From Key Largo to Key West, the calendar is packed with events designed to spread seasonal cheer — including a traditional Islamorada favorite that features actual snow. Yes, despite the Keys’ typically balmy winter temperatures, grownups and kids of all ages can delight in snow Friday, Dec. 2, during Islamorada’s Florida Keys Holiday Fest.
Fifteen young rescued sea turtles were recently released in Gulf Stream waters off Key West by a dedicated duo from the Florida Keys-based Turtle Hospital — and they were assisted in this worthy endeavor by members of a powerboat racing team who were on the island to compete in the sport’s world championship.
Nearly 60 years ago, Captain Gainey Maxwell conceived a way to encourage people to visit and fish Florida Keys waters — and then come back to do it again. He called it the Key West Fishing Tournament. Today, an impressive 46 backcountry and offshore species are targeted during the free-entry tournament’s eight-month span.
Caitlin “Caiti” Currie, who captains Key Largo water excursions for Pirates Cove Watersports and school groups out of MarineLab at Key Largo Undersea Park, is passionate about keeping the Florida Keys’ aquamarine waters clean. Through Pirates Cove, located at Reefhouse Resort & Marina, she enjoys captaining and participating in Dive Against Debris trips.
The continental United States’ only contiguous living coral barrier reef, which parallels the Florida Keys, hosts huge populations of tropical fish and other sea creatures. The warm, clear water makes a long dive in the Keys comfortable and enjoyable. And around Halloween each year, divers can immerse themselves while actually carving pumpkins underwater!
Revelers can express their creativity by donning dazzling costumes during Key West’s Fantasy Fest, set for Oct. 21-30 and themed “Cult Classics & Cartoon Chaos.” The fabulous festival features masquerade parties, costume contests, music and theater shows, themed events — and a lavish grand parade of massive motorized floats and elaborately garbed marching groups.
Florida Keys residents, and others who love the island chain, are guided by a code of conduct designed to protect the region’s amazing natural environment. Its core is the 10 Keymandments — a lighthearted yet informative set of recommendations for enjoying meaningful, memorable experiences while respecting and helping to preserve the Keys’ treasured eco-realm.
George Bellenger, who co-founded Key West Eco Tours with wife Carla 20 years ago, believes that even a five-minute commitment helps with preserving the Keys’ natural backcountry and dense mangrove islands. The Bellengers’ backcountry eco-tours are operated from the Geiger Key Paddle Hut out of Geiger Key Marina fish camp and RV park.
Most people who care about the Florida Keys probably know that the island chain felt some impacts from Hurricane Ian’s tropical storm-force winds and storm surge when Ian passed well to the west of Key West. So this week, Keys Voices breaks from its usual format to provide readers a post-Ian update.
The community of Marathon boasts a warm family-friendly flair and a variety of cozy inns, waterfront resorts, marinas and casual dining emporiums. The Middle Keys area also features plentiful creative spaces, natural attractions, scenic parks, trails, sightseeing spots and historic sites that make for an appealing blend of heritage, culture and nature.