Sprinkled off the southwest coast of Florida, the sandy gems known as the Keys offer one exciting opportunity after another for vacationers in search of stimulation and relaxation. The islands stretch for 120 miles, and within that span you'll find art, history, music, wilderness, and as much natural beauty as your senses can handle. Each island has its own distinctive qualities, but you'll find that they all share the ability to impress and enthrall anyone wise enough to stray from the mainland.
Key Largo, the northernmost island, is a great place to start your tour of the Keys. Known as the Diving Capital of the World, this area of land and sea will provide underwater explorers access to North America's only living coral barrier reef, as well as Spiegel Grove, a 510 foot sunken navy ship. Sport fishing is also a popular attraction, so arrange for an experienced captain to take you out for a spin if you have your heart set on reeling in an exotic catch. Key Largo's close proximity to the Everglades make eco-tours exciting prospects, and kayakers with a love for the environment can be seen paddling all around the lush marshland.
Next in line is Islamorada. Though ocean fishing is an activity common in all the Keys, Islamorada claims the title of Sport Fishing Capital of the World. Reel in a sailfish, tuna, tarpon, or bonefish, or just watch the saltwater hunters do their thing. Diving, too, is popular here, as the coral reef winds its way all around this enchanting string of islands. Islamorada has a few state parks for your enjoyment, and plenty of shops and galleries that surely contain the perfect souvenir.
Marathon is the Heart of the Keys, and offers up plenty of reasons to make it a valuable addition to rest of its sisters. An airport and hospital give it a modern, practical feel, but there are lots of light-hearted diversions to keep you feeling mellow. Sombrero Reef is a haven for snorkelers, Crane Point Hammock holds 64 acres of museums and a nature center, and the Dolphin Research Center and Turtle Hospital take care of the marine animals that make their home in Marathon. Spend some time enjoying the wonderful conditions for ocean activities in Boot Key Harbor, and then continue your journey to the next blissful island.
The Lower Keys have a quieter appeal, but still offer plenty to see and do. Bahia Honda State Park on the Key of the same name is considered one of the most beautiful beaches around, and Little Duck Key is home to Veterans Memorial Park. Big Pine Key has the best shopping in the area, and it also exists as a refuge for Key Deer, the tiny and delicate creatures who add another fascinating detail to the already entrancing atmosphere of the Lower Keys. This is an ideal area to set up a tent or rent a vacation home, as its uncultivated land and stunning sunsets make it utterly appealing.
Finally, at the end of the line you'll find the biggest personality of all, Key West. Home to Ernest Hemingway, a healthy artistic community, and festivals galore, this fun-loving shelter from negativity is the place to be for anyone looking to enhance their lust for life. Whether you feel like sipping a margarita on Duval Street or raising your hands to the sunset on Mallory Square, you'll feel comfortable and embraced by the diverse population that inhabits and visits the most open-minded Key.
Anywhere you stop along the sprawling collection of cozy islands will welcome you to slow down for a while and listen to the sounds of sweet contentment. Stay active or stretch out on the sand, no one will be judging you for putting your own interests first and truly enjoying your hard-earned vacation. On this note, be sure to choose a place to stay that will reinforce the lessons of the Keys; treat yourself right and stay comfortable.
Renting a vacation home might be the perfect way to carry out these goals. Crowded resorts and bland hotel rooms might be unavoidable in some situations, but the Florida Keys have a number of different choices. Reserving an oceanfront condo in Key Largo or a secluded beach hut on its own little island will give you the chance to truly retreat from the outside world, reconnect with your traveling companion, and enjoy the glorious surroundings as they are meant to be enjoyed.
Go online to start searching for the Florida Keys Vacation Rental that will top off the undoubtedly marvelous experience you are sure to have as you head south to paradise.
by Caitlin Moore