Family Weekend Getaway in the Upper Keys and Everglades
1Plan for early seafood dinner at Alabama Jack's, an open-air dive overlooking an unspoiled stretch of mangroves. The stop requires taking the scenic, well-marked detour in Florida City onto Card Sound Road, which rejoins US 1 further south without requiring backtracking.
2Catch a sunset tour with Island Time Cruises, a 2012-launched paddlewheel riverboat that traverses the calm bayside waters of Key Largo. The two-hour trip includes live music and occasional dolphin sightings. Make sure to check their site for updated season departure times.
3Stop at laid-back Sharkey's for a post-cruise drink or dessert on the outside deck. Popular with local scuba divers and fisherman, it sits canalside in Key Largo Harbor.
1Get an early start with the locals and grab breakfast at Doc's Diner in Key Largo, where home-style staples like French toast and pancakes are served in large portions.
2Drive three miles north to board one of the morning snorkeling trips offered in Key Largo's John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. The area's best coral reefs are a few miles offshore, requiring a boat trip, but the shallow depths (5–15 feet) make for relaxed tropical fish viewing.
3Make a short drive south for Mrs. Mac's Kitchen 2, a new, more spacious outpost of the local lunchspot. Popular staples like conch chowder and key lime pie are joined by more upscale fish dishes; license plate lamps pay homage to the dominant wall covering at the still-running original location a half-mile away.
4Continue south to while away the afternoon at Founder's Beach & Park in Islamorada, a kid-friendly zone with a small private beach, skate park, playground, watersports rentals, and Olympic-size swimming pool.
5About 10 miles further south in Islamorada, tarpon feeding is the big draw at Robbie's Marina. A school of these hefty silver fish congregate around the docks daily waiting for baitfish handouts from an always-willing crowd.
6Splurge a little on a sunset dinner with your toes in the white sand of Morada Bay Beach Cafe, which is casual without veering into the usual Keys kitsch. Daily fresh fish and spiny lobster are stars. Tapas plates and a children's menu cover smaller appetites.
1Have breakfast at Chad's Deli and Bakery in Tavernier, between Key Largo and Islamorada, where their lengthy list of omelet fillings also can be made into scrambles or sandwiches on freshly baked bread. Take advantage of the well-stocked deli to snag snacks for the trek north into the Everglades.
2No visit to Everglades National Park is complete without walking the Anhinga Trail at Royal Palm Visitor Center, four miles from the park's Homestead entrance; sightings of alligators and wading birds are all but guaranteed on the .8-mile loop through sawgrass marsh. If you have more time to explore, make the 38-mile drive to Flamingo Visitor Center where you can rent bikes and kayaks.
3On the way back to the Turnpike, stop for one of the legendary key lime milkshakes at Robert Is Here and stock up on fresh produce while it's made to order. Around since 1960, the stand carries everything from tomatoes and avocadoes to a mind-blowing array of tropical fruit, like carambola, papaya, lychee, and sapote.