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Many travellers (especially Canadian snowbirds) vacation in Florida. But have you ever been to the Florida Keys? This string of islands off the southern tip of Florida known as “The Keys” is colorful, quirky and perfect for a relaxing trip away from the big city.
by Jessica Percy-Campbell, Vegan Vacationista
With such a laid-back and friendly atmosphere, it’s no wonder their mantra is “Come As You Are”. There’s also a fast-growing vegan food scene in Miami and the Florida Keys if you know where to look.
A Vegan-friendly Hotel in Islamorada, Florida Keys
My mom (Travel Writer Sue Campbell) and I stayed at Amara Cay, a boutique-sized resort in Islamorada, a village made up of six islands: Plantation Key, Windley Key, Upper Matecumbe Key, Lower Matecumbe Key and the offshore islands of Indian Key and Lignumvitae Key. The resort offers a free shuttle to experience their sister-resort beach front properties (I’ll let you in on a little secret we discovered: there’s a secluded hot tub hidden beside the pool!)
Though the Keys is known for its seafood, Amara Cay’s chef was happy to accommodate my special vegan diet, offering lovely off-the-menu vegan meals, such as a rich fettuccine with roasted cauliflower. And man do they love their key limes. The Square Grouper hotel bar even has a key lime cocktail called the Blood Lime, which was (you guessed it) pretty sour!
One of the highlights in The Keys was discovering Islamorada’s local art walk (held on the third Thursday of every month). This is an outdoor event which showcases live music and crafts from local vendors. Crowds of people wearing tie-die and flip-flops sauntered along, looking at all the creative beach-style art, stopping for a pint of craft beer at the family-owned Florida Keys Brewing Company at the end of the path. Florida Keys even has a sea turtle hospital you can visit — great news for nature lovers like myself.
Seed, Food and Wine Festival
I also had the pleasure of visiting Miami as part of a trip to the Seed and Wine Vegan Food Festival. (Please note that the Seed, Food & Wine Festival has moved! It will be taking place in Los Angeles May 23-26, 2018) What I discovered is that Miami’s plant-based food game is pretty strong. Some of my top picks from the festival were Fort Lauderdale’s Green Bar and Kitchen and Atlas Meat Free Delicatessen . Green Bar and Kitchen has a lot to offer, notably a vegan “chicken” salad sandwich (made with Beyond Meat chicken), which was creamy and salty with crunchy celery and sweet cranberries, just like the real thing.
I still find myself thinking about how delicious it was! Atlas Meat-Free Deli nails the classic Italian deli vibe, but offering non-gmo vegan and vegetarian “meat” and “cheese” instead. Their homemade fennel sausage and goat cheese were among the best I’ve tried anywhere, with accurate textures and tastes, which is very hard to accomplish.
AC Hotel: A Sleek New Hotel in Miami
We also stayed in Miami Beach’s luxurious AC Hotel only a block away from the ocean, the AC boasts a swanky outdoor rooftop pool, complete with swinging benches to watch those pink and purple Florida sunsets. The front-desk and restaurant staff at AC is very friendly and knowledgeable about the city. After laying low in the Keys for a few days, this sophisticated hotel was a great follow-up to experience some of that famous Miami night life. Conveniently, it also isn’t too far a drive from the airport.
As an added bonus, right around the corner is one of South Beach’s hidden gems, the Broken Shaker bar located in the courtyard of a hipster haven, the Freehand Hostel. With an outdoor pool surrounded by green gardens and dangling white lights, the atmosphere is nothing short of enchanting.
Add the ambiance to professionally hand-crafted cocktails (with hilarious names like #B*tch Better Have My Money: Absolut Vodka, Strawberries, Florida Citrus, Aperol, House Made Cinnamon Reduction, Local Opal Basil), a daily punchbowl and scrumptious healthy snacks and you’ve got yourself an unforgettable night out on the town!
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For tips on more vegan-inspired travels in the world’s top sun destinations, check out these other tasty posts from the Vegan Vacationista: