The Florida Keys: Welcome to Paradise
What if I told you that you can drive through Paradise? That you can escape to a destination that feels like you’re in the tropics, but you’re really just a quick flight or short drive from home? The Florida Keys offers you the perfect destination with its incredible, relaxing island atmosphere, exciting activities and beautiful nature without having to spend a lot of time or money getting there.
Snorkeling on Key Largo
We started our trip on Key Largo, the first of the keys and a phenomenal stop for snorkeling enthusiasts. At John Pennecamp Coral Reef State Park, we took a snorkel boat out to Grecian Reef, where we saw dozens of barracudas, a hawksbill turtle and so many colorful little fish. The water was crystal clear and a warm 75 degrees! The dive masters at the park are incredibly helpful in guiding both beginning and experienced snorkelers. You can also kayak, swim and bike at this amazing park.
Waterfront Dining on Islamorada
As we continued south through the Keys, we came to Islamorada, where we found wonderful waterfront dining options including Morada Bay Restaurant, where you can eat ultra-fresh seafood on the beach, watch the sunset and dine by romantic tiki torches as the moon comes out. And for the animal lovers in the family, be sure to visit Theater of the Sea, where we swam with two beautiful sea lions.
Animal Adventures on Marathon
Farther south, on Marathon, there are two more fantastic animal-focused activities: the Turtle Hospital and the Dolphin Research Center, where we learned about the groundbreaking cognitive research being done with the dolphins, and we did an up-close training session with two beautiful bottlenose dolphins. What an incredible experience this was!
Big Pine Key and Bahia Honda State Park
Continuing on, we stopped at Bahia Honda State Park, where we took a snorkel tour out to Looe Key Coral Reef. Here, my favorite fish sighting was the huge 250 pound goliath grouper that was calmly poised right below our snorkel boat. This park offers beautiful nature trails, kid-friendly beaches and the most stunning and private waterfront campsites.
The Journey Ends on Key West
At the end of our trip, we arrived in Key West. With a ferry ride out of Key West, Fort Zachary Taylor State Park welcomed us with its pristine beaches. We later watched the sunset at Mallory Square, where hundreds of people, including many street performers, gather every day of the year to watch the sun set. Of course, we had more fresh fish for dinner, and topped it off with some famous Key lime pie.
In my opinion, the Florida Keys are the best-kept secret in America for those looking for both an active and relaxing tropical getaway. No matter what your itinerary, you will surely come back rejuvenated and with a whole new perspective on what Florida and the U.S. has to offer.