One of the reasons that staying spontaneous on our road trip to the Keys worked out so well for us is that had we planned it, I don’t think we would have planned to travel as far south as we did. I had no idea that we’d enjoy driving the Overseas Highway so much, which led us fairly far down the Keys; had we planned ahead of time, I would have thought that going as far south as we did would be too much driving. Staying our first night in the Marathon area made a perfect hub for our second day to be spent on the beautiful overseas highway and at Bahia Honda State Park before turning around and heading back north. If you’re interested, you can read more about our first day here.
Saturday morning, we woke up and took advantage of the bikes our hotel provided before taking off. We grabbed some morning coffee for the bike ride which was magic (adding coffee to any activity tends to have this affect). After checking out, we grabbed lunch (I can’t remember where, but we followed a billboard to a waterfront location like we’d done the day before) and set off to Bahia Honda State Park, taking our time on the drive. I know I said that we didn’t do any planning for this trip ahead of time, but I am familiar with Bahia Honda State Park as I’ve visited once previously. When we realized we were making our way down the Keys faster than expected the day before, I secretly hoped we’d get close enough to check out this very special place.
Bahia Honda is located shortly after you cross the 7-mile bridge (if you’re traveling from north to south). This makes getting there a special experience in itself and really added to the excitement for me. There is a small fee to get into the park, and it is well worth every penny.
There is a lot to do in Bahia Honda if you love being on the water, but first and foremost is, of course, the beach! This is actually quite special for the Keys as there aren’t many good beaches due to the coral reef that surrounds the Keys. There are a couple of beaches in the park, but Caloosa Beach is the first place we headed, and my personal favorite, as it showcases spectacular views of the bridge. This is a pretty small area of beach, but it wasn’t crowded when we were there, so that wasn’t a problem.
The other beach area is just a short distance and is on the other side of the island (which makes it sound far away, but I promise, it’s not!) We walked along the beach here because it’s a much longer stretch. We struggled getting into the water on the day we were there because of huge rocks and waves (not the greatest combination!), but I think that was a fluke because when I talk to others, they seem to love getting in the water in this area. The temperature was very mild when we were there, so we didn’t mind staying out of the water here. We loved walking along the beach and staring at the variations of blue water in awe. Even on a cloudy day it was beautiful but if you can catch it on a sunny day, it will be absolutely mesmerizing.
As you may notice, there was some seaweed along the shore. How prevalent the seaweed is will vary, though it really wasn’t too bad, in my opinion. It is not cleaned up in the park as you may be accustomed to in other places. I know that if you’re trying to get the most Insta-worthy picture, this may make it more difficult, but they leave it because seaweed is good for the ecosystem so my nature-loving heart actually really appreciates it.
Bahia Honda is likely most famous for its old railroad bridge which tends to be the feature of the pictures you see from the park. The bridge used to be part of the Overseas Railway but was unfortunately destroyed in a hurricane in the 30’s (the cost of living in paradise!) The gap in the bridge is to allow boats to easily pass. You can now walk a portion of the bridge, which provides beautiful views. It is an easy uphill walk and the entrance is easily accessible from the parking lot and beach areas.
Something we’d really like to come back and do at Bahia Honda one day is to go camping. If camping is your thing, I recommend booking your reservations early as they fill up quickly. We learned this about camping in Florida when we booked a night to stay at Cayo Costa; I had to book it so far in advance that I had nearly forgotten about it by the time it popped up on my calendar. There is a reason it fills up quickly – camping here would be beautiful!
Some fun facts if you are planning your visit to this beautiful place:
Bring sunscreen. This probably goes without saying with any outdoor Florida activity, but it’s a good reminder. While I’m at it, please do a little bit of research to make sure you are buying reef safe sunscreen. It will be better for the reefs, and for you, too!
Hours. Bahia Honda State Park is open from 8 am to sundown. It wasn’t overly crowded when we were there, likely because we went in the offseason. While in season, it’s likely best to get there early if crowds bother you.
Alcohol is not allowed on the beach.
Parking is plentiful. This is always such a concern of mine. I hate showing up excited to explore and check out a new place only to have to drive around for 45 minutes trying to find parking. This alone makes the entry price worth it to me, and makes visiting such a breeze!
Activities. We did not participate in any of these very fun activities, but would love to come back and do so one day. Among the activities at Bahia Honda are kayaking, snorkeling, and fishing. Snorkeling can be booked through the park, or you can bring your own equipment and jump in yourself. If you are fishing, you will need your Florida fishing license. Finally, you can also bring your bike and take it around the length of Bahia Honda, which is around 3.5 miles.
Food. There are small grills within the park where you can grill your own food. We saw several people eating Subway sandwiches, and there is a small shop on the island, along with concessions. One of our favorite things about travel is trying out the local restaurants so we didn’t bring our own food this time.
After visiting Bahia Honda, we planned to visit the Turtle Hospital; however, when we entered to purchase tickets, it was clear that they were really busy so we decided to do this on a return trip. That was fine with us as we definitely plan to return as much as possible (perhaps forever).
After leaving Bahia Honda, we headed back up north to stay in Islamorada to make our drive back to the St. Petersburg area as quick as possible on Sunday. We stayed at the Pelican Cove, which was perfectly located right on the water. Each room here has its own balcony; it’s also a sister facility to the bigger resort, Postcard Inn right next door and you have access to both. This gives you a lot of activities, such as kayaking and stand up paddleboarding. We wanted to enjoy the balcony, so we opted for pizza delivery while we watched the sunset.
I’m so thankful for this trip. I didn’t know it was possible to love a place so much or to feel so connected somewhere. The Keys feel like home and my hope is that one day, they will be our official home.