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FLORIDA'S TROPICAL PEARLS
 
(2016 - Winter/Spring Issue)

Writer: STEVE WINSTON



As I drove along the Overseas Highway for the first time years ago—the Gulf of Mexico on my right and the Atlantic on my left—I felt I was entering a different world. In fact, I was entering five different worlds.

The Keys actually consist of five distinct areas, strung out like a 193-kilometre-long strand of pearls south of Miami. 

A String of Contrasts

In Key Largo, made famous in the Humphrey Bogart movie, explore the beauty at the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and two state parks. Nicknamed the “Dive Capital of the World,” this island features America’s only living coral reef and several shipwrecks. Here, accommodation options run the gamut and include an underwater submarine; good restaurants are plentiful; and charter operators take you to abundant fishing grounds.

The six islands of Islamorada boast attractions such as “Theater of the Sea” marine mammal park and the History of Diving Museum. Explore great hiking trails at Long Key State Park and three other state parks with historic sites. Local cuisine features daily fresh-from-the-ocean seafood specials. And Islamorada boasts a vigorous arts scene, highlighted by the Third Thursday Art Walks through the Morada Way Arts & Cultural District.

Marathon celebrates a laid-back, Old Keys lifestyle. It’s home to the Turtle Hospital, the world’s only medical facility for sea turtles; the Dolphin Research Center; the Crane Point Museum, Nature Center & Historic Site; and reefs and shoals popular with divers and snorkellers. To truly capture the essence of Marathon, visit lost-in-time Pigeon Key, once home to the workers who built the now-gone overseas railroad to the Keys.

The Lower Keys offer two National Wildlife Refuges, a national marine sanctuary and Bahia Honda State Park, known for one of the most beautiful beaches in America. Blue Hole and No Name Key beckon kayakers while bikers observe wildlife up close in the National Key Deer Refuge. And the lack of man-made light here makes for stunning stargazing experiences. This part of the Keys is also characterized by quaint bed and breakfasts and eclectic restaurants. 

In Key West, history, multi-ethnic traditions and cooking, great music and a funky vibe meld into a very unique destination. Tour the homes of Ernest Hemingway, John James Audubon and President Harry Truman. Enjoy end-of-the-line culture leavened with local “Conch” tradition and a dash of Caribbean. Smell culinary delights as you walk down Duval Street. Music anyone? You’ll hear it all along Duval. The Mel Fisher Maritime Museum showcases historic treasures from the deep. Board the Yankee Freedom III (or take a plane ride) to Civil War-era Fort Jefferson, about 112 kilometres west. And the Key West Cemetery is the only one on Earth that will actually make you laugh!

Travel Planner

Plan your next tropical island getaway at fla-keys.com or call 1-800-fla-keys (352-5397).

 
 
 
 
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