The Florida Keys are magical—and even then, magical is an understatement. I mean, there is no other place like it in the USA, with beaches that will steal your heart, water that will cleanse your soul, and nature that has managed to remain virtually untouched despite years of tourism.
Comprised of over 800 tiny islands clustered into five separate groups you’ll never be bored and most definitely won’t need to resort to the touristy activities to get your fill of the tropics! Step off the beaten path and start planning your trip with unique escapades found all over the Keys- not just Key West or Key Largo.
Islamorada is comprised of six islands: Plantation Key, Windley Key, Upper Matecumbe Key, Lower Matecumbe Key and Lignumvitae Key. If you enjoy battling finned beasts with a fishing pole, then welcome to the Sportfishing Capital of the World. Opt for water sports? Islamorada is also a popular kite-boarding destination.
Islamorada is a haven for lovers—encompassing a romantic vibe with cute bed and breakfasts, shops and natural bliss. Escape to Long Key State Park for some camping and bone fishing or get lost on the trails with superb hiking that leads visitors through five natural habitats. Kayaking is also a must and paddlers can explore the chain of lagoons that the park encompasses.
History is rich here as well and at Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park visitors can explore an old quarry dug up by Henry Flagler’s railroad workers. The infamous Overseas Highway follows the original trail of the Florida Coast Railroad and Indian Key Historic State Park and Ligumvitae Botanical State Park will whisk visitors to the past, teaching about the life in the early 1800s.
Located in the heart of the Keys, visitors can get acquainted with a less crowded, “old keys” lifestyle in Marathon, which includes Grassy Key, Fat Deer Key and Key Vaca. Marathon is a nature lover’s paradise and great for families with plenty of easy water sports and easygoing activities. Hike through the lush hardwood grove to Crane Point or visit federally protected Sombrero Reef. It is the only living coral barrier reef in the US—perfect for some snorkeling or “snuba” diving—a fairly new adventure that combines snorkeling with scuba diving.
Because Marathon is home to a large family community, in Boot Key Harbor City Marina you will find tons of eateries, shops, a library, park and sports complex. The Marathon Airport is also located here.
Big Pine Key
Welcome to the lower keys, where serenity and natural beauty are in abundance. Bahia Honda State Park boasts one of the most beautiful oceanfront campgrounds in the State, but be sure to reserve your spot well in advance because they tend to fill up fairly quickly. Big Pine is also home to the endangered Key deer and you can meet these native miniature deer at the National Key Deer Refuge.
If you’re looking to charter a dive then Big Pine Key is the jumping off point to Looe Key where underwater life is waiting to be observed. In the lower keys it’s all about thinking outside the box and embarking on your own adventure. Stop along the overseas highway at one of several white sandy beaches that line the road and take in the untouched tropical wilderness without the towering condos and beach traffic. Small resorts, retro lodgings and local establishments offer far more charm than a five star hotel ever could.
Courtney is a full-time writer covering soccer, travel and the outdoors. You can find her scouting out hole in the wall joints for the perfect carnitas taco, jumping in the ocean under the light of a full moon or exploring the beautiful Florida wilderness and documenting her adventures in her blog, www.localtravelgal.wordpress.com.