How'dja like to spend the holiday away across the sea?
How'dja like to spend Christmas on Christmas Island?
How'dja like to hang a stocking on a great big coconut tree?”
-Jimmy Buffet “Christmas Island”
Key West was nice, but I was ready to get back to reality: unwritten Christmas cards, piparkūku dough in the fridge waiting to be baked, lights to be hung… As antsy as I was to get off Christmas Island we were lucky we stopped at the bakery a few doors down from our rental. Somehow we had missed out on breakfast there during the days we had been on Key West, as we mostly headed the opposite way to brunch spots like Banana Cafe (good food, great service, a bit pricey) and Southernmost Beach Cafe (meh food and service, great view). But since moving back from France I have not put a more perfect croissant or pain au chocolat in my mouth as the ones from Frenchie’s Café – they were divine. No sooner had I taken my first bite did I wish I had purchased three times as much! The boys demolished their croissants dashing my hopes of eating their leftovers, and Roberts didn’t offer to share – if it weren’t for the miles of road we had to cover that morning I would have ordered the car turned around…
Although we made a few stops before reaching our first major stop (one to photograph the giant crustacean above), we had only one planned stop left in the Keys, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. This first-ever undersea park in the US encompasses approximately 70 nautical square miles and offers visitors tours of coral reefs, mangrove swamps and tropical hammocks.
We explored the Visitor Center, checking out the 30,000-gallon saltwater aquarium showing off fish that we would not be seeing in the wild, as we didn’t have the time to take a glass-bottom boat tour or go snorkeling. They also had a large lionfish, the venomous fish that calls the Indo-Pacific waters home but in the last twenty years has been invading Caribbean and US coastal waters.
We took our lunch out to the veranda behind concessions, which had a nice view of the ocean and a little playground for the boys. It also came complete with some unusual pests hoping for a snack! You can schedule your glass-bottom boat, scuba or snorkeling trip, rent a canoe, kayak or snorkel, or just browse the gift shop in concessions.
Another rocky beach, this one strewn with jellyfish, but the boys had their fun nonetheless. We didn’t venture far offshore and therefore didn’t experience the coral reefs the park is famous for, but it just wasn’t meant to be. Snorkeling will just have to wait until the boys are a bit older. If we had gone out we might have seen sponges, shrimp, crab, turtles, lobsters and hundreds of species of fish that call the reef their home. These coral reefs occur only in shallow oceans having warm, clear water, and due to runoff, pollution, global warming and tourist-traffic, these reefs that took over 5,000 years to form are in danger of disappearing forever.
Once back in the car we headed straight for Miami Beach, where the last adventure of this south-Floridian vacation awaited us.
“Welcome to Miami (bienvenido a Miami)” – Will Smith
|The "Christ of the Deep" underwater sculpture is located within the park. Source here|