Key West has some great opportunities for adventures that children with big bodies or small can explore. These are my favorites and some of them will need a car to drive to.
I start with my favorite place to send folks when it is too rough to go out in the boat, which is a childhood memory that is supreme. Drive to Mile Marker 10 ¾ which is the Circle K and turn right at Old Boca Chica Road, which leads you to the old road to Key West back when US 1 was the railroad. It was still open all the way to Boca Chica Beach, and when I was little, that is where you would find me. Nowadays you can get all the way behind the Boca Chica Naval Air Base and then the road is blocked off, however you are allowed to go hiking from there. You need water shoes for good footing, as the tide pools are exposed at low tide and you can see some great critters. The salt ponds are on the other side of the road so bring binoculars for some great birding, bug repellant is a must and ear plugs for the jet noise would be good. It is a great place to picnic, but if you want to have another real backside of the Keys experience, check out the Geiger Key Marina and RV Park that you pass on your way to the end of the road, turn left on Geiger Road. Great music on the weekends and family style picnic table dining by the water is fun for kids of all ages. The BEST smoked fish dip in the Keys too! www.geigerkeymarina.com
Nancy’s Secret Garden is a well-kept secret. The main garden is gone, but not too many folks know that Nancy is still open to the public from her entrance at 518 Elizabeth Street between Fleming Street and Southard Street. She feeds the 27 tropical birds that she has adopted from folks that couldn’t keep them. The feeding time is the teaching time at 10:00 AM every day. Some of them talk and she lets you get up close and personal too. nancyforrester.com
Lloyd’s Tropical Bike tours are a hoot and a half. For a really fun way to explore the back streets of Key West try this one. I have known Lloyd for 23 years and that is how long he has been doing these tours too. His wit and humor are what make it so special and it is a real FIELD TRIP that kids will get a kick out of and so will you. Whatever fruit is in season will be plucked and sampled, even coconuts! Besides being allowed to come into the yards of private residences to pick the fruit, you will be led to some other great destinations: The Studios of Key West is an Art Emporium with artists working hard at their craft, The Wildlife Rescue Center where you will see some of our local wild birds up close and personal and the West Martello Fort and Botanical Garden for a peak at our local delightful plants and flowers. It’s a tour on the land like I do on the water, with a great character for your guide! You can call Lloyd at 305-305-4700 and he leaves from the Moped Hospital on the corner of Truman Avenue and Simonton Street. www.lloydstropicalbiketour.com Have fun!!!!
The Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden has been a part of my life since I was a teenager looking to find a quiet place to think. There is such a golden feeling to the place and it is filled with many surprises. So many wild birds stop over at the two natural fresh water ponds that you never know what to expect. The butterfly gardens are spectacular to just sit and “BE” in. There are lots of turtles and dragonflies, not to mention all the flowers. It is located just outside of Key West on Stock Island at 5210 College Road and the phone is 305-296-1540. Pack a lunch and sit on at one of the picnic tables and just watch all the life go by. www.keywestbotanicalgarden.org
The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory is inside a temperature-regulated glass building. The fun here is to wear really colorful and flowery clothing and enjoy the butterflies landing on you or your hat!!! Loads to learn so don’t be in a hurry for this one. There are places to sit and let crowd go on by you as you drink in the ambiance of the place. Located right downtown at 1316 Duval Street. For more information call 305—296-2988 www.keywestbutterfly.com
For the turtle lovers we have the Key West Turtle Cannery Museum. It used to be a cannery and it is located behind the Turtle Kralls Restaurant at the of Margaret Street at the Historic Seaport. It is great to stroll the docks, but even better when you can visit a place to learn about turtles and it’s free! Open from 12- 4 PM from Tuesday to Saturday. For more information call 305-294-0209 www.keywestturtlemuseum.org
I am the President Emeritus of Reef Relief and I teach what Reef Relief is all about while out on my boat. I highly recommend the Coral Camp for your children. It is a week-long immersion into all that Key West can give to your child. If you want to come by the Reef Relief Environmental Center located at 631 Green Street you can know before you go and get some great understanding of our ecosystem that we are trying to give some relief to. They are open from 10AM to 4 PM Monday to Friday except when Coral Camp is going on in the summer from June to Aug. 17th. It is free, but donations are gladly accepted. You can become an E-Activist by signing up; it would be wonderful if you would. For more information call 305-296-3100 www.reefrelief.org
For the “full Monty” on our environment here in the Keys, no trip would be complete without a visit to the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center. It is simply a must see! I can spend 3 hours there punching buttons and listening and learning and I have lived here my whole life. The movie is a must see, so make sure to take time for that while you are there. It is free and open from Tuesday through Saturday 9AM to 4 PM at 35 East Quay Road at the end of Southard Street across from the entrance to Ft Zachary Taylor State Park. Their gift store rocks with some great reference books as well as great games for kids to learn about the sea. For more information call 305-809-4750. floridakeys.noaa.gov
I mentioned Ft. Zachary Taylor State Park and it is another great childhood memory of mine. The Pines are the only place on the island that a kid from here can listen to the sound of the wind in pine trees, it is awesome. Lots of shade and great places to sling a hammock. For a snorkeler it is the only place in Key West that has something for the fish to hide in that is accessible from shore. Water shoes are a must because they imported the rocks they call a beach but heck it is still here! The fort is open for tours and the cost to enter the park is $2.50 bike/walk or $7.00 per car and they are open from 8 AM to Sunset. For more information call 305-292-6713. www.fortzacharytaylor.com
I am a horse lover and I know that if you have a horse lover in your family this will be a winner. The Key West Police Department have horses here and they have a stable on the road that enters into Ft Zachary Taylor State Park and the Eco Discovery Center. So, if you wandered over I bet they would let you groom one of the horses or give them a carrot. That’s all I have for you, sure hope one of these is up your alley. Enjoy and Bright Blessings on your visit. KWPD Mounted Police.