Updated on May 23, 2020
Day 4 of 2019 Florida Spring Break, to Key West
Fourth day of my spring break Florida road trip. After grouping up with my friends, today we would be driving from the outskirts of Orlando to Key West.
It’s about 360 miles of driving from Cocoa to Key West. Since I was with my friends, we could rotate drivers among our two cars, which certainly made things easy.
The day’s morning wasn’t too eventful, as we raced South along Interstate 95 to Miami, stopping at the Costco in Lake Worth to stock up on gas (according to GasBuddy, it had the cheapest gasoline all the way till Key West) and supplies.
While on the road, I was perfectly content with the likes of Subway or Panda Express (!) for a quick meal. However, my friends with sophisticated appetites decided to educate my taste buds, by tediously going through reviews and blogs and picked a specific Chinese restaurant in the western suburb of Hollywood.
I remembered the restaurant owner’s hospitality by offering one of us a power outlet to charge her laptop, more than everything about the food.
So 90 minutes and a gourmet meal later, we were back on the move.
This time, traffic was building up along I95 in downtown Miami area, so we picked a more western route to Homestead, where we would be switching drivers.
With rare signs of modern road infrastructure in United States.
We switched drivers again at the parking lots of Florida Keys Outlet. Amazingly, my friends weren’t spellbound by the store, and it didn’t take long before we were on the move again.
Once out of Homestead, we were onto Dixie Highway / Route 1, which was one of two roads leading out of Florida mainland onto the keys, passing along swamps and marshland.
Once onto Key Largo, Overseas Highway / Route 1 extends for an additional hundred miles, through beautiful keys and islands, all the way to Key West. While portions of it wasn’t too different than an ordinary American town, parts of it felt like driving on open ocean with scenery all around.
A small downside was that, most of Overseas Highway was a two-lane road, with
very limited almost non-existent overtaking opportunities. And because most people were admiring the views while driving (that included us), patience was a good company on these roads.
There was a rest area / park at one end of this bridge, where we stopped and took some rest / photos.
This small footbridge was part of Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail, which provided a hiking/biking trail alongside Overseas Highway. Unfortunately, it’s broken into many parts.
Another interesting fact was that, the local people must had run out of names, so that named these channels with numbers. However on maps, immediately next to this Channel Five was Channel Two, so where’s 3 and 4?
Amazed by the crystal blue waters but puzzled by the naming system, we moved on.
Then it’s Seven Mile Bridge, which, as its name suggested, was a very long bridge West of Marathon.
Then it’s another notable bridge, Bahia Honda Bridge. This one’s much shorter in length, but the old Bahia Honda Railway Bridge that ran parallel to it in the South remained mostly intact in its original form, serving as a vivid reminder of the original Florida Overseas Railroad from which the current roadway was born.
After checking into hotel in Eastern Key West, we set off again at 7pm for its downtown.
At first, we thought watching sunset at Fort Zachary Taylor would be a great idea.
Unfortunately, sunset was also the closing time of this state park. So we changed our plans for some random beach in the downtown area, followed by dinner.
Click for detail about Eduardo H. Gato House
This house, with its elaborate Queen Anne style detailing, was built c. 1894 by E. H. Gato, Sr. (1847-1926). The Gato family was one of Key West’s most prominent families, and three generations of the family lived here until 1951. Eduardo H. Gato was a Cuban patriot who helped finance Cuba’s revolutionary leaders including Jose Marti, who fought for freedom from Spain. Gato came to Key West in 1874. He was instrumental in Key West’s evolution from a small fishing town to one of Florida’s wealthiest cities through his development of the Cuban tobacco industry. He built Key West’s foremost cigar factory, where millions of cigars, using tobacco imported from Cuba, were hand rolled and boxed for shipment worldwide. In 1917, he built the first fireproof cigar factory on Simonton Street and constructed a nearby “city” of frame cigar workers’ cottages, the Barrio de Gato, or Gatoville. Gato was president of the E. H. Gato Cigar Co.; vice-president of the Key West Bank; and proprietor of the Key West Street Car, a horse-drawn system. Eduardo H. Gato Jr. (1874-1948) served as vice-president of the E. H. Gato Cigar Company and oversaw the extensive Gato real estate holdings.
From nearby information board.
Then, we made it to the sea, Duval Street Pocket Park to be exact. Next to it was a beach, just not in our expected form.
So my friends suggested we should have dinner instead. As usual, it’s their call with the selection of restaurants.
After that, we drove back to hotel and called it a day.