While it may be difficult to find an affordable, kid-friendly place to stay in Key West, as you leave the island, the style of lodging options changes dramatically. The array of B&B's disappear and are replaced by family-friendly campsites and bargain rates on old-world motels that are just a short drive from all the attractions in Key West. Once you set up shop in the Lower Keys, you may find yourself losing track of time, especially with this slow-paced, two-day itinerary.
Bahia Honda States Park — Photo courtesy of Bahia Honda State Park
Stake your claims on a campsite at Big Pine Fishing Lodge, or check in to your motel room. The lodge is a throwback to what the lodging in the Keys used to be like, and in many ways it still is. Key Deer may occasionally wander through the camping area, fishing is possible right from the rocks, and the entire area is perfect for families - especially if they plan on boating. The staff is very friendly and can help secure water activities and other requests, and a marina is available on site if you tow along your own boat.
Grab breakfast or lunch at Big Pine Restaurant and you’ll be hard-pressed to find any tourists. It’s the Florida Keys’ home cooking at its finest in a laid-back, family atmosphere. Try the blackened shrimp wrap with sweet potato fries, the prime rib, fresh scallops, and zesty skillets. The restaurant can be difficult to find; look for the post office as it's located next door..
After lunch, grab some beach chairs and head to Bahia Honda State Park, just next to the old Henry Flagler railroad bridge. The park boasts a natural-sand beach and plenty of activities for the family. The park concession operates snorkeling tours to Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary, a protected reserve that you’ll spend an hour and a half exploring.
Key Deer at Big Pine Key — Photo courtesy of Carly & Art
Rest up at the lodge, watch the sunset, get up close and personal with the Key Deer, order some pizza or cookout on the grill, and then it’s time to check out the nightlife: No Name Pub. One of the few late-night options around, thousands of dollar bills clutter up the floor and ceiling at this classic watering hole. Its roots date back to 1935 when it was a general store, and today it is a legendary bar and restaurant.
The next day, stop by Cudjoe Gardens Marina, the jumping-off point for kayaking, diving, and fishing charters. They can connect you with the right crew so that you and your kids can catch a monster! Before heading home, check out Mangrove Mamas on Summerland Key. It’s a local favorite and the dinner prices are more than reasonable.