Miles of wide-open spaces, warm fragrant breezes and vibrantly colorful scenery invite Florida Keys visitors to spend most of their time outdoors. Simple pleasures abound throughout the 125-mile-long island chain, an outdoor playground for all ages, where it’s easy to discover seemingly endless ways to reconnect with family, friends and the natural world.
In May, Elena Muratori celebrates 25 years with the Florida Park Service. With two decades of working at John Pennekamp Coral Reef and Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical state parks, she’s one of the longest-serving stewards at any Florida Keys state park. And she’s deeply dedicated to restoring and preserving natural resources.
Rob Oliverio traded life as a road warrior — a corporate manager launching House of Blues openings in Boston, New Orleans and Los Angeles — for life as an eco-entrepreneur and owner of Key West’s Mellow Ventures. Today he’s focused on helping visitors learn to appreciate, respect and protect the beauty of the Keys.
Kelly Grinter estimates she’s rescued and released more than 20,000 injured birds since she founded the Marathon Wild Bird Center in 1995. The sanctuary at Marathon’s Crane Point Hammock Museum and Nature Center has 11 habitats and about 40 permanent residents — and Kelly is inspired by each bird admitted into the facility’s care.
The Florida Keys & Key West, long recognized for supporting artistic, literary and creative endeavors, are known throughout the world as a vibrant cultural destination. Visitors can experience life like a local through Keys cultural arts, influenced by warm subtropical breezes, storied architectural history and colorful scenery on islands surrounded by azure waters.
Florida Keys artist Dan Davis, owner of the online Florida Keys Ocean Gallery, uses the ancient Japanese art of gyotaku to create prints from fish he catches in Keys waters. He also educates art lovers about the need to preserve local waters that are home to a vast array of prized game fish.
As executive director of the Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden, former ballet danseur Misha McRAE is preparing to celebrate the 85th anniversary of the 15-acre subtropical treasure. Described as the continental United States’ only frost-free tropical forest and botanical garden, the enchanted spot has been his passion since the late 1990s.
With an abundance of colorful subtropical fruits and flowers, the Florida Keys are rich in soothing organic and sustainable ingredients for luxury skin care and bath products. Easily ordered online, these products make great holiday gifts — providing a way to create an at-home spa experience that evokes warm, fragrant memories of the Keys.
Kelly McKinnon, executive director of the Pigeon Key Foundation, is one of four residents of the historic island beneath the Middle Keys’ Old Seven Mile Bridge. The 5-acre Pigeon Key once housed laborers building the 1900s-era Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad, and Kelly is committed to its sustainability and future as a cultural attraction.
Tastes and flavors of the Florida Keys are embedded deeply in the memories of visitors far and wide, so why not surprise family members and good friends this season with delicious gifts of edible or sippable Keys creations? Gifts of food from the island chain are sure to delight even the pickiest recipients.