Recently, we’ve had a few travelers interested in exploring the outer areas, so we’ve been suggesting one of our favorite little gems: Rat Key. The island is small (you can throw a football across it), but is an amazing place to relax in a hammock and watch the world float by. It is not a beach-lined island, but a shaded, forested area where some of the locals have set up a few lounge chairs. ALL LOCALS FOLLOW ONE STRICT RULE: LEAVE THE ISLAND CLEANER THAN YOU FOUND IT. 

Rat Key, a wooded island to relax

Rat Key, a wooded island to relax

Paddling there from the Ninja and Mango is an easy enough paddle down a picturesque canal (where you will pass the mangrove maze). There are some gorgeous homes on each side, and additional inlets to explore. This is also a great opportunity to spot manatee, as they frequent this area (you will see some signs posted warning boaters to be careful).

When the canal ends, there is a tunnel that leads to a narrow mangrove river which passes the backyards of New Town, flows under a bridge, and out onto the Gulf Side of Key West. You can easily sip on a beer during this part of the paddle and just relax. Once you reach the Gulf Side, you’ll have to set the beer down until you reach Rat Key.

Although the trip is not difficult, it takes a while so we recommend for intermediate paddlers our beginners who don’t mind a little soreness in their arms (and who feel comfortable on the water). At a casual pace, it takes about 45 minutes to reach the mangrove river at the end of the canal, then another 30 to the Gulf Side, and 15 to Rat Key (which is not far from shore). Of course, you can go faster or slower, but in Key West we like to take our time.

Note the houses in the background. You are a safe distance to shore.

Rat Key: Note the houses in the background. You are a safe distance to shore.

It is approximately three to four miles to reach (so around seven or eight total). Be sure to check the tide charts so that you can make it under the bridge (avoid leaving when tides are at the highest point). If you forget to do this, you can always lift the kayaks out of the water, carry them around (over the road) and drop them back in the water on the other side of the bridge (but adjusting your schedule seems so much easier).
Those staying until sunset will likely catch some great views, however, you should come prepared with bug spray because they do come out during this “bewitching hour.” As always, bring lots of water, sunscreen, snacks, life jackets and lights for the trip back so other boaters can see you.

Dream, Drift, Discover.

-Amber & Zappa