Florida Keys

From Key Largo to Key West

Florida Keys vacations offer a wealth of leisure activities, from sunbathing to water sports, fishing and boating, great restaurants, shopping, and sumptuous lodging with all the amenities. There's something for everyone in the Florida Keys.

The Keys are a group of 600 islands that trail in a 110-mile line southwest of Miami, Florida. Riding along the Overseas Highway is a unique experience during which you will feel yourself gradually leaving the rest of the world behind.

The first in this line of islands is Key Largo. This area boasts some of the best diving and snorkeling in the Keys. Many dive companies are located here and offer guided trips to John Pennecamp State Park and the many sunken reefs just off the coast. The John Pennecamp State Park is a facility all members of the family can enjoy. The Park Visitor Center has a 30,000-gallon salt water aquarium and a theater to watch nature films. Guided snorkel and diving trips, as well as equipment rentals, are available. Or, if you want to see the reef up close from above water, try the glass-bottom boat. You can also swim at Canon Beach or rent a canoe or kayak for your own explorations of the mangrove estuaries. Camping is also available at the park.

Islamorada is a bit further down the chain of Keys. This area is known for its world-class sportfishing opportunities. Many fishing tournaments are held here. Bonefishing is one of the most popular activities, and in winter, sailfishing off the coast is enjoyed by many visitors.

Marathon Key is about midway between the beginning and the end of the chain of Florida Keys. Marathon is a city with its own airport and everything a traveler might need for a relaxing and comfortable vacation, including a number of resorts catering to fishing and boating, or to more luxurious pursuits.

Bahia Honda State Park is just south of Marathon on Big Pine Key, and here you will find 635 acres of beach, dunes, hammocks and mangroves that cover the ancient coral reef. Swimming, fishing, boating, snorkel and scuba trips, rentals, nature trails, concessions and camping are all available for your enjoyment.

The last in the Key island chain is Key West, the southernmost city in the United States. Key West vacations offer shopping, galleries full of beautiful Florida art, chartered offshore fishing trips, diving, snorkeling, sailing and motorbiking. Take some time to ride the conch train or enjoy the many great restaurants of Key West. Visit the Ernest Hemingway Museum House, and Mel Fisher's MaritimeMuseum. Or just relax by the pool at one of the many Key West hotels.

The Dry Tortugas is a cluster of islands located 68 miles west of Key West. Tortuga means turtle in Spanish, and the "dry" part is a warning that there is no fresh water on the islands. If you decide to stay at the campground on Garden Key, you will have to bring all your own supplies, including drinking water. Fort Jefferson National Monument is located in the Dry Tortugas National Park. The fort and island are only accessible by boat or seaplane from Key West.

by J. Lang Wood

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