Sep 05

Florida April 2013

Time is flying. There was no update to this blog since our last trip to Canada. And that was almost exactly one year ago now. A lot has been happening and we traveled quite a bit. The furthest trip this year was to Florida – I will post about the other trips later, this one will focus on Florida.

Why Florida?

Well, why not? I mean, we were aiming for a trip in late April and wanted to be safe when it comes to good weather. Maybe the weather in Canada were it rained at least once every day of our trip was still too much in our mind. But although we have seen lots of the USA before, we have never been to Florida and decided now was the time to go. The weather for April was supposed to be good and it was – except to the day we left Florida when it decided to heavily rain so they even shut down the airport for a couple of hours. But that’s a different story. ;)

The trip

When planning the trip we thought about flying in and out of Miami. After talking to a travel agent though we decided to fly into Orlando and then fly out of Miami on the way back. In that way we could cover more ground with the rental car without having to take too many streets twice. The price was basically the same for both options, so we opted for a late arrival in Orlando.

After spending two days in Orlando where we basically did shopping and a little bit of relaxing – Orlando is otherwise probably mainly famous for its amusement parks, which we skipped – we went off to Cape Canaveral. One has to check out the Kennedy Space Center when in Florida, right? It was impressive to see how big those rockets are and yet how small the capsule the astronauts are actually sitting / laying in during their missions.

Our next stop on the trip was a hotel in Port St. Lucie which is located between the Space Center and Ft. Lauderdale (our next stop). The hotel was pretty nice and fairly cheap. It seemed like a business hotel that offered really good prices on weekends, check the hotels section for more details. After spending a good night in a hotel that offered a pretty nice breakfast as well, we were off to Ft. Lauderdale where we spent two nights. We did a lot of touristy stuff like getting sun burned and checked out a couple of beaches.

There was some rain in Ft. Lauderdale, too, which made it a lot easier for us to leave it behind us and head further south: The Florida Keys. It was a somewhat long drive with a couple of stops in between but the destination was Islamorada where we booked a small Motel as we thought going all the way down to Key West in one go was too far for one day. The keys are just awesome. Even just cruising through them in your car makes you relax and just enjoy the view. The motel we stayed at was OK and Islamorada was nice, though we decided to take the car to cruise around a little more and check out other islands. After one night we headed to the furthest south point in the USA: Key West.

We stayed there for two nights and had a great time. The hotel was awesome, Key West is plain and simple beautiful. Hanging out in a bar watching the sunset with a ton of other tourists, renting bikes to cruise to not so crowded beaches to get a second round of sun burns – and good food. What else could one ask for? We spent two nights there and then headed back north. We drove all the way back to Miami where we had booked a hotel a little outside of the main area to save a little money and decided to take this as our basis for the trip to the Everglades.

If you want to see alligators, the Everglades are the place to go. There is an alligator farm which is, well, touristy and packed with alligators. I wouldn’t think it is in the alligators’ best interests to live there but once they get used to it you do not want them back out in the wild. It’s kind of interesting, but I would not highly recommend it. The best part is the Everglades National Park. Spotting alligators in the wild is a whole different story than seeing some in a farm. There are some other really impressive animals there as well that I have not seen or known of before.

The Everglades were well worth the day trip. After one more night outside of the main Miami area we headed to our last hotel of the trip in South Beach! South Beach is full of people, young and old that just want to have fun. We were lucky enough to be there on a Saturday night (that luck was actually planned) to see other show off on Ocean Drive. Bar and club hopping and just watching people walk by can make for a fun Saturday night. We spent the last 3 nights of hour trips there and really enjoyed it. That was our trip in short. For more details see the following sections.

The Hotels

  • Orlando: Hilton Grand Vacation Club at Sea World – it was our first time in Orlando and there is not much to see/do besides shopping and amusement parks. As we are not big fans of the big parks, we spent most of our time their shopping and dining and just cruising around. A walk through Downtown Disney is interesting and seeing all the toys and movie themes brings back memories.
  • Port St. Lucie: Homewood Suites by Hilton Port St. Lucie – This hotel is highly recommended. Awesome rooms, pretty big, I think it was the cheapest hotel on our whole trip and it included an awesome breakfast. If you are in the area it is well worth checking out.
  • Ft. Lauderdale: Hyatt Regency Pier 66 – Not recommended. Old, dirty, only plus point: location.
  • Islamorada: Drop Anchor Resort and Marina Islamorada – Motel at the street to Key West, was clean, nice owners, kind of loud at night due to traffic. It was OK for one night.
  • Key West: Silver Palms Inn – Awesome Hotel in Key West, not directly located at a beach, but come on, it’s Key West, everything is in biking distance. Hotel offers bike rental. Pretty nice rooms, breakfast was OK.
  • Miami Doral: Hyatt Miami at The Blue Doral – Again Hyatt and again not that happy. Room was large, but not very clean.
  • South Beach: Nassau Hotel Miami Beach – Was a recommendation, location pretty good, around 5 minutes walk to the beach and bars. Not very clean and old. Could use a renovation.

Recommendations

During this trip we made excessive use of the Google Offline Maps where you can download a pretty big area to your phone on Wifi so you don’t need a data plan while on the road. OK OK, we could have rented a car with GPS, but we didn’t, so we used our phones to get around. Bonus point: you can use it while walking, too. As we have done previously we rented our car from Alamo and were again really happy with the car and how everything was handled.