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Old 08/27/2015, 06:19 PM   #51
water is wet
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So it looks like we'll be heading down around the 22nd of September and staying until the12th of October . I don't mind seeing a lot of storms but I'm hoping to miss any hurricanes. I honestly think it would be cool to be there during one but not while on vacation.

We are staying in Miami or somewhere close by for the first couple of nights. Any suggestions on pet friendly hotels for a fair price? I'd be willing to drive a couple hours for it.

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Old 08/28/2015, 08:36 AM   #52
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Yea it's only cool when you throw a hurricane party lol.
For real you don't want it on vacation because they give mandatory evacuations for non-residents. But honestly our building code is very strict here and I feel a lot more safe down here than on the mainland lol
I hope it doesn't storm much for you because the past week it's been thunderstorms all day long. Which is very uncommon. Usually Florida weather is bipolar and one sec it's sunny then for 10 mins it'll rain cats and dogs, then it will get sunny again. But now it's just been non-stop.
Regarding hotels, where do you plan to stay? Miami or the keys? What do you want to see the most ?


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Old 08/28/2015, 08:37 AM   #53
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In Miami or in the Keys?

We use Blackfin Resort in Marathon. It isn't a resort, it's kind of a mom & pop motel. It's fairly priced by Keys standards (not cheap but less than the Holiday Inn). We get an efficiency because there is a bit more room, in bad weather or if tired we can cook in the room and it's away from all the units that share a common hallway where some people party too late into the evening/night for us old timers! It's not fancy, but it's clean. It has a nice pool. It has an itsy bitsy super small sort of beach. There is an island 100 yards off shore that is worth snorkeling (we do it as a check our equipment and water temperature test when we arrive). And there are some cool things even in the rocks at the marina exit and around on the west side of the peninsula 'beach' like lobsters, crabs,feather dusters, sponges and tropical fish. We take bagels, fruit and coffee out to the beach and have breakfast in the morning. They have a nice table under a thatch roof and it seems nobody else does breakfast out there. We find it very peaceful. They have grills out there as well and some do cook dinner out there.

They have a boat ramp and a small marina if you want to keep your boat in the water. We take our boat to other ramps which makes the commute to snorkel locations by boat shorter. They have a scuba dive boat operator, Tilden, next door and their boats are in the same little marina. A restaurant, the Hurricane, is also next door and other amenities are close by. Bahia Honda State Park and the Horseshoe are just over the Seven Mile bridge from the motel.

So it isn't fancy at all, but we basically only sleep there, the rest of the time we are out in the water or seeing other sights.


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Old 08/28/2015, 08:44 AM   #54
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In Miami or in the Keys?

We use Blackfin Resort in Marathon. It isn't a resort, it's kind of a mom & pop motel. It's fairly priced by Keys standards (not cheap but less than the Holiday Inn). We get an efficiency because there is a bit more room, in bad weather or if tired we can cook in the room and it's away from all the units that share a common hallway where some people party too late into the evening/night for us old timers! It's not fancy, but it's clean. It has a nice pool. It has an itsy bitsy super small sort of beach. There is an island 100 yards off shore that is worth snorkeling (we do it as a check our equipment and water temperature test when we arrive). And there are some cool things even in the rocks at the marina exit and around on the west side of the peninsula 'beach' like lobsters, crabs,feather dusters, sponges and tropical fish. We take bagels, fruit and coffee out to the beach and have breakfast in the morning. They have a nice table under a thatch roof and it seems nobody else does breakfast out there. We find it very peaceful. They have grills out there as well and some do cook dinner out there.

They have a boat ramp and a small marina if you want to keep your boat in the water. We take our boat to other ramps which makes the commute to snorkel locations by boat shorter. They have a scuba dive boat operator, Tilden, next door and their boats are in the same little marina. A restaurant, the Hurricane, is also next door and other amenities are close by. Bahia Honda State Park and the Horseshoe are just over the Seven Mile bridge from the motel.

So it isn't fancy at all, but we basically only sleep there, the rest of the time we are out in the water or seeing other sights.
Lol Ron, same thing I was thinking, a mom and pop motel.
I was going to say if he wanted to stay in the keys try finding a small vacation rental (most allow pets).
Thing with Miami is that if you want to be in a nice area you will pay a hefty price and don't think there are many pet friendly places, plus you are far from the keys and key west will be a less of an option for you to visit. I think marathon or even Islamorada is a good place because it's in the middle. Not far from Mainland to see different things for a day and lots of fishing/snorkeling/diving nearby.


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Old 08/28/2015, 04:16 PM   #55
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Others in Marathon that we have used and I would consider as acceptable alternatives are Kingsail and Sea Dell. Again, not fancy, but clean mom & pop type motels and all within a mile or two of each other on Marathon. We just like the off shore island, the boat ramp and the 'sorta' beach at Blackfin.


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Old 09/01/2015, 07:32 AM   #56
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We ended up booking with Bayview inn and marina for 2 weeks. The last time we stayed at rainbow bend but thought we should try some place different this time. We were going to stay closer to Miami for a couple of days but with it being roughly a 2 hour drive from where we'll be staying I decided I'd rather do drive a couple of hours and stay where we'll be happiest.


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Old 09/01/2015, 08:56 AM   #57
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We ended up booking with Bayview inn and marina for 2 weeks. The last time we stayed at rainbow bend but thought we should try some place different this time. We were going to stay closer to Miami for a couple of days but with it being roughly a 2 hour drive from where we'll be staying I decided I'd rather do drive a couple of hours and stay where we'll be happiest.
Very nice, that's right by Long Key State Park. They have nice beaches there too.


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Old 09/02/2015, 06:22 AM   #58
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Looks like a nice motel. We've never stayed there so it would be great to get a review from you after you stay there.

Any 'I absolutely have too do items' on your list for your vacation?

If you get a day of bad weather, hey it happens almost everywhere, consider the History of Diving Museum. It's back up the road a ways, but we've been there twice and it was very interesting. The diving helmet exhibit was awesome! An incredible array of helmets and with the push of a button there is a great 15 minute lecture that spotlights groups and specific helmets to explain the history. If I remember correctly the curator told us the helmets in the display were worth several million dollars!


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Old 09/04/2015, 06:47 AM   #59
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We just decided to do another Keys snorkel trip during the first week of November. Exact dates aren't set yet, but vacation time with the wife's employer has been locked in. I'm guessing a day to drive down and do a 'test' snorkel. At least 2, maybe 3 snorkel days and then a day to drive home.

Probably looking at the Middle Keys again. Would like to do Money Key and Molasses Key (both are oceanside of the Seven Mile Bridge toward the SW end. I'd like to do Pigeon Key as well, but that may be asking a lot of my wife's nerves. She loves to snorkel, but she isn't a fan of getting too far from shore in an inflatable boat! Haha!


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Old 09/04/2015, 09:41 AM   #60
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She loves to snorkel, but she isn't a fan of getting too far from shore in an inflatable boat! Haha!
I don't blame her..

Went out on the boat after work on a Monday. Would've filmed underwater but it was already sunset and too dark. Enjoy the view at least


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Old 09/04/2015, 10:33 AM   #61
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The museum is a great idea thanks! One thing I wanted to do was go to that little aquarium we seen down there that did indoor scuba. I think it would be a great way to get comfortable diving without having to get certified first as scuba is something we'd like to do by next year.

Any other suggestions? We don't mind driving even if it means leaving the keys.

Awesome pics G_Sanab922!


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Old 09/04/2015, 12:35 PM   #62
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Great thread! I'll be visiting The Keys in January and have been looking into places to snorkel. My brother and I have both started reef tanks since the last time we were there (probably 10+ years ago). We have enjoyed snorkeling in the past but we are really excited to get back in the water now that we will actually know what we are looking at. I'm going to re-read the thread and take notes for our trip. Thanks for the tips, guys!


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Old 09/04/2015, 12:59 PM   #63
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The museum is a great idea thanks! One thing I wanted to do was go to that little aquarium we seen down there that did indoor scuba. I think it would be a great way to get comfortable diving without having to get certified first as scuba is something we'd like to do by next year.

Any other suggestions? We don't mind driving even if it means leaving the keys.

Awesome pics G_Sanab922!
Yea I agree the museum is nice. I recommend Florida Key Aquarium Encounters, look it up it's pretty nice. It's in marathon so you'll be close.
I haven't gone to it yet but many love it, Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. And in the area there is the home of Ernest Hemingway (small museum). If you have some money to spend there is a ferry that takes you to Dry Tortugas National park where you can see the Fort Jefferson and much more (~$150 per person I think).
Feel free to say what you are interested in and i'll try to come up with stuff.

Thanks !


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Old 09/06/2015, 05:18 AM   #64
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The Dry Tortugas trip is $170 for adults and $125 for kids under 16. We went early in 2014 and now plan to go back. But next time we'll camp out there overnight. If you take your snorkeling seriously (as in, you want to do a lot of it) and you want to do a good tour of Fort Jefferson, there just isn't enough time during a one day trip. You arrive at the island between 10 and 10:30am and leave at 3pm. We did the serious snorkeling and had a ball, but we didn't get to see nearly enough of the fort. We probably could have spent the entire 5 hours walking the fort and learning the history. BTW, just snorkeling around the pilings there in front of the fort is a great spot. But there are several good coral heads further out from the island and still just 3 or 4 feet deep.

The next time we go, all I ask is that we go on a near new moon night and have no clouds, so it's most likely going to be between Nov and April to have a good shot and no clouds. I've got to believe that being 70+ miles from Key West will make for a staggeringly beautiful Milky Way view stretched out over the sky!












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Old 09/06/2015, 05:35 AM   #65
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Great thread! I'll be visiting The Keys in January and have been looking into places to snorkel. My brother and I have both started reef tanks since the last time we were there (probably 10+ years ago). We have enjoyed snorkeling in the past but we are really excited to get back in the water now that we will actually know what we are looking at. I'm going to re-read the thread and take notes for our trip. Thanks for the tips, guys!
January is a good time as the weather is almost always good. Although, as a long time Florida resident now, I find the water to be more than just chilly in Dec thru March. But for New Jersey guys, you'll probably find it just refreshingly cool. Ha ha!

Ask questions if you want more info about anything.

Are you looking to see the big reefs by charter boat or shallow reefs off the beach? And there are shallow reefs with great things to see and there are shallow snorkel locations where it isn't so much what you see as it is what you can find to play with (the Horseshoe on Spanish Harbor Key). And I can't recommend stronly enough, if you want a good place to see things while doing an 'off the beach' snorkel, Bahia Honda State Park. And renting a Kayak to get out 1/4 mile off shore to Little Bahia Honda Key to snorkel can be very worth the effort.


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Old 09/10/2015, 01:58 PM   #66
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We will definitely be visiting Bahia Honda State Park. I was probably 7 the first time I went there, it was also the first time I ever went snorkeling and I was in complete awe- I've been hooked ever since.

We would like to check out a little of everything- we will probably be bring our kayaks down, and we also plan to rent a boat for at least part of the time we are there so we won't be limited in our ability to get anywhere.

It would also be cool to be able to collect a few snails and such to bring home. We will be staying in a camper and there has already been talk about setting up a temporary aquarium on the kitchen table or in the bathtub (shh, don't tell my brother-in-law). My brother has already built a slurp gun, and we have a sponge filter that we plan to throw in a sump a month or so in advance so that we can get bacteria established.


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Old 09/10/2015, 02:15 PM   #67
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Very nice, kayaks is a great idea.

Since you plan on renting a boat , I recommend doing some Spanish mackerel fishing. I drive my boat down to that area in the winter to catch them. So if you feel confident driving a boat and want to fish I recommend going for mackerel. It's in the Florida bay so you don't have to worry about large waves even when it's windy. Just make sure you have everything you need and primarily your licenses.
Regarding licenses, you'll need it anyways if you plan on collecting. Here's a link for regulations of aquarium species.
http://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/r...arium-species/
The site is easy to navigate so you can find game fish regulations as well and purchase your recreational saltwater fishing/collecting license online. I do it often for guests when I take them out.


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Old 09/11/2015, 05:44 AM   #68
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If the weather is good you can easily kayak out to Little Bahia Honda Key from shore (maybe 1/4 mile).

From the boat ramp at the end of the SW end of the Seven Mile Bridge you can easily get to Little Money Key (Florida Bay side of the bridge and 1/4 mile)
Or to Money Key on the ocean side of the bridge and is much better snorkeling (1 mile from the boat ramp)

If you are really adventurous, Molasses Key is on the ocean side of the bridge (about 2 miles from the boat ramp). And I'm still working on getting my wife to let me take her there in an 11' Zodiac with a 20hp outboard!

Pigeon Key is 2 miles out from the NE end of the bridge, where the Railroad Museum is. We haven't been snorkeling there yet, but we walked out the old bridge and looked down from above and I can tell you I want to go. Again, my wife isn't a fan of small boats, open water or outboard motors!

Bahia Honda probably does as good a deal as anybody with their charter boat out to Looe Key and the big reef. It's a really big area and the bottom is row after row of long ridges (hills) so water depth varies from near zero in some spots at low tide to about 15'-20' in the valleys at high tide.

"We will be staying in a camper and there has already been talk about setting up a temporary aquarium on the kitchen table or in the bathtub (shh, don't tell my brother-in-law)."
We take a big cooler and set it up in our motel room with a 120 volt bubbler to keep live stock. And I do a 50% water change every morning and every evening. I even take a small heater because at 72 degrees the room temp air going through the bubbler cools the water down pretty quickly.

Are you camping at Bahia Honda or some place else?


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Old 09/11/2015, 11:17 AM   #69
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Thanks G Sanab, and Ron! I'm getting really excited, getting all these tips from the locals is awesome.

We will definitely be going after some mackerel while we are there.

We didn't realize how quickly the RV campsites get booked up for January and we ended up having to take what we could find. We will be spending the first 5 nights in Key West at Boyd's, and our last 3 nights in Grassy Key. So we will have to do some driving to get to some of these places, but that's okay by me. We where originally looking to be somewhere in the Sugarloaf area but that didn't work out. All the other times I've been down there we have stayed at the Gulfview Waterfront Resort, it's kinda funny that we tried to go somewhere different and ended up being literally right next door to where we have always gone.


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Old 09/12/2015, 06:05 AM   #70
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Well my wife and I don't get down to Key West very often at all. So anything you find in the way of entertainment, sites to see (the local aquarium) or interesting sites to snorkel will be very much appreciated. I think there are several worthwhile 'big' reef sites down that way and more than a few snorkel charters.

Grassy Key is just at the north end on Vayca Key (where the city of Marathon is located). So drives to spots we do will be a snap from there. Besides, every drive over the Seven Mile Bridge is worth the trip!


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Old 09/14/2015, 09:21 AM   #71
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So Ron, looks like I'm going to Bahia Honda lol. Will be there in two weeks just for one night. My friend is bringing his flats boat. Going to take my gopro so will upload the good stuff I find.


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Old 09/15/2015, 07:17 AM   #72
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So Ron, looks like I'm going to Bahia Honda lol. Will be there in two weeks just for one night. My friend is bringing his flats boat. Going to take my gopro so will upload the good stuff I find.
Cool. We're going the first week in November, exact dates to be determined.

Consider going out from the boat ramp at the end of the Seven Mile Bridge and over to Money Key (1 mile) just off the ocean side. We only played for 90 minutes and never got more than 100' away from the boat! We were mostly on the south southwest side of the island. Not much in gorgonians, buts lots of cool critters... especially under the rocks.

Have fun where ever and we look forward to your video or photos.


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Old 09/18/2015, 10:32 AM   #73
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If you are staying at Grassy Key and want to do a local snorkel, try looking up slack tide (time between high and low or low and high) and then going to the bridge on the east end of Grassy Key. If you park in the lot and cross the road (it can be a little busy, so make sure you wait and don't get hit...), there are some fairly deep (6-8ft) boulders that generally have some interesting fish and inverts. The current can really get ripping sometimes, so slack tide is the best for there, but its really close to where you are staying and no boat is required.

We have collected a few times there and you can find some neat stuff if you get up close and aren't afraid of sticking your head under rocks. FWC does like to visit there though, so make sure your licenses are in order and you keep within your limits. Never had a problem with them since we always ensure we are legal, just FYI.

Depending on where you will be taking the boat I can probably give you some suggestions for other areas to try snorkeling or collecting if you have a GPS. We spent quite a bit of time down in Big Pine last month, and got to do some exploring.


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Old 09/18/2015, 10:38 AM   #74
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Ron, before you guys head down there again, hit me up on swfmas. I have the coordinates to some nice patch reefs 3/4mi off of BPK you would like and are in easy reach of your zodiac. Kel and I kayaked from shore out to most of them. Also, if you guys want to dive we found a really nice dive site in about 30'-40' of water where the reef rises to about 15' pretty quickly. Makes for a nice wall and you can see some neat stuff out there, and it's only about a mile from shore. I don't like posting coordinates on an open forum, but if anyone else is interested PM me and I'm happy to share.


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Old 09/19/2015, 02:15 PM   #75
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Anyone see any reason not to purchase one of these to use when we are down there? http://www.hobiecat.com/mirage/mirage-tandem-island/

Very excited as we've decided to leave Monday instead of later in the week. Thanks everyone for your input it will make this trip even better than our first.

Ron thank you for sharing those pics of the Dry Tortugas that is now at the top of our list.


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