Situated at the southernmost end of Florida, the Florida Keys consist primarily of “The River of Grass” in the southwest corner of the Sunshine State and a coral archipelago of islands or keys, which divide the Atlantic Ocean to the east from the Gulf of Mexico to the west. The northernmost islands are located in Miami-Dade County, however more than 95 percent of the land area lies in Monroe County.
As the only frost-free place in Florida, the Keys’ tropical climate, distinctive fauna and flora and surrounding seascape have lured the kayakers, canoeists, birdwatchers, campers, fishermen, photographers, volunteers and divers as well as party revelers to these sunny shores for decades.
Although 64 islands make up the Florida Keys, only a handful is inhabited and accessible by land. Featuring a number of attractions along the way, the scenic 127-mile Overseas Highway, a destination unto itself, connects the Florida mainland to the inhabited islands and Key West. Locations between Key Largo and Key West are commonly given as mile markers.
At the northern end, Key Largo is home to the African Queen, used in the 1951 film starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn, as well as the Humphrey Bogart Film Festival in May. Citizen scientists and divers may also wish to volunteer in coral restoration workshops organized here in October by the Key Largo’s Coral Restoration Foundation.
In Islamorada, the Morada Way Arts & Cultural District hosts an Art Walk every third Thursday of the month. A popular family attraction is Robbie’s Marina at MM 77.5 where visitors feed herring to hungry tarpons.
The not-to-be-missed Dolphin Research Center at MM 59 is an acclaimed non-profit marine mammal research and education facility where visitors are welcome to watch and meet the resident dolphins. The nearby Turtle Hospital at MM 48.5 in Marathon is primarily dedicated to rehabilitating injured sea turtles and returning them to the wild.
At MM 37, Bahia Honda State Park features an award-winning beach as well as splendid panoramic views from the Old Bahia Honda Bridge, a remnant of Henry Flagler’s historic Oversea Railroad.
Connecting Knight’s Key in the Middle Keys to Little Duck Key in the Lower Keys, the famous Seven-Mile Bridge has been featured in such films as License to Kill, True Lies, Mission Impossible III and others. Every April, the bridge is closed for 2.5 hours on a Saturday for a “fun run.
Key West requires little introduction to most. In recent years, the city has somewhat shed its edginess and evolved into a sophisticated shopping and culinary mecca. Key West boasts the largest number of wooden structures in the country—3,000—many of which have been restored. The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, the Harry S. Truman Little White House, the Conch Tour Train, and Sloppy Joe’s Bar are among the most popular Key West attractions. However, Mallory Square remains a key gathering spot where people capture stunning sunsets and watch buskers while zany festivals continue to delight locals and visitors year-round.
Donna S. Vieira is a travel enthusiast & loves exploring the locations. She also likes to read books. She liked a guide on Florida Travel so she continuously looks up for their latest editions.