A Quick Guide to the Upper Florida Keys
If you’re craving a Key West experience without the extra expense or hassle, the Upper Keys is the place to go.
Just like every other person who lives in Miami, I am seriously in love with Key West. Unfortunately, Florida’s most popular island is almost four hours away from Miami (and civilization in general), meaning any trip down to the city entails booking a hotel and staying at least a weekend. For locals, as well as most tourists, this usually ends up being too much of a hassle. Luckily enough, there are many hidden gems in the Upper Keys that are only a day trip away from Miami, meaning locals and tourists alike can get a taste of Key West without committing to the drive or added expenses.
Robert Is Here – Ever craved a mango milkshake? If so, Robert Is Here is the place for you. Located in Florida City (a.k.a. the gateway to the Florida Keys), Robert Is Here is a family owned business that’s half fruit stand, half petting zoo. If you’re interested in the rare and exotic, Robert Is Here offers tastings of fruit that are usually only found in the Caribbean, such as dragonfruit, guanabana, and anon (sugar-apple). Make sure to try one of their famous milkshakes that come in an array of fruit flavors, ranging from something as safe as strawberry to something as wild tamarindo, and every combination in between. (Open seasonally check dates at https://robertishere.com)
Knaus Berry Farm – What originally began as a small roadside stand in 1956 is now home to one of South Florida’s most famous bakeries. While their homemade pies and bread are amazing, Knaus Berry is most famous for their cinnamon rolls, which are made fresh each and every morning. Gooey and delicious, they’re worth every calorie!
Schnebly’s Redland Winery – You read right, Florida has wine! The USA’s most southern winery, Schnebly’s makes fruit-fermented wine and beer. Make sure to try their avocado wine and their coconut-infused beer; both delicious! The grounds are beautiful and the winery offers tours. Uncork. Unplug. Unwind at Schnebley’s
Everglades Alligator Farm – As South Florida’s oldest alligator farm, Everglades is the perfect place to learn about Florida’s most fearsome resident, the alligator. While alligator wrestling and feeding are certainly popular attractions, don’t miss out on an authentic airboat ride. See the beauty of Florida’s mangroves and estuaries, and maybe even catch a glimpse of a wild gator!
John Pennekamp – The first undersea park in the United States, John Pennekamp is the Holy Grail for snorkelers and divers in Florida. Swim with giant turtles, dive to see the famous Christ of the Abyss (an 8 ½ foot bronze sculpture of Jesus Christ, located under 25 feet of water), and view some of Florida’s most beautiful coral reefs. If you’re not into diving, Pennekamp offers glass bottom boat tours, as well as kayaking tours that go through beautiful estuaries, meaning the park has something to offer for everyone, regardless of athleticism level.
Alabama Jacks – A former motorcycle bar, Alabama Jacks is a restaurant located right on an inlet, meaning manatee sightings are not only possible, but almost guaranteed. Featuring fresh seafood, the restaurant has a laid-back vibe with kitschy décor, such as old license plates and boat gear. Try to go for an early lunch on the weekend, where you’ll likely see senior citizens clog dance.
Morada Bay – Morada Bay is actually a beach with two restaurants; the casual Beach Café, located on (you guessed it) the beach, as well as the upscale Pierre’s, which also offers beautiful views of the ocean. The Beach Café features a mix of seafood and Caribbean dishes, while Pierre’s offers patrons a taste of true French cuisine. Regardless of where you decide to dine, make sure to visit during a full moon, where the whole beach throws a giant festival, featuring a live band, fireworks, and specialty drinks. Click here to learn more or to book VIP reservations to the festival.
The Florida Keys offer a lot to tourists and locals alike, so even if Key West isn’t in your travel plans, it doesn’t mean you can’t experience all that it has to offer!