Florida Keys Part 1: 1 day in Hobe Sound then Big Pine Key & Western Marathon Key, Apr. 7 – 21, 2023

We spent 22 days in the keys, in 2 different state parks and we took day trips to Key West. This post covers the drive into the keys, the first campground and the surrounding area. Part 2 will cover the day trips to Key West. Part 3 will be about Eastern Marathon Key.

Jonathon Dickenson State Park, Hobe Sound, FL

We traveled from Flagler Beach to Jonathan Dickenson State Park in Hobe Sound, near Jupiter, FL. It was a great 1-day stop, to break up the long drive. We have met many campers who regularly drive 8 – 15 hours in a day, to get somewhere quickly. We don’t like sitting too long and prefer to see as much along our route as we can. There are 2 campgrounds at JD and we stayed in the newly renovated Pine Grove loop. The gravel sites are really large and flat and include water, sewer and electricy.

Bahia Honda State Park, Big Pine Key, FL

The drive to Bahia Honda State Park was a very long one. We expected lighter traffic on a Saturday, but it was Easter weekend and we believe people were heading to the keys for Easter break. What should have been a little over 4 hours was actually almost 8 hours.  Our campsite was designated for a rig over 30 feet when we booked it, last year. It was changed to 24 foot maximum after Hurricane Ian. We realized that, while trying to book sites for next year. We weren’t notified that we couldn’t camp there, so we decided to show up and give it a try. We were able to fit by angling the RV, but it was tight.

We really loved our campsite with views of the sunset, fish and birds. We were able to launch our paddle boards from our campsite. Swimming was not allowed (except at the beach) ,but that didn’t stop anyone at the campground.  We explored the entire park by bike and on foot. We spent most afternoons away from the campground, seeing as much as possible in the area, including Key West. Mainly we were wanting to cool off, as afternoons were very hot and humid.  We also learned that happy hours were quite affordable, so we took advantage of being able to go out without throwing off our financial plan.

Jonathan Dickinson, Hobe Sound, FL
Live music and watching the boats at Blue Pointe Bar and Grill, near Jonathan Dickinson Stae Park.
Our campsite at Buttonwood Campground at Bahia Honda State Park. We were about a foot from the Gulf of Mexico. I’m pretty sure this rig has never been so closer to salt water and I’m certain this is the furthest south it has ever been.
View of Bahia Honda state Park – Calusa Beach with Buttonwood Campground beyond, from the old bridge.
The Bahia Honda Bridge, now part of Bahia Honda State Park, was originally built by Henry Flagler as part of the Florida East Coast Overseas Railroad and completed in 1912. After much of the railroad was destroyed in the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane, the bridge was converted to a highway. It was replaced by the current bridge in 1972.
Placard on the Old Bahia Honda Bridge. Chevy must have developed an early version of shock absorbers. This was obviously before warranties and car insurance.
Sunset Grille & Raw Bar, Marathon FL
Looking at photos of this place and at their website helped me to get through Oct – Dec, three cold, boring months (not going out at all or even seeing the sun) in Michigan. I was not disappointed at all. It was close to the park and a great way to escape the sweltering heat and humidity at our campsite. Always a nice breeze, plenty of shade, a pool  and a very affordable happy hour.
Sunset Grille & Raw Bar, Marathon FL
Hanging out with the bartender on her day off. Like many people we have met during our travels, she is a reverse snow bird. She and her husband live and work in Marathon, but head to New England for summer.
This manatee was checking me out at the marina, in the park. Bahia Honda State Park
Early morning walk on the Old Seven Mile Bridge. Like the Bahia Honda Bridge, it was originally part of the overseas railroad, built by by Henry Flagler as part of the Florida East Coast Overseas Railroad and later became a highway. When the new bridge was built, the old bridge was converted to a paved 2.2-mile walking and cycling path connecting Pigeon Key and Marathon Key. There is a plan for a 60-passenger tram to shuttle people across, sometime this year. The parking area is also used by people fishing nearby. Oddly, there are no restroom facilities.
Big Pine Key, FL
The Key deer, the smallest subspecies of white-tailed deer, is an endangered species. Night time speed limits in the area are lower than daytime, to help protect these animals.
Burdine’s Waterfront, Marathon, FL
We had a casual, delicious anniversary dinner at this upper level restaurant. They are famous for their burgers so Dave had one and I had a shrimp burger. It was fun watching all of the boat traffic below.
View looking east over the marina from Burdine”s Waterfront Bar and Grill
Cabins at Bahia Honda State Park
Loggerhead beach, the main day-use area, located on the south (Atlantic) side of Bahia Honda State Park. The Sargassum seaweed conditions grew progressively worse while we were there. They finally closed the beach due to bacteria levels. The smell was horrifying. Luckily we were in the Buttonwood campground on the gulf side of the park. Calusa Beach, on the gulf side remained open and seaweed-free.
No Name Pub on No Name Key. This place was built in 1931, before the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane, which detroyed Islamorada and parts of the Florida East Coast Railway. It was originally a general store that sold bait and tackle. No Name Key was the location of the ferry heading north from the lower keys. I am guessing Hemingway drank here.
Inside No Name Pub.  It is estimated that there are 500,000 dollar bills affixed to the ceiling and walls. (There does not appear to be a fire protection sprinkler system.)
View of our campsite from the bridge
Bahia Honda State Park
View out our back window at Bahia Honda State Park
The nightly sunset gathering under the bridge. The camp hosts brought about 20 conch shells (with sanitizer) so the campers could participate in the “blowing of the conch” ceremony at sunset.
Kiki’s Sandbar Bar and Grille, Little Torch Key, FL
Kiki’s Sandbar Bar and Grille, Little Torch Key, FL
Sand sculpture at Bahia Honda State Park
Slushie, enjoying a beautiful sunset