Attention, watersports enthusiasts: boating, fishing and nautical merchandise galore will be available at the 19th annual Big Pine & Lower Keys Nautical Expo. A popular annual “pop-up” outfitter of supplies for a wide variety of water activities, the open-air market is set for Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 14-15.

Big Pine & Lower Keys Nautical Expo

The Expo features items for anglers, divers, boaters and others who enjoy the Florida Keys’ on-the-water pursuits.

Running from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, the event features items designed for sailors, boaters, anglers, kayakers and others who enjoy experiencing the Florida Keys’ unique seafaring environment — including, of course, divers and snorkelers immersed in the island chain’s fascinating underwater realm.

More than 100 vendors are expected to display and sell their wares at the event, which will be held on the grounds of the Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce visitor center (mile marker 31 oceanside on Big Pine Key).

As well as supplies for just about every watersports pursuit imaginable, expo attendees can also find items to enhance a comfortable Florida Keys lifestyle. And that’s not all — talented Keys artisans will be on hand offering colorful clothing, jewelry and other unique temptations.

In addition to the items for sale, the family-friendly event includes live music by local and regional musicians and bands. And attendees can savor vendors’ Keys-style and casual food and beverages too, adding a picnic vibe to the weekend of outdoor fun.

Admission to the Nautical Expo and parking are free, and proceeds from the enticing event benefit the Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce and its programs.

Key Deer Florida Keys

The Blue Hole, within the Florida Keys National Key Deer Refuge on Big Pine Key, provides fresh water for graceful Key deer and other Lower Keys wildlife. (Photo by Rob O’Neal, Florida Keys News Bureau)

While the Expo takes place over a single January weekend each year, the Big Pine Key area also offers intriguing spots that can be explored at any time — some found in out-of-the-way places that seem worlds away from high-profile attractions and emporiums.

Lesser known and less visited, they’re wonderful settings for relaxing and discovering the quiet wonders of the Florida Keys environment.

For example, check out the Blue Hole. You’ll find this secluded oasis off Key Deer Boulevard at mile marker 30.5 bayside. An abandoned quarry with a layer of fresh water floating over salt water, the Blue Hole is attractive to a wide variety of wildlife.

Tiny Key deer drink there, and the watering hole’s other denizens include turtles, snakes, birds, fish and even the occasional alligator.

There’s a great view from the observation platform — or venture along the walking trail that leads deeper into the wild. Beyond the Blue Hole lie the hardwoods and subtropical foliage of Watson’s Hammock.

And no visit to the Big Pine area would be complete without a stop at Grimal Grove. The historic 2-acre tropical fruit grove, lying near mile marker 30.5, was first owned by inventor and recluse Adolf Grimal, who amassed hundreds of rare fruit trees and created raised garden beds and waterways for irrigation.

After his 1997 death, the property fell into a shambles. In 2013 Patrick Garvey and Growing Hope Initiative restored it as a tropical fruit park.

Patrick Garvey guides a group of kids exploring Grimal Grove’s green space.

Today, under Patrick’s stewardship, Grimal Grove is believed to be the continental United States’ first and only breadfruit grove.

It features more than 30 breadfruit trees of five varieties — which not only can provide quality nourishment, but also are being used in the production of a specialty breadfruit vodka!

Guided excursions of Grimal Grove, showcasing subtropical and tropical fruits, frees and plants, are offered on request for $20 per person.

Want to know more about the one-of-a-kind attractions to be found in Big Pine and the Lower Keys? Just click here.