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admin 12-19-2007 09:07 AM

A New Way To See The Keys

A new way to go to Key West. It is fast, stable, very scenic and relaxing. When you arrive your ready to hit it hard. You can walk a block off the ferry and join up with the Kitehouse to tender out to the Flats and go rippin.
Click for large image
The dock just west of the Miami Sea Aquarium on Rickenbacker Cswy. in Miami, FL
Checking out the skyline just before take off from the top deck of the ferry

This ferry is pretty amazing. Been going to Key West for decades, love the drive but the ferry offers a different great experience as well. The time flies by as your whipping down Hawks Channel within about 1/2 mile of the Keys.
Heading out of Miami at almost 40 mph!

So, you have excellent scenery and if the weather is sunny and warm you can do the whole trip on the upper deck exposed to the sky, sun and 38 mph breeze.
You ply right through Stiltsville coming and going via the Biscayne Channel, really scenic.
You can catch some rays, meet people, read, write a magazine article (did that once) or just hang out. The scenery down the Keys is great, cruising by all the islands, the Seven Mile Bridge, Bahia Honda, and more.

When you arrive you feel fresh and ready to go with none of the normal fatigue of driving for hours. I think we used it about four times for overnight trips. If we drive, try to stay two nights at least. With the ferry it seems to workout better.

Here's an idea, just book some digs through the Kitehouse, take off on a Friday morning at 10 am arrive around 2 pm, the Kitehouse can meet you walk a couple of blocks to the boat and off you go to the flats for instant riding satisfaction. They have two Kitehouse sea taxi tenders to run kiters out to the Flats and a large houseboat that can serve as base of operations out there. Or, if you like you can rent bikes near the docks, ride or walk around Key West between jaunts to the Flats for stellar kiting sessions. It doesn't get much better than this.

The vessel has a tunnel hull meaning it has a very easy ride. The first time we took the ferry, we blasted into a 3 to 5 ft. head chop at 38 miles an hour. The deck didn't really heave or more much at all, amazing. Never gone that fast over the water with so little hull motion. Add to that you run instead the Florida Reef Tract for most of the trip, waves are usually fairly minor even in stronger winds.
Checkout the hull

The crew says that water people love the experience as have ever kiter that I have talked to about the trip. Wind, water and great sights, what else do you need?

They have a snack counter with sandwiches, drinks, TVs in the lounges on two decks for folks staying inside. It is like going on a small casual cruise for just a short time as you blast at high speed down the island chain.
The galley deck
They have two interior decks similar to this

You can bring your kite gear usually without extra charge from Miami. If it is more crowded you may have to pay something to have it stored in a locker. If you ride with the Kitehouse, you DON'T NEED to bring gear. They supply clients with new kites and boards, even blow them up and rig them for you. Boat in kite caddys! If you want to bring a bike down it is $20.
Paul Menta tooling down himself via bike to take us over to the boat to the flats. He's carrying two kites, boards and accessories. Bikes are good transport on Bone Island.
The Flats are a short boat ride away with all the calm, clear warm water and abundant wind.

You can stay in some spacious rooms above Che Paul's, The Grand Cafe near the west end of Duval Street. It is right across the street from the Hard Rock Cafe. I think I heard couples could book these rooms for $60. per night!? Not sure I heard that right so check with the Kitehouse for availability.
The upstair rooms are spacious with high ceilings, large bath, closets and wooden floors. Old but new in other words and right in the middle of things. We were there during Fantasy Fest hence the bunny outfit. What a perfect location to check things out from. Stay tuned for the Fantasy Fest video, it should be killer!
The house occupied by The Grand Cafe was actually brought over from the Bahamas piece by piece by Kelly McGillis of Top Gun fame in the mid 1980's. It looks like a classic Conch house but in fact it hails from another archipelago.
Che Paul surveys his domain taking a break from the kitchen. The Grand is an excellent restaurant, with a great menu, setting and cellar. Best part, Paul as an owner, hands out certificates for 50% off gourmet dinners at the Grand to Kitehouse customers. btw, if his apron looks too clean, Photoshop does a marvelous no-detergent cleaning job.
Be sure to visit the Grand website to learn more:

No end of things to do on and off Key West. More ideas appear below (CLICK IMAGES):
Click Image for more info
Click Image for more info

Back to the ferry, the crew is friendly, helpful and capable. I have to process some video and tell a story about how they managed in a squall line blow up just outside of Miami on our return. The winds were gusting past 45 kts. healing us over a fair amount for about 45 minutes as we laid to before heading in through the Biscayne Channel. No worries, the crew had things well in hand, the vessel rode through things easily. It was a intriguing, even fun experience.
Heading out of Key West Harbor to start the fast run back to Miami
Time to go home but the trip has just started

The Key West Express ferry website currently lists $102. per person round trip, less for children, seniors and only $83. for current college students with ID.. They have discount coupons at times. We even scored some two for one coupons a while back in the newpaper!

No room at Mallory Square for a good view of the sunset? No problem here, just grab a seat anywhere and watch the day move to night as you fly up the channel.

It is a great way to see the Keys, just for a few days or longer.

admin 12-19-2007 09:09 AM

Here is a nice video clip on riding in Key West:


admin 12-19-2007 12:15 PM

Hope to put a video clip together of the Ferry ride including a fairly dramatic storm on one trip. Horizontal rain, stuff flying around, heeling vessel and Stiltsville under lightning illumination.

RickI 07-06-2008 10:36 PM

Unfortunately, they've shut down the ferry service from Miami for the summer to resume in the fall they tell me. I think the boats are still running from the SW coast. Have any kiters from that part of the state checked this out?

bigpimp'n 07-06-2008 11:27 PM

I have, its about 80.00 per ticket. Leaves from Ft. Meyers & Marco Island.
Off season has less departures. Me & the wife are going to try it out this fall.

Great thread Ricki.

RickI 07-09-2008 09:52 PM


Originally Posted by bigpimp'n (Post 34538)
I have, its about 80.00 per ticket. Leaves from Ft. Meyers & Marco Island.
Off season has less departures. Me & the wife are going to try it out this fall.

Great thread Ricki.

Thanks, how was your trip down? I've really enjoyed them flying down Hawks Channel on the Straits side. Have a blast down there with your wife this fall.

RickI 10-22-2008 09:33 AM

Fantasy Fest is heating up Bone Island this weekend. Wanted to bring this one back to the top! Unfortunately, ferry service has been discontinued for the time being out of Miami. They're still running down from the SW coast however.

All else fails, drive! It's great down there no matter how you get there.

McPAUL 10-22-2008 08:29 PM

Nice article!
good pictures too!

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