HELLO! Here you are reading my first blog ever, WELCOME and thanks for following along!
So I just wrapped up another beautiful extra long weekend (Thurs-Mon) in the Florida Keys and I have the tan lines to prove it. (Side tangent: these tan lines that are a little more red than tan are exactly why I don’t trust spray on type sunscreens - let’s just say Ive been burnt by them before. But seriously, I can never get a good even application, and even with multiple applications I end up with random patches of fried skin that didn’t get covered, ugh!) Aside from the extra rosy glow, it was another wonderful trip combining the perfect amount of work and play, I brought my sweet momma along with me for a special mother’s day getaway and some great memories were made. I’ve done four trips to Key West over the past year, and each time I have the total pleasure of painting live at the Anna Sweet Gallery and Studios and discovering all there is to love about this magical chain off the coast of Florida.
So that leads me to my current top ten things to see and do while in Key West and two special stops along the drive!
10. Key West Pottery. This gorgeous little gallery was founded by husband and wife team, artists Adam Russell and Kelly Lever. It is contemporary chic and delightfully colorful, filled with their incredible designs of functional pottery and fine art. “Joyful and cool - the Key West aesthetic.”
9. Fort Taylor. A state park and national historic landmark, I arrived right after the park opened at 8am and enjoyed a quiet morning walking along the beach and the surrounding natural area and then took in a self-guided tour of the fort. Since there is a small entrance fee as it is a state park this beach tends to be less crowded for those really wanting to soak up the rays or enjoy a swim, there are even drop-in yoga classes held on the beach.
8. Coast Guard Cutter Ingham. I didn’t have time to tour the ship’s maritime museum but I did enjoy a stunning view of the sunset from the deck. The sunset admission was 5 dollars per person (any admission fees you pay go to the upkeep and restoration of the vessel) and my mom and I both thought it was perfectly serene. They had lovely music playing softly in the background and you could enjoy a glass of wine or beer and sit in comfort and watch the sun drift down. Crowd-free. Bonus: If you’re visiting the area with young children, there is a beautiful park with a water splash pad playground feature right by the Ingham.
7. The Cafe. I’ve had a meal here at least once every trip, I love this restaurant! They have a vegetarian and health conscious menu of delicious options. I particularly love the roasted beet and carrot salad or the curry “chicken” salad. Fresh amazingness.
6. Keys Coffee Company. Right next door to The Cafe is the Keys Coffee Co. with locally roasted coffees for a perk up. They have baked goods and breakfast sandwiches, my personal go to is the avocado toast with fried eggs over medium. So freakin tasty.
5. La Grignote. I only found out about this little gem during this trip and I will definitely be visiting again next time. A divine little French cafe and bistro, open air and covered patio seating (with plenty of fans circulating so its enjoyable even on a hot day), delicious lattes and the best Belgian waffle I’ve ever had complete with fresh fruits and homemade whipped cream. But my favorite part is the restaurant’s mascot, the lovable little pug/frenchie mix Leia, who moseys around from table to table enjoying whatever petting comes her way. The staff and owners, and of course Leia, are all very friendly, great atmosphere and great food.
4. The Butterfly Garden. Beautiful spot that is totally worth a visit! Gorgeous butterflies, exotic birds, and my favorite, flamingos! You can find coupons for admission in the free visitor guide pamphlets. Even if it is busy as soon as you step through the doors of the garden the tranquility of the place (and the layout of the garden path) makes it feel like you have the flutterbys nearly all to yourself.
3. Big Pine Key Deer Refuge. This is a wonderful stopping point for those making the drive to Key West. We chose to stop in the late afternoon on the return trip this time, and it was so fun! I’m a big animal lover so stopping at the Key Deer visitor center and learning all about this marvelous tiny species was great, but then driving out (very slowly) into the surrounding refuge area and spotting a good number of these little sweeties was delightful. Some of the deer are more timid, most however are clearly very used to being near humans, I enjoyed taking some pictures of them, and also key deer selfies - couldn’t resist! Tip: If you don’t have a ton of time to stop and hike or search around just drive through the surrounding neighborhoods by the refuge and you’re bound to spot a few foraging around in the grassy areas by the side of the road.
2. The Cafe at Morada Bay. Another stopping point along the drive, perfect for lunch, dinner, or even just drinks. The setting is a breezy waterfront with lots of gorgeous palm trees, chill island music playing, and outdoor seating on the sand. If you plan your drive this spot is the perfect way to soak in one last sunset. I HIGHLY recommend the ceviche and watermelon martini, but everything we ordered was delicious and in larger portions than we expected.
1. Anna Sweet Gallery and Studios. A must stop (whether I’m in town painting in the window or not!) I definitely recommend you visit my favorite gallery and studio in Key West. Anna Sweet’s own work offers an otherworldly experience and both spaces she has curated into slices of ocean inspired paradise that are a completely unique and a refreshing dive into the Key West art scene. The pieces I create on sight for her gallery are absolutely imbued with that magic island energy as it flows through each stroke of my palette knife, and with multiple other incredible talents within the two locations you may just find the perfect art piece to take home that will forever remind you of your time in Key West! (Gallery located at 513 Duval st. & Studio located at 417 Southard st.)
So that’s my top ten! Let me know if you have already visited any of these spots and what you think of them, or what some of your own favorite places in Key West or the Florida Keys are so I can plan for next time!