Don’t Bypass the Lower Keys on the way to Key West

 Don’t Bypass the Lower Keys on the way to Key West

Don't bypass the Lower Keys, including Big Pine Key and No Name Key, when headed to Key West!

florida keys map
Florida Keys

The Lower Keys area begins with Big Pine Key and continues all the way until just before Key West.

Just after you cross over to Big Pine, you’ll hit the Big Pine Fishing Lodge right around Mile Marker 33. This is a great place to get a site and spend the night but even if you aren’t they have a good camp store where you can stock up on necessities.

One of the best things about the Lower Keys is that they are largely passed through by tourists that are bound straight for Key West. As a result, these islands are mostly undeveloped with great back roads that stretch far and wide from the main drag of the Overseas Highway.

My advice to you would be to take some time, drive around and wander through this area. You’ll find undisturbed, picturesque places that only the locals know about! There’s lots of time for hustle and bustle once you hit Key West!

After reading this post – line these up to read, too.

Big Pine Key

While you’re on Big Pine Key, keep a lookout for the endangered Key deer when you’re driving and learn about them by visiting the National Key Deer Refuge Nature Center!

The Nature Center is open Mon-Sat from 10 am-3 pm.

The Endangered Key Deer & Other Wildlife

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Key Deer

The endangered Key deer is the smallest subspecies of the North American white-tailed deer and are only located on about 20 islands across the lower Keys. They only get to about 3 feet tall and can weigh between 65-85 pounds.

Poaching and habitat loss had reduced the number of Key deer to only a few dozen animals by the 1950s. But the establishment of the Refuge and subsequent endangered listing of the deer in 1967 has allowed for protection and a dramatic recovery of the species.

The deer now number close to a thousand and are most concentrated on Big Pine and No Name Keys. Today, their biggest enemy is the car so please make sure to drive slowly as you pass through Big Pine Key!

One of the best places to see Key deer is at dawn or dusk at the Blue Hole on Big Pine Key. This is a unique place to visit in the Florida Keys, it’s a freshwater lake.

Of course, being surrounded by the ocean makes you scratch your head as to how it got there. Well, it was originally a quarry dug in the early 19th century to build the Overseas Highway and over time freshwater from rain has filled it up.

As a result, there is a plethora of wildlife here from birds, fish, and turtles to Key deer and alligators. The trail is quite short so it’s an easy walk out and back.

No Name Pub

Another great spot to visit here is the No Name Pub which is on Big Pine Key just before the bridge to No Name Key.

This little dive bar is very cool and out of the way. The slogan is even “a nice place if you can find it.”

No Name Pub has been around since 1931 and started off as a bar and a brothel. It’s no longer a brothel, but a unique feature that’s hard to miss is that it’s covered from head to toe in dollar bills! In the ’70s and '80s a tradition was born of visitors adding their dollar bills to the walls and ceiling of the pub and it’s been going strong ever since!

Kayak Adventures

Kayaking 🙂

Right next to the pub is Big Pine Kayak Adventures run by Bill Keogh. He has literally written the book on local kayaking called “The Florida Keys Paddling Guide”.

Here you can go on group lead kayak tours through the surrounding mangrove islands. Or if you’re more adventurous, you can rent kayaks and they’ll ferry you out to the backcountry, drop you off, and give you instructions on how to get back!

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Big Pine and Lower Keys Campgrounds

There are a few great places to make camp in the Lower Keys. Here are four that we recommend…

Lazy Lakes Campground

There are 122 sites here, including 14 pull thrus. 97 full hookups, 20 with electric-water hookups. 40-foot max RV length.

Amenities include picnic tables, potable water, flush toilets, hot showers, firewood, Wi-Fi, cable TV, pool, and a dump station.

Venture Out RV Resort

There are 200 sites here, including 10 pull thrus. All sites have full hookups. 60-foot max RV length.

Amenities include picnic tables, potable water, flush toilets, hot showers, laundry, Wi-Fi, pool, playground, and a dump station.

Royal Palm RV Park

There are 34 sites here, all with full hookups (30 amp electric service). 35-foot max RV length.

Amenities include potable water, flush toilets, hot showers, laundry, and Wi-Fi.

Big Pine Key Resort

Formerly known as Big Pine Key Fishing Lodge.

There are 188 sites here, 116 with full hookups, 10 sites with 50 amp electric. Amenities include picnic tables, potable water, flush toilets, showers, cable TV.

Note: Advanced reservations require a minimum stay of 3 nights. No dogs allowed.

What About the Florida Keys?

Do you want to hit Key West, the Everglades National Park, and all the other great things the Keys have to offer? Well, we have just the thing for you. Jennifer and I love traveling to the Keys, so we've created a complete 7-Day RV Adventure Guide: Florida Keys. This downloadable guide includes a suggested itinerary and a list of the best RV parks along the way.

We also have a 7-Day RV Adventure Guide to Florida's Atlantic Coast and Florida's Gulf Coast. If you're interested in all three, you should check out our Florida RV Travel Guide Bundle. Or get all of our travel guides for one great price…

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Mike Wendland

Mike Wendland is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, travels North America in a small motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and adventure of RV life on the road at He and Jennifer also host the weekly RV Podcast and do twice-weekly videos on the YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel. They have written 10 books on RV travel.

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