Activities, attractions and adventures for the Florida Keys traveler.
Almost from the very moment you leave the city of Homestead on US Highway 1 and head down the Florida Keys Scenic Highway towards Key Largo, tension starts to build in anticipation of your arrival in the magical Florida Keys. The long, high speed drive on a crowded 2-lane highway through the mangroves and swamplands of Sough Florida does nothing to alleviate the anxiety. However, after reaching water at Barnes Sound, where the roadway is renamed The Overseas Highway, you know that you are close to the action. It is here where you get a glimpse of the adventures and activities that await all travelers to the Florida Keys.
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 which are very long and scenic. In times past, the roadway and bridges traveled were basically the converted railway route that Henry Flagler built through the Keys at the turn of the 20th century. However, many storms over the years have destroyed most of the old railroad's bridge structure and eroded the rocky railbeds and they have since been replaced by modern spans that allow for higher speeds.
The first and longest island in the Florida Keys is 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 a few Keys travelers stop in Key Largo, most press on to more southwestern 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 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 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 travel to the Florida Keys 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