We’ve only been in the Florida Keys for a little over a week, but considering all that we’ve done (and the amount of bug bites covering our bodies) it feels like much longer. Tim took a few days off around the New Year holiday last week and we packed in a bunch of activities while we had the extra time. The fun started with a Key West New Year’s Eve annual tradition…the Wiener Dog Parade.
According to the local paper there were over 200 dogs in attendance. Not just wiener dogs either. We saw Basset Hounds, Terriers, large labs, and shaggy collies. There was even an entire section of Chihuahuas, including this one who made sure his affiliation with the featured breed was known.
The best part was the various costumes. Popular themes included hot dogs, super heroes, and ballerinas.
Of course, no Wiener Dog Parade is complete without a Weiner Dog Mobile…playing dog themed songs of course.
We choose to skip the mayham of New Year’s Eve in Key West and instead had a quiet evening at home with a few fireworks at midnight provided by the neighbors. The next day we gathered for a family style afternoon of bocce.
Later in the week we attended the regular Saturday night Bocce event. Since I am still planning on writing an entire post on the long standing Bocce tradition, for now you get just one photo.
The weather has been consistently warm and humid. Perfect for a few beach visits. First we went to Boca Chica beach, which is a free, natural, public beach. By natural I mean there is no one out there raking the seaweed, and no one enforcing any sort of rules. So what we found was a long skinny strip of sand and rocky shoreline covered with a hefty dose of seaweed. Rumor has it that quite a few sunbathers chose to embrace the o’natural way of life at Boca Chica, but we didn’t see any (we also didn’t look for them). We did see lots of dogs playing in the surf, and some cool driftwood art. A few brave soles ventured out into the water, but the thick seaweed was just too much for us.
We did find a place to go swimming though at an abandoned quarry on the tiny uninhabited Spanish Harbor Key just east of Big Pine. This area, commonly referred to as the Horseshoe, was one of the many pits dug for fill during construction of the Overseas Railroad between 1905 and 1912. Along the edge, through the clear shallow water you can see a shelf of coral which extends about ten feet until is drops off to a deep blue hole approximately 35′ feet deep. The depth makes it a a popular spot for diving and fishing. We did neither, choosing instead to float around in the warm, turquiose water. There is no sandy beach here, but if you want to bring chairs and a cooler there’s a nice stretch of rocky ledge for lounging.
Finally, we spent a little time on the beach in Key West. There was no swimming as we had only gone down for the day to ride our bikes around the island and forgot to bring our suits. Instead we hung out in the shade of a palm tree, watching the crowds and eating Italian Ice.
In my opinion the best beach in the Keys is Bahia Honda State Park. I have been there many times and have fond memories of walking along the shore searching for lucky sea beans. Tim has never been (he’s a Keys virgin), but we decided to let the holiday crowds thin out a bit before. Maybe next weekend.
Here’s a few more pictures from our bike ride around Key West.
I have lots more to share from sunsets to nature walks and some Keys inspired recipes, but since we’re going to be here awhile, I’ll save that for another time.
Bug Update: Since I mentioned the bugs last time I thought it only fitting to give an update. While it might seem like we’ve found paradise, the bug situation is pretty grim. I’ve been down here a good number of times, and I’ve never, ever experienced this kind of no-see-um infestation. All the locals are telling us that it’s worse than usual, but while they view it as merely a nuisance, we are suffering with large welts that look like chicken poxs all over our bodies. I guess our northern skin is especially tasty to the tiny, nasty bugs because we are both covered with bites. I counted 76 bites on just one leg yesterday. Tim probably has the same (no pictures – it’s just too gross).
We’ve tried everything to prevent and heal the bites. The natural repelllant is like candy to these critters, so we’re going with the strongest Deet we can find. It works okay if you reapply every few hours. We even wear it to bed becuase these tiny bugs can go right through the screens. As someone who hates bug spray, you can imagine my distress at having to be covered with it 24/7. We’ve tried lotions, and sprays, and tea tree oil to stop the itch. These remedies help some, but I still wake up a few times every night and have to reapply because my feet and legs itch so bad. We even resorted to taking an oral antihistamine in the evening. I’m not convinced that it’s working. The worst part is that unlike mosquitos bites, the no-see-ums bites can last up to 2 weeks!
So while the scenery is gorgeous, the weather is perfect, and there is an endless supply of places to go and things to see, I must admit that I’m missing the bug-free southwest. Thankfully a cold snap (which down here means temps in the 70s) is coming through tonight, and hopefully the humidity will drop and the wind will rise, chasing some of the bugs away. In the meantime, we’ll be applying the bug spray and trying not to scratch.
I just said to my husband today “I don’t think I can read the Watsons blog while they’re in the Keys, it’s making me too jealous.”. I obviously didn’t stop reading but your Bug Update just reminded me why I love camping in the Southwest so much. There is definitely something to be said for an area with little to no bugs. I hope it gets better for you guys! We also prefer natural methods and have found that taking a Vitamin B supplement helps with mosquitos. Don’t know if that will help your cause but it might be worth trying.
The lack of bugs, the superior sunsets, and the free public lands are all reasons why I love camping in the southwest. Although, I have to say I am enjoying the warm water and tropical feel around here. I might have to try vitamin B. Thanks!
We too were reading your posting and getting jealous looking at clear turquoise water, sandy beaches, hammocks, and warm weather… Then the visual of having 76 BITES on one leg and YUK! Thanks for no pics on that!
Still the Keys seem fascinating and we look forward to reading more about this place.
Just trying to keep it real. Even paradise has its downsides :)
Funny about the bugs..we are back in Key
West at our spot in Leos..maybe we can meet up sometime.
Tim has a pretty bad cold right now, and we’re headed to Long Key State park for a week starting Sunday. Let’s try to get together when we are back here after the 18th.
Sounds good..keep in touch. We have a big deck on the water and are trying to procure a table and chairs..perhaps we can have you fir dinner or a weekend lunch. Or Hogfish grille is around the corner…
Amanda, I had a friend that had a boat located at the Savannah yacht club. They had some stuff that was made by a local that worked pretty well on the no see ums. Call them and ask for the marina and I think they could give you the number to order. It was like essential oil based rub. We had them in the mountains and I would actually get a yard based insecticide and spray my screens to keep them from getting inside.
Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll have to look into that. The county sprays for mosquitos down here, I wish they did the same for no-see-ums.
We experienced the same thing in Florida and Georgia over the holidays, but with ticks. They were everywhere! I was pulling up to 10 at a time off the dogs and sometimes off of us everytime we went out! Ick. We decided we’d rather it be rainy and chilly than sunny with bugs!
Ugh! Ticks are soooo gross! I have to admit I am enjoying the chilly weather that blew in last night because it means the bugs are gone (at least for a few days).
SO jealous that you got to see the wiener parade :) We love Key West, and the bugs really shouldn’t be that bad this time of year. We spent February into March in Key West our first year, and bugs weren’t bad at all. So sorry, I hope the “cooler” weather helps. Time doesn’t look too unhappy though.
The Wiener parade was quite a sight to see. All the locals are telling us that the bugs are way worse than usual. It’s also been warmer and more humid than normal so that’s probably why. As you can see by Tim in his hammock, it’s not all bad though :)
Bummer about the no-see-ums. I hope there’s a good cold snap that will knock them back for you. And I hope there’s a major cold snap next December, because I just made reservations at Curry Hammock for a couple of weeks! Great tip about the rock quarry — don’t know if you’ve checked out Sombrero Beach, but it’s beautiful. Also, knowing how much you appreciate good food, have you tried the Square Grouper on Cudjoe Key? It was so good that we went three times in three weeks. And if you like Key Lime pie, Sweet Savannah’s in Marathon is the best, bar none. I’m kinda jealous that you’re in the Keys, even with the bugs. :-)
The cold came in last night and the bugs are gone – for a few days at least. How exciting about Curry Hammock! We just got a week at Long Key SP starting Sunday and can’t wait to enjoy our waterfront site. Will have to check out Sombrero Beach, and the Square Grouper is on the list. You’re probably the 10th person to recommend it so I guess it’s a can’t miss. I do like Key Lime pie, so much that I made my own last weekend :)
You ARE going to share your recipe, aren’t you? :-)
Yes! It’s coming soon.
We are here now and December of 2016 and the noseeums are really bad still. My legs are all welted up
Just left Key West where we stayed at Big Pine Parmer’s Resort – great place with friendly staff. The only complaint I have was after sitting outside to watch a sunrise one morning, I later realized I had been bitten all over from what appeared were little gnats. Today it looks like mosquito bites all over and the itching has been intense – seems like it’s spreading and getting worse whereas typical mosquito bites don’t last this long. What the heck were those bugs?
They’re called no-see-ums and they tend to appear around sunrise and sunset. Terrible little critters!
Thanks Amanda but I’ve had no-see-ums before and these appear different. Actually, they now seem to be spreading long after first contact and the bites which look like mosquito bites are not going away in the typical fashion as other bites. I’m wondering if when I itch and then touch another area on my body, they spread. Never experienced this type of reaction before – very weird. Hopefully, it will improve soon :( Happy New Year!!