“If it’s your first time driving to The Keys, ya gotta go along Card Sound Road!”
That was the recommendation we received from a totally unexpected source, and one that I’d like to pass along myself. It’s worth a little side trip if you are ever to drive to and through the Florida Keys.
Heading south on US1. Turn left here.to take the Card Sound Road route.
Roughly a week before we were to depart from a month long stay in Fort Lauderdale and continue southward, we were visiting Flamingo Gardens, a wildlife sanctuary and botanical gardens, just west of town. During a brief talk with one of the staff feeding the rescued birds, the discussion turned to the pungent smell. Not that it was an offensive smell, just very heavy. It brought to mind what a tropical rain forest might smell like and that’s when the talk turned to our upcoming trip to The Keys.
Before I get any further with this story, I want to make sure I don’t turn you off with any thoughts of a ‘smelly’ or ‘pungent’ Florida Keys experience, so don’t worry. Apart from one or two spots in the Lower Keys where we came upon some dead seaweed stuck along a stagnant shoreline, this chain of islands (or ‘Keys’) has no more smelly sea shore than probably anywhere else in the world. And that’s all part of the charm of being on the edge of an ocean.
Road Less Traveled
When driving south to The Keys, one will head down the Florida Turnpike to it’s southern terminus at Florida City. At this point, it merges with US1, which then continues right down to ‘Mile Zero’ at Key West.
When I was planing our own drive there, I had us following that same route, as it it is the most direct. Fortunately, this little side track only adds about 15-20 minutes to the trip, so it’s not going to hold anybody up. Plus, it’s more in keeping with our laid back, easy going style of traveling. After all, we are grandparents now, so we gotta start acting the part ;-)
Southbound on Card Sound Road.
After turning off of US1, we continued southward on what could be described as a secondary road. It’s well maintained and we are able to cruise along at about 45-50 MPH, but clearly not designed for the heavy traffic one would find on US1 when heading into Key Largo. A more ‘out of the way’ vibe is how I would describe the feel of the road.
One Dollar Sir
Roughly a third of the way along, there was an unexpected toll booth – again, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. The toll was a whole one dollar and took about as long to get through as it did for the attendant to mumble ‘uh-huh’ when I said thanks and have a great day. I’m guessing the thrill of being in The Keys wasn’t as strong for him as it was for me. Or maybe it was the imminent threat of crocodiles crossing the road at this point that was keeping him on edge ;-)
Toll booth, complete with a ‘Crocodile Crossing’ sign. Fingers and toes inside the car at all times, kids.
How About a Drink First?
For those who couldn’t possibly carry on any farther – or had better intentions for the $1.00 toll, there is a bar right beside the toll booth. Alabama Jack’s was busy the day we drove by, with vehicles of all sorts parked on both sides of the road. There was even a couple of boats tied up to their docks.
According to their web site, they are only open daily from 11:00 am to 6:30 in the evening. Being located on the edge of a swamp, the mosquitoes apparently make the prospect of hanging around past sunset not much of an option. Maybe it’s the short hours that cause locals as well as passersby to want to get in before lights out. . .
Alabama Jack’s restaurant and bar.
As tempting as it might have been, we decided to carry right on through past the bar. Just a little south came into sight the reason for the toll; a long causeway stretching over Card Sound proper. I’d say that it was one dollar well spent as the view was pretty nice. We would learn shortly afterward that this was only the first of dozens of ever increasingly awe inspiring views of the blue-green waters of the Florida Keys.
Driving on the causeway over Card Sound and our first of many ‘overhead’ view of the Florida Keys.
Now that we are seasoned pros at this, I’d like to pass along the very same recommendation we received ourselves; If it’s your first time driving to The Keys, ya gotta go along Card Sound Road :-)