Divers and ocean enthusiasts can celebrate the 20th “sink anniversary” of the third-largest vessel ever intentionally scuttled to become an artificial reef — the retired 510-foot Navy Landing Ship Dock Spiegel Grove, which lies off Key Largo — with events May 15-17 and a contest to win a Keys trip to dive the famous wreck.
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.
Few people visit the Florida Keys without sampling a few pieces of Key lime pie, renowned as the island chain’s signature dessert. Millions of slices of the tart, creamy treat — voted the official pie of Florida by the state legislature in 2006 (yes, really!) — are savored every year by Keys visitors and locals.
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.
Florida Keys visitors can discover a place embracing sustainability and the preservation of environmental wonders, filled with hammocks and rainforest areas, sandy beaches and on-the-water relaxation, and unique opportunities for world-class bird watching. Whether on land or water, the Keys’ natural world provides the rejuvenation that comes from time spent outdoors.
Every day is an adventure in the Florida Keys, where the subtropical climate and scenic natural settings create the perfect backdrop for intriguing eco-activities — such as exploring mangrove wilderness, tropical hardwood hammocks and rainforest areas, or diving a protected underwater park. Upper Keys visitors can enjoy unplugged experiences from bird watching to “voluntourism.”
Known for creative, colorful, sometimes quirky artwork and a rich diversity of handcrafted artisan wares, the Florida Keys are internationally recognized for artistry inspired by stunning seascapes, landscapes and a light-drenched subtropical color palette. This season, the Keys feature fresh-air strolls that explore the matchless talent and fascinating work of skilled local artists.
The Florida Keys offer scores of earth- and sea-friendly options for visitors to enjoy, guided by residents who cherish their close-to-nature lifestyle and strive to preserve it. They include sustainable fishing and dive charter operators, coral restoration innovators, trailblazers in “voluntourism,” wildlife rehabilitation experts and leaders of eco-tours and cultural excursions.
Ken Nedimyer, an Upper Keys–based director of Reef Renewal Foundation International, is globally recognized as a father of reef restoration, creating strategies to rebuild coral reefs around the world. He oversees three coral nurseries in the Keys — off Tavernier, Big Pine Key and Marathon — that house 21 coral species with 1,000 genotypes.