As you leave the mainland driving toward Key Largo on the Overseas Highway headed to the Florida Keys, you face a choice: take the main road to Key Largo, U.S. 1, or take Card Sound Road. The trip via Card Sound Road is longer by about 13 miles, but is it worth it? Definitely! Here are four reasons to take Card Sound Road to Key Largo instead of U.S. 1.
1. See What the Florida Keys Looked Like Before Humans
Once you get to Key Largo on Card Sound Road, you are surrounded by swamps and forests. This undeveloped area of the Keys looks much like the islands looked like before humans arrived. Today, there are few areas left in the Keys that remain in their natural state, but Card Sound Road takes you to some of those places.
The old toll booth on Card Sound Road, letting visitors to the
Florida Keys know they were going to be missed.
2. Visit Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge
When you arrive on Key Largo, you will be in Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Opened in 1980,
Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge is one of three places in the contiguous United States where American crocodiles breed. When the refuge opened, only several hundred crocodiles remained in the United States. Today, thanks in large part to the efforts of those at Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge, there are at least 2,000 American crocodiles in the United States.
3. Check Out Poisonous Trees at Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park
The land on which Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park sits was once slated for development. Thanks to an 11th hour reprieve, the land became a state park. Today, the park is home to two poisonous trees - the poisonwood and the machineel. The latter is so poisonous, if you stand beneath one during a rainstorm, your skin will begin to blister where raindrops drop from its leaves and branches on your bare skin. Two hikes are available in the state park, but visitors are cautioned to stay on the path so as to avoid the poisonous trees.
4. Get a Drink at Alabama Jacks
For years, a small group of squatters lived in Card Sound, a community on the mainland side of Card
Sound Road. Very little remains of that community today, but you can still visit a restaurant and bar there, called Alabama Jacks. This outdoor bar sits on the water and regularly plays host to live music. It's
a great way to get your visit to the Keys started right - even if you aren't technically in the Keys yet when you're there.
Interested in learning more about the Florida Keys? Click here and check out 101 Travel Bits: The Florida Keys and the Overseas Highway, newly updated for 2018!