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JOY RIDING THROUGH THE FLORIDA KEYS AND KEY WEST
 
(2014 - Winter/Spring Issue)

Writer: MARY BURNHAM



Celebrating its “secession” from the Union each April, the Conch Republic is one of the nation’s favoured vacation destinations.

From Key Largo to Key West, it’s a 160-kilometre (100-mile) joy ride on Route 1 to the southernmost point in the U.S. Sea creatures, Caribbean blue water, a history rich with pirates, wreckers and writers, and of course, fishing and partying, typify a visit to this unique string of coral islands.

Pure and Natural

North America’s longest living coral barrier reef draws divers and snorkellers worldwide to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo. The self-proclaimed “Dive Capital of the World,” Key Largo is the first in the island chain, and less than an hour from Miami. Kayak through the Everglades or across flats where you may spot rays, sea turtles, fish and small sharks with Florida Bay Outfitters. It’s right next door to the famous Caribbean Club bar where portions of the Bogey and Bacall film Key Largo were filmed.

While fishing is awesome throughout the Keys, Islamorada is a prime destination for a deep-sea sailfish adventure, fly-fishing for tarpon in the backcountry or flats fishing for bonefish. A swim with dolphins, sea lions or stingrays is the ultimate encounter at Theater of the Sea, also home to alligators, crocodiles and sea turtles. Robbie’s Marina is the jumping-off point for an eco-kayak tour and a hike on Indian Key, the ruins of the first seat of Dade County. A visit to the Keys isn’t complete until you feed the giant tarpon off Robbie’s dock.

In Marathon, a larger-than-life dolphin statue stands outside the Dolphin Research Center. Inside, you will find a memorial to Mitzi, the star of the Flipper movie. The Dolphin Research Center is an acclaimed non-profit marine mammal research and education facility where the resident dolphins will surely steal your heart away. Nearby, the Turtle Hospital treats and rehabilitates sea turtles.

Big Pine Key and the Lower Keys is where in-the-know campers and outdoor enthusiasts go to escape. Relax on sandy beaches, snorkel or dive off the Looe Key coral reef, cycle through Key Deer country, or troll the deep blue waters for fish beyond the reef. Later, watch a divine sunset as you dine at one of many down-home restaurants in this island chain.

Cats jumping through flaming hoops, fire-eaters, clothing-optional bars. There’s no place quite as “ultimate” as Key West, from the nightly Mallory Square sunset celebration to the Duval Street “pub crawl.”

See the famous six-toed cats and the room where Ernest Hemingway penned some of his best stories at The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum. Frolic on the white sand of Smathers Beach or take a high-speed ferry out to the Dry Tortugas National Park, an island fortress 113 kilometres (70 miles) west of Key West.

Wherever you choose to stop on your Florida Keys adventure, shoes are optional and the sunset lingers.

Travel Planner

To plan your Florida Keys adventure, call 1-800-FLA-KEYS or visit fla-keys.com.

 
 
 
 
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