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Best Kept Secret in the Florida Keys–Key Largo
By Susan Scharfman

Would you die for a romantic getaway where your boss can’t find you? Less than two hours south from Ft. Lauderdale International Airport, or an hour closer from Miami, is the laid back community of Key Largo. With a reputation for die-hard beer guzzling fishermen and no frills accommodations, most travelers pass it by on their way to Key West. Don't be fooled by what you see and don't see from the roadside.

There are secluded millionaire homes, as well as reasonably priced secluded Bed and Breakfasts that will welcome you with everything from eclectic air conditioned private suites to your own private sandy cove for watching the awesome sunsets you'll only see in the Florida Keys. No I do not work for their Chamber of Commerce.

Hidden behind trees and down winding gravel roads to the sea, if you miss the Mile Markers on the road, you’ll pass these hideaways and never know they're there. Some B&Bs will provide full kitchens stocked for breakfasts, with Jacuzzis and the use of their boats and bikes at no extra charge. After a rest stop at the worst possible looking broken down shack (I couldn't wait), I asked an old geezer sitting at the pitch black bar for directions to a decent restaurant. To my surprise, and with an irrestibile smile and a light step, the old fellow politely took my arm and very politely directed me to what turned out to be one of the best fresh fish restaurants on the East Coast with the unruly name of Hobos. It was my first lesson in understanding the natives. From fishermen, explorers and X-husbands to artists and wannabe writers, you might be talking to the next Ernest Hemingway.

I stayed at a B&B owned by a young descendent of architect John Roebling and engineer Washington Roebling, renowned builders of the Brooklyn Bridge. As Innkeeper, she specializes in packages for Weddings, Honeymoons and Anniversaries, with music, flowers, wedding cake, champagne and all the trimmings.

Key Largo is not only famous for Bogey and Bacall, but the spectacular underwater John Pennecamp Coral Reef State Park. Here you can snorkel and swim with the Dolphins as I did, or just enjoy the natural beauty of this tropical paradise from a glass bottom boat, as I did.

If you’re looking for nightlife Duval Street, Key West rocks. It's about two hours south on the Overseas Highway and it has terrific restaurants from cheap to expensive. I always warn friends who've never been that Key West is noisy, colorful, and crowded all year. But strolling the back streets and side streets of old town Key West will transport you back a hundred years to the seafaring town with the gingerbread houses. Tours of The Hemingway House run all day long and cost a lot more than when I first saw it. But if you're looking for the shack Tennessee Williams rented, be prepared with a map and good shoes .

When you return to sleepy Key Largo you'll probably want to fall into your hammock to watch the awesome red sunset on the water. But don't forget to listen for that whistle on the wind. You know the one where Bogart says … "You know how to whistle don't you?" Then it's time to retreat inside, kick back and drink a toast to Humphrey and Lauren and that venerable Brooklyn Bridge.


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