Florida Keys - Harlan Doherty

Florida Keys

The Florida Keys are a must see kind of a destination. I’ve been putting the keys off for a few years now since I didn’t want to do the 4 hour drive from Miami, but I’m glad to have finally made it happen because i’v never seen anything like it. You definitely want to give yourself extra time because there is a ton of things to see on the way. There is lots to see and do on the drive down and you can easily break up the trip with stops at state parks and local breweries. We flew into Fort Lauderdale on an early morning flight, grabbed a rental car, and then headed south to the keys. We stopped at John Pennecamp state park in key largo and the Florida Keys brewery in Islamorada. Both were good finds. One had great snorkeling and the other had delicious local beers. The most remarkable part of the drive down was the color of the water. It was a bright aqua green and it was amazing. The local seafood was really good too.


We set Key West as our home base for the trip, since Key West had everything you could want with local beaches, quaint restaurants with lots of happy hours, beautiful sunsets, and a hopping harbor area. There were also lots of water activities like jet ski rentals and fishing trips, but we stayed on land this trip. The good beaches in Key West are Smathers beach and Higgs beach, although both are man made. We checked out some fun tourist spots including Hemmingway’s house, The southern most point, and mile marker zero. There was actually a lot to do in Key West on foot like walk around on Duval street, which is like a toned down Bourbon street. The thing we learned quickly was that there are a ton of people in Key West and so we made a point to get up early and hit some of our marks while the crowds were sparse. The pictures came out better and we got a lot more done faster. We also found a fun coffee spot called the Cuban Coffee Queen, they had great cafe con leche and delicious cuban sandwiches.


We did a day trip up to Bahia Honda state park and came across an interesting spot called the Broken Bridge that was decommissioned in the 1970’s. I could only imagine this old bridge being the primary way down to the keys earlier in the 20th century. I had received a bunch of recommendations for Bahia Honda prior to going on the trip. Sadly, Bahia Honda was impacted heavily by Hurricane Irma and it is a shadow of itself. Hopefully it will recover in future years. There wasn’t much beach to lay out on and there was a bunch of sea grass on the beach that didn’t smell great. The part I found most interesting was the broken bridge had connected to Bahia Honda in a past life and I was luckily able to get some great drone shots. We found a fun happy hour place called Castaways that was a few streets up from the seven mile bridge. I actually saw a manatee in real life off the dock of Castaways and it was pretty surreal. The Manatee was the length of a small car and had a rounded mouth kind like a walrus.


Bringing a drone down to the Florida Keys is a must because the aerial shots are amazing. The Florida keys are basically a bunch of small islands connected by beautiful bridges. You could say the Florida Keys’ bridge game is pretty tight. Some of the most fun i had was launching the drone in the Keys and having my mind blown by the views. Not only were the bridges a sight to see from an aerial perspective, but the water had some super interesting colored patterns to it. There were some challenges with the drone in the Keys due to the No Fly Zones near the airports, and we got around this by having our reliable rental car to fly within the gaps of the No Fly Zones.


I was on a mission to get some cool palm tree shots in Key West and it was a lot harder than you might imagine. I was going for a landscape with a dozen palm trees as silhouettes in an amazing red and yellow sunset but didn’t find anything like it. We had better luck with a smaller group of palms and stand alone palms. Key West is super developed so there wasn’t a lot of public space with pam trees in the pattern that I was going for. One of the things I try to embrace with photography is to control what can be controlled and let the rest happen. The silver lining was that we did find some cool shots of things we had never considered shooting while searching for the palm shots. I might have to book a trip to Miami to get the Palm shot that I’m looking for!