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Old 08-26-2013, 06:32 AM   #1
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Route and Campground Suggestions for Key West Trip

In May we are heading to Key West for our dream trip that has been on our minds for several years. I have 10 nights booked already at Key West starting on May 22. I would like this trip not to be like our other trips we have taken so far. On those I would drive about 6 hours and stay the night and drive 6 hours again to our main campground site. I would want to stay at least 3 nights at each stopping point. I feel like it is a waste of time and effort to get everything setup for just 2 nights. I also would like to get off of the beaten path and hopefully stay at coastal parks and campgrounds. We also prefer the National/State parks over RV parking lots (RV Parks).

On the way back we would most likely take the direct route and just do the overnight stops (maybe). I figured we would be either wore out and ready to get home or don't want to go home.

Initially I was thinking of I-10 and take it down to Hwy. 98 at some point in Florida and run the coast. But there are so many options and my brain is going into overload. Without driving on the local roads before I have no idea if they are suitable for RV travel. My worse fears has always been to get stuck/lost on some small road and not being able to get turned around.

Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.
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Old 08-26-2013, 07:40 AM   #2
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Reuban: I love the Keys....I am going to pedal them on my bike again this November. I will use the Florida State Parks web site and reserve in advance a spot in Key Largo at the John Pennekamp Park ($38.50 per nite) There I will enjoy some fine snorkling and SCUBA. Then head up the road towards West.... and attend the Dolphin Research Institute (This is an excellent diversion).... and perhaps some Big Kenny BBQ on Largo before you leave.

We move the RV to Bahia Key.... to the next State Park facility.... NOW.... if you find a place that you just love .... you can always take the Florida Keys City bus up and down the islands (about $6 for the full trip ) and it will drop you off just about any where along the way. I like to move my RV to different camp areas and take the bus back to gather my bikes and pedal forward to meet up with my RV.

Find Campgrounds - Florida Department of Environmental Protection
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Old 08-26-2013, 07:42 AM   #3
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If I were making that trip, from La., I would take I-10, to Tallahassee and then get on Hwy 98, take it to Perry, FL and switch to U.S. 19. Follow 19, to just South of Crystal River, then switch over to the Suncoast Pkwy (589), to I-275 and follow it to I-75. I-75, will take you all the way, down to the Keys. A very nice drive all the way and you won't have to worry about small roads or getting lost. I-275, takes you around St. Petersburg and over the "Skyway Bridge", in Pinellas County, along causeways, etc.

I would also study "RV Park Reviews.com" and find places to stay, along the way. You can't go wrong, that way. Have a nice trip!
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Old 08-26-2013, 11:37 AM   #4
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Thanks for the info.

Right now I am leaning toward staying at Lake Seminole COE (Eastbank, GA.) for the first stop. This will be about 325 miles and about a 6 to 7 hour drive. It will be a long drive, but it will be mostly interstate. The second stop I am looking for something in the Crystal Spring area which will be about 220 miles away from Eastbank.

The third leg should be somewhere around Naples which will be about 245 miles from Crystal Springs. From Naples it will be about 210 miles to Bahia Honda SP. It is at this point I have not decided what route to take. There is I-75 which is a toll road plus it heads to the Miami area which I would like to avoid. The other option is Hwy. 90/41, but I have read that the road is bad.
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Old 08-26-2013, 01:14 PM   #5
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Thanks for the info.

Right now I am leaning toward staying at Lake Seminole COE (Eastbank, GA.) for the first stop. This will be about 325 miles and about a 6 to 7 hour drive. It will be a long drive, but it will be mostly interstate. The second stop I am looking for something in the Crystal Spring area which will be about 220 miles away from Eastbank.

The third leg should be somewhere around Naples which will be about 245 miles from Crystal Springs. From Naples it will be about 210 miles to Bahia Honda SP. It is at this point I have not decided what route to take. There is I-75 which is a toll road plus it heads to the Miami area which I would like to avoid. The other option is Hwy. 90/41, but I have read that the road is bad.
US41 across Florida is not bad. It's two lane but not particularly heavily traveled. There is also a casino at the intersection of 41 and 997 where over night parking is allowed. Pretty good buffet also.
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Old 08-26-2013, 02:26 PM   #6
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How is Hwy 997/27 heading South from Hwy. 41 to where it connects to Hwy. 1?

I will have to keep the DW away from the Casino.
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Old 08-26-2013, 02:58 PM   #7
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How is Hwy 997/27 heading South from Hwy. 41 to where it connects to Hwy. 1?

I will have to keep the DW away from the Casino.
997 is a good highway and I would go that way. When you get down to the north edge of Homestead, I would get over onto US1 prior to the point where they come together. Otherwise you will be stopping at a stop sign every intersection.
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Old 08-26-2013, 04:46 PM   #8
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Great!!

Tentatively I am looking at the following stops for the trip down to Key West.

First Stop - Lake Seminole COE Campground - Bainbridge, GA
Second Stop - Rainbow Spring State Park - Dunnellon
Third Stop - Collier - Seminole State Park - Naples
Fourth Stop - Bahia Honda State Park - Big Pine Key
Fifth Stop - Bluewater RV Park
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Old 08-26-2013, 06:09 PM   #9
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[QUOTE=reubenray;1701557]Thanks for the info.

"Right now I am leaning toward staying at Lake Seminole COE (Bainbridge, GA.) for the first stop. This will be about 325 miles and about a 6 to 7 hour drive. It will be a long drive, but it will be mostly interstate. The second stop I am looking for something in the Crystal Spring area which will be about 220 miles away from Eastbank."

(I see that you are editing your last post, even as I write this. I guess I'd better wait until you are finished)

I misunderstood you. I thought you wanted to go down the Coastal route and of course I thought the East Coast of Florida, because you said I-10 to HWY 98. That is many miles, South of GA! However, by your route, I see you want to come down the center of the state. Not a lot of coastal views there. If you want to get to Crystal Springs, near Zepherhills, on HWY 39, your are in for a long drive, with many, many, many, towns and stoplights.

Another thing, taking I-75 down through Miami, is not near as conjested as US 1 and a lot faster, even with the tolls. I would stay off US 1, at any cost! You don't actually go through Miami, but way, way, West of Miami. I used to live there and believe me, I know of what I speak!

Actually, you won't be on I-75 all the way, if you watch for and take the expressway #821, it will take you even further away from the MIami crowds. When you merge with US-1, you will be in Florida City/Homestead area and close to Key Largo. You must travel US-1, at that point. It is the only way, unless you take Card Sound Rd., but usually no one takes CSR, unless US-1 is blocked.
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Old 08-26-2013, 06:51 PM   #10
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OK, now, I think I see the route that you want to take. Except for Going to Bainbridge, GA, you could still follow my suggested route, out of Tallahassee. You will be on HWY 27/US-19, South, to Dunnellon. After leaving Dunnellon, follow US 19 thru Crystal River, to US 98, then take the Suncoast Pkwy, to I-275, like I said in my previous post. When you get to Naples, you can switch over to Hwy 951 (called the "Golden Gate" area, right off I-75) which keeps you out of the Naples area and will take you to US 41 or "Tamiami Trail". When you get near Miami (actually called "Sweetwater in that area"), look for the 821 Expressway South. Best way, to Key West. Do not take US 41 to US - 1. You will not like the traffic and it is waaaay out of the way! Or, you could take HWY 997 to Florida City, as Steve said. I just prefer the expressway.
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Old 08-27-2013, 06:04 AM   #11
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OK, now, I think I see the route that you want to take. Except for Going to Bainbridge, GA, you could still follow my suggested route, out of Tallahassee. You will be on HWY 27/US-19, South, to Dunnellon. After leaving Dunnellon, follow US 19 thru Crystal River, to US 98, then take the Suncoast Pkwy, to I-275, like I said in my previous post. When you get to Naples, you can switch over to Hwy 951 (called the "Golden Gate" area, right off I-75) which keeps you out of the Naples area and will take you to US 41 or "Tamiami Trail". When you get near Miami (actually called "Sweetwater in that area"), look for the 821 Expressway South. Best way, to Key West. Do not take US 41 to US - 1. You will not like the traffic and it is waaaay out of the way! Or, you could take HWY 997 to Florida City, as Steve said. I just prefer the expressway.
So I would backtrack back to I-75 instead of taking US 41?

How do the Florida Toll System work? I do not have any type of toll pass. I remember a toll road years ago in the Houston area and it was a nightmare in a car without a toll pass. This is why I avoid them if possible.
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Old 08-27-2013, 06:37 AM   #12
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So I would backtrack back to I-75 instead of taking US 41?

How do the Florida Toll System work? I do not have any type of toll pass. I remember a toll road years ago in the Houston area and it was a nightmare in a car without a toll pass. This is why I avoid them if possible.

The problem you will run into around Miami is the Florida Turnpike has Sunpass (transponder) or "bill from camera photo of your license plates" ... no manned toll booth. I HIGHLY recommend setting up a Sunpass account and getting the windshield transponder. You can actually do this (obtain the transponder) at many Florida grocery stores (Publix for instance).

https://www.sunpass.com/index

As for your route, Rainbow River is really nice (campground is OK but not terrific) ... take the time to go tubing on the river. Stay off 41 and 19 !! Naples area is nice. Be aware that the run from Naples to Miami area and then down and across to Bahia Honda is long ... you may want to break it up and stay at Pennekamp in Key Largo.

If you are going down West Coast I recommend Ft. DeSoto (if you can get a site). It's a Pinellas County Park and very well maintained in the St. Petersburg area.

http://www.pinellascounty.org/park/05_ft_desoto.htm

BTW, and you may already know this, there are not many "sandy beaches" in the Keys ... it is a rocky coastline. Try to get your "beach days" before arriving in the Keys. It's not impossible (Smathers Beach in Key West is OK) but the Keys are not at all like Miami or Naples.
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Old 08-27-2013, 06:41 AM   #13
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Ok Im jealous. I haven't been there in 15 years. I keep telling the wife we gotta go.
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Old 08-27-2013, 06:53 AM   #14
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The problem you will run into around Miami is the Florida Turnpike has Sunpass (transponder) or "bill from camera photo of your license plates" ... no manned toll booth. I HIGHLY recommend setting up a Sunpass account and getting the windshield transponder. You can actually do this (obtain the transponder) at many Florida grocery stores (Publix for instance).

https://www.sunpass.com/index

As for your route, Rainbow River is really nice (campground is OK but not terrific) ... take the time to go tubing on the river. Stay off 41 and 19 !! Naples area is nice. Be aware that the run from Naples to Miami area and then down and across to Bahia Honda is long ... you may want to break it up and stay at Pennekamp in Key Largo.

If you are going down West Coast I recommend Ft. DeSoto (if you can get a site). It's a Pinellas County Park and very well maintained in the St. Petersburg area.

Pinellas County, Florida, Park & Conservation Resources - Fort De Soto Park
Thanks for the info on Ft. DeSoto. We are heading to Tampa in two weeks for a Saint's/Buc's ballgame and may take a day trip to Ft. DeSoto to check it out. I did check for availability, but it is longer than the 6 months max.
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