The Keys encompass 10 state parks, two national parks — Dry Tortugas National Park and the Flamingo district of Everglades National Park — and four federally protected havens: National Key Deer, Great White Heron, Key West and Crocodile Lake national wildlife refuges.
Keys visitors and residents can commemorate Earth Day’s significance with outdoor activities to be experienced only in the Florida Keys before, on or after April 22.
Now Through May 15
Reef Relief, a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to improving and protecting the Keys’ coral reef ecosystem, is offering an ultimate virtual road-trip getaway to the Florida Keys with its Key Largo to Key West Challenge. Participants can join to complete a 50-mile, 100-mile or 200-plus mile option with any form of intentional exercise such as running, walking, biking, swimming or paddling. During the challenge, entrants log weekly miles via smartphone, mobile fitness app or on paper to complete the trip. Reef Relief emails participants highlights of what they will encounter along each week’s mileage of their virtual vacation. Log as few or as many miles as preferred, each week. The challenge creates a unique experience by taking participants on a virtual vacation while intentionally exercising. In 2020, the virtual challenge provided an escape from isolation, was voted a top-five Best Virtual Race Experience by BibRave and raised $30,000 for Reef Relief.
Take a Full Moon Kayak Excursion from 6-8 p.m., and watch the sun set and moon rise while paddling along the mangrove shoreline. Proceeds help local wildlife through the Florida Keys Wildlife Society, the official friends group for the Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges. The kayak excursion takes place in the waters surrounding the National Key Deer Refuge in Big Pine Key and nearby areas. Beginning at the Old Wooden Bridge Marina, 1791 Bogie Road, Big Pine Key, paddlers kayak across the water to No Name Key and north. Reservations include kayak, gear and experienced guide. A $30 donation supports the Florida Keys Wildlife Society.
Join a Fish Identification Class at 11 a.m. the day before Earth Day at the John Pennekamp Visitor Center and Aquarium Auditorium in Key Largo. The class is to be taught by staff with Key Largo’s Reef Environmental Educational Foundation. Participants learn about REEF as an organization, basic fish identification techniques and how to become involved in citizen science projects. The first undersea park in the United States, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is located at mile marker 102.5. No registration is required; entry to the program is included in paid park admission.
Celebrate Earth Day with the Turtle Hospital by witnessing a planned sea turtle release back to the ocean off Marathon’s Sombrero Beach. A licensed veterinary hospital dedicated to the treatment of sea turtles, the Turtle Hospital is situated at mile marker 48.5 bayside in Marathon. It was opened in 1986 with the goal of healing injured sea turtles and returning them to the wild. Visitors can take guided educational tours of the facility and outdoor rehabilitation area. Follow the hospital’s social media channels (@theturtlehospital) for an announcement of details of the anticipated Earth Day release.
Enjoy a family-friendly evening from 5-8 p.m. at Lagerheads Beach Bar, 0 Simonton St. in Key West, during the Second Annual Luau Fundraiser to benefit Reef Relief coral reef conservation efforts. The event is to feature live music, games, a silent auction and raffle drawings, tropical food and drink specials. Email email@example.com or call 305-294-3100.
During the ninth annual iteration of Key Largo’s Reef Environmental Educational Foundation Lionfish Derby weekend, set for April 22-24, teams of up to four people can dive to capture lionfish and compete for prizes in two divisions — Apex Predators and Reef Defenders. Until 6:15 p.m. Friday, April 22, registration is $100 per team. A Friday captains meeting is mandatory for derby teams, held both virtually and in-person at the REEF campus, mile marker 98.3 in the median of the Florida Keys Overseas Highway. Teams are to fish Saturday from sunrise to sundown in Keyswide waters. Sunday is fish drop-off day, with an awards ceremony. Register online at reef.org.
The marine environment surrounding the continental United States’ southernmost island chain is to take center stage Saturday, April 23, during Mote Marine Laboratory’s 10th Ocean Fest: A Community Celebration. Attendees can enjoy live music, environmental art, family-friendly activities and conservation and environmental exhibits. The free-admission event is set for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Key West’s Truman Waterfront Park, located at the end of Southard Street near the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center. For more information, visit mote.org/oceanfest.
Florida Keys green travel information: fla-keys.com/sustain
Florida Keys visitor information: fla-keys.com or 1-800-FLA-KEYS
Social: Facebook • Twitter • Instagram • YouTube • Pinterest • TikTok • Keys Voices Blog