One of nature’s greatest wonders is a living coral reef — and the only one in the continental United States parallels the Florida Keys. That means the island chain is an unbelievable place to learn to scuba dive. Professional dive instructors actively teach all year, and aspiring divers can find instruction throughout the Keys.
The Florida Keys Overseas Highway, which connects the entire island chain, recently won top honors in GayCities.com’s Best of 2020 awards for “Iconic Road Trips.” While experiencing the “bucket list” drive, travelers can marvel at the ever-changing land- and seascapes to be viewed from the road called the Highway That Goes to Sea.
Florida Keys holiday traditions center around the one and only Santa Keys — a jolly bearded fellow who brings cheer to those who aren’t lucky enough to live in the Keys, and to the underwater creatures in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. What happens on the night before Christmas? Santa Keys makes his rounds!
No one can deny that 2020, and its holiday season, are different than any other year in memory. Whether grief and loss, economic fears or the stress of isolation, almost everyone is feeling the effects of the world’s coronavirus pandemic. Yet even so, it’s possible to find occasional bright spots that bring hope.
Kelly McKinnon, executive director of the Pigeon Key Foundation, is one of four residents of the historic island beneath the Middle Keys’ Old Seven Mile Bridge. The 5-acre Pigeon Key once housed laborers building the 1900s-era Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad, and Kelly is committed to its sustainability and future as a cultural attraction.
Tastes and flavors of the Florida Keys are embedded deeply in the memories of visitors far and wide, so why not surprise family members and good friends this season with delicious gifts of edible or sippable Keys creations? Gifts of food from the island chain are sure to delight even the pickiest recipients.
As well as human visitors who come to the Florida Keys for rest and renewal, marine creatures in need also come calling. Some have health problems, while others are injured, orphaned or lost. Throughout the island chain, ailing sea turtles, manatees, dolphins and whales encounter dedicated professionals and volunteers ready to provide care.
Attention, crustacean fans: Aug. 6 marks the start of the Florida Keys lobster season. Given their location surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, the Keys are a paradise for lovers of fish and seafood. And topping the list of seafood standouts is the native lobster — often called spiny lobster.
The road unrolls like a long gray ribbon, with vast vistas of turquoise water and paler blue sky stretching endlessly on either side. Driving down the Florida Keys Overseas Highway, it’s clear why this roadway is sometimes called the Highway That Goes to Sea — and a “bucket list” drive that everyone should experience.
Rachel Bowman, the Florida Keys’ only female commercial lionfish harvester, is passionate about protecting native species by controlling the population of invasive lionfish. A licensed boat captain, she moved to the Keys nearly two decades ago. Now she captures thousands of pounds of lionfish annually, contributing significantly to the “conservation through consumption” movement.