You can’t spend four years at “The U” without making at least one trek down to the Florida Keys. This chain of barrier islands is a tourist’s dream, boasting white sands, fun-filled events, unique wildlife and, of course, fabulous Key lime pie. With the school year coming to a close, summer is the perfect time for students to venture south. To help you plan the perfect trip, Distraction editors traveled through the islands themselves to create a mile-by-mile guide to exploring the Florida Keys.
*PART 2 OF THE KEYS SERIES
This state park is situated at the southwest end of the island, covering a total of 54 acres and containing a beach, hiking trails and the namesake Civil War-era Fort Zachary Taylor. Like Bahia Honda, it’s another great place to snorkel if you get seasick, or just don’t feel like shelling out cash for a boat trip. Schools of colorful fish can always be seen just below the surface, swarming the rocks a few meters from shore. If you’d rather stay dry, or want to get a good stretch in before hopping in the water, there’s also a “Yoga on the Beach” studio that offers, well, we’ll let you figure it out.
KERMIT’S KEY LIME PIE SHOP
This Key lime green-colored shack is hard to miss. From Key Lime pie on a stick to Key lime juice to Key lime cookies, it’s the perfect pit stop to grab a bite for the moment (and a snack to save for later). Make sure to buy a bag or two of the Kermit’s Key Lime White Chocolate Chip Cookies; you’ll have ravaged through the bag before you get around the corner. It may be more on the tourist side, but we still recommend stopping by. After all, you can’t hit the Keys without getting at least a slice or two of Key lime pie.
Situated two blocks from the Southernmost Point with an attached bar and live music, the Southwinds Motel is a solid place to stay in the Keys. This motel has three pools—one of which is heated—and bikes that patrons can check out. It may be simple, but it has what you need.
SANTIAGO’S BODEGA – EDITOR PICK
Executive editor Kylea here. I took my parents to Santiago’s and am surprised by the amount of confidence I have in saying that this is my favorite restaurant in the Keys (though Better than Sex is up there if we’re counting dessert). We wouldn’t have found this place, which is off a side street toward the southern tip of Key West, if our Airbnb
host hadn’t recommended it. But everything we tried was fantastic. And since it’s tapas style, and my father and I can throw back quite a bit of food, we tried a lot. The dish that stood out most was the Beef Carpaccio, which is basically finely shaved and seasoned raw tenderloin. It sounds a little dangerous to eat, and it probably is, but we
thought it was worth the risk.
There’s lots of places in the Keys to rent Jet Skis, a charter a boat or hop on a sunset cruise. We can’t say for sure who is the best, but Barefoot Billy’s is our trusted pick in Key West.
BETTER THAN SEX
If your dessert dish isn’t elegantly shaped like a penis, is it even worth eating? Better Than Sex answers this noble question, serving up sultry desserts and drinks in a steamy atmosphere that looks like a French boudoir. The vibe is dark and moody, with dividers and curtains separating tables and booths that only seat parties up to four. Sydney
suggests ordering a few signature drinks, including the Money Shot, which has coffee liquor and whip cream, and the Berry Naughty, a chocolate-rimmed glass of Malbec.
ROBUSTO CIGAR – LOUNGE & BAR
As the closest place in the U.S. to Cuba, it’s no surprise that you can smoke a great cigar in the Keys. Rodriguez Cigar Factory and El Cubanito Cigar Shop are the most popular destinations, while Robusto Cigar Bar (right) is a lesser-known spot with a moody atmosphere.
Full disclosure, we could not afford a trip to this exclusive national park; a ferry to the islands will cost you $180 round trip. If you can go, we’ve heard it’s breathtaking—just make sure to plan your trip early because it can only be reached via ferry or seaplane, and both book up far in advance. Seventy miles west of Key West and comprising seven islands and 100 square miles, this park is home to the 19th century Fort Jefferson, as well as diverse marine life. Snorkeling, diving and camping are all popular activities here.
Our social media director Lindsay Jayne could talk your ear off about how Baby’s Coffee
is the best in the Keys—she says her family buys the grounds by the box. Their menu is classic but high quality, and Lindsay’s go-to order is an iced matcha latte with oat milk and a pizza bagel.
The only place both jerk chicken and blueberry pancakes are featured on the menu, Blue Heaven is full of surprises. Sit in the back patio of a traditional Key West home, formerly the site of Hemingway’s favorite boxing ring, and chow down on your meal below a canopy of sail masts. Just like the rest of Key West, Blue Heaven is eccentric. They have a “rooster graveyard,” chickens and cats roaming the property and the famous old boxing ring now situated on the
roof of the bar.
words_kylea henseler, nicole facchina & andrea valdes-sueiras. design_sydney burnett.
illustrations_lindsay jayne. photo_ sydney burnett & kylea henseler.