This trip to Florida was essentially un-planned, so we had no reservations other than one we made in Key West a year ago. We had made the reservation because we could cancel it without penalty, so why not? Now, although Key West isn’t actually our favorite destination on the planet, it’s not so bad in February so to-Key-West-we-will-go.
The Keys were hit hard by Hurricane Irma last fall and we were curious about how they had fared. While we knew Key West was spared the worst of Irma, the middle Keys were reportedly hammered. Evidence was apparent even in Key Largo, where we passed empty lots that had become depositories for boats and trailers and other debris that had been damaged or destroyed. Along Overseas Highway we passed lot after lot that had been razed and bulldozed. In some cases, debris was piled high on the lots, or even dumped along the roadside, yet to be trucked away.
As we proceeded west down Route 1, damage increased and work crews were evident everywhere, on public works projects, commercial developments and private homes. A lot had already been done, but clearly it will take some time for full recovery.
Sombrero Beach, a neighborhood on Marathon, was badly damaged. The lovely little beach was in use, but there were huge sandpiles everywhere and brand new housing was obvious.
The worst area we saw was around Big Pine Key, just west of Seven Mile Bridge. Whole blocks of homes appeared to have been bulldozed, and others were obviously struggling to recover. Gutted and destroyed mobile homes and boats were lying along the side of the main highway, apparently dumped there by the storm or pushed off the road and left by work crews. Roofs up and down the key were weather-proofed by sturdy bright blue tarps, still waiting repair.
Our campground, Boyds on Stock Island, looked great, but they had obviously lost a large number of the lovely tall palms which had provided shade. The staff talked about the enormous amount of work to remove tons of debris. Some Key West resorts appeared to be recently renovated, but most were open. The main harbor on the north side of the island was in good shape, although one or two piers had sustained significant damage and were being re-built. There was a large amount of debris still piled on the breakwater, including large chunks broken-up boats, coolers, and furniture. Sunset Pier was open for business, but most of the pier was damaged and closed off. Duval Street was business-as-usual, with no sign of the hurricane at all.
While in Key West, we enjoyed a number of our favorite restaurants and watering holes, especially Roostica, near our campground on Stock Island. We walked around Duval Street, neighborhoods, and Schooner Wharf, enjoying the scenes, but limited ourselves because the dogs can only take so much of the heat.
We also did some scouting for our trip next year, which we plan to make by boat! We made a reservation for a slip at The Galleon Marina, right under the breakwater, where we will be in the heart of Key West but slightly removed from the nighttime craziness. There were two American Tugs there when we visited. A big adventure to look forward to!