POPULAR CITIES IN THE KEYS AND KEY WEST FLORIDA
The island chain’s first and longest island, it is about an hour from Miami International Airport.
Key Largo is bordered on the west side by the Florida Bay and the Everglades National Park, and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, it’s clear Gulf Stream waters make it a fishing and watersport paradise including scuba diving, snorkeling, sport fishing, eco-tours, beaches and dolphin watching.
Key Largo is where the movie “Key Largo” was filmed starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Today, visitors can take a tour on The African Queen, the boat Bogart and Katharine Hepburn fell into during the 1951 movie, “The African Queen,” is set in World War I Africa.
The island also offers numerous on-shore attractions including nature trails and a rehabilitation center for wild birds, and the star attraction is John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the first underwater preserve in the United States, that is incorporated within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
Islamorada keys include Windley Key, Upper Matecumbe Key and Lower Matecumbe Key in addition to two offshore islands, accessible only by boat, historic Indian Key, a site where early settlers were attacked by raiding Indians, and Lignumvitae Key, an ancient, patch of land where tropical hardwood trees, including the lignumvitae, It is the densest and hardest wood known. Because the wood is self-oiling, lignum vitae was a popular choice for steamship bearings and for use in equipment like pulleys; composite materials eventually replaced it in marine construction and heavy machinery, today the wood is mostly used in carvings..
Islamorada is more of a playground for adults, featuring eco-tours, water sports equipment rentals, tennis facilities, bicycle trails, historic hikes and beautiful romantic vistas of both the Atlantic Ocean and Florida Bay.
Restaurants range from upscale continental, fresh seafood to casual. Islamorada is widely regarded as the Sport-Fishing Capital of the World, and houses the largest fleet of offshore charter and shallow-water “backcountry” boats with tournament-grade captains in the world.
The fun, activities, and outdoor adventures are limitless in Marathon and the Middle Florida Keys. The Middle Florida Keys includes Marathon, Boot, Knights, Hog, Vaca, Stirrup, Crawl and Little Crawl keys, East and West Sister’s Island, Deer and Fat Deer keys, Long Pine and Grassy keys.
Marathon was incorporated as the City of Marathon in 1999, and has quickly become the family-friendly destination of the Keys, there are plenty of activities for the entire age group and family such as golf, world-class diving and snorkeling, boating, the ability to swim with dolphins, stroll the white sand of Sombrero Beach and enjoy water sports like kayaking and standup paddle boarding.
There are natural attractions such as the hardwood hammock and rainforest areas of Crane Point Hammock, a 64-acre reserve on some of the most historically and archaeologically-rich land in the Keys. Pre-Columbian artifacts have been discovered here, and the site is home to the Museum of Natural History of The Florida Keys and the Children’s Museum. You can also visit the world-renowned Dolphin Research Center where you can get up even swim with Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins.
Big Pine Key & the Lower Keys
Beautiful and Tranquil best describe Big Pine and the Lower Keys. The ultimate place to remove yourself from the stresses of daily life. There is a plethora of outdoor activities to enjoy in a relaxing carefree environment such as fishing, walking and biking, and seeing wildlife.
Vacationers visiting Big Pine Key relish in exploring the oceans surrounding the islands to indulge in world-class snorkeling and diving. Looe Key is located approximately 7 miles off shore and is regarded one of the clearest and best reefs for snorkeling and diving in the Keys.
The Lower Keys’ offers popular nature tours, many by kayak, to view migratory and wading birds and the unique flora and fauna. Big Pine is also home to the diminutive Key deer, a subspecies of the white tail deer, and the National Key Deer Refuge was established in 1957 to protect and preserve habitats for wildlife.
The last key on the Overseas Highway is Key West, the nation’s southernmost city and it’s actually closer to Havana, Cuba than Miami. Key West is considered by many as one of the most beautiful places on earth. There is a lot of activity and things to see and do in Key West. Many visitors who take short 3 or 4 day trips usually say they should have stayed longer.
Key West has many colorfully-restored Bahama like homes where cigar workers lived in the 19th century. Huge, architecturally rich mansions were built by business tycoons and city leaders. Some have been converted into bed and breakfasts and inns with swimming pools and tropical gardens.
Famous writer Ernest Hemingway was inspired by Key West and wrote some of his greatest works here. Hemingway purchased a pre-Civil War mansion on Whitehead Street in the 1930s and lived here for nearly a decade. The home is now a beautifully restored museum visited by thousands of people per year.
The crystal clear waters off of Key West offer world-class diving, snorkeling or a sailing expedition. World Famous Duval Street, has a wide array of shopping, live –music, bars and fantastic restaurants.
At sunset, visitors and local artists gather on the docks at Mallory Square to celebrate the end to another tropical day and watch for the “Green Flash”. Musicians, jugglers, mimes, and the occasional fire-eater entertain you while local food vendors keep you fed. The daily celebration has become one of Key West’s most famous traditions.