Winter in Florida – Sunny Weather and Great Beaches

Ft. Lauderdale BeachWant to get away from all the cold and snow? Visit any of these great Florida beaches and go home with a tan and make all your friends jealous!

Destin – Located in the panhandle of Florida, the weather here can be chillier than down south but the beaches are just as gorgeous. Of course, chilly to me, being a Floridian, is when it gets below 60 degrees. Visit Gator Beach or Henderson Beach State Park, play a round of golf at Kelly Plantation or Emerald Bay Golf Courses or fish to your heart’s content.

Clearwater Beach and Pier 60

 

First stop south along the gulf, is Clearwater Beach. A large expanse of soft white sand, a pier with a nightly craft fair and interesting beachside eateries. Fun for the whole family.

 

Captiva Island beachFurther south along the gulf is Sanibel Island – a quiet stretch of beach with few distractions. Shelling is great and it is a must to visit Ding Darling National Refuge on next door Captiva Island.

 

 

The gulf coast has some of the most beautiful white sand beaches in the US and the Naples/Marco Island area is no exception. This area is a little more upscale but the beaches are beautiful and there are plenty of golf courses and restaurants to please everyone’s tastes. Nearby Ft. Myers Beach is a little more reasonable and laid back and better for family getaways.

Head over to the east coast for some Atlantic wave action and lovely Ft. Lauderdale (main pic above) – I love Beach Place, which offers a wide expanse of beach, plenty of nearby restaurants and a water taxi to take you to Las Olas Blvd. If it is a cloudy day, you can even take in the Museum of Science and Discovery complete with IMAX theater.

Miami Beach Art Deco areaA little further south is Miami Beach. We are having great weather lately, one of the warmest winters I can remember, with temps in the low 80s. Perfect for strolling along the beach or along Ocean Avenue. This is more of a single/couples area rather than families with plenty of upscale shopping on Lincoln Road and too many to mention gourmet restaurants, bars and night clubs.

Key West Sunset SailLast stop, and I do mean last stop, is Key West. Closer to Cuba than to mainland Florida, you will find beaches (although not as large or white as the west coast of Florida), great fishing, boating and snorkeling, plenty of nightlife, restaurants from steak houses to shacks, and always friendly and fascinating people. There is never a dull moment in Margaritaville.

So what are you waiting for, head on down to sunny Florida and give yourself that extra Vitamin D and much needed R&R!

 

Share
Posted in Clearwater Beach, Florida, Florida Keys, Key West, travel & leisure | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

There is Music in the Air in Key Largo

Key Largo SongfestCan’t wait to head on down to Key Largo this Columbus Day weekend to enjoy some snorkeling, sun and plenty of good music. For the 2nd year, Key Largo will be hosting professional songwriters that have written songs for the likes of Blake Shelton and wife Miranda Lambert, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Hank Williams, Jr., Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith, Jewel and Sugarland.

Bayside GrilleThe performers will play from 7PM-10PM, Friday through Sunday, at three different venues, Bayside Grille, The Pilot House (one of my favorites) and Key Largo Fisheries Backyard Cafe. And the good news, is there will be a shuttle to cart you from one venue to the next so you can enjoy as much of the entertainment as possible.

Pilot HouseI am planning on getting down there early enough Friday to hear the bands at The Pilot House and have a few of those cool and refreshing Keys margaritas while I chill out from the hectic work week. And since we are down in the Keys we just have to get some diving/snorkeling in on Saturday morning and then off to our favorite sports bar, Sharkeys, for our Gator football game. That leaves Saturday night for catching up on the other two venues. I am so excited! And the weather is going to be perfect!

So come on down and join me for a weekend of fun, sun and music!

If you like this post you might also like:

Eating Your Way Through the Keys – Lunch & Dinner in Key Largo

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

Share
Posted in Festivals & Fairs, Florida Keys, Key Largo, travel & leisure | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rev Up Your Engines for the Key West Poker Run

2013 Key West Poker Run posterCalling all motorcycle enthusiasts! Mount up and get ready for the 41st Annual Key West Poker Run. Its too late to sign up online but you can still sign up at either of the Peterson Harley Davidson stores in Miami.

Starting Friday, September 20th, join more than 10,000 motorcyclists (actually trucks and cars can participate as well) from around the world and travel down one of the most scenic highways in the nation, Overseas Highway. With the blue sky overhead, the sun at your back, soft tropical breezes, and the clear blue waters all around you won’t even know you are in a race. There are 5 stops on the way down where you can purchase your poker hands to win the grand prize – a brand new Harley Davidson Sportster 883 Iron or $6000 good ole hard cash. Buy as many hands as you want as all the money goes to charity.

At the end of the road in Key West, the party is in full swing with 8 blocks roped off for live bands, food, cold beer and a wild street party.

Friday join the Hog Roast Welcome Party at Schooner Wharf from 5PM-midnight just to get you revved up and in the spirit (or spirits as the case may be).

Key West Poker RunSaturday morning check out Rick/Durty Harry’s for a fantastic bike show from 9AM-3PM with trophies given in each class, and of course you can’t miss the Duval Street Party running all day and night from 7AM to 2AM. Later in the day is the 19th annual blessing of the bikes at 1PM on the south end of White Street, a Paradise Tattoo Contest at 2PM at Schooner Wharf, Biker Bash Pool Party from 1-4Pm at Southernmost Hotel and the main event, with the grand prize give-away, at The Rose Tattoo/Cowboy Bills Saloon at 11PM.

Southernmost Beach CafeSunday just chill and join everyone at the Southernmost Beach Café, oceanside at the Atlantic Ocean end of Duval, for a Biker Bloody Mary Brunch from 10AM-2PM. Then meander on back to the mainland.

Check out more information on the event schedule, prizes and charities here.

Other related posts you might be interested in:

Florida Keys’ Best Bars

Off The Beaten Track Restaurants in Key West

A Few Great Key West Restaurants

Share
Posted in travel & leisure | Leave a comment

Lionfish Hunting Season

LionfishLast year I wrote a post about how the lionfish were invading the waters of the Florida Keys and destroying regional fish in the area. Check it out!

We all need to do our part in combating this menace, and if you are not a diver that can take part in the hunt, do your part and order them for dinner – they are really quite tasty!

Lionfish Derby

Now, it is that time of year again to gather up your friends, head to Pennekamp in Key Largo, and search and destroy these predators. On September 14th, teams of up to 4 divers can participate in the Lionfish Derby with over $10K in prizes being awarded including for the most catches as well as the largest and smallest. With your registration fee of $120 you receive one pair puncture-proof gloves and 4 drink tickets to celebrate afterwards. See the website for more details and go get ’em!

Share
Posted in Florida Keys, Key Largo, travel & leisure | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Key West + Brewfest = Party!

2013 BrewFestLove Key West? Love your brew? Head there this Labor Day weekend for the 4th Annual Brewfest.

More than 150 beers and ales, including unique microbrews, are to be on tap at Key West BrewFest, happening August 29th-September 2nd. Events will include beer dinners, brunches, happy hours, pool parties, educational seminars (really?) and signature tasting events.

Moron Brothers Brewery

The beer selection is pretty impressive and will include such intriguingly named offerings as Monk in the Trunk, Magic Hat, Moron Brothers Brewery, Swamp Ape and Holy Mackerel  as well as other specialty brews and local favorites such as Key West Sunset Ale.

Smokin Tuna Saloon

Smokin Tuna Saloon

Thursday starts off with a Kick-off party being held at Smokin Tuna Saloon with samples of Tuna’s own craft and specialty beers as well as food and cigar specials. Afterwards head on out to 2 Cents for a Funky Buddha Beer Dinner or try out the Florida Beer Company’s Brewery dinner at Casa Marina. Can’t miss your football? Visit Island Dogs Bar and sample some New England Beers while watching the Patriots vs Giants on TV.

The Porch Key West

The Porch

On Friday, events really start rolling early with a Beer Breakfast (wow, that’s a new one) at Camilles (hosted every morning through the weekend) followed by a Kona  Party at Lazy Dog with music and paddleboarding (that should be interesting after a few brews), a pool party at Southernmost Hotel and a Key West Local Brew party at The Porch. When you get hungry for dinner, try specials at Southernmost Beach Café and Finnegans Wake and then party late into the night at Willy T’s, Krawl Off Duval and World of Beer.

The party doesn’t end yet! On Saturday, The Restaurant Store is holding a beer seminar, there is a Tailgate Party at JDL’s Big Ten Pub and the signature tasting event held on South Beach.

Southernmost Beach Cafe

Southernmost Beach Cafe

Sunday, get up late and enjoy brunch at 2 Cents, Southernmost Beach Café or Turtle Kraals, a pool party at Sheraton Suites and a 5-course Premier Beer Dinner at Southernmost Beach Café.

Before you leave on Monday soak up a little more sun and, if you have time, catch your last flight at World of Beer.

beer flight

 

 

Click here for ticket information and here for event times.

Please remember to drink responsibly.

Share
Posted in Festivals & Fairs, Florida Keys, Key West, travel & leisure | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Anything That Floats Your Boat – Key Largo

anything floats boatRemember when you were little and you envisioned building a boat and sailing off to discover new islands (like a pirate island)? Well, now you can do it as an adult and build it out of just about anything you can think of then head down to Key Largo on August 17th  for the Anything that Floats Regatta Race. 

Held on Blackwater Sound at MM104 Bayside, you will race your little boat, sans motor, around a buoyed course and the fastest time wins – that is if you cross the finish line before you sink! Crowds will be cheering you on and local bands will fill the air with music. It’s a party!

Anything_Floats_parrot webBoats can be made out of cardboard, PVC, milk jugs, saran wrap, duct tape, outdoor furniture, old bikes, wood and even pool noodles. Use a t-shirt for a sail, pedal your way or pick up some oars and away you go!

There will be plenty of prizes awarded for fastest, best decorated, 2-person, 4-person or most participants, Best Keys Spirit, slowest boat and best hard luck story.

So make your way to the Keys for this most unusual event, kick off your shoes and grab a margarita and have the time of your life. Want to know where to stay, where to eat? Here are a few suggestions.

Key Largo area hotels – Holiday Inn, Marriott Key Largo, Courtyard Key Largo, Dove Creek Lodge, Hilton Key Largo Resort, Kona Kai Resort

Islamorada area hotels – Postcard Inn, Casa Morada, Moorings and Ocean House Resort.

Great places to eat and some of my favorites in Key Largo area are Pilot House, outside on the deck, Snappers, Sundowners, The Fish House, Taster’s Grill and for breakfast either Mrs. Macs Kitchen or The Key Largo Conch House

Islamorada favorites – Chef Michaels, Hungry Tarpon, Kaiyo Grill & Sushi, Marker 88,Ma’s Fish Camp or Morada Bay Beach Cafe.

Share
Posted in Florida Keys, Key Largo, travel & leisure | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dream Vacation in an Over-The-Water Bungalow

Deluxe Overwater Bungalows

Hilton Bora Bora

Just last month Islands magazine did a fantastic spread on over-the-water bungalows. I couldn’t help but drool as staying in one of these magical bungalows, viewing the water beneath my feet and be able to dive off my porch into the crystals waters when I wake up in the morning, has always been my dream vacation. Here are my favorites and they are certainly solidifying my resolve to get there one day in the near future.

Through my research, I have learned that most of the over-the-water bungalows are located in Tahiti. I also learned why you need to break the bank to stay in one. The main reason for their priciness is the cost of building them and, later, maintaining them. First, you need to find an area with a flat seabed, surrounded by reefs, and with little chance of cyclones or other damaging weather. Second, the environment has to be protected at all cost with studies of the structure’s impact on the local marine life. Lastly, the cost of maintenance is huge, needing new interiors every year as well as painting and varnishing the complete deck and building on an annual basis. It really makes you appreciate these mini-oasis’ more than ever.

1. Hilton Bora Bora Nui Resort – Top on my list is this beautiful resort on Bora Bora that picks you up from the airport in a boat and delivers you right to your bungalow! Oh so cool! They have spacious suites, 3 glass panels in the floor for viewing tropical fish, and come equipped with a Jacuzzi and a day bed – whew! Not only do you have access to a gorgeous beach but fantastic views of Mount Otemanu over the crystal blue waters. This resort also has the only two-story bungalows and to top that off was voted #3 on the over-the-water bungalow list by Huffington Post.

Four Seasons Bora Bora

2. Four Seasons Resort, Bora Bora – This resort caters to those that want the most luxurious bungalows, some even come equipped with your own private infinity-edged pool. The views are gorgeous with the opportunity to see sunrises over the Pacific Ocean and sunsets over the lagoon. And you can’t miss the spectacular Mt Otemanu rising up in the distance. And if you ever wanted breakfast delivered to you in a canoe along with a bouquet of the freshest flowers, then this is your place. Voted #1 by TripAdvisor & won overall best view from Huffington Post.

Le Tahaa Resort

Le Taha’a Resort

3. Le Taha’a Resort on Taha’a – I like to really get away from it all sometimes and this resort will do just that. To get to Taha’a, called the “Vanilla Island”, board a helicopter from Bora Bora and travel 2 miles north of Raiatea to one of three bungalows available for rent. Once you get there, you will find a life of tranquility, an area full of the sweet scent of flowers, and be able to observe the more traditional way of life of native Tahitians.  Your bamboo-built bungalow, over a lagoon teeming with fish, features comfortable hammocks, wrap-around porches and a varnished wood tub that you wouldn’t believe.

Hilton Moorea4. The Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa is also a dream. Moorea is a 7-minute flight from Tahiti and, once there, you will find your bungalow is perched above a wide, shallow lagoon that surrounds the island. The location on the north side of Moorea puts you in the perfect position for seeing views of the beautiful sunrises and sunsets. All the bedrooms feature a glass floor panel, rain showers and an “only in your dreams” golden claw-foot tub. This one is a little more reasonable than most at $790 a night, that is, if you can call that reasonable.

There you have it. One day I will be writing about my vacation in one of these beautiful bungalows but until that day I can dream!

See more on Tahiti bungalows at http://www.islands.com/gallery/best-overwater-bungalows-bora-bora-tahiti

Share
Posted in Islands, travel & leisure | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Celebrate the Lobster – Key West Lobsterfest

Lobsterfest logoHead to Key West August 8th – 11th and celebrate the Florida lobster with other “bug” enthusiasts. Whether you like to catch them, eat them or both, this is the party for you.

lobsters

This year’s mini-lobster season was one of the best ever! We had calm seas, great visibility and plenty of lobsters for all! Now kick off the regular season, which starts on August 6th, down in lively Key West for 4 days of lobster, lobster and more lobster at Lobsterfest 2013!

Sunset Pier Key West

Sunset Tiki Bar

Every year Key West hosts the annual Lobsterfest which begins Thursday night, August 8th, with an old fashioned lobster boil where you can dine on a stew of lobster, shrimp, andouille sausage, sweet corn and potatoes – oh that sounds so awesome! Follow that up with Friday night’s famous Duval Crawl beginning right after sunset where you will receive an official T-shirt plus drink specials from such great places as the Sunset Tiki Bar, Smokin’ Tuna Saloon, Durty Harry’s and others.

At noon on Saturday, head out to Duval Street once more for the “bug” infested 18th Annual Street Fair with arts & crafts, lobster fare and plenty of non-stop entertainment that doesn’t end until 11PM!

Lobster Tail dinnerIf you are still craving lobster, stick around for a fantabulous Sunday Brunch before heading out of town. The Grand Key Resort is hosting the event starting at noon and running until 4PM. Enjoy complimentary mimosas and delicious lobster dishes including lobster tails, lobster ravioli, lobster bisque, lobster paella, lobster mashed potatoes and much, much more.

Lobster lovers unite and join us at the southernmost point in the US for a super “buggy” weekend!

If you can’t make it down, try a few of these great lobster recipes compliments of 2013 Lobsterfest.

Share
Posted in Festivals & Fairs, Florida Keys, Food, Key West, travel & leisure | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mind Your Manners When Traveling Internationally

I love traveling to different places and experiencing the native cuisines and their local traditions. When going native, you learn a lot about a country’s culture and a very different set of table manners than here in the United States. Here are my Top 10 favorite International Table Manners that will help you  avoid making a faux pas when visiting foreign destinations.

1) Hong Kong/China – If you are eating fish, do not turn the fish over when finished eating one side as that is considered rude and bad luck for the fisherman. It means his boat will tip over. Yikes!

Asian food

2) Japan – place your chopsticks together in front of you or rest them on your plate, parallel to the edge of the table, or on a chopstick rest never across or in your rice bowl!

3) Thailand – if your meal is served with a fork, use it only to push the food onto your spoon, then eat with your spoon.

tacos4) Mexico – never eat tacos with a fork as the Mexicans will think you are snobby. Eat with your hands! And do not begin eating until your host says Buen provecho!

5) Chile – is very formal when it comes to dining so remember to eat all meals, including finger foods, with a knife and fork.

capuccino6) Italy – order cappuccino before noon only or be known forever after as a tourist. Want a coffee later – order an espresso.

7) Europe – hold the fork in your left hand and knife in your right and keep them in your hands at all times throughout the meal. And whatever you do, don’t place your elbows on the table.

8) France  – Do not eat your bread before the meal but as an accompaniment to your meal or with the cheese course. And, believe it or not, it is fine in France to place your bread right on the table.

Vodka neat

9) Italy – Do not ask for Parmesan cheese with any Italian dish where it is not served with the meal. They consider it an afront to the chef and a way to ruin the flavors of the dish.

10) Russia – don’t say no to Vodka in Russia as it is offered as a sign of trust and friendship. Oh and don’t ask for ice or mix it with anything as they always drink it neat.

Buen provecho!

Share
Posted in travel & leisure, Travel Tips | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Top 5 Caribbean Islands for 2013

Culebra Puerto Rico

Culebra, Puerto Rico

I just received my Travel & Leisure magazine with the Top 5 Caribbean, Bermuda and Bahama Islands of 2013. Look at the list below and let me know if you agree.

1. Culebra, Puerto Rico

2. Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands

3. Anguilla – I have to agree with this one being on the list. An absolutely beautiful island!

4. Harbour Island, Bahamas

5. St. John, US Virgin Islands

I think they missed two! St. Martin (French side) and St. Lucia. Look at these photos and tell me they aren’t spectacular!

Baie Longue Entrance, St. Martin

Baie Longue Entrance, St. Martin

St Lucia

St Lucia

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share
Posted in Caribbean, travel & leisure | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment