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.
Marine artist Lisa Lee Herman, owner of Gallery of the Arts Islamorada, is known throughout the Upper Keys for her gyotaku — the ancient Japanese art form for traditionally recording a catch. In fact, Herman greets her gyotaku-seeking clients, and the prized fish they want to preserve, at the dock following their angling excursions.
For foodies seeking authentic Keys-style dining experiences, Upper Keys food trucks present creatively prepared fare that provides a quick and fun alternative to boring fast-food joints. Operated by hands-on local residents, the venues serve personalized, freshly made specialty dishes. The colorful trucks offer a convenient, inexpensive way for visitors to sample Keys-crafted cuisine.
Erin Muir, a sixth-generation Upper Keys native, is descended from two founding Florida Keys families — the Albury and Lowe families that settled in the Keys in the 1860s — whose roots run as deep as those of the island chain’s shoreline mangroves. Now, Erin is Mote Marine Laboratory’s newly named Upper Keys engagement manager.
Want to hunt the skittish gray ghost of the flats, the bonefish? Come to the Keys. Feel like battling a reel-emptying blue marlin? Come to the Keys. The subtropical weather, nearby Gulf Stream and long arc of islands that makes up the Florida Keys create one of the world’s best fishing environments.
In the Florida Keys, the Fourth of July means lively hometown parades, laid-back beach parties, on-the-water fun and lots of fireworks displays. Of course, holiday happenings in the Keys often feature an offbeat twist. So there’s also a July 4 event that illustrates the region’s quirky seaside spirit (and yes, it involves mermaids).
Florida Keys visitors can join residents in becoming stewards of the island chain’s world-renowned coral reef ecosystem. Environmental enthusiasts can aid in reef restoration in the Keys, giving back to the living, dynamic underwater ecosystem. They can also benefit the underwater world by following responsible reef protection tips during their Keys vacations.
Captain Dave Dipre, Marathon-based operational captain with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Division of Law Enforcement, oversees operations from Key Largo to Key West. His love of the Keys, and his sense of environmental responsibility, run as deep as the 125-mile-long island chain’s waters that he’s charged with protecting.
Embark on a journey though the Florida Keys and discover the islands’ lively seafaring history, flourishing creative community, balmy subtropical climate and natural wonders that include the continental United States’ only living coral barrier reef. Yet the Keys’ most important asset is intangible: a laid-back vibe that seems worlds away from everyday cares.
Many Florida Keys “locals” have created satisfying lives close to nature and far from “real world” pressures. But you don’t have to be a resident to share some elements that make Keys life so happily addictive — as long as you’re willing to explore, experience and appreciate the places, people and moments you encounter.