The Florida Keys * laid-back and mellow

Source
Source
Duval Street, Key West.
Duval Street, Key West. | Source
Key West Hyatt Resort and Spa
Key West Hyatt Resort and Spa | Source
Ernest Hemingway House, Key West.
Ernest Hemingway House, Key West. | Source
The southern most tip of the continental U.S. at Key West, Florida.
The southern most tip of the continental U.S. at Key West, Florida. | Source

Key West's Fantasy Halloween Parade

The Keys

The Florida keys are the place to come if you want a vacation or place to live that is even more laid-back than typical island life. Here in the keys the slogan is "Come as you are" and they mean it. There is no pretense and the lifestyle is definitely informal here on the keys. In fact, in Key West, there are drinking establishments that post signs that say "clothing is optional."

Yes, you can hang out at the local bar with absolutely no clothes on if you wish - naked, desnudo, or however you wish to say it. And nobody blinks an eye. How's that for laid-back and mellow? Just keep your eyes above the waist and looking directly into the eyes of the naked person you are speaking with and I'm sure everything will be fine.

Of course, not every place on Key West is like that, but Key West is probably the most liberal of all the keys and certainly no one walks anywhere outdoors without clothes on. Key West has probably been the most popular and famous of the keys to visit. It is the southern most inhabited key of a coral cay archipelago in the southeast United States fifteen miles south of Miami.

It is also well known for its Fantasy Halloween Parade that takes place in downtown Key West on Saturday, October 26. Yes, this Saturday, thousands upon thousands will descend upon Key West to take part in the most crazy, unusual, and masquerade parade ever seen. Those participating and dressed in Halloween costumes come to frighten, to fantasize, and to freak.

There is also a Halloween Costume Contest that is unbelievably funny. A winner is chosen each year to see which costume is the funkiest. It is Key West's version of Mardi Gras and those lined up to watch the parade and contest have as much fun as the parade participants. There are huge floats, streamers, confetti and ghoulish sights to scare the living daylights out of you.

Participants come from all over Florida, the U.S. and the world to dance down Duval Street, the main drag in Key West. (no pun intended) This is not family hour in Key West, so don't bring the kids. There is adult only trick or treating this weekend in Key West.

If you are planning to bring the kids along, skip this weekend and come another for a beautiful. lazy, hazy, relaxing time.

Of course, the beaches in Key West are beautiful with turquoise and clear waters and soft white sand. Palm trees swaying gently in the breeze provide a bit of shade and the scuba diving and snorkeling is wonderful. The colorful marine life and plants are a sight to behold.

There is the Key West Seaplane adventure that is a 35-40 minute trip to the Dry Tortuga keys that are the southern most uninhabited keys. The plane skims only 500 feet above the clear waters and stingrays, sea turtles, sharks and other fish can be seen from the plane in the shallow water. Also, there is a daily ferry that runs from Key West to the Dry Tortuga National Park and Fort Jefferson.

Continue on with the seaplane trip to The Quicksands where the water plunges to 30 ft. depths. Here is where shipwrecks have occurred since the 1500's. Famed shipwreck and treasurer hunter, Mel Fisher and his crew, found great treasures from two sunken ships, La Nuestra Senora de Atocha and the Santa Margarita from the year 1622. They sank during a hurricane forty miles off the keys.

He and his crew became multi-millionaires overnight with their treasure find in 1985 and he opened the Mel Fisher Martitime Museum, where a 77.76 carat natural emerald crystal worth a quarter of a million dollars can be viewed as well as other treasures found deep beneath the sea.

Also, not to be missed while in Key West is the Key West Aquarium which the kids and adults will love. There is also the Key West Lighthouse Museum and the Key West Museum of Art and History.

Not far from downtown and Duval Street is the Hemingway House of famed journalist and novelist Ernest Hemingway who later in life lived in Key West for a number of years. He was into big game fishing in the waters off the keys and, of course, took many trips to Cuba. He wrote many of his novels while living here. And, downtown is the famed Sloppy Joe's Bar where Hemingway frequented and also wrote here.

Hawks Cay resort in Key West, Florida.
Hawks Cay resort in Key West, Florida. | Source
Source
The Seven Mile Bridge that connects Marathon in the middle keys to Little Duck Key in the Lower Keys.
The Seven Mile Bridge that connects Marathon in the middle keys to Little Duck Key in the Lower Keys. | Source

Getting to the Keys

Florida Keys Marathon Airport

Key West International Airport 3491 South Roosevelt Blvd. 305-809-5200

Florida Keys Express Shuttle LLC Airport Shuttle Service 305-743-7454

Florida Keys Info

The Florida key islands lie along the Florida Straits and divide the Atlantic Ocean to the east from the Gulf of Mexico to the west and define one edge of the Florida Bay. The southern tip of Key West island is only ninety miles (140km) from Cuba. The group of islands lie fifteen miles south-southwest in an arc and stretch to the uninhabited islands of the Dry Tortugas. The total land area is 137.3 square miles and they rest in Monroe County with a small portion of the keys in Miami-Dade County.

The keys are exposed portions of an ancient coral reef formed from drastic changes in sea level during the ice ages. As sea levels lowered it exposed the coral reef. Therefore, the upper keys are large coral reefs that became fossilized and exposed. The lower keys are made of sand accumulations of limestone grains produced by plants and marine organisms.

The islands are a true tropical climate, called tropical savanna, which is closer to the climate of the Caribbean Islands than the rest of Florida. In fact, the keys are the only frost free place in all of Florida. There are two seasons in the keys; the first, hot and humid from June to October and drier and cooler from November to May.

The keys were originally founded and chartered by Ponce de Leon (1513) and he originally named the islands Los Martines (The Martyrs). There he found the original inhabitants, the Calusa and Tequesta Native Americans. The term 'key' is derived from the Spanish 'cayo' which means small island. The keys were well located for trading with Cuba, the Bahamas, and the main trade route from New Orleans in the time of discovery.

Over the years Key West grew prosperous on shipwrecks and treasures, but went into decline in the late 19th century. Today, the keys are the center of major drug smuggling routes from Key West to Everglade City and there is heavy law enforcement in the keys because of this. The keys were also the first destination of Cubans who fled to South Florida during the Cuban revolution and today they are the destination of many of the boat people fleeing Cuba for asylum in the U.S.

The five major keys that have the most population and tourist destinations are:

  • Key Largo
  • Islamorada
  • Marathon (Knight Key)
  • Big Pine Key
  • Key West

One of the most popular and famous sights on the keys is the Seven Mile Bridge, actually just under seven miles long, which connects Marathon (Knight Key) in the middle keys with Little Duck Key in the lower keys and is actually part of U.S. 1 which is the highway that runs the length of the keys and all the way up the east coast to Maine.

Along with the beautiful sand beaches and turquoise and clear waters, the keys are also known for their great big game fishing and destination of boaters and sailors from all over the world. Scuba diving and snorkeling are big pastimes here also because of the tremendous views of the beautiful coral reefs the islands are composed of and because of the beautiful marine life found under the waters.

Source
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park on Key Largo.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park on Key Largo. | Source
Key Largo sunset.
Key Largo sunset. | Source
Islamorada sunset.
Islamorada sunset. | Source

Which Florida key would you like to visit?

See results without voting

Key Largo is the first of the upper keys and is the largest and longest island of the chain. It is thirty miles long. One of the most interesting and nicest places to see on the island is the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. It offers the best of the flora and fauna found on the keys and here one can see the coral reef and the great marine life. This is a wonderful place for snorkeling or scuba diving as the reef and the marine life are colorful and breathtaking.

Also a fun recreational event not to miss is Dolphin Cove, which offers playing with the dolphins in their own habitat. Dolphins, which are mammals, are considered the most intelligent of marine life and enjoy frolicking with humans. There is a get acquainted session on the platform at the water and then participants can slip into the water and romp with the dolphins. There is a fee, of course, and right now for $155 one can take a shallow water swim with the dolphins. For $195, one can take a structured hands on swim with the dolphins and for a whopping $670 one can shadow a dolphin trainer all day long.

It's sister event is Dolphins Plus, in which participants can take a natural swim and become totally immersed with the dolphins and their world. ($150) Participants can snorkel but can't touch the dolphins There is a structured swim program in which one can kiss the dolphins and take fin tows for $195. Dolphins Plus also offers sea lion swims for $140.

For ornithologists there is the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center and also the Dagney Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park.


Islamorada, Purple Island, is the key with the most beautiful sunsets. Named the Purple Island because of the vibrant pink to purple sunsets each night, hey are stunning, astounding and romantic. The beaches here are also beautiful and the island also offers boating, fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling and kayaking.


Marathon is the bustling and busy town of Knight Key and where the Seven Mile Bridge begins connecting the middle and lower keys. The Old Seven Mile bridge runs parallel to this one but no cars are permitted to drive it. This is the most commercial city of the keys and offers great shopping. There is also the Crane Point Museum and the famed Sombrero Beach to see and experience.


Big Pine Key, offers the key's most natural place of the islands. The wildlife refuges protect the rare and endangered animals and it has an authentic back country atmosphere. The National Key Deer Refuge was founded in 1957 and is an 84,824 acre refuge that protects the dwindling Key deer, and endangered species. This deer is the sub-species of the Virginia white-tailed deer and today boasts 750 of the deer on the island.

Other recreational pursuits available on the island are biking, kayaking, boating, and fishing. The Blue Hole is a quarry left over from the railroad days where one can see alligators, turtles and other wildlife. There are also two natural trails for hiking.

There are many keys in between these five major keys that are not as busy with tourists and offer the getaway from the mainstream of life. For a stress free environment, one of these keys may be just the place to escape the daily routine. Leave the cell phone at home and become 'lost' on a Florida key.

Visit the beautiful Florida keys

Snorkeling in the keys.
Snorkeling in the keys. | Source
Source
Source
Source
Source
Source
Source
Source

© 2013 Suzette Walker suzettetaos

More by this Author


Comments 42 comments

Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Really well done. Thank you. I wanna go!


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

I have never been to Florida, and truthfully I never had much desire to do so....too hot and muggy with large things that crawl around. LOL Having said that, if I were to visit the Keys would be my destination. Thanks for the tour and well-written article.


AUPADHYAY profile image

AUPADHYAY 3 years ago from INDIA, UTTAR PRADESH STATE, KANPUR CITY

The great info hub. Thanks for sharing it. Voted as Useful.


cmoneyspinner1tf profile image

cmoneyspinner1tf 3 years ago from Austin, Texas

This HUB is fantastic. I'm glad you mentioned how close the Florida Keys are to The Bahamas. I'll be sharing via Pinterest.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 3 years ago from North Carolina

What a great hub, Suzette. I've always wanted to go there and this hub makes me want to go even more. Up and across and shared. :)


jenbeach21 profile image

jenbeach21 3 years ago from Orlando, FL

I would love to be there now. Great pictures!


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

This was awesome suzette, your question which one do you want to visit? I want to go to all of them and now! lol! voted up and shared, nell


Keeley Shea profile image

Keeley Shea 3 years ago from Norwich, CT

Great article with tons of great information! Well done!


skellie profile image

skellie 3 years ago from Adelaide

Absolutely awesome! Those pictures of the Key Largo sunset....... Breathtaking. I have to go one day and I agree with Nell - all of them :)

Great hub, voted up & beautiful


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Ericdierker: They are beautiful! I have been to the keys and I have had so much fun and enjoyed so many of these activities. I highly recommend the John Penndercamp Park - the snorkeling there is out of this world.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Hi Bill: Summers in Florida are nearly unbearable - I agree. You have to do your errands by 10 am in the morning and then stay in the air conditioning the rest of the day! LOL But from November to May, the weather is ideal and I recommend going during those months. I have been to the keys and stayed in Islamorada and I can attest to the sunsets - the most beautiful in all of Florida and romantic, too. You and Bev would love them.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

AUPADHYAY: Thank you so much for your kind comments. I appreciated your visit and I am so happy you enjoyed reading this hub.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

cmoneyspinner1t1: Thank you so much for your comments. Yes, Florida and the Bahamas are next door neighbors! I haven't been to the Bahamas yet! LOL I want to take a cruise over to them one day! Thanks so much for your visit.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Denise: Thanks so much for your comments and I'm glad you enjoyed reading this. I have been to the keys and stayed on Islamorada. I can attest, the sunsets are gorgeous and the most beautiful in all of Florida. Key West is a blast! and I snorkeled at the John Penndercamp Park in Key Largo. Just breathtaking!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

jenbeach21: So glad you read this and enjoyed the article. Thanks so much for your enthusiasm. Do go someday the islands are a blast!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Nell: Thanks so much for your comments and for reading this. I am so glad you enjoyed it. Yes, actually, once there go to all the islands. I have been to all 5 of the major islands - we stayed in Islamorada and the sunsets are gorgeous and breathtaking. They are the most beautiful in all of Florida. Key West is an absolute blast! The people you meet there are unbelievable and hysterical. Thanks so much for your enthusiasm.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Keeley Shea: Thanks so much for your kind comments and I am so glad you enjoyed reading this article. The keys certainly are a fun place to be.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

skellie: Yes, do go to the keys! It is a vacation like no other. So glad you enjoyed this article and thank you so much for reading and commenting.


mts1098 profile image

mts1098 3 years ago from InsideTheManCave

wow ... great hub here...we are planning a parrot key trip next year...thanks for the detail...cheers and thanks


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

Awesome, suzette! I want to go to all of them ... lol! Although, when my husband and I were first married, he was stationed in Tampa, Florida, and I loved St. Petersburg and Clearwater Beach, Florida, we never made it down to the Keys. I sure wish we had and hope to one day. We have friends who lived there and my brother, had thought of the idea to retire there and fly a helicopter for tourists from island to island. He already flies, but is a planetary geologist in real life : )

Up and more and sharing

Blessings, Faith Reaper


twoseven profile image

twoseven 3 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

My husband and I have been wanting to take a vacation to the Keys since before we were married, and now we have two kids and we still haven't done it! But this inspires me to start planning, and I'm so glad you mentioned the activities that are fun for kids. Great hub!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

mts1098: Fantastic! I am so glad to hear you are planning a trip. The keys are a blast and I know you will enjoy yourself. I don't know what a parrot key trip is - but you will see parrots in the keys because of the tropical climate. Enjoy! Thanks for reading and I'm glad you liked this article.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Faith: I'm sure you will get there one day. The keys are a blast and nothing like the rest of Florida. When I was married we stayed in Islamorada and the sunsets are to die for - really pink, mauve and purple. Just unbelievable. Key West is very trendy and you meet all kinds of people from all walks of life! LOL We snorkeled at the John Pennderkamp Park and it was beautiful. The coral reefs and marine life are so colorful and beautiful. All the keys are fun filled - I have been to the 5 major ones but not to the smaller ones in between. The beaches on all of them are lovely. What you brother wants to do sounds fun and great also. Just be careful, the hurricane season is from June - November and the storms in the keys are strong. They do get hit by hurricanes a lot, so he needs to keep that in mind when living there permantently.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

twoseven: You will get there eventually. The keys are a blast and I highly recommend them. I am so glad you read this and I appreciated you comments. There is so much for kids to do on the islands - Key West is very trendy and you meet people from all walks of life there. And, the keys are quite romantic for when you and your husband get a moment alone together! Enjoy!


mylindaelliott profile image

mylindaelliott 3 years ago from Louisiana

It sounds so peaceful and wonderful.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

mylindaelliott: For the most part the keys are peaceful and wonderful. Key West is a bit wild, but the only key that is so. Thanks so much for reading and for your comments. Glad you enjoyed this.


VVanNess profile image

VVanNess 2 years ago from Prescott Valley

This article makes me want to visit. I've never been to Florida before but it sounds like the tropical paradise I need! Beautiful job!


Daniel1137 profile image

Daniel1137 2 years ago from Athens, Georgia

Suzette, good Hub. My father took me to Key West when I was young. He was a tour director for Tauck Tours in the 60's, when the only way for "Yankees" to see Florida was by tour bus. Maybe I can return one day and experience the change. We visited the southern most point in the US, Hemingway's house, the turtle factory! and the best fried red snapper in the world. I can almost see the blue green water now. One highway, two lanes, a greyhound bus intimidating the cars. Love it!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

VVanNess: I know, we are so done with winter here in Ohio and the Florida Keys are looking good right now! So pleased you enjoyed reading this and Southern Florida is a tropical paradise!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Daniel: So glad you enjoyed reading this and it brought back good memories for your. I have visited the Keys, although not recently, but they are beautiful and a fun place for a vacation anytime. The fish there are beautiful to see snorkeling and so delicious to eat. LOL! Thanks for your visit.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

I would love to go! Thanks for all the info and lovely photos. I have heard a lot about Duval Street. You have a put together a great list of tourist attractions!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

rebecca: I am so glad you enjoyed reading this. The islands are really beautiful. Duval Street is a real experience no matter when you are there. Thanks so much for your interest and for your comments.


Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe 16 months ago from Northeast Ohio

Lovely photos and nice hub about the Florida Keys. I would love to go there myself. Voted up!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 16 months ago from Taos, NM Author

Kristen: Yes, the keys are beautiful and really laid back. A great place to vacation and get away from it all! Thanks so much for reading!


Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe 16 months ago from Northeast Ohio

You're welcome!


Jean Bakula profile image

Jean Bakula 10 months ago from New Jersey

I've been to FL and the Bahamas on a cruise, and love Jamaica, I've been there 5 times. I love the calm, warm water and laid back atmosphere. If you fly to get the the Keys, once you get to FL how do you get to the key you want to visit? Does one of them have an airport?


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 9 months ago from Taos, NM Author

Jean: I have not been to the Bahamas or Jamaica but I know the Caribbean Islands are beautiful. I will have to make a trip to both of them one day. When I was in the Keys last, we flew into the Miami airport, rented a car, and drove down to and through the Keys. I don't know if there is an airport in the Keys or not. That is a good question. It was fun renting a car, because when in the Keys we could drive from one to another and it was so fun to enjoy them.


Jean Bakula profile image

Jean Bakula 9 months ago from New Jersey

Oh, so you CAN drive around and get to them? I fly, but only because I have to in order to get to certain places.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 9 months ago from Taos, NM Author

Yes, the islands are connected by bridges, so there is easy access to all the keys. I would check with Key West to see if there is a commercial airport as it is the largest and most popular key. Hope you go there and enjoy your stay.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 9 months ago from Taos, NM Author

Jean: I have just included flight information in the article. There is an airport at Marathon and an International airport in Key West. Once there you can rent a car or take boat tours of the other keys. Hope this helps you!


Jean Bakula profile image

Jean Bakula 9 months ago from New Jersey

Thank you so much for your research. That was very kind.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 7 months ago from Taos, NM Author

Well, You questions got me thinking and so I looked into transportation. My husband and I flew into Miami, rented a car and drove down to and throughout the keys. It was some years back and might have been before there were airports in the keys. Glad I could help!

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working