THE KEYS: A WHOLE DIF­FER­ENT FLORIDA

From Key Largo in the north to Key West in the south, the Florida Keys ex­ude a very dif­fer­ent vibe.

Dreamscapes Travel & Lifestyle Magazine - - Table Of Contents - BY STEVE WIN­STON

The light is dif­fer­ent here. So is the air. Even the land­scapes—trop­i­cal is­lands sur­rounded by aqua­ma­rine wa­ters—are dif­fer­ent.

KEY LARGO

Key Largo of­fers great snorkelling and div­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties be­cause the wa­ters are star­tlingly clear. John Pen­nekamp Coral Reef State Park, which fea­tures over 180 square kilo­me­tres of reefs and wrecks, was the first un­der­wa­ter park in Amer­ica. It’s also near the only un­der­wa­ter ho­tel in Amer­ica, Jules Verne Lodge, only ac­ces­si­ble by div­ing! And if you’d rather be on the wa­ter in­stead of un­der it, book an African Queen Canal Cruise.

IS­LAM­ORADA

Is­lam­orada is where to go to get away from it all and en­joy some of the best fish­ing in the coun­try. On any given evening, end your day at one of the is­land’s many at­mo­spheric wa­ter­front restau­rants. It’s also blos­somed into a great art cen­tre. Ev­ery third Thurs­day of the month stroll along the Mo­rada Way Art­walk, where artists open up their gal­leries and workspaces in the evening and the towns­peo­ple cel­e­brate with food and drink.

MARATHON

The 13 is­lands of Marathon are renowned for nu­mer­ous fam­ily at­trac­tions, as well as boat­ing and fish­ing. At the Dol­phin Re­search Cen­ter, there are dol­phin and sea lion shows, op­por­tu­ni­ties to speak with the train­ers and a chance to cool off at the “Spray­ground.” Not to men­tion swim­ming with the dol­phins! Marathon is also per­fect for jet-ski tours (or rentals), kayak­ing and pad­dle­board­ing.

LOWER KEYS

The Lower Keys are just that—low-key—and filled with nat­u­ral beauty. On Big Pine Key, Bahia Honda State Park boasts 150 species of plants and an­i­mals. There’s camp­ing here, too, rang­ing from camp­sites to “glamp­ing” cab­ins, along with snorkelling and beau­ti­ful seashells. Big Pine Key is home to the Na­tional Key Deer Refuge, the only place on Earth you can see these en­dan­gered, diminu­tive crea­tures (81 cen­time­tres or less at the shoul­der). This area is one rea­son for the Keys’ sus­tain­abil­ity cam­paign, which asks folks to “leave no im­print.”

KEY WEST

Boast­ing such his­toric land­marks as the homes of Ernest Hem­ing­way and John James Audubon as well as the “Win­ter White House” of Pres­i­dent Harry Tru­man, this is the most colour­ful, funki­est, coolest town in Amer­ica. There are mu­se­ums, wa­ter­front restau­rants, glass-bot­tom boat cruises, “Conch Train” tours, and the shops and restau­rants of Du­val Street. And don’t miss the nightly sun­set cel­e­bra­tions at Mal­lory Docks, a beloved lo­cal tra­di­tion where peo­ple gather to watch a crim­son sun slip into the dis­tant Gulf hori­zon, while fire-eaters and flam­ing-torch jug­glers per­form.

Bob Care/florida Keys News Bureau

TOP: Dol­phin Re­search Cen­ter pro­vides in­ter­ac­tive op­por­tu­ni­ties to learn about in­tel­li­gent mam­mals. Dol­phin Re­search Cen­ter LEFT: Ex­plore the coral reef in the Florida Keys Na­tional Ma­rine Sanc­tu­ary off Key Largo.

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