Over my last few years of near-consistent travelling I have rented a car whilst abroad on many occasions but last week was a little different as for the first time, I got behind the wheels myself and ventured out onto the 12 lane stretches solo!
I was in Miami to catch up with a few friends who live over there and casually bank some hours in the winter sun whilst London froze over! So before heading out I knew that I was going to have a lot of free time on my hands to explore the local area therefore hiring a car for the duration was a must.
I teamed up with the rental company Hertz and after talking through my plans for the week and where I intended to take the car they suggested a Jeep Wrangler for my hire which couldn’t have been more perfect. In fact, myself and the car had quite the love affair! My jeep, whom I affectionately named Jason was ready and waiting for me at the airport and the whole pick up process was speedy and smooth. I left the airport and was directed to the car rental center where I picked up my keys to the car and also a Sat Nav which came complete with Wifi (my godsend for the trip as I could not only navigate the roads with it but also connect up my phone). My shining set of wheels was beautifully waiting for me in the parking lot and once I took some time to adjust to the sheer size of the thing I was off to start my week of local-like living in the US.
Miami, like any city in the states (with the rare exception of New York) is a place in which you absolutely need a car to get around, after the initial fear factor of driving what felt like a monster truck around the city I ended up taking to the wheel like I hadn’t ever driven another car, it was awesome and even during the many wrong turns I took and the multiple loops I made trying to work out where to park, I was pretty chuffed with my ability to just ‘get on with it’ and drive. Having the freedom of the car throughout my stay meant everything to me but it also spurred and warranted a Road Trip of further distance!
With just a week in Miami and with my weather curse still very much in place (for some reason it always rains when I’m in town!) we decided to make the most of one sunny day and take a Road trip down to the Keys. Florida’s southern scatter of islands known as the Keys are a great year-round destination to explore if you’re staying in the sunshine state. They lend a hand to bringing those pristine Florida beach images to life. The 120 mile stretch lies between the Atlantic Ocean and The Gulf of Mexico so just outside of the metropolitan city you’ll arrive at white sandy shores and turquoise waters. Throughout the summer months the keys are a hotspot for water sports and beach days and during winter the quieter palm fringed islands are great for those much needed R&R days.
With just one day to play with we headed to the most Northern Key, Key Largo and also the most Southern, which is arguably also the most famous, Key West.
Key Largo is a small coastal resort that starts to set the tone for the glamour and intrigue of the islands, it’s just 60 miles south of Downtown Miami and yet the atmosphere and surroundings would have you believe you’d jumped on a plane to the Caribbean rather than sat in the car for an hour on a highway.
Though the resort itself is small it’s a pretty perfect place to stop by for a coconut refreshment and to get a little tropical sand between your toes before driving further south. We spent a few hours at Gilbert’s Resort just soaking up the sun-rays and wandering along the beach. The beauty of the colder day meant that we had pretty much the entire stretch of sand to ourselves. Though we did have the sat nav working for us the destination is really well signposted and there’s also ample parking so it was a perfect road trip stop-off. Should the weather have been more favorable we could have easily stayed over for an evening and rented a couple of kayaks to explore more but on a schedule, we jumped back in our Jeep.
After spending our few hours in Key Largo we drove to the other end of the Keys to the popular pastel painted town of Key West. It was my first visit to the pretty southern streets and I fell in love at first sight with the vibrancy of it all, the warm and inviting atmosphere is wonderfully alluring and everyone seems to be strolling with a smile. We parked up the car and wandered the lively streets ducking in and out of the sweet souvenir shops and antique stores. The whole place feels like it could have been created as a film set with it’s conch-style houses and lush green vegetation filling each front porch, every quirky addition adding to the friendly romance of the roads.
As we were here on a drive-by basis only we walked along the main street in town which is Duval Street and simply took in the beauty of the architecture whilst grabbing an ice cream at Flamingos Crossing. This particular parlour is quite famous as having the best gelato in the state and having tried it, I can see why it boasts so! The flavours were inventive and ‘a-plenty’ and sampling the key lime and coconut was a divine experience worth shouting from the rooftops, or, as more appropriately apt in this day and age telling everyone on social media! See the post here 😉
It may have been a short and sweet excursion down to the keys but we spent the whole day enjoying the ride 😉
This post was in collaboration with Hertz UK. (The car was paid for as a press expense, I was not paid any fees) For more information visit the Hertz Road Trip Planner – the perfect tool for all your trip inspiration and planning.