Key West and the Florida Keys

Key West and the Florida Keys


A word of caution:  the 113-mile drive on Highway 1 from mainland Florida to Key West  may cause you to have a sensory overload. Leaving the bright lights and bustle of Miami behind, skimming the outline of the Everglades National Park, you arrive at the gateway to the Florida Keys. Surrounded by natural beauty, with tidal flats and turquoise water dotted by distant islands, you are ushered along  on a road that is an engineering marvel. With the Gulf to the right and the Atlantic spreading out to the left, the Overseas Highway is a driving experience  you wont soon forget. There is something special truly special about the Florida Keys, the feeling of escape and getting away from it all.

All along this coral archipelago, you will find classic holiday fare, from kitschy gift shops purveying t-shirts to sidewalk cafes offering up local delicacies. Beneath the surface of the water lies a completely different world of tropical fish and coral reef formations. All along these waters, you’ll discover unique dive and snorkelling spots. There is plenty for those who prefer to stay on dry land, too. From visiting museums, exploring state parks and shopping, The Florida Keys will become a special destination for anyone.

Key Largo

Key Largo Florida

flickr image by Wet Set Scuba

Key Largo, the northern most island in the Keys, has two state parks and a national park, the Everglades National Park. The closest of the Key island chains to the Everglades, Key Largo is a popular layover for eco-tourists. The Everglades offer kayaking and birding opportunities. Key Largo hails itself as the dive capital of the world. It’s home to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the first underwater park in the continental U.S.  The living coral formation provides a haven for an amazing array of technicolor fish and other sea creatures. Just six miles offshore is the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Here you’ll discover the Spiegel Grove, a 510-foot retired Navy ship which was  sunk to create an artificial reef.  Many species of tropical fish make their home along the hull, among the sponges and coral. In addition to the diving opportunities, Key Largo is also a world class sports fishing destination.

Islamorada

Islamorada

flickr image by mjmalone54

Islamorada is comprised of six islands, each of which offers a bounty of natural beauty. At Long Key State Park, visitors can explore the inland trails, home to a wealth of tropical flora and fauna. The Theatre of the Sea Marine Mammal Park offers the rare opportunity to swim with dolphins and other sea creatures. Islamorada is also designated as a world-class sport fishing area. You will discover plenty of opportunities to charter boats for deep- sea adventures or just enjoy fishing from the pier. Robbie’s Marina offers the opportunity to feed the swarms of tarpon that hang around the docks. Both Indian Key Historic State Park and Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park provides visitors a guided tour of the island’s history and offer a glimpse into the way of life centuries ago.

Marathon Key

Marathon Key

flickr image by King Kong 911

This ten mile long island is home to a city that celebrates a simpler way of life. A laid back, tropical place, Marathon is situated in the middle of the Keys island chain. The breathtaking natural environment offers a wealth of adventurous activities including, hiking through a preserved hardwood grove or, fishing in the waters teeming with sea life. The Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Florida Bay on the other, provide a world of windsurfing, kayaking and boating opportunities. Much of the socializing on this island takes place at Boot Key Harbour, a peaceful cove located in the heart of the island. This harbour is a well known spot to catch the sun dip down below the horizon. Just past Marathon Key begins the famed seven mile bridge. A modern feat of concrete and pilings, this bridge carries you to the Lower Keys. Marvel at the sections of the original seven mile bridge which extend alongside. Originally built in the early 1900’s, the old bridge now offers a unique spot to enjoy a stroll or soak in the panoramic view.

Key West

Key West

flickr image by jetcityjr

As you near the end of your journey through the Keys, the thought may strike you  have just reached the end of the world. Not quite, but Key West boasts that it is the southernmost city in the continental United States. You’ll see signs everywhere claiming “southernmost house in the southernmost city” and visitors wait in long queues to have their photo taken with a nautical buoy emblazoned with the phrase “Southernmost Point in the USA”. Key West is a tropical paradise that has something for every taste.

As you stroll down the quaint palm-lined streets, you’ll find homes that have been lovingly restored. Mansions, tin-roofed conch houses and wooden castles offer up some amazing architectural treats. Even on tiny side streets, residents have adorned their gardens with intricate ironwork and lush tropical flora. Both John Audubon and Ernest Hemingway made their homes here and you can tour their estates for a look into history. With its warm, sunny weather and clear blue skies, the island is a popular place for any water sport, including fishing, diving and sailing. At the end of the day, both locals and weary travellers, make their way to the Sunset Celebration on Mallory Square. Never the same experience twice, a host of local musicians, street artists and entertainers come together to see the sun sink beneath the horizon.

Once the sun is safely tucked away, the city is re-energized and the night comes to life. Cafés, legendary pubs and restaurants get a second wind. There is something to tempt every palate, from haute cuisine to hot dogs. Find your way to Duval Street and you’ll be entranced by the action. Lose yourself in the ribald ambience and enjoy the sidewalk parade that is Key West.

Date posted: 6th May, 2014

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