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.
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.
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.
Surrounded by turquoise water beneath the Old Seven Mile Bridge at Marathon, the tiny island of Pigeon Key looms large in the history of the Florida Keys. And now, following the restoration and reopening of a 2.2-mile section of the bridge nicknamed “Old Seven,” the five-acre Keys landmark is more accessible than ever.