A beginner's guide to the Florida Keys
Bobbing in the sea like a string of pearls that slipped from America's mainland necklace, the islands of the Florida Keys are a breathtaking bunch. The last bit of America before you cross into the Caribbean, the Florida Keys are located at the literal end-of-the-line. Because of this, the Keys have become a place where people from all over come to go their own way, be themselves, and have the holiday of a lifetime.
What to do
While you can technically get to the Florida Keys on an airplane or a cruise ship, driving down the legendary Overseas Highway is without a doubt the best way to make your entrance and quite simply one of the best things to do in the Florida Keys. The Overseas Highway will be the way you arrive if you add a quick trip to the Keys on to your Florida holiday from American Sky, and as soon as you pull on to the Overseas Highway, you will know you made the right decision. The Overseas Highway stretches approximately 127 miles from mainland Florida to Key West, and is built on a bevvy of bridges and stilts in the sea. The views of the highway in front of you surrounded by nothing but water is simply spectacular and will have you thinking you are in a movie.
Once off the road and on land (for now), it's time to quickly get acclimated with the fact that the Florida Keys are a nature lover's paradise. Home to a more diverse mix of landscapes than you'd imagine as even deer call the Keys home, camping, scuba diving, snorkelling, fishing and kayaking are the most popular things to do in the Florida Keys. Almost all involve the area's famous crystal-clear water, so make sure to pack your waterproof sun cream. One gaze at the water or one dip of the toe will make it obvious that the clarity here is perfect for scuba diving and snorkelling and almost any foray under the surf will provide you with views of colourful fish and turtles that you'll be talking about for years.
Like many places where people come to relax, the Florida Keys are a great place let your hair down, and nowhere in the Keys lets their hair down quite like Key West. Key West is a place that has attracted residents looking for a laid back and freewheeling lifestyle for decades and since you'll be a temporary resident, you might as well do like the locals. Wading through the sea of street performers and revellers at a sunset celebration at Mallory Square and bar-hopping down Duval Street are rites of passage for all visitors to the Florida Keys.
Where to eat
Being a string of islands, food from the seas is a big part of the cuisine of the Florida Keys, and in addition to a bounty of classic seafood selections, there are quite a few unique things on menus in the Keys. One of these is Conch (pronounced conk), an edible shelled mollusk which is very common all over the Keys. On your way down the Overseas Highway, a stop at Alabama Jack's will get your trip off to a great start with a fresh bowl of Conch Chowder or crunchy Conch fritters. One of the other signature tastes of the Florida Keys is the world famous Key Lime Pie. This tart, tangy, and creamy pie is made with local limes and there is no better place to get yours than the perfectly named Key West Key Lime Pie Company on Big Pine Key. By time you make it to Key West, you'll be ready for a full meal and Nine One Five is the perfect spot for a modern twist on island dining in a classic Key West setting within a Victorian house with grand veranda.
Where to stay
Views of the sea and swimming pools are commonplace in the Keys, but some hotels really excel at showing off the spirit of the islands. In Islamorada, the Postcard Inn Beach Resort & Marina is the perfect place to use as a base for exploring the islands and its facilities are both family-friendly and fun. If you only make it as far as Key Largo, the Azul Del Mar is a stylish boutique escape but if your sense of adventure takes you all the way to Key West, Ocean Key Resort & Spa is the perfect luxurious escape just steps from the beehive of activity that is Mallory Square.
More information and to book: Plan your Florida Keys holiday and hit the road along the famous Seven Mile Bridge to explore an array of watersports, entertainment and chilled out beaches.
Article written by Julia Evans.