While in Key West, Andrew and I tried to eat and drink at some of its most famous places; always the food adventurers, we also wanted to try some local "hole in the wall" restaurants as well.
We made the drive from Miami to Key West and had to stop at The Hungry Tarpon on Islamorada Key to eat dinner our first night. You can't miss the Hungry Tarpon as it's in Robbie's Marina and there is a huge sign. The restaurant is directly on the water and offers beautiful views, great food, and a tropical atmosphere. The food was delicious and the atmosphere was so much fun! When you eat here, you're truly getting a taste of the Keys lifestyle. You can eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the Hungry Tarpon while you watch the boats come in with their fresh catch of the day! We were here in the evening and got to see the sharks and tarpons being fed the leftovers from the days fishing trip. Another reason the Robbie's Marina area is famous is because some of the Netflix original Bloodline was filmed here. This is where the characters of the show spend a lot of time in boats and on docks. We're huge Bloodline fans and sought out as many filming places as possible in the keys (more on that in another post). Our first night in Key West we felt compelled to go check out the world famous Sloppy Joe's Bar. The official beginning of this bar was on December 5, 1993- the day Prohibition was repealed. Sloppy Joe's Bar has been through two name changes and one change of location but it has been at its present location since May of 1937. This Bar sits on the corner of Greene and Duval Street. This place is a staple in Key West and was once the watering hole of Ernest Hemmingway. Sloppy Joe's now also offers a food menu. Andrew and I enjoyed listening to a live band, having a cocktail, and eating a sloppy joe! If you're ever in Key West, even for just a day this is a piece of history you don't want to miss!
After Sloppy Joe's, we ventured over to Willie T's. We were immediately drawn in by all of the one dollar bills hanging up all over the place. There are thousands of them and we had to leave our mark as well! Willie T's had live music and its open air so it is a really fun place to stop.
During our second day in Key West we wanted to have a picnic on the beach so we went to a place called Blue Heaven Restaurant to pick up food to go. A local actually recommended it to us and the food was amazing! I had a huge grilled cheese with bacon and Andrew had a chicken salad sandwich. They even boxed the sandwiches up for us so we'd be able to carry them easily out to the beach. That evening we went and ate at Sara Beth's, which provides both indoor and outdoor dining and its building is a historic 1800s clapboard landmark building. The food here was delicious! We tried the velvety cream of tomato soup, the crispy calamari, and the shrimp and grits! The service was some of the best I'd ever experienced, even the host was top notch! Make a reservation if you'd like to eat here and I've heard brunch is awesome, I wish we would have had time to go back.
Our last night in Key West happened to fall on Christmas Eve. We didn't want to do the traditional Christmas food so we decided to do a traditional Key West spot called Schooner Wharf. This place has been voted Best Local's bar six years in a row. They have really unique nautical decor, live music, great food, and it's open-air. Schooner Wharf is located right on the Historic Harbor Walk. We tried conch fritters here for the first time. Conch fritters are to the Keys what hush-puppies are to the south. You can find fritters on the menu just about any place you go so we decided to give them a try and oh my, they were great! They even came with a Key Lime mustard sauce, it sounds weird but it tasted amazing! For our entree we shared the seared sesame tuna and oh my goodness was it fresh and so good! The entree came with seaweed salad which I have never liked any other time I've tried it but this place had the best seaweed salad ever! This was far from our traditional Christmas Eve dinner but you can't beat fresh seafood at an open-air restaurant, with a sand floor, watching yachts float by.
There are lots of good eateries in Key West. My major regret was that I didn't have time to try other places; however, I was really happy with our choices. I'd give all of the places listed five stars!
Andrew and I spent a few days in North Carolina with his parents, brother, and Louie (our child, um...dog). The area we visited in North Carolina is called Boone, where everything a person does is like one big adventure. Boone is located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway and is a place I would definitely return. We stayed in a truly magical little a-frame cabin called Chalet Alpine. My Mother-in-law found the cabin on VRBO and it was absolutely amazing! If you're ever searching for somewhere to stay in the area I'd highly recommend Chalet Alpine. We had such a blast on this trip and although I'm about to tell you in detail what we did the summation is this: hike, eat, hike some more, eat a lot, play games, eat, and hike.
The first day we arrived in Boone there was a torrential downpour. Everywhere we tried to eat was packed, the streets were flooding, and we didn't have umbrellas. We finally settled on Blowing Rock Tavern in Blowing Rock, NC. All of the towns in this area are within close proximity and it doesn't take long to drive from one little town to the next. The tavern's food was amazing and so was the service! The downtown area of Blowing Rock is very quaint with a lot of cute stores. You can shop for anything from fudge, to ski gear, to clothes. I scored myself an original 1993 Carolina Panther's shirt! Go Panthers!
Day two of our trip was absolutely beautiful; thankfully, the rain cleared. We drove on the Blue Ridge parkway to all of our hiking destinations. In case you aren't familiar with it, The Blue Ridge Parkway is a 469 mile scenic drive that follows the highest ridges between the Shenandoah National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains. It's designed especially for leisurely enjoyment which is exactly what we did; we enjoyed the wonders around us! On our first stop, we hiked Flat Rock Trail. The trail takes you to an overlook at an elevation of 3,987 ft. The views were absolutely breathtaking from the top! Next, we drove to Linville Falls. The hike was a bit muddy because it had rained the day before but it made the falls that much more beautiful! Linville Falls is a series of two falls, upper at 12 feet and lower at 90 feet. These plunge into the 2,000 foot deep Linville Gorge. This trail is a must do in the area and well worth your time. It takes about two hours to do the entire trail. On our last night in Boone, we ate at Proper which used to be an old jail house. Our family thought that was really cool. The food was some of the best I've ever eaten. Andrew and I shared a large helping of chicken and dumplings. Yummy!!!
On our last day, we visited the downtown area of Boone and the original Mast General Store. The store was established in 1883 and is definitely a sight to see! The old and young alike will have appreciation for this place. Residents can still pick up mail at the store and anyone is welcome to buy a tank of gasoline.
I don't think there are too many states like North Carolina left where you find century old buildings in the heart of the city and state government offices in renovated Victorian houses. In North Carolina you can still buy honey from a roadside stand, eat wonderful southern cooking, and sleep in inns where people in the history books once slept. I personally love this state and I'm so glad my in-laws live close! If you ever want adventure and relaxation all in the same get-a-way then this area is where you want to be.
I saw this sign in one of the stores and I thought it fit perfectly: "We aren't behind the times. It's just that we think there are times much too important to be left behind."
On Christmas Eve 2016, Andrew and I visited the Dry Tortugas National Park. We boarded the Yankee Freedom III Ferry in Key West to travel to Dry Tortugas. The National Park is made up of seven small islands but the main attraction is the historic Fort Jefferson, which was once used as a prison and blockade during the Civil War. I was surprised to find out it was a Union fort; because of its location I would have originally thought it was a Confederate fort. The Union used Fort Jefferson to block the Confederates from Southern shipping. It was also used as a prison for criminals and Union deserters during the war. The most famous prisoner was Dr. Samuel Mudd, who was imprisoned for his involvement in the assasination of President Abraham Lincoln. We were able to see the prison cell that Dr. Mudd was kept in. Though used briefly during both world wars, it has long since been closed. The actual island was discovered in 1513 and the fort was constructed in the 1800's. You can travel to the Dry Tortugas via the ferry, a charted or private boat, or a charted or private plane. If you can afford to take the plane out to the fort, that's what you should do! Doing so will allow you additional time to explore Dry Tortugas. We went by ferry and left the port at 8am and had to be back by 5pm so we only got to spend four hours on the island.
Here are some facts that I found really cool on Fort Jefferson: 16 million bricks were used, they had 420 heavy guns, 37 powder magazines, a moat, and casemates (gunrooms) form the backbone of the fort. Construction began on the fort in 1846, and although it was never officially finished, it remains one of the most historic places to visit in The Keys. When you travel to Dry Tortugas you have the option of going on a 40-60 minute guided tour led by one of their expert naturalists or you can download a self-guided tour and view it on your cellphone or other device. Andrew and I elected to do the self-guided tour so we could check out exactly what we wanted to see and spend more of our time doing other things on the island. If you're mainly going to see the fort then I'd recommend doing the guided tour. The fort was like nothing I've ever seen before, it was absolutley massive and took up almost the entire island. There was also a moat around the fort which was neat since the only moats I've ever seen are around sand castles!
Andrew and I were completley in awe of the fort and were so glad we got to see it but the main things we wanted to do were snorkel, fly fish (Andrew), and relax on the secluded beaches. The water is crystal clear so snorkeling is a must! We took our own gear but the Yankee Freedom III provided snorkel gear to anyone that needed it. It depends on the way the wind is blowing which side of the island you'll want to snorkel on but I was able to see three barracudas, a moon jellyfish, and lots of other fish. Andrew didn't catch anything this trip but he did have fun fly fishing. I think it's also worth the trip out to the Dry Tortugas just for the beach. The sand is soft and powdery and the beaches are pristine. The only peope that stay on the island are the park rangers and the campers so it feels very private and secluded.
We really enjoyed our trip to Dry Tortugas and want to visit again. My only regret is that we didn't have enough time on this trip. I hope you enjoy these photos! If you've got any questions about our Dry Tortugas excursion commend below.
A southern girl living in the Mid-West. My husband and I love to travel and go on new adventures--We love Jesus and the blessings He provides!