Our assembly day is in Fort Lauderdale, FL , where we will meet, fit the bikes, and enjoy on orientation Lunch. In the afternoon, we ride the van to Everglades National Park to ride the 15-mile Shark Valley Scenic Loop as a warm up. The route goes to the Shark Valley Observation Tower where sweeping views of the Everglades are possible. We then continue by van to Homestead for the night.
Day 2 we can ride right from the hotel to join the East Coast Greenway bike route. We will cross the Card Sound Bridge to enter Key Largo on a little used road. There are several diversions along the way for possible visits, including Alabama Jacks for Conch Chowder, the Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park, or even John Pennenkamp State Park with kayaking or snorkeling options. Our overnight in Key Largo is on one of the many water canals that make the area a boaters paradise.
Day 3 takes us on the famed Overseas Highway. The 113 mile route carries US Highway 1 to the southernmost end of the continental US and Mile Marker 0. This thin strand of highway connects the Florida Keys which has more than 1700 islands and more than 46 bridges connecting them. A paved bike path parallels the highway for much of the distance. About 20 miles out of Key Largo, beautiful views of both the Atlantic and Gulf open up, and at times there are only a few hundred yards separating these two bodies of water. There are multiple bridge crossings and multiple attractions along the way. This is an exotic journey through a spectacular land that includes the largest area of coral reef in the mainland U.S. and it is home to crocodile, deer, manatee, and the occasional panther. There is even a turtle hospital in Marathon that is open to visitors. The bike route is a mix of paved bike paths, shoulders and back roads. Our overnight destination tonight is Marathon.
On Day 4 our ride continues on the Overseas Heritage trail following the Overseas Highway. Today we ride the famous 7 Mile Bridge, so don’t forget to wave to Fred the Tree at the far end of the bridge. Additionally, we ride past Bahia Honda State Park with a beautiful natural beach, and a stop on Big Pine Key which is home to the Key Deer Refuge, as we make our way to the 0 Mile Marker and our overnight in Key West.
It’s a free day in Key West on Day 5. Some of the world famous attractions include: all things Hemingway; Truman White House; Mallory Square for the sunset tradition; all the zany happenings on Duval Street and of course untold eating opportunities. Is it touristy, but there is elegance and history to be found in its Old Town and the diverse cultures and lifestyles so celebrated on the Island make it a wonderful, joyous place. The natural beauty, beaches, gardens, and stunning ocean views all combine to make this a magical experience. At 6 in the evening, we catch a ferry ride to Fort Myers where we will spend the night.
Day 6 affords a startling, dramatic and unbelievable change of pace as we ride early in the morning to the untouched barrier islands of Sanibel and Captiva. Accessible by a 3 mile causeway from Fort Myers, Sanibel Island has been determined to maintain a pristine natural environment. Over half the Island is protected against development and no building can be higher than a palm tree. More than 35 miles of bike paths and walking paths connect the world famous beaches, renowned for their seashells. This island is home to the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge, which is a major shelter for migratory birds. Connected to Sanibel by a small bridge is Captiva Island, home to the Calusa Tribe, and possible playground to pirates in another time. The Island is steeped in history and intrigue. It is possible to ride to the end of the Island and explore miles of scenic drives before ending in “downtown ” Captiva. These islands are tropical wonders that evoke feelings of isolation and remoteness found in very few places in the US.
We return to Fort Meyers on Day 7, riding the paths and roads back across Captiva and Sanibel Islands, finding new beaches and attractions – and probably ice cream – to round out our unique Florida Keys cycling Tour.