May 16, 2022
Going to the Extremes
Let's take traveling the United States to the Extremes! Most travelers visit the key landmarks in each state and stop at major cities. Typical fifty-state routes rarely go farther south than San Antonio, Texas or Orlando, Florida, but, of course, there is so much more to see. Just how far south can we go?
Key West is well known as the southernmost point in the continental United States. While you can fly directly to Key West or take a cruise ship, the drive from Miami to Key West is an exciting one as you drive through beach town after beach town and across the seven-mile bridge to arrive in the fun, quirky city of Key West. The Southernmost Point Buoy will beckon you for an obligatory photo which is a short walk away from other Key West attractions. You can go also go to the nearby Southernmost Beach Cafe and the Southernmost Point Bar and the Southernmost Beach Resort. Other Key West Favorites - watch sandals being made at Kino Sandals, dodge chickens running around the tables while you dine at Blue Heaven and savor every bite of Kermit's Chocolate Key Lime on a stick.
Fort Zachary Taylor State Park
Geographically the Buoy isn't quite at the southernmost part of the Key. Nearby Whitehead Spit is, but it is on government property and not accessible to the public. However, you can go a tiny bit farther south by going to Fort Zachary Historic State Park. The State Park also has a beach, arguably the best beach in Key West. The beach is a bit rough/rocky so water shoes come in handy. The rocks, however, provides some nice snorkel opportunities off the shore.
Ballast Key is even farther south. The island was privately owned up until 2018, when developer and preservationist, David Wolkowsky, donated the 14-acre island upon his death at age 99. The land is now part of The Nature Conservancy and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of the Key West National Wildlife Refuge. The island is not open to the public but does have a research facility. Maybe the Nature Conservancy will open it up to visitors?
Ka Lae/South Point Complex in Hawaii
When Hawaii became a state in 1959 there became a new southernmost point of the United States. The island of Hawaii is the southernmost of the islands and the town of Naalehu, the southernmost town. Sixteen miles south of the town is the South Point Complex run by the National Park Service, also know as Ka Lae.
The Pentony family from Chatham, New Jersey completed their all 50 states quest in Alaska in 2014. Valerie had a goal of completing before the age of 50 and Brooke (age 16) and Tanner (age 15) before graduating from high school. Not only did they visit Hawaii, but they visited THE southernmost point. Her son, like some other brave travelers, culminated his visit by jumping off the cliff at the Southernmost point. The jump was not pre-planned - the opportunity presented itself with a nice day and calm waters. How often when we travel we end up doing things we never thought we would do! The cliff is between 35 and 60 feet high and a dangly iron ladder is used to climb back up to the top. Watch the video!
American Samoa is the southernmost part of the United States if territories are included. The American Samoan islands are located in the Pacific Ocean halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand. Hawaiin Airlines, Talofa Airways, and Samoa Airways have limited flights to Pago Pago, (pronounced like Pango Pango) the capital of American Samoa. The territory has an interesting history from traditional Samoan culture, a coaling station, a vital naval base in World War Two, and an Apollo missions landing area. National Park of American Samoa
Picture from American Field Trip
Some travelers want to see how far south they can go in Texas. Compared to the fairly straight northern border, the jutting shape of Texas calls some to go to the tip of Texas to complete a full journey of the United States. The city of Brownsville sits in the tiny bottom tip of Texas, where the Rio Grande divides Mexico and Texas and meets the Gulf of Mexico. The southern suburb of Brownsville metropolitan area is actually called South Point, Texas. The border hits the water just a little bit farther north close to Boca Chica Beach. Read more on tripsavvy.
Sabal Palm Sanctuary is also in this tiny tip of Texas bordering the Rio Grande. The Sanctuary has hiking trails, a visitor center, and also operates as an Air B&B.