Purple Hearts… Florida Keys Holidays
With its luscious jungles, dazzling seas, and exotic mangroves, the string of islands that make up the Florida Keys is this year’s hottest destination. Attracted by its stunning coral reefs and the bountiful coloured fish that make them their home, thousands of tourists return to as the charming communities of Key West and Key Largo every year. Choosing which islands to get to while you’re there is difficult when you’re not in the know, so we’ve put together a travel guide to help you along the journey. Welcome to Florida Keys Holidays.
Flickr/Emilio Labrador/Creative Commons
Where to go in Florida Keys
Bahia Honda Key | Tropical Bahia Honda Key centres mainly around its eponymous state park, known for its pristine beaches, wonderful snorkelling opportunities and perfect sunsets. Take a picnic with you to the beach and spend a relaxing day, dipping into the sea and enjoying the balmy breezes that caress its shores. This remote island is an excellent place to see shorebirds and other wildlife, with a nature centre dedicated to the island’s plants and animals.
Big Pine Key | Big Pine Key is a refuge to rare and endangered animals. Its authentic back country atmosphere and National Key Deer Refuge, make it a beautiful place to holiday. Big Pine is also the jumping off point for numerous snorkelling and diving charters to Looe Key reef, the perfect remedy if you feel like taking an offshore adventure.
Conch Key | This stretch of Florida Keys is dominated by the fishing community, and home to both rustic fishing villages and boating elite. Conch Key itself is a tiny fishing village, but you can quickly hop across to Duck Key, if you’re looking for a more upscale community.
Duck Key is known for its beautiful sunsets. Also home to Hawks Cay, one of the region’s most popular marina resorts, Duck Key is the ideal destination for those looking for a relaxing getaway.
Grassy Key | Legend has it that this remote little key was not named after its abundant vegetation as the name would suggests, but after an early settler who went by the name of Grassy. However, this doesn’t take away from its greenery – the Key is fileld with shrubs and native trees.
Islamorada | Isla Morada is Spanish for Island Home, named so by the early settlers who immediately found this island to be cosy and homely. This well-known fishing village is the perfect place for snorkelling, sunbathing and swimming.
Key Largo | Key Largo is the first of the Upper Keys that can be reached by car, and at 30 miles long, it’s also the largest island in the chain.
Key West | Close to Miami, and just 90 miles from Havana, this end-of-the-line community is like nowhere else on earth. This is the land of eternal holiday, where no one has a care in the world and all you have to think about is what you want for lunch or which cocktail you’ll choose.
Little Torch Key | Little Torch Key and its neighbour islands, Ramrod Key and Summerland Key, are good jumping-off points for divers headed for Looe Key Reef. The islands also serve as a refuge for those who want to make.
Long Key | Long Key is the ideal destination for those looking to avoid the masses and enjoy some ecological history.
Marathon | Marathon is a busy town – or at least busy when compared to other communities in the Keys. However, the island also lacks a certain charm when compared to its counterparts…
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Hemingway Balcony/Mattwunderle/Creative Commons
Main attractions of Florida Keys
Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum
A guided tour of Ernest Hemingway’s home is filled with amusing anecdotes of the writer’s life. Built in 1801, Hemmingway lived in the house between 1931 and 1942, writing about 70% of his life’s work, including classics like For Whom the Bell Tolls in its rooms. You can even see some of his belongings including some books, with photographs along the way to help you visualise his day-to-day life.
Audubon House and Tropical Gardens
See the works of ornithologist John James Audubon in this three-story house, which was built in the 1840s for Captain John Geiger. Today, it commemorates Audubon’s 1832 stop in Key West while he was travelling through Florida to study birds. The self-guided tour of the house and gardens and the art gallery of lithographs of the artist’s famed portraits, is one you’ll never forget.
Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park
Construction of Fort Zachary Taylor began in 1845, but was halted during the Civil War. Finally completed in 1866, the fort was also used in the Spanish-American War. Guests can either take a 30-minute guided walking tour of the redbrick fort, a National Historic Landmark, at 12pm and 2pm, or self-tour anytime between 8am and 5pm.
Kate Power is community manager for Purple Travel.