The Keys to Paradise

It’s a new year. The winter holidays are fading away, Christmas trees are appearing on the sidewalks, and the neighborhood lights are slowly disappearing. Winter is here to stay, at least until Punxsutawney Phil says otherwise. But one need not remain in the clutches of the cold. There is a place where the sun is always shining, where the salty ocean air never dissipates. Where art thrives and the food is rich. The sunniest of snowbird escapes. This is, of course, the paradise of the Florida Lower Keys.

First things first: which of the Keys are the Lower Keys? The Lower Keys lie just east of Key West, stretching about 35 miles on the U.S Highway 1 from Stock Island on the Cow Key (mile marker 5) up to the Bahia Honda Key (mile marker 40). In between and all around, you’ll find wildlife refuges, family-owned resorts, RV parks, and campgrounds, rich history, and tons of delicious restaurants.

The location of the Lower Keys relative to the whole archipelago. Source: FLA-Keys.com

Next question—and really the key question—what can you expect as an RVer in this sublimely sunny spot? What are the highlights? Let’s dive in. Stock Island (the western-most point of these Lower Keys) is the hub of the commercial shrimping industry of the Keys region. Known for its “rustic authenticity,” Stock Island is peppered with colorful marinas, art studios, and waterfront eats. At the docks, visitors can see shrimpers offloading masses of the famous Key West pink shrimp. Stock Island is home to world-class charter fishing captains and makes for an eventful afternoon for those serious anglers out there.

Become one of the many visitors to fall in love with the vivid atmosphere of the island, starting at Boyd’s Campground. The campground sits just outside of Key West, complete with waterfront sites for RVs and tents, as well as a heated pool and boat ramp. They also have tiny home rentals with a three-night minimum. Get in touch with Boyd’s here.

Left: A famous sign on Stock Island. Right: The colorful boats of the Stock Island marina. Source: ILoveStockIsland.org

In the Lower Keys, the water excursions are just as spectacular as the land activities. The Keys are a wildlife sanctuary, brimming with sea turtles, fish, heron, alligators, and coral reefs. If you’re a scuba diver or avid snorkeler, your trip would be incomplete without venturing out to Looe Key. This Key is all underwater—5.3 sq. nautical miles of coral structure rich with marine life including tropical fish, eagle rays, and even the occasional whale shark. Looe Key is also the location of the sunken 210-foot Adolphus Busch Sr. The ship sits perfectly upright and intact in about 100 feet of water, and it is now home to lots of marine life, including a 350-lb “Goliath Grouper.” Each year, Looe Key also hosts an underwater music festival to promote the preservation of the Key’s coral reefs. Scuba divers gather with customized and sea-themed instruments (guitars, conch shells, the works!) and get to jamming! The 2022 event was in July, so if you want to be in town for this event, check up on the Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce Events page for the most up-to-date info.

If you’re looking for a simpler escape, the Bahia Honda Key at the east end of the Lower Keys might be your thing. The Bahia Honda beaches are literally award-winning: white, sandy shores, crystal-clear waves, and abundant wildlife. The island is a top destination for diving, fishing, biking or walking on nature trails, picnicking, and stargazing. And just three minutes to the northeast on U.S Highway 1 (across the famous and beautiful Bahia Honda bridge) is the Sunshine Key RV Park. Located on the Ohio Key, the park has nearly 400 sites, full amenities, and offers on-site kayak, paddle board and bike rentals. It’s so close the Bahia Honda Key and both islands are so small that you can leisurely stroll from Sunshine Key RV Park all the way across Bahia Honda Key in about an hour. If you’re imagining yourself there already, check here for site availability.

Left: One of Bahia Honda Key's famous white sand beaches. Right: Sunshine Key RV Park on Ohio Key, three minutes from Bahia Honda.

Luckily, there’re dozens of places to park your home in paradise. A few other spots to check out include the Big Pine Key Resort, famous for waterfront RV sites and campsites, and the Bluewater Key RV Park, a luxury RV park with waterfront sites, personal dockage for small crafts and kayaks, and private chiki huts.

Below are a few images of various RV campsites around the Lower Keys with those promising waterfront views:

No matter where in the Lower Keys you choose as your home base, you’ll have miles and miles of gorgeous coastline to explore, pounds of fresh shrimp to consume, and endless sunshine to bask in. Learn more.

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