On 3 July 2023 the Florida Keys will celebrate their 200th ‘birthday’ - marking the anniversary of the 1823 founding of Monroe County, which encompasses the entire 125-mile island chain.
Here are five ‘must-do’ Keys experiences for travellers wanting to make the most of their visit to Southern Florida:
Drive the Florida Keys Overseas Highway: Beginning just south of Miami, the Florida Keys are connected by the Overseas Highway’s 42 bridges over the Atlantic Ocean, Florida Bay, and the Gulf of Mexico. The southernmost leg of U.S. Highway 1, the roadway is also known as the ‘Highway that Goes to Sea’ and is counted as an iconic, bucket list drive that everyone should experience at least once. Amongst the highlights is the Seven Mile Bridge, which stretches 6.79 miles across open water.
Get on and in the water: The coastal waters of the entire island chain have been designated the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Within these boundaries lies a spectacular and unique ecosystem, which includes the continental United States’ only living barrier coral reef. There are plentiful ways for visitors to embrace this pristine natural attraction, from snorkelling and glass bottom boat tours to kayaking and paddleboarding. The Florida Keys also offer world-class fishing and diving.
Enjoy a wildlife encounter: One-of-a-kind wildlife encounters in the Florida Keys include getting up close to bottlenose dolphins in the wild, spotting diminutive Key deer and marvelling at manatees. Head to the Turtle Hospital to learn about its work in healing sick and injured sea turtles and releasing them back into the ocean; observe native and migratory birds; and visit author Ernest Hemingway’s former home in Key West to meet its resident clan of polydactyl (six-toed) cats, many of them direct descendants of the writer’s own cat Snow White.
Discover the backcountry: Unspoiled and teeming with plant and marine life, the 'backcountry' is ruled by the natural ebb and flow of the ocean. Its mangrove islands, turtle grass flats and sponge flats are a busy ecosystem that is home to everything from tiny aquatic animals to lobster, stingrays, and barracuda. Take a guided backcountry tour by kayak to reveal the undiscovered Keys.
Explore the island city of Key West: Continental America's southernmost city, situated closer to Cuba than to Miami, Key West is characterised by quaint palm-studded streets, century-old mansions, and a uniquely relaxing way of life. The 2-by-4-mile island has been home to such literary greats as Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams, and President Harry S. Truman, who spent 11 working holidays here. Visitors can enjoy eco-experiences, a wide variety of water sports and excursions, culinary tours, and a rich calendar of festivals and special events, as well as a lively nightlife and daily sunset celebrations at Mallory Square.
Video can be viewed at: https://youtu.be/8NeQm4sWTbg