My husband absolutely loves the sun while I enjoy the sun but despise sand. Which means a week at the beach is pure heaven for him and more like torture for me. Sure having a frosty beverage or cocktail in hand makes things more bearable but I still can’t get past feeling salty, sandy and sticky from everything.
I being from Ohio grew up on Lake Erie and went to the beach only for the day since it was a 10-minute drive from our house. My husband grew up in Durham and went to the beach for an entire week almost every summer as a kid. As a result, our beach expectations are from two completely different directions. We didn’t realize how different until we took our very first beach trip together to South Beach over 6 years ago.
What a shock to the system. We spent every day on the beach for 4-6 hours, if not more, people watching, reading and drinking a vodka and tonic or three. After rinsing off all of the beach grime we would head out along Collins Avenue or to Lincoln Road Mall for dinner. Every restaurant had great service and the food was delicious so we were happy to pay $50+ for dinner. We’d wrap up the evening with another drink or two. Doesn’t sound too strenuous, right? Considering I had never spent multiple days and extensive hours at the beach, it was very taxing on my body. I ended up getting sun poisoning on my chest, which crept up my neck and itched like crazy. Needless to say by the time my Mom picked us up from the airport I was miserable and very grumpy.
Since then I have grown accustomed to beach vacations. However, I require entertainment via engaging books or magazines, shade, shade and more shade and a shower almost immediately after we walk off the beach. If I’ve reached my beach time limit, yes I have a built in timer that dings 30 minutes to an hour before I’ve reached my max, I get extremely cranky and pressure my husband to leave as quickly as we possibly can. Very similar to someone who requires frequent nourishment or they turn into Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
So when my husband wanted to vacation in South Beach this summer I was very hesitant. Key West was also in the mix and provided me with some leveraging power for why we should spend more time there over SoBe. And I won the # of nights fight! We spent 3-nights in SoBe and 5-nights in Key West.
South Beach was fun. We followed a very similar schedule as before: beach and beverages during the day, dinner then drinks somewhere nearby. We ventured over to Espanola Way again and ate a less than spectacular Mexican meal. The meals weren’t quite as memorable as our last visit but we still enjoyed our time in South Beach. My husband ran along the boardwalk almost every morning, which gave me extra time to sleep in, YES!
We ventured down to Key West in our rental car. Along the way we stopped at Alabama Jacks in Key Largo for lunch. We sat right next to the water and peered over to watch the fish awaiting their next feeding of tortilla chips. The bugs were biting so we sprayed on a thick layer of bug spray before ordering our conch fritter platter, which was delicious.
In anticipation of arriving in Key West at a reasonable hour, we by-passed the various parks along our route South. Looking back now I wish we had stopped to snorkel. The views were beautiful and very similar to route 12 along the Outer Banks minus the sand dunes.
Key West was quite a bit more commercialized than we both expected. Old Town’s charm won us over with large palm trees towering above us and the beautiful historic homes from the early 1800’s. We checked into our guest house and ventured around Old Town while trying to get our bearings.
We were amazed to find so many tourist traps along Duval Street and wondered where the natives hung out. Our first meal in Key West was less than desirable so after some in-depth research we came across the following restaurants who met our foodie expectations:
Santiago’s Bodega Delicious tapas. My favorite meal while in Key West.
Louie’s Backyard We ate at the upper deck because it’s more affordable. Small plates menu. Great view of the ocean and supposedly the sunset.
Better Than Sex Great desserts.
The Green Parrot Locals bar with live music and bingo on Tuesdays.
Kojin Noodle bar with yummy pho.
The Café. Healthy, yummy food.
We heard these were great restaurants too, but we’ll have to visit them on our next trip to Key West:
We discovered people don’t visit Key West for their beaches. We visited every beach on the map hoping the next one would have soft sand and less brown seaweed in the water. Unfortunately, all of the beaches were nothing like South Beach or our wonderful NC beaches. Fort Zachary State Park proved to have the best beach on the island with tons of space, restroom facilities and palm trees for shade.
We visited Mallory Square for sunset and I came away with a balloon arrangement on my head.
We ordered an appetizer and some drinks at Sunset Pier while we waited for the sun to dip behind the ocean.