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ON ISLAND TIME - THE MAGIC OF THE FLORIDA KEYS
 
(2012 - Winter Issue)

Writer: KEVIN FRITZ



The Florida Keys are synonymous with fun in the sun—perhaps more than any other place in the U.S.

All five districts—Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, Big Pine Key and Key West-—offer more than enough activities, sights and events to keep you engaged. Yet your visit to this lush, natural playground can be as relaxed as you wish. After all, you’re on island time.

Pick the Pace—and the Key

Key Largo, called the first of the Florida Keys, is sandwiched between the Everglades National Park to the northwest and North America’s only living coral barrier reef to the southeast. It is home to two state parks, a national park and a national marine sanctuary. Considered the Diving Capital of the World, the snorkelling and diving at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, which became the nation’s first undersea preserve in 1960, is unsurpassed.

Islamoradacomprises six islands and is dubbed the Sport Fishing Capital of the World. It is also becoming a mecca for divers with its diverse population of tropical marine life. Make time for Theater of the Sea Marine Mammal Park where you can not only swim with dolphins and other sea animals, but watch them paint as you hold up the canvas!

Located mainly on Vaca, Fat Deer and Grassy Key, Marathon is a 16-kilometre-long island community known for family-friendly seafood festivals. Here you’ll find the famed Pigeon Key cottages, where workers on the old Seven Mile Bridge lived during construction of Henry M. Flagler’s railroad, which opened up Miami to Key West. A few kilometres offshore, Sombrero Reef is the United States’ only living coral barrier reef.

Big Pine Key and the Lower Keys are famously known for their laid-back lifestyles. It’s where the island chain takes a westerly turn toward the sunset. Small resorts, down-home restaurants and undisturbed wilderness are its chief amenities. It is home to one of the best beaches in America at Bahia Honda State Park. From Tiny Little Duck Key to Ohio Key, the Lower Keys are a perfect setting for a relaxed family getaway.

The most famous destination on the island chain is Key West, made popular by celebrities and one-of-a-kind escapades. Experience gingerbread mansions and tin-roofed conch houses, walk in the footsteps of Harry Truman and Tennessee Williams, and visit the former homes of John Audubon and Ernest Hemingway. When the sun sets, Key West comes alive each evening with an improvisational celebration on Mallory Dock. Then it’s time to head to Duval Street and its legendary pubs, such as Hemingway’s hangout, Sloppy Joe’s.

Planning a December trip to the Keys? Check out the 8th Annual Holiday Festival on December 7 in Islamorada; the Holiday Lighted Boat Parade on December 8 in Key Largo; Marathon’s Boot Key Harbor Lighted Christmas Boat Parade on December 11; and the Lower Keys Lighted Boat Parade on December 15. For New Year’s Eve, nothing beats watching the Conch Shell drop at midnight from Sloppy Joe’s in Key West.

Travel Planner

Visit the Monroe County Tourist Development Council at fla-keys.com.

 
 
 
 
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