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Florida Keys Vacations
Activities, attractions and adventures await the intrepid Florida Keys traveler.
Florida Keys vacations have an almost fabled quality to them. Like the fairy tales we remember from childhood, the mind conjures up images of pirates, shipwrecks, buried treasures, swimming with dolphins, giant sailfish and swordfish, dangerous hurricanes, idyllic beaches and much more. We recall Humphrey Bogart's classic movie, "Key Largo" and remember that Ernest Hemingway established Key West in the consciousness of America.
It's appropriate that most people enter the Florida Keys driving, leaving the Florida mainland on US Highway 1and heading down the Florida Keys Scenic Highway towards Key Largo. It reminds one of a long drum roll preceding a special announcement or of the extended length of a procession before entering a special place. The long, high speed drive on a crowded 2-lane highway through the mangroves and swamplands of South Florida simply heightens the anticipation for our journey. At Barnes Sound the roadway is renamed The Overseas Highway, a fitting name for route which spans from island to island over 42 bridges of varying length and extends all the way to Key West. It is here that Florida Keys vacations start; a four lane highway carrying people to and from dreams and adventures.
The Florida Keys are a string of islands off of the southern coast of Florida that extend in a west-southwest direction from the mainland south of Miami. The chain is about 122 miles long from Key Largo to Key West and connected by bridges. Some of these spans are very long, offering the highway traveler mile after mile of panoramic views of distant islands and endless ocean waters against the backdrop of a deep blue sky and billowing white clouds. While highway travel in other places is a numbing, time consuming necessity of the vacation, in the Florida Keys it is an intrinsic part of the vacation.
In times past, the Overseas Highway and bridges traveled were basically the converted railway route that Henry Flagler built through the Keys in the late 1800's. The early roadway planners placed their pavement and water spans directly on top of the old railroad beds and bridges. However, many storms over the years have destroyed most of the old railroad's bridge structure, eroded the rocky rail beds and they have since been replaced by modern spans that allow for higher speeds.
Vacations in the Florida Keys begin at the first and longest island in the Florida Keys, Key Largo. Known as "The Dive Capital of the World," here you'll find the John Pennecamp State Park, home to the coral reef, and an opportunity to scuba dive, snorkel or simply view the reef from glass-bottomed boats. There are caves, shipwrecks and other marine features to be found in this area, so its moniker is well deserved. Dive instruction, charters and tours can be found everywhere on this island which boasts four-star accommodations and the world's first underwater hotel.
While some Keys travelers stop in Key Largo, many press on to other vacation destinations in the islands. The drive through Key Largo begins one of the longest, more spectacular scenic drives in the world. Beautiful, stately Coconut Palms grace the tropical land route and blushes of crimson, gold and magenta are provided by mass plantings of Bougainvillea. Toward the Middle Keys, Buttonwoods, with their craggy trunks, twisting branches and silvery leaves begin to show in classic poses by the seashore. The water everywhere is blue and green and all colors in between. Crystal-clear and inviting, the sea wraps around the small islands that are seen in every direction.
The trip through the Florida Keys is a trek through a vast water wonderland of island cities, towns, government holdings and private estates. Fishing charters, dive centers and water tours can be found everywhere and tourist attractions allow everything from swimming with dolphins to skydiving over the Keys. Boat ramps are available every few miles and public parks are conveniently spaced along the way. The entire Bahia Honda Key is designated as the Bahia Honda State Park and allows overnight seaside camping as well as RV's and cabin accommodations in one of the most beautiful island and beach settings imaginable.
The final destination for many who take Florida Keys vacations is Key West, where everything seen and experienced throughout the Keys so far is magnified. Here the history of nature is blended subtly with the history of man in an unforgettable experience of tropical pleasures. Soft ocean breezes, shady strolls through town and magnificent sunsets characterize the small island and day's end leaves many wanting more. Those venturing forth in the darkness, whether exploring the natural scene or the man-made settings will certainly get more. Key West touches everyone and memories of dancing dolphins and historic structures remain through a lifetime.
For further information on cities and towns in the Florida Keys, please click on the underlined. linked city names in the directory listing.
Year 2000 population: 79,589.
Major cities, population or tourist centers include:
Bahia Honda Key
Big Coppitt Key
Some of the more familiar - and not so familiar - islands included in Monroe County are:
Upper Matecombe Key
Lower Matecombe Key
Little Duck Key
Big Torch Key
Middle Torch Key
Little Torch Key
Bahia Honda Key
Lower Sugarloaf Key
Saddle Bunch Keys
Big Coppitt Key
East Rockland Key
No Name Key
Big Pine Key
Boca Chica Key
Fat Deer Key
Little Crawl Key
Key Colony Beach