wild life refuge in the other.  As you pass by, you can see several mailboxes lining the dirt roads with a Key Deer roaming the street. Defiantly, a great place to hide from the world.

 We drove to a dead end. It looked like a hike in front of us, but ended abruptly to water. It had been raining for days in the keys, so maybe in the dry season there is one? We snapped a few shots of autumn and turned around in search of the famous ‘No Name Pub”. 

We crossed the cool old bridge on the way to Big Pine Key, and there it was! Before you even walk in the door, you can not help but see dollar bills!!!

                   Yeah, we found it!!!

After 10 minutes of pictures we enter into this little busy pub. 

Wow, all the dollar bills hanging everywhere! We had a sweet girl greet us and we grabbed two bar stools at the end of the bar. A blonde with a kind smile and blue eyes was right on us. Being the day after Memorial Day the bar was busy, but not for her. I could tell right away she is use to high volume. She served us up drinks, and we ordered a appetizer. She checked back often, and was some of the best service in the keys. The nachos were yummy! We were going to try a burger, but we were both full. When we received the bill, it was the cheapest meal I EVER had in the keys. Don’t miss this place! 

'Daddy Key Deer'

Big Pine Key Fishing Lodge

Big Pine Key Fishing Lodge
family owned and lots of fun!!!

The easiest way to get a ticket in the keys is to speed through Big Pine Key. They do not play around due to the Key Deer. Respect their town, slow down and look for the small key deers. Big Pine holds the Blue Hole. It is the only fresh water in all of the keys. If you take the fork to the left, the hike will be on your left hand side. I have not hiked it yet, but they say an alligator calls this his home...

No Name Key

Dead End at No Name Key

Key Deer are all over the place!

Mike & Dixie

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Anne's Beach

Florida Oldscool Camper Rentals loves beaches...

80000 Overseas Highway, Islamorada, Florida 33036 

The Florida Key are unique to the rest of Florida. One thing that differs is the beaches.  The keys consist of shallow water rough coral sand when there is a beach, and no waves (unless off shore storms are blowing). Now don't get me wrong, I love the keys! But what make the keys so special is not the beach, but the clarity of the water, and the things that live in it. So, before you go, educate yourself on the public beaches, so when you are ready to cool down, you know where to go!

Anne's Beach is a gorgeous stretch along A1A at MM74 that stretches alongside the ocean. This is a great place to stop while traveling the keys, and its FREE! They also offer tables for a quiet tropical picnic. A winding boardwalk offers a scenic stroll. 

The nature was absolutely gorgeous! The true beauty starts upon entering the water. Tidal flats with scalloped beaches, covered with inches of water. At first glance no wildlife seems to be string, but looking more closely I start seeing little creatures. From the transparent minnows darting around in the turquoise water. Crabs running away sideways, but when they stop they disappear in the surrounding sand.  Small conchs, and hermit crabs ducking back into their home, with the slightest disturbance, looking like an abandoned shell. 

Anne's Beach has two parking lots (one with restrooms), connected by a boardwalk, several picnic pavilions, most with steps leading down to the beach. It is located at MM 74, just over the Overseas Highway on Matecumbe key in the town of Islanorada. 

Anne's beach is open from sunrise to sunset everyday. There is no's free!

         To book your very own VW Bus Road-trip, checkout the website for information and pictures.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Indian Key State Historic Site

Florida Oldscool Camper Rentals

Indian Key State Historic Site 

Above you see Autumn with Indian Key in the background. We have just left our campsite at Long Key State Park where it was raining. We camped at Bahia Honda State Park the previous 5 nights, and after two full days of rain were lucky enough to have some sunny days. Long Key obviously had not been so lucky. It seem that everyone was happy even thought they had been in rain for days. While driving through the park everyone smiled, and waved. I mean, we usually get a lot of attention, but not this much. There were even a group of campers who had taken refuge under the bath house. They all cheered, clapped and waved as we drove through the park. It was nice to see a group of happy campers, and they diffidently made us feel welcomed!

We love strapping our kayak on the top of the bus when traveling around Florida. It give you the opportunity to be spontaneous. On one of our trips after traveling through the Everglades, all we wanted was a dip to cool down. Stopping at a beach on the weekend ended up with no luck on a parking place. As we were about to give up, we crossed a bridge when I had an idea. We had our kayak on top! Pulled over at the bridge (free parking), put our kayak in the water. It was a short kayak to a beautiful beach were we cooled down. After checking out the cove, we jump back in the kayak for some adventure. Another short paddle we ended up on the backside of an island with nice tall sand dunes. We ended up kayaking to Lovers Key! Oh what a wonderful and fun experience. Florida Oldscool Campers can add the kayak to your rental for a reasonable fee. Just keep in mind, the kayak has to be removed before you can pop the top on the VW Bus.

Trail of Florida's Indian Heritage LogoIndian Key is located on U.S.1 at MM 85.5  Islamorada, Florida 33036     
(305) 664-2540
If you have your own kayak, the best place to put in is right in-front of the island. There is a pull off where a monument with three rocks.
The island is right in front of you. Paddling out is rather easy. Head towards the south side of the island to the canoe launch. You will see it before the dock.

Tip: the bridge to the south you hold the same name. If you follow the channel on the ocean side, you will see the island a short distance of shore. 

Indian Key is rich in history, like many places in the keys.

In 1831, Jacob Housman arrived from New York. He bought Indian Key and set out to build his own wrecking empire. He wanted to compete with Key West, as they had the upper hand in all salvaging. At the time wrecking or salvaging cargo from shipwrecks was both legal and extremely lucrative. Indian Key became a thriving port with a store, hotel, dwelling with cisterns, warehouse, and wharves. Known for his shady business practices, he constantly feuded with other salvagers. In 1836 in an effort to become independent from Key West, Houseman had the Legislative Council establish Indian Key as the first county seat for Dade County. Unfortunately, Houseman's fortunes began to decline. He lost numerous court battles and eventually his wrecking license. At the outbreak of the Second Seminole War in 1835, he also lost his indian trade. He mortgaged the island to Dr. Henry Perrine who moved to Indian key with his family to wait the end of the war. Perrine wanted to use a government grant to cultivate useful tropical plants on the mainland. He planted hemp, tea, coffee, bananas, and mangos.  On August 7, 1840, a band Indians led by a famous Indian Chief named Chekika landed on the island and attacked the settlers. Houseman and his wife escaped but others were killed during the burning and looting. Dr Perrine's family escaped by hiding in a turtle crawl under the house. However, Dr. Perrine was hacked to pieces in an attempt to reason with the Indian party. Except for one building and the stone foundations all the homes and warehouses were burned to the ground. Houseman and his family left and did not return. Indian Key continued to be inhabit until the early part of the 1900's when it was abandonded completely. Houseman was killed in a salvage accident in 1841 and is buried on Indian Key. Dr. Perrine's grove have grown over many of the ruins. Indian Key is now an historical park and can be visited. The country was so enraged that they sent Lt. Harney from Fort Dallas (Miami) to catch Chekika. His band was surprised in the Everglades by Harney and his troops. Chekika was killed, scalped, and hung from a tree for all to see. Chekika park in the Everglades

Jacob Housman house. They would sit on the front porch that looked out over Alligator Reef, 
waiting for a ship to run aground so they could salvage the wreck.

Housman's cisterns    

Jacob Housman

It was awesome walking these old streets. I could not image living here, and every day wishing for someone to hit the reef so they could profit. Seems cold blooded to me, and hard to believe it was every legal.  And let's not talk about what they did to the indians...

The dock at Indian Key

The old streets running through the town. 

Areal view 

I love the history and the seclusion, but most of all I like the relative absence of bugs. If you have your own kayak, the easiest place to put in is right in front of the island. You will see a bike path with three rocks across the street from a boat ramp. A short paddle across the channel and south side of the island. You will see the dock. As you get close you will see the kayak landing before you reach the dock. We landed at high tide and put the kayak on the rocks, since there was no beach. We were lucky enough to have the entire island to ourselves. Since it had been raining for a week in the keys, we seen only three mosquitos the entire time we were on the island. We did not try to go to Lignumvitae Key because I have read the reviews that it is buggy. I will save that for my next trip. 

The water is shallow, with decent snorkeling all the way around the island. There was a strong current on the east side. The ranger recommended the area on the north end of the island, at second street where the bench is. Also, close to channel marker, there are PVC pipes in the shape of a ship. When I asked the ranger, i was surprised by his answer! When a ship runs aground and kills the sea grass (which is a really big problem in the keys) they place these PVC pipes with a wood block on top. The birds sit on the blocks and poop, which promotes the growth of the sea grass. Natural fertilizer. I never would have guessed that one!