2013 Florida Keys


Trip Dates:
Nov 09, 2013 -- Nov 19, 2013
Cost:
$1,599.00
Location:
Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Booking Status:
Closed

You can smile wide as you ride knowing that your friends and neighbors back north are starting to shiver and crank up the heat, while you're enjoying 381 miles of sunny cycling in the Sunshine State.

This loop ride takes in Florida's largest city, longest bridges, and wildest swamplands, showcasing the best of South Florida along a pair of Adventure Cycling routes. To begin, we'll follow the southernmost section of the Atlantic Coast Route, going from the Fort Lauderdale vicinity to Key West (with a side trip in a van to Everglades National Park). Then, after catching an evening ferry around the tip of Florida to Fort Myers, we'll follow the Florida Connector back across the state via LaBelle and South Bay, nestled at the southern end of massive Lake Okeechobee.


Start Date: Nov 09, 2013 End Date: Nov 19, 2013
Start Location: Ft. Lauderdale, FL End Location: Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Total Days: 11 Riding Days: 8
Rest Days: 3 Miles: 381
Average Daily Mileage: 47.6 Surface: Paved
Riders: 14 Airport: Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood Intl.
Tour Leader: Julie White, Barb Wade Meals: Shared cooking
Accommodations: Camping/Indoor Type: Self Contained
Physical Difficulty: Intermediate Level of Support: Self Contained
Cost: $1,599.00

Day 1

Hollywood (Fort Lauderdale area). We’ll gather at the bright and lively Hollywood Beach Suites and Hostel, located just steps from the Hollywood Beach and Boardwalk, named one of America’s “top-ten nostalgic promenades” by USA Today. It’s beachside biking and people-watching at their very best. Back at the hostel we’ll start getting acquainted with one another, and enjoy our first in a long string of group meals together. Just a few miles away is Fort Lauderdale and it’s elaborate system of canals, which earned it the nickname, “the Venice of America.” If you prefer gawking at yachts over people watching, this is the place for you: An estimated 42,000 yachts harbor in the city’s more than 100 marinas and boatyards.

Day 2

Hollywood to Florida City, 70 miles. The northern portions of today’s ride generally follow Highway A1A, which, though the car traffic can be substantial, maintains low speed limits and has marked bike lanes that make it a more pleasant and manageable cycling experience. South of Bal Harbour, aka “Florida’s Paradise,” the route becomes less trafficked as it follows side roads, sidewalks, and shaded bike paths through neighborhoods of stately homes. We’ll visit the famously bohemian Coconut Grove neighborhood, a walking village with palm-tree-lined sidewalks leading to one of the East Coast’s most alluring sailing bays. Our destination for the night is Florida City, gateway to the Keys.

Day 3

Layover day. Today as a special treat, we’ll hop aboard a shuttle van for a trip to the eastern reaches of Everglades National Park. Before heading out, though, we might want to get our park bearings at the Ernest Coe Visitor Center, located just outside Florida City in Homestead. In the park proper, we’ll find a series of walking trails; the Pa-hay-okee Overlook Trail features an observation tower that’s a great place to spot the abundant hawks and other native birds. The area encompassing Everglades National Park — now the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States and a designated International Biosphere Reserve — was inhabited largely by the Calusa Indians prior to the arrival of the Spanish in 1513. Thought to have first emerged around 1000 B.C., the Calusa were a highly organized society and left behind many tools made of shells and wood, architectural shell works, and evidence of canoe trails.

Day 4

Florida City to Key Largo, 34 miles. After today’s introduction to cycling in the Keys, we’ll overnight at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, where the units essentially surround the eastern side of Key Largo. Scuba tours and glass-bottom boat tours are options at the park, and the visitor center features a 30,000-gallon saltwater aquarium teeming with all sorts of unusual critters, and a theater that regularly shows nature videos.

Day 5

Key Largo to Marathon, 53 miles. Today the Overseas Highway leads us through Islamorada, Indian Key, Long Key State Park, and, finally Marathon. We’ll ride across several of the relatively new, bike-friendly bridges that link the Keys, and which dramatically improved the cycling conditions here. Other available highlights of the day include the Theater Of The Sea in Islamorada, where you can swim with dolphins, sea lions, and rays. Options on Long Key include canoeing through a chain of lagoons or hiking the Golden Orb Trail, which leads through a mosaic of five natural communities. Our destination, Marathon, occupies several of the central Keys. It was named by Florida East Coast Railroad workers who toiled at an unrelenting pace to complete the railroad — a real marathon of a job.

Day 6

Marathon to Big Pine Key, 18 miles. Today is almost a layover day; we won’t need to leave Marathon early to cross the New Sevenmile Bridge to Bahia Honda State Park on Big Pine Key. The 500-acre park features one of the fluffiest sand beaches into which you’ll ever dig your toes, and some of the best snorkeling and beachcombing in Florida. Sea kayaks are also available for rent, and make a great way to explore the quiet waters off the key.

Day 7

Big Pine Key to Key West, 31 miles. Key West, a haven for fun seekers, abides by the philosophy of “live and let live,” and has been likened to a more laid-back version of New Orleans. Orginally known as Cayo Hueso, spanish for “bone key," it’s said the island was so named because early European visitors found it to be littered with human bones.

Day 8

Layover day, Key West. There’s so much to see and do in Key West that just one layover day can’t do it justice. Still, you can give it your best shot. There’s the Key West Aquarium (built by the WPA in 1932–34), Mel Fisher’s Treasures (exhibits from shipwrecks discovered by the famous treasure hunter), the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, the Harry S Truman Little White House, the Key West Lighthouse, the Half Shell Raw Bar — you get the picture. Before nightfall, however, we’ll board a ferry to Fort Myers.

Day 9

Ft. Myers to LaBelle, 55 miles. Though we’ve only boated around the tip of Florida, today’s riding may make you think we were whisked to a new world. Our inland crossing of South Florida is completely different from the coastal riding we’ve been doing up to this point. Before starting that inland riding, if time permits we might visit the winter home of Thomas A. Edison on the Caloosahatchee River. Edison’s beautiful Seminole Lodge and riverfront estate served as the great inventor’s winter retreat from 1886 until his death in 1931. His friend, Henry Ford, purchased neighboring property, and Ford and Edison whiled away a lot of winter hours together here in the tropical climes of southwest Florida.

Day 10

LaBelle to South Bay, 60 miles. LaBelle is, and always has been, a workingman’s town of drovers, fruit growers, and trappers (and sometimes those of more illicit means, like drug-runners). Our destination for the day, South Bay, is the westernmost municipality in the South Florida metro area. It sits at the southern end of immense Lake Okeechobee, the largest freshwater lake in Florida and the seventh largest in the continental U.S. Big as it is, its average depth is a mere nine feet.

Day 11

South Bay to Ft. Lauderdale, 60 miles. Today it’s back to the beach and civilization! You may find this hard to believe as most of the route to South Bay is deserted and void of services. But before you know it, the cycling will once again be urban in nature. Then, just like that, we’ll complete our big loop — sun-drenched, cycling-satisfied, and ready to take on winter … well, at least two of the above.

 


"I enjoyed the trip. I can’t say enough positive things about Jack and Amy, our tour leaders. They made it a great experience."

2013 Tour Participant

"The daily rides were a lot of fun through great scenery. The tour leaders were great, very professional and always on top of things."

2013 Tour Participant

"The Everglades tour was an exciting off the bike experience and the opportunity to go snorkeling on the coral reefs was great. There was plenty of exploring to do on the shorter mileage days."

2013 Tour Participant