Saturday, December 22, 2012

Key West

 On our four-night cruise from Miami we had two port stops: Key West and Cozumel. I had previously visited Key West and hadn't found that much that excited me. Knowing the kids would be happiest to dig in the sand, I decided that the best place for us to go would be Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. The cruise ship docked at the Navy pier, and from there we could catch free shuttles to downtown. Our helpful shuttle driver let us off right by the entrance to the state park.

 The state park included the remnants of a fort that was built on a key, but over time fill materials had annexed it to the mainland. The fort was originally three-stories tall, but the upper two stories had been removed, leaving it not quite as imposing. Nevertheless, the large structure still had a lot of bricks.

 And a lot of cannons. This was an important defensive position during the 1800s.

 Desert Boy thoroughly inspected one cannon.

 Our cruise ship wasn't far away, but because we had to go through the almost-retired Navy restricted area, we had to go a roundabout way to tour the fort.

It was hot and muggy, and what we really wanted to see was the beach, so we didn't stay long.

 We saw a couple huge iguanas on the fort as we continued on our short walk to the beach.

 The beach has both sand and some rocky areas. The first rocky area I snorkeled by I didn't see any fish. Fortunately another rocky area did have some fish.

 Desert Boy couldn't wait to go clamber on the rocks. I followed, wincing as my sore feet came in contact with the sharp rocks. It turned out that the rocks were quite interesting.

 They had tons of fossils! Way cool!

 The water was a nice respite from the heat. I wasn't used to being able to go swimming and not come out cold.

 We watched another cruise ship heading to the pier. We were the only one there that morning, so the beach wasn't very busy.

 On the way back, we crossed the road by the state park entrance and went to the Florida Keys Eco-discovery Center, a facility sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The shuttle driver had told us it was free--and air-conditioned. Sounded good to me. (It's hard to believe that I'm writing about air conditioning when it's barely above freezing outside my house right now!) I didn't know anything about this center, as my Internet searches about what to do in Key West hadn't turned up information about it.

 The center has a number of displays about different habitats, such as the mangrove coastlines and the coral reef. The kids loved looking at the fish.

 They also had a mock up Aquarius, the only under-ocean laboratory. Desert Boy was thrilled to go in and press buttons.

 We met up with other family members, who had taken the shuttle to Mallory Square, walked along Duval Street, went to the southernmost point in the U.S., and then met us at the state park. It was a very pleasant day, and if anyone is wondering what to do in Key West that is good for kids and not expensive, I would definitely recommend these sites. I have to admit the parasailing looked like a lot of fun--but that will have to wait for another trip!

I think living in the desert makes me appreciate the abundance of water in Florida even more. The ecosystems there are so different and amazing.

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