Location: Curry Hammock State Park, Little Crawl Key
Dates: 8/30/2014 – 9/5/2014
A late summer camping trip to the Florida keys had us questioning our sanity. Really, who chooses to camp in Florida during the hottest time of the year. We should be heading north to the mountains where it is cooler, instead of heading south where the heat and bugs could be a problem and make things uncomfortable. But getting a reservation for a Florida State park in the Florida keys during the cooler time of the year can be next to impossible. People actually plan and schedule their Keys camping trips a year in advance and scoop up all the sites as soon as they become available. So, we decided to take the chance and grabbed at spot at Curry Hammock State Park, making our reservations about 9 months ago.
Also, Curry Hammock doesn’t get the notoriety of the more well known parks such as John Pennekamp and Bahia Honda which have been around for a lot longer. The key that Curry Hammock is on, Little Crawl Key, was slated to be developed and parts had already been cleared for building. Luckily the state of Florida was able to purchase the land back in the early 1990’s and the campground was not built until much later, opening in November 2004. Curry Hammock Campground is also a lot smaller than the other campgrounds in the Keys, with only 28 sites. The history of this campground with some interesting pictures can be found at this link.
Our site was # 17 which was a good sized back in site. Most of the sites are good size, but none of them were huge. But they did a good job of planting trees and shrubs between the sites, so the privacy was great and we didn’t see any of our neighboring campers.
Our site was ocean front and we were probably only 30 feet from the beach. This allowed us to get a constant nice breeze off of the ocean, helping to keep us cool and keeping any bugs at bay. The only time we noticed any bug problem was early in the morning or late at night when the breeze died down. Then we had a few no-see-ums, but not many. We were kind of surprised at the lack of bugs in the middle of the summer in Florida.
All of the sites had a layer of small limestone pebbles, which did a great job of draining any rain we had and keeping the sites from becoming muddy. We had rain about every night during our stay, but never had any water problems.
The campground consists of one paved loop with all sites being angled back in for easy access.
There is a beach in front of the campground and also a separate beach area with parking for day use. Kayak rentals are available.
We brought our kayaks with us and several times did the kayak trail that starts from the boat ramp at the park and circles the key. A section of the trails leads through the mangroves. Below is a picture of Julie bumping her way through all the mangrove roots and hoping to find some open water.
Our GPS track of this paddle trip can be found at this link.
And a short you-tube video can be found here.
We think our site (#17) was one of the best in the campground. The only problem is there was a small sand dune between us and the beach. So, sitting and watching the water was difficult. In true red-neck fashion we either put our chairs up on the picnic table or the back of our truck to allow us to see the water. We got a few odd stares from passing campers, but they were probably just jealous of our quick thinking.
Curry Hammock also has a nature walk across US-1 on the Gulf of Mexico side. We did the walk one evening and was able to view a nice sunset.
The GPS track of this trail can be found here.
Earlier in the week the moon wasn’t too bright, so the star gazing was good, even getting to see a few shooting stars. Here’s a few (not so good !) pictures of the stars over the campground and the milky way over the palm trees.
We didn’t have much rain during the day, but one passing storm produced a nice colorful rainbow.
While investigating some kayaking possibilities several weeks before the trip, I found some write-ups about Indian Key State Park. This is an island about 1/2 mile off shore from US-1 and is an easy kayak paddle to get there and hike around the old village that used to be located there back in the early to mid 1800’s. So, one day trip we took was to drive up towards Islamorada and launch our kayaks from the shallow areas next to the road. We paddled out to the state park, did some walking around and some snorkeling in the shallows.
The far side of the island where we did some snorkeling. It wasn’t the best for snorkeling, but we saw a few fish, sponges, etc.
The GPS track of this paddle can be found at this link.
And the GPS track our our hike around the state park can be found here.
The beach area at our campground is nice, but they don’t rake the seaweed and there’s only a few sandy areas for swimming. Plus during the weekends (at least when we were there) it was kite boarding heaven, with a large number speeding back and forth near the beach. They were supposed to stay at least 100 yds off shore, but many didn’t follow this rule.
But, Julie and I discovered a great place to swim and hang out. There were several large sand bars about 1/3 mile offshore, one being just east of the campground and another larger one off shore from Crawl Key which was the next keys east of us. Both of these sandbars were an easy kayak paddle from the campground.
We made many trips out to the sandbar, packing our cooler with some “beverages” and would enjoy happy-hour while floating in the clear, warm water.
Julie also did a lot of snorkeling around the sandbar area. There were some creatures to be found, like the star fish and sea urchin pictured below. She also said she saw “Dory” from the movie Finding Nemo. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get any pictures of Dory!
We also brought our bikes along on this trip, so on Tuesday we decided to bike the National Wildlife area of Big Torch Key. This key, as well as many of the surrounding keys, are well know for their population of Key Deer.
We were lucky to spot several of these deer on our bike ride, getting a few pictures and a short video of them.
The GPS track of our bike ride through the Wildlife Area of Torch Key can be found at this link.
We did this bike ride in the late morning and it got pretty darn warm near the end of the ride. So, on a suggestion from someone we spoke to earlier in the day, we located the “No Name Pub” on No Name Key for lunch and a picture of beer to quench our thirst. This place is very quirky and has actually been featured on Diners, Drive-in and Dives on the Food Channel.
The entire interior of the restaurant and bar area are completely covered with dollar bills. The walls have so many layers of bills that it is like a thick spongy blanket. Each bill is signed by whomever left it there and there are some very comical ones to read as you are sitting there waiting for your food.
Here is Julie reading a few or maybe pocketing a few bills….I’m not sure which!!
We had a good time eating lunch here and our waitress was very nice. She had just returned from a trip to Alaska, so we spent a lot of time talking about our trip to Alaska last year. She even came over and sat with us for awhile and brought her photo album from her trip for us to view. Sometimes you meet some of the nicest people in some of the oddest places!!
Yes, we had to add to the dollar bill collection at the No Name Pub. They bring a collection of markers and a staple gun and let you have at it. We decorated a bill with all of our names (kids, dogs, etc) and Julie stapled it to the ceiling. Julie’s pink glow in the picture below is from the neon beer sign on the wall near our table. Yep a true classy place!!
We did take note of where se stapled the bill so we can try to locate it if we ever get back this way,
On the way back to our campground we decided to stop at Bahia Honda State Park. We wanted to see if this was a place we would want to camp in the future.
We did a little swimming at their beach, walked the nature trail and up onto the old Keys Highway and also biked all the roads in the park.
The Florida Keys also has many sections of the old railroad bridges and roadway still standing and now used as walking or biking paths. One morning we decided to drink our morning coffee while walking a section of the old historic bridge near Pigeon Key. The walk started off nice and sunny, but clouds built as we walked. Shortly we saw some rain moving in and we decided to turn around before he made it to Pigeon Key. But the rain caught up to us before we made it back to the truck and we got drenched. At least it wasn’t cold and we didn’t melt.
Here is our GPS track of our walk on the old bridge towards Pigeon Key.
That afternoon we made another happy hour run out to the sandbar to watch the sun set.
Our last adventure before we headed home was to ride a section of the Overseas Heritage Bike Trail. This 22 mile ride took us from our campsite at Curry Hammock back up US-1 to Long Key State Park. Most of the way is paved bike trails, many on the old bridge sections or wide shoulders on the sides of the road. Only a few times did we feel like we were going to get smushed by speeding traffic. Most of the way was a pleasant ride with nice views of the Atlantic or the Gulf.
Well, there you have the “short” post about our camping trip to the keys. We found that camping in the keys during the summer months is doable and actually enjoyable. We were rarely dying from the heat and insect/bugs were mostly non-existent. It’s been about 30 years since Julie and I have been to the keys and we may actually plan some other trips down that way before the next 30 years pass!