Anyone can go home with a sticker that reads “Florida Keys” and slap it on their car, Nalgene bottle or little brother to prove their tropical prowess. A sticker like that is just fine, and might spark the interest of a passer-by who could say something like, “Oh, Key Largo, my boss went there. How does that Beach Boy’s song go?”
But to demonstrate true Keys-savvy insider status, here are some stickers to bring back home from vacation that could create a conversation more like this:
You have a sticker on the back of your car that reads, “No Sniveling.” A cute stranger recognizes it as the Green Parrot Bar’s slogan, even though the sticker doesn’t divulge that.
Cute stranger: “Ohhh, when were you at the Green Parrot Bar?”
You: “Wow, you’ve been to the Parrot? I saw the Heavy Pets play there last March.”
Cute stranger: “What?! That’s my favorite band! And I miss Key West sooo much.”
You: “It just so happens that I’m driving back down, and there’s a vacancy in my passenger seat.”
Cute stranger: “I’ll pay for gas if you buy the first rum at the Parrot.”
If you think you might like that conversation in your future, pay a visit to the Green Parrot Bar gift store in Key West for your own No Sniveling sticker.
Here are nine other must-have stickers to define you as a Keys-savvy traveler, with an appropriate tidbit of insider knowledge for each. You will likely see some of these during your Keys travels, and now you will have all of the information you need to start your own conversation as well.
- Otherside Sports. When you see a green X with black writing inside, it belongs to Otherside Sports in Islamorada, the groovy indie-water-sports destination. On the easy-side, stop into the store to update your duds. On the adventure-side, get authentic with some stories to match your look. They’ll take you kiteboarding, paddleboarding, and give you an exhilarating ride through their wakeboard cable park. Look for their distinctive pirate-galleon-sterncastle building near mile marker 83.
- Mile Marker 0. The green rectangle with the white writing inside clearly mimics the ever-popular road sign. The Mile 0 sign at the end of U.S. Highway 1 in Key West is one of the most-photographed icons of the Keys, and a good sticker choice if you want to optimize the number of folks back home who recognize its origins. Bring back a bit of trivia, too: U.S. 1 stretches 2,377 miles from Key West to its other end in Fort Kent, Maine, the home of dog-sled races and the International Muskie fishing Derby.
- Square Grouper Bar & Grill. Don’t worry about that strange-looking square blue fish about to bite that hook. He won’t get hurt. He’s made of drugs. The term “square grouper” materialized in the ‘70s and ‘80s when drug runners dumped bales of marijuana, cocaine and cash into the ocean to avoid a bust. Today an occasional square grouper still gets caught, usually by the Coast Guard, but now the term mostly refers to the delicious, inventive restaurant and bar on Cudjoe Key, near mile marker 22. If you go, get their early to avoid the perpetual
crowd, and try the scallops, the shrimp cakes, and the tuna, and the catch of the day, and the conch chowder, and the stuffed portabella… it’s all kind.
- Christ of the Abyss. The unmistakable red-and-white scuba diving flag behind a silhouette of Jesus is not a religious statement, but a declaration of one’s adventurous and cultured spirit. The Jesus is John Pennekamp State Park’s iconic underwater Christ of the Abyss. With hands to the heavens and feet anchored to the ocean floor, the statue is one of Key Largo’s most hash-tagged photos, and a great addition to your bumper. If you snorkeled or dove to go see this legendary work of art, then you are by default a worldly being, forever infused with the humbling and inspiring spirit of the sea.
- Sparky’s Landing. If you see someone sporting a sticker of a guy holding a dead fish in one hand and a martini glass in the other, wearing some righteous shades and hair that’s a cross between an ‘80s troll doll and Max Headroom, then there’s only one thing you can say to that person: “You have good taste in food, Sir.” All in-the-know Marathon sport fishermen end up at Sparky’s Landing, where they dock their boats and share sea tales and fish fillets. Make sure to get your big catch story ready for when someone notices your Sparky’s sticker back home.
- Conch Life. Okay, so Salt Life came first. What happened was these Florida boys started a brand that is catchy, holds meaning to many and is spreading like wildfire across the country on the bumpers of pickup trucks, the fronts of T-shirts and even on the backs of men as tattoos. Cool, yes. Overused, definitely. Exercise your originality with Conch Life, and let it be known that your salty waters of choice are those surrounding the Keys.
- Hogfish Bar & Grill. See a sticker that’s a yellow oval with a black fish in it and you’ve found someone who knows a local food secret. Look a little closer and you’ll see the spear going through the poor fishy fella. That’s because he’s the house specialty sandwich at this Stock Island eatery. Tucked back amongst the commercial lobster and shrimp docks, the Hogfish experience is more than fresh seafood, it’s an entertaining mixup of local characters, from fishermen and treasure hunters to families and travelers.
- Hurricane Re-Entry. If you see a rectangular red, blue or yellow patch in a car windshield with a small sheriff’s star, chalk it up to one sticker you can’t buy. That means if you do get one, you finally decided quit your job on the mainland and move to the Keys once and for all. The sticker is for hurricane evacuations, to allow residents to return prior to others, and certifies that you live here. The color depends on which zone you reside: Lower Keys red, Middle Keys yellow and Upper Keys blue.
- One Human Family. If there is any sticker that people in the Keys are particularly proud of, it’s a simple, white rectangle with black writing, stating “One Human Family.” Local artist J.T. Thompson created the stickers in 2000 to raise awareness that “like fingers on a hand, we appear separate, but each of us are in fact an integral part of each other.” That sentiment resonated strongly around the planet and today he has distributed more than 2 million stickers and 300,000 wristbands worldwide. Not only did the message hit home to people on every continent but to Key West in particular, who soon proclaimed the doctrine to be the city’s official philosophy. They can still be picked up in many business throughout the Keys or online by clicking here.