As the UK shivers with the return of the dark evenings and frosty mornings, travellers are invited to swap their woolly jumpers for shorts and fun in the Florida Keys & Key West, where average daytime temperatures are currently a pleasant 24°C.
From high-energy water sports and stunning sunsets to a rich variety of wildlife and fresh seafood, the subtropical island chain is a colourful and appealing choice for Brits looking for an escape from the cold weather at home.
Here are some great ways to have fun in the Florida Keys sun:
Learn to swim like a mermaid
Welcome to the world of mermaiding at Key Largo’s Ocean Sirens! Learn some fun facts about mermaid history and some basic swimming techniques in the morning in the “Mermaid Lagoon” pools and then enjoy an afternoon snorkelling on colourful living coral reefs. Classes are priced from $150 (£117.50) per person for a full day or $100 (£78.32) for a half-day morning pool experience. Mermaid Beach Experience photo shoots and advanced mermaid classes are also available. https://www.oceansirens.com/
All aboard for fizz, food and sunsets
You can catch sensational sunsets throughout the Keys. In Key West, there’s no more romantic way to watch one than from aboard the luxurious Schooner America 2.0. Sip champagne, dine on hors d’oeuvres and take in the vibrant colours on the two-hour cruise through clear waters as the sun sets in the distance. The experience costs up to $96 (£75.19) per adult. https://sail-keywest.com/browse-by-theme/sunset-sails-cruises/
Dive the exotic coral reefs of Key Largo
Explore America’s first underwater preserve at Key Largo’s John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, home to countless species of fish, shore birds and tropical vegetation. Snorkelling and diving excursions are offered daily. Glass-bottomed boat tours depart three times a day for visitors who prefer to view the underwater paradise without getting wet. Tours start at $24 (£18.80) for adults and $17 (£13.31) for children (4-11). http://pennekamppark.com/
Feed the ‘Silver Kings’
One of the Keys’ most cost-effective attractions, the chance to hand-feed the 100-plus tarpon at Robbie’s Marina in Islamorada has been a draw for visitors for 40 years. Admission to the dock is $2.25 (£1.77) per person and each bucket of fish costs $4 (£3.15). Keep an eye out for pelicans too! https://robbies.com/
Paddle the Florida Bay
Glide through the shallow waters of the Florida Bay near Islamorada with a paddleboard eco-adventure with KeyZ Charters. Get up close and personal without startling the creatures living among the sea-grass beds, including stingrays, reef sharks, turtles, dolphins and much more. Staff are on-hand to teach novice paddlers and guide the most experienced explorer. https://www.keyzcharters.com/rev2/
Travel to the Florida Keys this winter
Ocean Florida (0208 003 9304) has seven nights in the Florida Keys from £1,219 per person, including direct flights from London Heathrow to Miami with American Airlines, three nights at Ocean Point Suites in Key Largo followed by four nights at The Gates Hotel in Key West and car hire for the duration. The price is based on a departure date of January 22, 2019, for two people sharing.