June 26, 2016: The Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Miami, Florida.
June 27, 2016: A man wrings out his mop at the Wynwood Walls in Miami, Florida.
June 27, 2016: An office building in the Wynwood Arts District in Miami, Florida.
June 27, 2016: Dominos players at Maximo Gomez Park in Little Havana, Florida.
June 27, 2016: A man and his pet lemur at the Art Deco District in Miami, Florida.
June 27, 2016: The Hotel Breakwater in the Art Deco District in Miami, Florida.
June 28, 2016: Biscayne Bay from the InterContinental Hotel in Miami, Florida.
June 28, 2016: The sun sets into the Gulf of Mexico in Key Largo, Florida.
June 29, 2016: A sea turtle at the Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Florida.
June 29, 2016: The Seven Mile Bridge in Marathon, Florida.
June 29, 2016: A Key deer, the smallest in North America, in Big Pine Key, Florida.
June 29, 2016: A green iguana suns itself on a tree in Big Pine Key, Florida.
June 30, 2016: A shipwreck near the Dry Tortugas National Park.
June 30, 2016: An old boat inside Fort Jefferson at the Dry Tortugas National Park.
June 30, 2016: A pelican flies over Fort Jefferson at the Dry Tortugas National Park.
June 30, 2016: Bush Key from Fort Jefferson at the Dry Tortugas National Park.
June 30, 2016: A shipwrecked sailboat near the Dry Tortugas National Park.
June 30, 2016: The Southernmost Point of the United States in Key West, Florida.
July 1, 2016: An alligator at the Everglades Alligator Farm in Homestead, Florida.
July 1, 2016: A field of sunflowers and palm trees in Homestead, Florida.
Recently, Patty and I took a working vacation to Florida because I had been hired to shoot the Alpha-1 National Education Conference on June 24-26, 2016 in Miami. We rented a car and spent seven days driving down U.S. 1, better known as the Overseas Highway, from Miami to Everglades National Park and then to Key West.
First, we toured the beautiful Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Miami. It is the former estate of John Deering, the founder of the International Harvester Company, who lived there from 1916-1925. We enjoyed lunch at the Vizacya Museum Cafe.
The next day, we visited the Wynwood Walls, an urban graffiti art exhibit in the Wynwood District of Miami. We ate great food at Wynwood Kitchen & Bar, a Latin-American restaurant surrounded by the huge, colorful murals in the neighborhood. Afterwards, we drove to Little Havana in downtown Miami and walked along 8th Street, or Calle Ocho. We stopped in a few stores to watch crafters hand-roll tobacco leaves into cigars. Then, we visited Maximo Gomez Park, or Dominos Park, where locals play spirited games of dominos, chess, and cards with anyone willing to challenge them. We returned to our room at the InterContinental Hotel for a few hours before driving to nearby Ocean Drive to see the Art Deco Historic District.
The following morning, we packed some sandwiches from Jersey Mike’s and left Miami to tour Everglades National Park. We searched for alligators and egrets along the Anhinga and Gumbo Limbo Trails. Unfortunately, a thunderstorm cut our day short so we headed south to Key Largo. Once we arrived, we had an amazing seafood dinner at Hobo’s Cafe. We checked into the Hampton Inn Key Largo and watched the sunset from their quiet, private beach overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.
We left Key Largo the next day and drove to Marathon where we visited the Turtle Hospital, a small non-profit organization dedicated to the rehabilitation of endangered sea turtles. We also stopped for a wonderful seafood meal at the 7 Mile Grill, a historic restaurant in the heart of the Florida Keys. After lunch, we crossed over Seven Mile Bridge, a famous landmark that connects the Middle Keys to the Lower Keys. The Seven Mile Bridge is actually two bridges. The modern bridge is open to vehicular traffic, whereas the older, original bridge is open only to pedestrians and cyclists. The original bridge was constructed from 1909 to 1912 and the current bridge was built from 1978-1982. The bridge has been featured in several films including True Lies, 2 Fast 2 Furious, and Mission Impossible III.
Soon, we arrived in Big Pine Key and detoured to the National Key Deer Refuge to look at Key deer, an endangered deer that lives only in the Florida Keys. It is the smallest deer in North America and is similar in size to a Labrador Retriever.
Once we reached Key West, we immediately checked into our room at the Silver Palms Inn, an upscale boutique hotel in downtown. After some rest, we drove to Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park to watch the sunset at the Civil War-era fort.
Thursday morning, we left our hotel and walked down world-famous Duval Street. It stretches 1.25 miles from its northern end at the Gulf of Mexico to its southern end at the Atlantic Ocean. There are many Victorian mansions, art galleries, shops, clubs, and restaurants along the strip. We stopped at the end of Duval Street and took selfies at the buoy that marks the southernmost point of the United States.
We shared an awesome lunch of crab-topped pizza at Deuce’s Off the Hook Grill, then we drove to Key West Seaplane Charters at the Key West International Airport. We boarded a DHC-3 DeHavilland Turbine Otter Amphibians aircraft and flew 70 miles over the Gulf of Mexico to Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas National Park, the most remote National Park in the United States. The fort, which was built in 1846, is the largest masonry structure in the Western Hemisphere and is comprised of more than 16 million bricks. We spent two hours exploring the 47-acre island before we had to return to our seaplane for our 40 minute flight back to Key West. We flew at a low altitude and saw several sharks, sea turtles, and shipwrecks.
Our last day, we packed up the car and drove east on U.S 1 to Homestead, Florida. We spent the afternoon at the Everglades Alligator Farm, the oldest alligator farm in South Florida. We were unable to see any wild alligators during our tour of the Everglades earlier in the week so we opted to view dozens of them in the farm’s pond. We stayed long enough to watch the handler feed them their daily snack. Then, we checked into our final hotel, the Hampton Inn & Suites in Homestead.
We treated ourselves to one last lunch, an Italian meal at Mamma Mia’s before driving to nearby Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport to fly home.
We hope to visit Florida again soon, so we can experience more of her beauty.