The Florida Keys & Key West continue to spotlight the destination’s eco-oriented ‘Connect & Protect’ initiative to encourage awareness of sustainable, memorable activities for visitors. Here’s what’s new as the Keys ease into summer:
In the Lower Keys, four new daily interpretive trolley tours of Bahia Honda State Park are being offered by Friends of the Park, describing its natural ecosystem and history. The seven-passenger Sandspur Trolley tour begins at the park’s Sand and Sea Nature Centre. Suggested donations of $5 (around £4) per person go to the Friends of Bahia Honda and are used for beautification and restoration of the 524-acre park.
Key West Hydrobikes offer hourly rentals or tours from four Key West locations. Cyclists on the stable, pedal-powered non-motorised water bikes can cross Key West Harbour to the back side of Wisteria Island to dismount and snorkel in the island’s uncrowded waters. Tours, guided and non-guided, include Castaway Island and Mallory Glow. Average cruising speed is about 4 to 6 mph. Rentals are priced from $30 (around £23.49).
The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary has added three participants to its Blue Star Fishing Guides program: A Fishing Guide of Islamorada, Flying Fish Charters of Key West and Sail Fish Scuba of Key Largo. Blue Star programs for fishing, dive and snorkel operators encourage sustainable recreational fishing, diving and snorkelling practices to preserve the Keys’ underwater ecosystems. Operators undergo annual compliance evaluations. The Blue Star program currently has 24 dive and 11 fishing charter operator members.
In Key Largo, the adults-only, all-inclusive Bungalows Key Largo, a 12-acre 135-unit resort, is scheduled to accept reservations for stays beginning 20 December 2019. The resort originally opened in December 2018 but sustained damage in early May due to an early morning fire. Its Beach Club building, with its Zen Garden Spa, fitness Tiki area and restaurants, was impacted. There were no injuries but the resort remains closed during rebuilding. Bungalows Key Largo features 1,000 feet of shoreline, 800-square-foot bungalows and 4,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space.
Want to learn to wakeboard, kiteboard or foilboard? In the Middle Keys, oTHErside Adventure Park & Keys Cable on Grassy Key is the Keys’ only venue teaching wakeboarding using cables on a wakeboard lake outfitted with a new double-sided ramp. The park also has a new upgraded kite boat and outdoor murals promoting sustainability, and more than 70 solar panels have been added. Additional activities include lessons in kiteboarding, wake skating, stand-up paddle boarding and foilboarding, a technique modelled after tow-in surfing. An earth-inspired pop-up apparel shop sells water wear such as swimwear and board shorts made of recycled plastic bottles.
A new exhibit at Islamorada’s History of Diving Museum dives into the evolution of the rebreather. This type of scuba apparatus, first conceived in the 1600s, recycles a diver's breathing gas, allowing for longer dives with no bubbles in the water. The technology's development has moved it out of the water and rebreathers are now used by firefighters, astronauts, mine workers and those in other professions. The apparatus has had a significant impact on history, from World War II espionage to modern day aquanaut training. Entry costs $12 for adults (around £9.40).
Key West’s newest attraction is the Sails to Rails Museum. Guests can follow an interactive timeline of Key West history to learn about the industries of sponging, turtle harvesting, shipwreck salvage (also called wrecking) and cigar making. The state-of-the-art museum features hands-on exhibits, intriguing video presentations, unique artefacts and the only scale model of Fort Jefferson, centrepiece of Dry Tortugas National Park. Visitors can learn about Henry Flagler, the visionary who conceived the Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad. Admission is $10 (around £7.90) for adults and $5 (around £4) for children ages 4-12.