Ibis at Robbie's Marina
  • A Florida Keys vacation offers the perfect opportunity to reconnect with the natural environment and escape real-world stresses in a relaxing, tranquil setting. (Photo by Andy Newman, Florida Keys News Bureau)

     

  • By: Carol Shaughnessy
  • January 22, 2020

Now that the initial excitement about a new year (and a new decade!) has faded slightly, it’s a good time to focus on making them both meaningful and memorable.

Paddling among mangrove forests is a popular kayaking activity in the Lower Florida Keys near Big Pine Key. (Photo by Steve Bly, Florida Keys News Bureau)

How? By turning your back on today’s stress-filled, hurry-up lifestyle — choosing to slow down, give yourself some space and grace, and discover that simple things mean the most and inspire the best memories.

Simple things like savoring the taste of fresh, perfectly grilled fish. Catching your breath in delight at a blazing red and purple sunset. Feeling the cool kiss of saltwater as you slip into the blue Atlantic. Sharing moments you’ll remember forever with people you love.

Simple things, in fact, like the uncontrived experiences you’ll find during an escape to the Florida Keys.

For example, you can glide though the Lower Keys’ shade-dappled shallows in a kayak, exploring primeval-looking mangrove forests in a stillness so profound that civilization seems light-years away.

Wander the nature trails of Marathon’s 63-acre Crane Point through thatch palm and tropical hardwood hammock, eagerly seeking sightings of resident and migrating birds from warblers to tidal waders.

Florida Keys fish dinner

Visiting anglers can enjoy a memorable deep-sea charter excursion and then feast on their fresh catch, expertly prepared by a local chef. (Photo by Elmar Elfers, Florida Keys Photo Adventure)

Marvel at an artist’s skill as you watch a painted vision take shape at a studio gallery in Key West or Islamorada. Or learn the true meaning of the word “awesome” when you first glimpse the indescribable color and life of Key Largo’s underwater realm.

What do these Keys experiences have in common? They’re real. Honest. Memory-making. And whether you share them with family, friends or a significant other, they offer a chance to recharge your batteries, reset your priorities and reawaken your sense of wonder.

In the Florida Keys, from the northernmost island of Key Largo to the southernmost shores of Key West, you’ll find a supremely relaxing vibe and scores of opportunities for hands-on adventures and in-the-moment enjoyment.

You can add meaning to your getaway by volunteering to help with coral restoration on the continental United States’ only living coral barrier reef, which parallels the island chain, with marine scientists from world-renowned facilities in Key Largo and the Lower Keys.

Discover the thrill of deep-sea fishing on a shared excursion out of Robbie’s Marina in Islamorada, and celebrate your newfound angling skill by feasting on your fresher-than-fresh catch prepared by a local chef.

Witnessing the release of a sea turtle rehabilitated at Marathon’s Turtle Hospital is one of the most meaningful experiences Keys visitors can have. (Photo by Bob Care, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Bond with sea turtles at Marathon’s Turtle Hospital, a grassroots facility whose passionate staff has nurtured and rehabilitated ailing sea turtles for more than 25 years. Take a guided behind-the-scenes tour of this one-of-a-kind hospital and meet the resident “patients” — and If you’re lucky, you might be able to witness a turtle being released back into the wild.

No trip to the Keys is complete without a stop at the Lower Keys’ Bahia Honda State Park. Off its beach area you can laze in pristine blue-green water, feeling a whisper of breeze across your sun-warmed face, and gaze at the Old Bahia Honda Bridge rising stoically against a cloudless sky.

In Key West, you’ll find much to engage your senses and feed your spirit. Stroll down famed Duval Street and into the waterfront Historic Seaport, past enticing galleries and boutiques, listening to the rhythms of reggae and island rock spilling out of the open doorways of bars and restaurants.

Or visit the Civil War–era West Martello Fort, home of the Key West Garden Club, to discover beautiful indigenous plants, rare palms and a peace garden backed by the weathered fort and wide sweep of the Atlantic.

In fact, the perfect way to embrace the new year, and begin filling it with meaning and memories, is by spending some “personal time” in the Florida Keys — where you’ll experience simple pleasures that remind you to relax, slow your pace, and savor the things that matter most with the people that matter most.

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