Many families have been separated for months because of the coronavirus pandemic, unable to share important occasions like birthdays, weddings, graduations and holiday gatherings. But finally, postponed trips are being planned and it’s time to reunite, make new memories and strengthen generational bonds.
Driving the Florida Keys Overseas Highway, crossing more than 40 bridges over open water, is a one-of-a-kind experience. (Photo by Rob O’Neal, Florida Keys News Bureau)
In the Florida Keys, the 125-mile-long island chain at the southern tip of Florida, you and your family members can find seemingly endless ways to reconnect.
For example, make memories simply by driving the famed Florida Keys Overseas Highway with more than 40 (count them!) bridges, including the landmark Seven Mile Bridge.
Along the way are miles of wide-open seascapes, with sea and sky spanning as far as the eye can see, and endless eclectic roadside stops to explore.
A family road trip through the Keys features five destinations in a single vacation: Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, Big Pine and the Lower Keys, and Key West — the fabled southernmost island in the continental United States.
Protecting this subtropical island chain is the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, made up of 2,900 square nautical miles of waters and submerged lands surrounding the entire Keys — including the continental United States’ only living coral barrier reef.
In this protected realm, scores of on-the-water activities can be shared.
Paddling among mangrove forests is a popular kayaking activity in the Lower Florida Keys near Big Pine Key. (Photo by Steve Bly, Florida Keys News Bureau)
You’ll also find 10 Florida state parks that have inviting beaches for sunning and shallow-water swimming. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the nation’s first undersea park, offers a unique introduction to the Keys with glass-bottom boat and snorkel tours of the reef.
The surrounding sea, with its soothing salty water, is refreshing and revitalizing.
Families can experience the tranquil joy of Keys living by kayaking through the peaceful Lower Keys backcountry, chartering a boat for a private offshore fishing excursion or taking an eco-tour to spot wild frolicking dolphins, sea turtles and indigenous fish and marine life.
Or you might visit the offshore islands of Indian and Pigeon keys and snorkel in warm, turquoise-tinted water. Discover SNUBA (a cross between snorkeling and scuba diving) at multiple Keys spots or get dive certified from a master pro at a world-class dive shop.
Kids and active adults can spend time together learning to paddleboard, kiteboard, wakeboard or aqua-cycle.
Visitors to the Middle Keys can tour the Turtle Hospital, the world’s first state-certified veterinary hospital for sea turtles, located in Marathon. (Photo by Andy Newman, Florida Keys News Bureau)
In the Keys, there’s history to fascinate all ages: tales of pirates and sunken treasure, Civil War–era forts, Henry Flagler’s Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad, noted American authors including Ernest Hemingway and even the “Little White House” of former President Harry S. Truman.
You and your family can explore unique aquariums; lush botanical gardens; establishments that nurture turtles, dolphins and wild native birds; or a wildlife refuge that protects tiny indigenous Key deer.
Hungry? Share a “catch and cook” experience — or sample lionfish, pink shrimp and stone crab claws while launching a “treasure hunt” for the best Key lime pie. Adults can toast with a Keys-crafted libation and, at sunset, everyone can applaud the sun as it sinks slowly beneath the horizon.
Many amenity-rich resorts, both established and new, can easily accommodate family groups in spacious units or villas with kitchens and private bedrooms. Such properties can provide a comfortable yet exotic subtropical backdrop for that long-awaited reunion.
And when the vacation is over, let it inspire a new family tradition: planning future visits to the Keys to continue strengthening connections and making lasting memories.
Want a chance to win a Keys vacation to reconnect with family or other special people in your life? Visit the island chain’s Facebook, Instagram or Twitter pages, or the “Reconnect in the Florida Keys” contest entry page, through June 1, 2021, to find out how!