A 125-mile-long chain of islands that begins just south of Miami, the Florida Keys are connected by the Overseas Highway’s 42 bridges over water — one almost seven miles long — over the Atlantic Ocean, Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
The Keys have a subtropical climate with warm, balmy temperatures year-round, and even January is characterized by high temps in the 70s and clear blue skies.
The Keys are divided into five regions: Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, Big Pine and the Lower Keys, and Key West.
- Key Largo is regarded as the Dive Capital of the World and is home to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, America’s first underwater preserve.
- Islamorada is known as the Sport-Fishing Capital of the World, where backcountry sport fishing and saltwater fly-fishing were pioneered.
- Marathon is famous for the Seven Mile Bridge (actually 6.79 miles long), one of the longest segmental bridges in the world.
- Big Pine Key in the Lower Florida Keys is the center of a national refuge for miniature Key deer, where the species has come back from near-extinction to a thriving population.
- Key West, the southernmost populated island in the Florida Keys, lies 150 miles from Miami but only 90 miles from Cuba — and the 2-by-4-mile island features the southernmost point in the continental United States.
- Key West has been home to such literary greats as Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams, who wrote some of their best-known works while living on the island.
Green mile markers along the Overseas Highway, descending in order from 127 near Florida City to 0 in Key West, often are used as address locators between Florida City and Key West.
Paralleling the Florida Keys is the continental United States’ only contiguous living coral barrier reef.
The coastal waters of the entire island chain, including its shallow water flats, mangrove islets and coral reefs, have been designated the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
The Florida Keys Shipwreck Trail is a line of nine historic underwater shipwrecks and artificial reefs extending from Key Largo to Key West and maintained by the sanctuary.
Florida Keys visitor information: fla-keys.com or 1-800-FLA-KEYS
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