Florida Keys: Par­adise on Earth

Travel Guide to Florida - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - BY STEVE WIN­STON

As you cross the bridge from main­land Florida to Key Largo, you can feel your cares melt away. In this world of trop­i­cal is­lands, bor­dered by the At­lantic Ocean on one side and the Gulf of Mex­ico on the other, you gen­tly ease your­self into a world of emer­ald wa­ters, sway­ing palm trees, unique ex­pe­ri­ences and funky vil­lages.

SEE AND DO

Key Largo prom­ises ex­cel­lent div­ing sites where the wa­ters are so clear that the un­der­wa­ter flora and fauna seem to burst into kalei­do­scopic col­ors.

Is­lam­orada, to the south, is renowned for sport fish­ing and draws celebri­ties from around the world to do just that. And if you char­ter a boat, you’ll likely bring home your din­ner.

Com­posed of three main is­lands, the com­mu­nity of Marathon is a favourite among fam­i­lies. Join a marine bi­ol­o­gist on an in­ter­ac­tive Aquar­ium En­counter ex­pe­ri­ence at the Florida Keys Aquar­ium. En­joy an unforgettable dock­side en­counter or swim with dol­phins at the Dol­phin Re­search Cen­ter. Visit the Tur­tle Hospi­tal. Grab your snor­kel­ing or div­ing gear and dis­cover one of the most beau­ti­ful shal­low reefs in the Keys at the Som­brero Key Light­house.

The peace­ful and scenic Lower Keys are filled with in­ter­est­ing wildlife and great sites to visit, in­clud­ing two Na­tional Wildlife Refuges, a state park and a Na­tional Marine Sanc­tu­ary. And you may even spot the elu­sive Key deer.

DINE AND PLAY

At the south­ern­most point, Key West of­fers won­der­ful restau­rants, with menu items rang­ing from Con­ti­nen­tal to Caribbean cui­sine and of­ten fea­tur­ing a va­ri­ety of de­li­cious conch (pro­nounced “konk”) dishes.

Stop by Sloppy Joe’s Bar, one of Ernest Hem­ing­way’s hang­outs when he lived here. Or visit his res­i­dence at the Ernest Hem­ing­way Home and Mu­seum. Other in­ter­est­ing venues worth tour­ing are John James Audubon’s home, the Harry S. Tru­man Lit­tle White House, and the Mel Fisher Mar­itime Her­itage Mu­seum where trea­sures from the deep are dis­played.

TOP: Aerial view of Key West.

CEN­TER: Un­corked Food and Wine Fes­ti­val in Key West.

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