In the Florida Keys, it’s possible to savor the things that matter most with the people who matter most — on the vacation of a lifetime. The island chain offers scores of opportunities to reconnect through shared experiences and memory-making adventures.

Turtle Hospital tour Marathon Key

Visitors to the Middle Keys can tour the Turtle Hospital, the world’s first state-certified veterinary hospital for sea turtles located in Marathon. (Photo by Andy Newman, Florida Keys News Bureau)

The 125-mile arc of subtropical islands is loaded with adventure, history and natural beauty. Year-round, visitors can walk among historic shipwreck artifacts, “mingle” with winged creatures, “meet” sea turtle patients at the world’s first veterinary-certified sea turtle hospital, kayak among brilliant mangrove islands and explore remote national parks.

To begin a lifetime of adventure, underwater enthusiasts can learn to snorkel or scuba dive to explore the continental United States’ only living coral barrier reef and America’s first undersea park. Both are Keys treasures and are protected within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

One of the Keys’ most popular action-packed adventures, and one rich in good storytelling, is fishing — whether in deep blue water, along the reef or in the backcountry. Who among a bunch of bonding anglers will tell the tallest fish tale at a local eatery while the chef cooks the catch for dinner?

Friends and families can fish together on private half-day or full-day charters for delectable yellowtail snapper, dolphin (mahi-mahi), grouper, kingfish, tuna, cobia and wahoo. Other targets in deep offshore waters include high-leaping sailfish and reel-emptying blue marlin.

Florida Bay, edged by the “inner” curve of the Keys and the Florida mainland, is referred to locally as the backcountry. This region is home to five of the most sought-after gamefish among recreational anglers: bonefish, tarpon, permit, redfish (red drum) and snook. Tarpon also can be caught near historic Middle Keys bridges.

Anglers of all ages can catch and release lemon, blacktip, bull and hammerhead sharks — a particularly exciting aspect of catch-and-release fishing. Education is a key part of the shark fishing experience, because the species is both endangered and misunderstood.

Florida Keys guide releasing fish

Florida Keys guide Justin Rea releases a permit caught on a fly rod in the Lower Keys. (Photo by Steve Bly, Florida Keys News Bureau)

A number of fishing “party boats” dot the Keys. These large vessels typically take 20 to 45 people fishing and generally supply all the needed tackle, along with bait and lots of know-how, so anglers of all ages and experience levels can simply step aboard and fish.

Hiring a backcountry guide or booking a charterboat and captain who knows Keys waters makes for a successful and educational day. These professionals offer a customized interactive experience where anglers learn about the fish they’re catching, fishing practices, Florida Keys history and protecting the marine environment and coral reef. Some backcountry guides specialize in teaching casting technique, especially with beginning fly anglers.

Visitors who make charter reservations with recognized Blue Star fishing guides — professionals who educate their clients about sustainable best practices for recreational fishing and conserving the unique Florida Keys ecosystem — help support healthy  fisheries so anglers can reconnect through shared adventures for generations to come.

Want a chance to win a Keys vacation to reconnect with family or other special people in your life? Visit the island chain’s Facebook, Instagram or Twitter pages, or the “Reconnect in the Florida Keys” contest entry page, through June 1, 2021, to find out how!