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.
In April 1982, the Florida Keys symbolically “seceded” from the United States and were reborn as the independent Conch Republic. Today the republic is internationally acclaimed as the Keys’ irreverent alter ego — and this month, the 40th annual Conch Republic Independence Celebration commemorates the historic action with a roster of rollicking events.
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.
Encouraging actions that support the environment is a vital element of the Florida Keys’ commitment to protecting the island chain’s natural resources. And from Big Pine Key to Key West, visitors can find a wide variety of positive environmental activities and attractions that illustrate how to share that commitment — while making lasting memories.
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.
Kyle Stuart brings his famous drag character Deja to life nightly in the “Sushi and the 801 Girls” show at Key West’s popular 801 Bourbon Bar. When he’s not entertaining audiences with his over-the-top costumes and makeup, he loves to be out on the water fishing and diving — even spearfishing and targeting lobsters.
Key West is gloriously, outrageously abnormal — a place where wild chickens roam the streets and nobody thinks it’s strange to spot grown men dressed like Darth Vader or Marilyn Monroe. In this quirky haven, dogs ride happily in bicycle baskets, creativity and diversity flourish, and “street performer” and “treasure hunter” are legitimate occupations.
In Key West each April, “drag racing” takes on a whole new meaning — as exotic drag queens don quirky sporting attire, lavish wigs and towering high heels to vie for victory in the Conch Republic Drag Race. The offbeat competition is scheduled April 16 on Duval Street (appropriately dubbed Key West’s “main drag”).
The southernmost point of the continental United States, and the last “key” in the string of Florida Keys, Key West is a tiny equator-kisser island at the very tip of Florida. Guest blogger Reagan Fountain offers insightful thoughts on why the island oasis is widely regarded as “nothing short of a subtropical paradise.”
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.