Harry Appel co-owns Big Pine Key’s eco-friendly, boutique Deer Run on the Atlantic, the Florida Keys’ only “Four-Palm” Green Lodging Property — a designation earned for a steadfast commitment to protecting natural resources. An avid animal activist, he’s president of the nonprofit Save-A-Turtle of the Florida Keys and is a Key Deer Protection Alliance advisor.
For 15 years Jeanne Selander has overseen the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Animal Farm on Stock Island — believed to be the only facility of its kind on jailhouse property in the United States — and the care of 150 exotic creatures. Her “charges” include an ostrich, lemurs, kinkajous, bearded dragons and 17-year-old Mo the Sloth.
Stretching from the west end of the Seven Mile Bridge to Stock Island, the Lower Keys are home to two national wildlife refuges including one protecting Key deer, a state park and part of a national marine sanctuary. The region’s focus on the environment has earned it the title of the Natural Keys.
The islands of Marathon in the Middle Keys appeal to multigenerational families and recreational boaters with facilities including cozy inns, luxury resorts, waterside vacation homes, RV parks, marinas and plenty of dining and natural attractions. Highlights include the world-renowned Turtle Hospital, Crane Point Hammock, historic Pigeon Key and the iconic Seven Mile Bridge.
Are there any activities people can enjoy with their children in the Florida Keys? The answer is a resounding yes. For families with kids, there are SO many things to do in the Keys that will intrigue the “young ones” as well as the adults. Check out some favorite spots for family fun.
Key Largo, the northernmost island in the Florida Keys, stretches from mile marker 107 on the Florida Keys Overseas Highway to mile marker 91. It’s called the Dive Capital of the World — and it first became famous when the 1948 movie "Key Largo," featuring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, hit the silver screen.
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.
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.
While the Florida Keys are temporarily closed to visitors, the Lower Keys’ miniature Key deer continue to flourish, untroubled by the global coronavirus crisis. The deer have been protected for more than 60 years in the National Key Deer Refuge — thanks partly to an unorthodox lawman who helped save the species from extinction.
Emmy Award–winning travel host Samantha Brown is showcasing the Florida Keys in a 30-minute episode of her program “Samantha Brown’s Places to Love,” scheduled to air on public television stations nationwide beginning in January 2020. Guided by local residents, Samantha explores the Keys’ signature foods, literary culture, history, environment and sustainability initiatives.