We've been clocking up a lot of miles traveling all around the coast of Florida recently – about 1,400 so far! After we left Miami, we headed south to the Florida Keys, where we stayed in Grassy Key RV Park and Resort, the amazing campground pictured above near Marathon Key, which is located about half way between Key Largo and Key West. We had two days of torrential rain while we were here and I got bitten all over by an unidentified insect and looked like I had the measles, but whatever. It was pretty amazing to wake up to this view every day and incredible 80F weather and jump in the pool, even when we had clouds – and insect bites.
It was on the marina wall at our campground that we saw the iguana in the gallery below, which was over three foot long from his head to his tail. Crazy. Apparently they are not native to Florida and have become a pest that are a hassle to locals, who do not want their gardens dug up by critters with no natural predators.
We also saw our first manatee in the Keys, green sea turtles, sharks, grouper and jelly fish (the last four, all while we were in a glass-bottomed boat in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park) and of course 50-odd polydactyl cats (cats with extra toes) at Hemingway's former house in Key West. Another highlight for this new driver was driving over the Seven Mile Bridge to get to Key West – Shane has a video of this that we will upload.
Shane went fishing, we had drinks in the campground with our new friend Buzz, who is spending several months down here, Sonny developed a liking for climbing palm trees and we all developed a taste for the amazing shrimp, crab and other seafood in this area, not to mention fantastic Key Lime Pie. We thought the best we had was at Brutus Seafood and Eatery in Marathon. We must also give a shout out to Sparky's Landing in Key Colony Beach, home of the $0.30 fresh ready-to-peel shrimp and $0.30 chicken wings during happy hour, where you can sit outside by the marina and watch the pelicans swoop by.
Then we left the aquamarine waters of the beautiful Keys and drove to the Everglades, subtropical wetlands which cover over 1.5 million acres of South Florida, which as well as containing a national park, are a World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve. There are an estimated 1.3 million alligators in Florida and we've decided most of them live here. They were everywhere – basking in the sun all along The Tamiami Trail (Highway 41), along Highway 84, also known as Alligator Alley, and all along the walkways we explored in Shark Valley, part of Everglades National Park. There were also alligators in the lake in our campground, so we couldn't let out Sonny for a couple of days.
We did an airboat ride into the Everglades with Tigertail Airboat Tours, which operates on the Miccosukee Reservation on the Tamiami Trail. Our guide told us that gators grow all their lives, and as they can live to be 100 years old, they can grow up to 15 feet. However, the biggest around there were 12 feet long and around 60 to 70 years old. The Everglades, and the adjacent Big Cypress National Preserve, which is another 729,000 acres, are also habitats for the Florida Panther. Sadly, these endangered big cats are often struck by speeding cars in this area, which is why panther crossing zones, complete with tunnels underneath roadways, have been set up around here. The population is beginning to grow again, but there are only an estimated 100 to 180 panthers in this area, so it's no surprise that we didn't see one. We had to make do with own trailer panther instead.
Kathryn Tully and Shane Sesta are a married couple, one American and one Brit, who are spending a year traveling across America and writing about their discoveries. Sonny is their rescue cat and fried chicken aficionado.