Families looking for something extra from this year’s Florida holiday should head to the laid-back Florida Keys, where there are plenty of fun new skills waiting to be learned.
Whether it’s exploring the subtropical island chain’s underwater paradise during a scuba lesson, going sportfishing, learning to sand sculpt or making a Key lime pie, the Keys provide options for every member of the family to add a stimulating and rewarding dimension to a Sunshine State escape.
Scuba: The Keys' year-round subtropical weather and calm, clear waters provide a safe and easy learning environment for parents and children to learn snorkelling and scuba skills. Great underwater visibility enables travellers to enjoy courses ranging from introductory one-day sessions to full open-water certification classes, all while learning about local marine ecosystems. To explore the ‘Dive Capital of the World,’ head to Key Largo and see underwater icons like the Christ of the Abyss statue. Numerous professional dive charter operations are available, such as Sea Dwellers Dive Center of Key Largo, which offers a ‘Discover Scuba Diving’ beginners’ day course from $175 + tax (around £124) suitable for age 10 and above.
Go sportfishing: Situated with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico on the other, the 125-mile-long arc of islands that comprises the Florida Keys creates a fishing environment unique in the world, making a noteworthy catch possible virtually all year around. In Islamorada, the ‘Sportfishing Capital of the World,’ visitors can search for speedster bonefish on the flats, test their determination against a reel-emptying blue marlin and land mahi-mahi for summertime dinners. Bud N’ Mary’s Fishing Marina, which has the oldest, largest and most established fishing fleet in the Keys, offers a variety of fishing opportunities. Prices start at $70 (around £50) per person for a trip on the Miss Islamorada Party Boat.
Make a Key lime pie: To enjoy a ‘Bake Off’ style experience, holidaymakers can take part in a cookery class offered by the Key West Key Lime Pie Co., during which they will learn to make authentic mini-Key lime pies in a live kitchen. Suitable for ‘students’ age five and up, the 60-minute classes cost from $20 (around £14.50) and run Thursday and Friday mornings.
Build a sand sculpture: At the historic waterfront Casa Marina, a Waldorf Astoria Resort in Key West, artistic holidaymakers can create a sand masterpiece guided by sand sculptor and local artist Marianne van den Broek from Just Sand and Water. Marianne is acclaimed for constructing massive sand sculptures to mark special events, proposals and much more. Her ‘Sand Sculpting 101’ workshop costs $55 per person (around £39) and runs for 2.5 hours during which time participants build their own sand sculpture from scratch.