Famed ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau once said, “We protect what we love.” His son Jean-Michel Cousteau, founder of Ocean Futures Society, offers the view that children “are the best ambassadors and the best communicators. They go home and teach their parents. And that’s what makes a big difference.”
Throughout April, throughout the year and throughout the Florida Keys, sustainable family-friendly events are offered for travelers seeking to connect with and help to protect the unique Keys environment.
The free open-air Key West Artisan Market set for Sunday, April 7, is themed “Ocean Awareness” with a focus on artistic interpretations of the ocean realm. Visitors can browse among booths featuring carefully curated artists and crafters showcasing Keys-crafted jewelry, art, curiosities and wares. There’s live music, craft beer, wine, spirits and fresh food concessions. The event takes place at Higgs Beach on Atlantic Boulevard from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Visitors are urged to bring their own bags. Call 573-619-2200.
Mote Marine Laboratory’s Ocean Fest: A Community Celebration is to showcase the unique marine environment of the Keys Saturday, April 13, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Key West’s Truman Waterfront Park. At the free event, participants can explore conservation and environmental exhibits, experience touch tanks, meet live marine animals, hear insights from Mote scientists and researchers, view and purchase works by local marine artists and craftspeople, and rock to live music. Marine life artist Wyland is to paint with attending children and auction his work. The Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center, a visitor facility for the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, is adjacent to the park at 35 E. Quay Road. Proceeds benefit coral restoration efforts by Mote’s Elizabeth Moore International Center for Coral Reef Research and Restoration on Summerland Key. Visit moteoceanfest.org or call 305-509-9141.
The Florida Keys Wildlife Society, the official “friends group” for the Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges, is hosting three full-moon kayak excursions into the National Key Deer Refuge off Big Pine Key, slated for 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 17; Thursday, May 16; and Friday, June 14. The journeys, sponsored by Big Pine Kayak Adventures, take paddlers under the Old Wooden Bridge to No Name Key along the mangrove shoreline. A $25 donation includes kayak, gear and experienced guides; no experience is required. The tour departs from 1791 Bogey Road on Big Pine Key. Visit floridakeyswildlifesociety.org or call 305-872-7474 or 305-872-0645.
Up The Keys Eco Tours is scheduling an excursion Saturday, April 27, at Long Key State Park in the Middle Keys community of Layton with Conch Republic Marine Army volunteers. The tour company offers trips allowing travelers to “vacation as a volunteer” while on a guided tour and kayak excursion to clean up mangrove debris and replant mangroves. Trips are priced from $189 per person, excluding tax, and include transportation in air-conditioned 15-passenger vans, guided tour, kayak rental, picnic lunch and mangrove seedlings provided by the Conch Republic Marine Army. Ten percent of the fee is allocated to the “Army.” Visit upthekeys.com/voluntourism or call 305-587-5575.
Keys Cable at OTHErside Boardsports on Grassy Key is sponsoring a two-day Earth Day Festival set for Saturday and Sunday, April 27-28, encompassing “all things good for the Earth and good from the Earth.” Activities are to include healthy food offerings, live music, a fashion show with eco-friendly clothing, Earth-focused pop-up shops, solar-powered wakeboarding and live mural installations painted with a common theme: “Human Effects on the Environment.” Participants are urged to bring their own drinking cups. The park is located at 59300 Overseas Highway. Visit KeysCable.com/events or call 305-414-8245.
On Summerland Key, Mote Marine Laboratory’s Elizabeth Moore International Center for Coral Reef Research and Restoration offers public tours from 10-11 a.m. Tuesdays and 3-4 p.m. Fridays. The free tours are geared toward people interested in learning about the science behind coral restoration. Reservations are not required. Mote currently is working to restore 70,000 coral fragments along about 130 acres of the Florida Reef Tract. The Lower Keys center, located at 24244 Overseas Highway, also is restoring coral genetic varieties resilient to disease and climate change impact threats. Visit mote.org or call 305-745-2729.
Florida Keys sustainable travel information: fla-keys.com/sustain/
Florida Keys visitor information: fla-keys.com or 1-800-FLA-KEYS