With the extension of the Florida East Coast Railway at the turn of the century, and later the construction of the Overseas Highway, landlubbers began to discover what had drawn rogues and adventurers to the Florida Keys for years.
The archipelago is more than a chain of islands; it’s place where visitors and residents live on a peculiarly American version of “island time” that encourages you not only to be yourself but also to tolerate other folks who are being themselves. The natural beauty demands a certain slowness of pace but also makes you feel as if you’re wasting time if you’re not diving, fishing, or exploring all that the Keys have to offer.
The historic architecture and bustling counterculture in Key West belies its reputation as a frat-boy Margaritaville. While you could certainly spend your entire visit bellied up to the bar, to do so would be to miss out on the island’s tropical charm. To be sure, this southernmost island is the best-known and most-visited of all the Keys, but to restrict a Keys trip to the sights and sounds of Duval Street would be to miss out on a lot.
The craggy shores and equally craggy characters that inhabit Key Largo are far from the image conjured by the classic film of the same name, and they probably represent the spirit of the “Conch Republic” as well or better than heavily trafficked Key West. Throughout the Keys, though, the primary attractions are the water-related activities—snorkeling, boating, fishing—but the onshore wildlife, historic houses, and museums on the islands also provide their own unique pleasures.
© Jason Ferguson from Moon Florida, 1st Edition