Divers and ocean enthusiasts can celebrate the 20th “sink anniversary” of the third-largest vessel ever intentionally scuttled to become an artificial reef — the retired 510-foot Navy Landing Ship Dock Spiegel Grove, which lies off Key Largo — with events May 15-17 and a contest to win a Keys trip to dive the famous wreck.
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.
Encouraging actions that support the environment is a vital element of the Florida Keys’ commitment to protecting the island chain’s natural resources. And from Big Pine Key to Key West, visitors can find a wide variety of positive environmental activities and attractions that illustrate how to share that commitment — while making lasting memories.
The southernmost point of the continental United States, and the last “key” in the string of Florida Keys, Key West is a tiny equator-kisser island at the very tip of Florida. Guest blogger Reagan Fountain offers insightful thoughts on why the island oasis is widely regarded as “nothing short of a subtropical paradise.”
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.
Mark Hedden, executive director of the Florida Keys Audubon Society and artist-in-residence at The Studios of Key West, is perhaps the Keys’ best known “bird man.” A self-taught photographer acclaimed for his recent “South of Southernmost” exhibit, he hopes to use his creative artistry to inspire others to discover the Keys’ natural world.
Two Key West public gardens invite visitors to wander off the beaten path and experience the island's unique horticulture and foliage, hidden natural beauty and unique ecosystems showcasing Mother Nature at her best. Discover the Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden and the Key West Garden Club’s headquarters at West Martello Tower.
Every day is an adventure in the Florida Keys, where the subtropical climate and scenic natural settings create the perfect backdrop for intriguing eco-activities — such as exploring mangrove wilderness, tropical hardwood hammocks and rainforest areas, or diving a protected underwater park. Upper Keys visitors can enjoy unplugged experiences from bird watching to “voluntourism.”
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.
There are a million reasons to love the Florida Keys, but without the spectacular coral reefs that surround the place, those reasons wouldn’t exist. World-renowned for unmatched beauty, with coastal waters protected within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the island chain offers underwater adventures that can be enjoyed only in the Keys.