The Florida Keys: A Place to Escape; Tavernier Edition
FL Keys Overview
The Florida Keys are at the southernmost point of the continental USA. This means that the climate is “Tropical!” The weather is beautiful all year round, and the views of the shimmering seas are stunning. Summer time can be a little hot, but the winters are magical. There are other keys along the coast of Florida too, like Cedar Key and Key Biscayne near the panhandle and Miami, respectively. Those keys are technically not part of the “Florida Keys” everyone knows and loves. This piece is going to anchor on Tavernier, the most overlooked Key, so you get a full understanding of what it has to offer.
The Keys are a place to escape since it is so different than most places in the USA and the world. Sure, there are many archipelagos in the world, but very few in such tropical weather that are actually developed and connected by a single highway. The series of islands with very little land has only one major road (U.S. 1 A.K.A. Overseas HWY). Most of the action of the Keys takes place on water in the Florida Straits or the Gulf of Mexico.
The “Upper Keys,” (Key Largo, Tavernier, and Islamorada) are quick to get to from the Florida mainland by car or boat. One great thing about Tavernier is that it’s only about an hour and twenty-minute drive from Miami. Also, for any of you gym rats reading this, there are a few gyms on this Key too (but you should of course show those guns off out on the water instead of being cooped up in the gym!). Those are just a couple of the many conveniences of Tavernier.
Tavernier has one of the few sand beaches in the Florida Keys. The beach is located at Harry Harris Park, and has a boat ramp, basketball court, and outdoor BBQ pits. These types of green spaces are a great place to take kids and/or a large group of people. If you are privy to birds and bird watching, you can also learn about native birds at the FL Keys Wild Bird Center. The Center works to protect and heal wild birds at its on-site aviary hospital. Admission is by donation, and you can walk around the grounds to see the birds that are too injured to be released back to the wild. They study birds and educate others about the FL Keys wildlife.
This small Key is often overlooked since it is sandwiched between Key Largo (read my last blog about that Key) and Islamorada (you can read about this Key in my next blog). There are a few hotels in the area, and you can rent places to stay through VRBO and Airbnb. Overall Tavernier is not too touristy, and has much more of a local vibe. Out of all the “Upper Keys,” Tavernier is home to some crucial things, like the hospital that provides service to many of the FL Keys, as well as more leisurely activities like one of the three movie theaters in all the Keys; and a grocery store.
If you’re heading to the Keys for a getaway, or living there, you shouldn’t spend too much time at the movie theater… hopefully nor the hospital. Instead, check out the waters and reefs the Keys have to offer at the FL Keys Unique Diving Center. What makes this diving center unique is its “nude dives” (yes that is a thing) and its “tankless dives” where a 150 ft line is attached to the boat that supplies compressed air from the vessel you dive from.
Tavernier Creek separates Tavernier, the base of Key Largo, from Islamorada. This creates one of the waterways that you can take from the Florida Straits to the back-country bay area, or from one side of the Keys to the other. Beware, the bridge is fixed, which limits the height of boats passing underneath. Assume 14’ is the maximum height for boat clearance. If you are staying in Tavernier, I highly recommend boating. This channel from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic can really open up your options for getting to many places on the water like all of the reefs available for fishing and diving.
Again, Tavernier is a tiny Key, so it doesn’t have as many places to eat as the bigger Keys. This doesn’t mean there isn’t good food. One of my favorite delis in all of FL is in Tavernier, Chad’s, near mile marker 92. Chad’s has hands down the best bread you will find in the Keys, and they have a great selection of desserts made fresh daily. Be sure to stop at Chad’s if you have a chance. Across the street is a Dairy Queen, and for me a Blizzard is always welcome especially on those hot days in the hurricane prone Keys (get it 😊!)
There is nothing better than catching a sunset in the Key’s. Tavernier has a food store called Winn-Dixie. If you’re lucky enough to have a grill or eating area at the place you’re staying, I recommend cooking at home… even if you didn’t catch any fish out a at sea. Semi-local and delicious sausage prepared in Miami, Roman Brand, which can be used for a variety of simple dishes, can be bought at the Winn-Dixie. Keep it simple, just like the Keys, and you will be sure to have an exquisite and hassle-free meal with a picture-perfect sunset. Modest meals give you more time to enjoy the Keys.
The Keys have so much to offer; they really make you realize how incredible of a world we live in. Planet Earth offers us so many special places, and the Keys are the perfect place to reflect on that thought. Be sure to treat these islands like a pirate’s lost chest of gold because the Keys, especially Tavernier, is something you can’t find anywhere else in the world.
If you read this far, here are some Pro Tips for you…
Pro Tip 1: Driving in the Keys can be bumper-to-bumper traffic. I would recommend you travel to and from the Keys on a weekday and avoid all holidays if you can. I know this is tough to do in most cases, but just be aware there’s only one major road from the beginning to the end of the FL Keys.
Pro Tip 2: You will be in the sun a ton, so make sure to protect yourself. Beach NeedZ has all the gear you need to protect you and your family. All products are organic and eco-friendly, so it is safe for you and mother ocean. The goods can be shipped to any hotel or residence in the USA… including the Keys.
Pro Tip 3: Here’s a great Playlist for Tavernier on Spotify. Attention: Explicit Language on Some Songs.
Pro Tip 4: Rum is a great drink for the Keys, be sure to mix it with coconut water. Coco Loco’s are exactly what you need in the Key’s hot sun.
Pro Tip 5: Good local fish: Hog Fish, Grouper, and Mahi Mahi (pelagic).