Connect with the Keys' Rich Environment and Way of Life
The Florida Keys island chain is renowned for its unparalleled natural resources, ranging from national wildlife refuges to the continental United States' only living coral barrier reef. And while Keys residents are leading the effort to protect and nurture those resources, visitors can share their dedication while having unforgettable vacations.
From Key Largo to Key West, you can discover the Keys' unique natural world at scores of environmental attractions, wildlife rescue and rehabilitation facilities, protected dive sites, state parks and nature preserves.
By incorporating positive eco-activities and experiences into your stay in the island chain, you too can play a part in protecting its land-and-sea natural wonders.
The Florida Keys' focus on resource preservation actually dates back more than a century. The Key West National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1908, launching a dedicated commitment to long-term environmental stewardship.
Since then, milestones have included the 1957 establishment of the National Key Deer Refuge to protect habitats for wildlife - particularly the tiny Key deer that live only in the Lower Keys - and the 1963 opening of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, America's first underwater park.
In 1990 the U.S. government created the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, which protects 2,900 square nautical miles of coastal and ocean waters surrounding the entire Keys island chain - including the treasured coral reef.
More recently, experts have pioneered coral restoration efforts in the Keys, steadily restoring endangered corals by replanting on the reef new growths from coral nurseries.
While visiting the Keys you can explore four national wildlife refuges and 10 state parks, as well as Dry Tortugas National Park and portions of Everglades National Park.
You can tour environmental and wildlife rescue centers such as Marathon's world-famous Turtle Hospital; enjoy diving and fishing adventures with eco-conscious Blue Star operators; savor sustainable food choices like stone crab claws, lionfish and locally sourced seafood; spend time kayaking through tranquil backcountry waters or viewing dolphins in the wild; and take part in "voluntourism" opportunities such as assisting at a coral nursery.
While enriching your vacation with authentic sustainable adventures, you'll also experience and connect with the Keys' colorful, coveted way of life. That's because no Keys exploration is complete without meeting and chatting with fishing guides, artists, restaurateurs, wildlife rescuers, attractions operators, local musicians and many others.
Insights from these creative, quirky, independent people offer a unique window into the island chain's distinctive, close-to-nature lifestyle - an element as alluring as the region's natural world.
The Keys are a place to enjoy memorable experiences that can't be found anywhere else, discover one-of-a-kind environmental and lifestyle features, forge a personal connection to both and embrace actions that protect and preserve them.
For visitors seeking an environmentally responsible vacation spot with genuine character, culture and community, it doesn't get any better than the Florida Keys.