Whether you’re intrigued by marine mammals, sea turtles, wild birds or the plants that add lushness to the Florida Keys landscape, you can indulge your interest at the island chain’s many environmental attractions. Among them are the Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center, the Turtle Hospital, Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters and the Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden — four "must-visit" spots in the colorful Keys.
All over the Florida Keys, people are constructing costumes for their cats, dogs, parrots, potbellied pigs, rabbits and other domestic species. What’s behind this strange phenomenon? A wacky annual costume competition for critters, known as the Pet Masquerade, that’s a highlight of Key West’s 10-day Fantasy Fest celebration each October.
How does it feel to a have an up-close and personal encounter with two exotic pink flamingos? Nature lovers can find out during the exclusive “Flamingle” experience at the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory — believed to be the only butterfly facility in the entire United States that also houses flamingos.
It's sea turtle nesting and hatching season in the Florida Keys — AND two sea turtles rehabilitated at Marathon's Turtle Hospital were recently released to take part in the famed Tour de Turtles. Keys visitors and residents are buzzing about heartwarming video of brand-new hatchlings and the chance to track the Tour de Turtles "competitors" online.
Besides balmy year-round weather, endless blue water and a seriously laid-back vibe, in the Florida Keys you’ll find an enticing array of environmental, cultural and adventure activities that can’t be enjoyed anywhere EXCEPT in the island chain. Enliven your stay with some of the “only in the Keys” experiences outlined here.
Karly Venezia, director of sales and marketing at Islamorada’s iconic 22-acre Islander Resort, has spent more than half her life working for resorts in Key West and Islamorada. She also has an unusual paddleboarding companion: her Rhode Island Red chicken, Loretta, whose on-the-water exploits created a social media sensation.
At noon on New Year's Eve, don't miss the annual Key West Dachshund Walk -- a short stroll for long dogs that has become a beloved holiday tradition. Last year the wacky walk drew nearly 200 dachshunds, many of them sporting whimsical costumes or accessories as they trotted around Key West’s historic downtown area.
People from around the world are drawn to the Florida Keys, hoping for one-of-kind encounters with some of the unique animals, birds and marine creatures that call the Keys home. Whether observing rare birds, getting up close to a bottlenose dolphin or “meeting” a sea turtle in a world-class “rehab” center, there are plenty of ways to make lasting wildlife memories.
While some runners push themselves to race long and grueling distances, participants in one recent Florida Keys challenge did the exact opposite. About 1,400 “athletes” who didn’t want to break a sweat romped, strolled and ambled across the Florida Keys’ shortest bridge (spanning mere feet!) during April’s Cow Key Channel Bridge Run.
Ben Daughtry’s passion for creating educational experiences in marine conservation led him to open Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters — where visitors can enjoy immersive experiences with reef fish, invertebrates, stingrays and even sharks without entering the ocean.