Who says the fall season has to be dull and gloomy? Instead, plan an adrenaline-packed vacation in the sunny Florida Keys, and enjoy balmy temps and delightful ocean breezes while indulging in “bucket-list” adventures — like exploring the continental United States’ only living coral barrier reef, sportfishing or even skydiving above the island chain.
The Florida Keys have long been a popular choice for film producers seeking a subtropical adventure setting for their next cinematic project. Since the late 1940s, the island chain has played a role in many notable films — ranging from Bogart's "Key Largo" to James Bond classics and contemporary fare like "The Beach Bum."
Whether shopping for offbeat gifts or fine art, the emporiums of Key West provide a warm welcome for some well-deserved retail therapy. Emporiums range from the pioneering Key West Aloe, Graffitti and In Touch to the Gingerbread Square Gallery, opened in the early 1970s by Richard Heyman, the nation’s first openly gay mayor.
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.
Key West’s intriguing character becomes more apparent with each new exploration. Taking the time to experience the island is like savoring a plate of Cuban food, recognizing and appreciating each individual flavor. And identifying newfound favorite spots leads to even deeper enjoyment — whether staying for a few days, a season or a lifetime.
The largest lobster in the Florida Keys is “Betsy,” a sculpture measuring 30 feet tall and 40 feet long. Of course, lobsters in local waters are far smaller (and far tastier!) than Betsy. The Keys' lobster season runs from Aug. 6 through March 31, offering plenty of time to savor the seafood sensation.
The bearded brotherhood of Hemingway Look-Alike Contest winners gained a new member July 25 in Key West, home of legendary author Ernest Hemingway for most of the 1930s. Zach Taylor, a 63-year-old white-bearded Georgia man, triumphed over 136 other entrants to win the contest that highlights the island city’s annual Hemingway Days celebration.
To highlight the best points of interest along the Florida Keys Overseas Highway, “special correspondent” Matty Meltzer — who happens to be both an intrepid traveler and a wisecracking puppet — was commissioned to chronicle memorable sights and activities on a road trip through the Keys. Follow along with Matty on his fun-filled video journey.
Captain Coleen Fitzsimmons recently launched Island Vibe Charters to introduce small groups and families to the Florida Keys waters and fascinating ecosystem during reef snorkeling and sandbar excursions. Coleen, who has two children with her wife, is passionate about sharing the Keys world, unique way of life and environmental wonders with charter passengers.
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.