Hippie Van Travels: Cheap Camping In The Florida Keys
About eighty-miles down Overseas Highway in the Florida Keys…lies a little-known gem, hidden within the mangroves, where you can camp for twenty-dollars a night all summer long. Right at Mile Marker 20…in the middle of Key Deer habitat on Sugarloaf Key, road-trippers will find Lazy Lakes RV Resort amp; Campground, along with a friendly staff and amenities galore. Situated at the end of Johnson Road…on a seven acre salt-water lake that just beckons a fishing line, a splashing swimmer, or a row boat to skim-along its crystal clear waters; this ‘bargain-of-a-campground’ is sure to impress, with all it has to offer the budget-conscious traveler.
But if fishing, swimming in the lake, or boating and canoeing isn’t part of your itinerary; leisure time by the sparkling pool…enjoying the free WIFI that Lazy Lakes provides at the clubhouse, just might be the fun you seek. If you’re lucky, and close-enough to the office, you might even be able to pick-up the free signal from your campsite. I did a few times, and our camp was pretty far away.
While the leisure activities and amenities at Lazy Lakes are many, Key West is just a fifteen-minute drive down the scenic route of tropical-green Caribbean waters along U.S. Highway 1. The speed limit is 55 all the way, so you can lollygag a bit until you reach Stock Island. Crossing over Cow Key Channel– a popular anchorage for sailors –first sight of the most-famous key in this chain of flat-land islands is like a breath of fresh air, followed by a sigh of relief that finally…you are there.
There’s just something about making the entire 113 mile journey down The Highway That Goes to Sea– better-known as Overseas Highway –and the exhilaration of crossing Seven-Mile-Bridge; knowing that this is-as far south as any land-lubbing snowbird can venture. As for us sailors who welcome the mysteries of the ocean, we could’ve hopped aboard a blue-water cruiser and just kept right on going. Having acquired a sailboat since our visit to the Keys, perhaps we can someday make that dream a reality.
Even though the allure of Key West was only fifteen minutes away, we found ourselves quite-comfortable nestled into our campsite there at Lazy Lakes (I think it was site-number 61); where the previous ‘tenants’ had left a string of Christmas lights wrapped around the trunk of a palm tree bordering our spot. We took advantage of the warm ambiance that the lights on the palm evoked; lighting-up Camp Peniki each night of the three weeks we were there in the Florida Keys. Sitting out by the lake, which was right behind our camp, we’d visit with new-found friends; singing and playing guitar into the early morning hours. I recall a few of those late evenings with our island friends. Baby had long-been sleeping, so it was a nice time to enjoy some relaxation and music; writing some new songs along the way.
I look back on our days at Lazy Lakes with fond memories of swimming with Baby in the pool, riding down to Key West with our beach cruisers on the back of our old VW van, seeing the Southernmost Point, and the tropical macaws at one island eatery in Duval Square Mall: chatting with the nice owner, as we dined alfresco and sipped mango daiquiris at New York Pasta Garden; all-the-while being entertained by the chattering birds. But the shining moment, I have to say, was the night we took Gypsy Vin Rose (the vocal-acoustical duo of mine and my husband’s) to the Sunset Celebration on Mallory Square.
We entertained locals and travelers alike that evening, with original songs we’d written and composed along the way of our road-trip…and for years prior. I can still see the sun-setting into the ocean, dipping-behind Sunset Key (formerly known as Tank Island). I recall from my mind’s eye: sailboats cruising past, onlookers in awe of nature’s show, storm clouds coming from out of nowhere, and once again, I am there. Just in time, we close our show as the sun disappears and the rain begins to fall. Our time in Key West is coming to an end; this we know. But the memories of our three weeks in the Florida Keys, and the Blessings of new friends and a great place to be– as Lazy Lakes was –will forever remain a part of the journey…and a life so very-worth every mile.