- Coastline Conches and coconut palms
- Coast life All at sea
The southernmost point in the US, this string of tiny islands is a haven for fishing and diving, though the crystal waters make it tempting to just float along like a local manatee.
The road into the Florida Keys changes quickly from terra firma to the marshlands, all connected by a long stretch of highway. The coral archipelago’s Keys – including Largo, Key West, Islamorada and Marathon – have inspired Beach Boys and Jimmy Buffett songs for their laidback Caribbean style. Souvenir shops, theme restaurants and other tourist traps abound, but step off the well-trodden path to discover the self-proclaimed Conch Republic’s rich history of Hemingway, big fish and fantastic local food, including the islands’ namesake: Key lime pie.
Do go/Don’t go
The winter months of November to February are the best time to steal away for sunshine. Summer is hurricane season in Florida, but tourists who aren’t afraid of heat, humidity and the chance of a downpour can nearly have the archipelago all but to themselves.
Planes Key West International operates flights on United (www.united.com), British Airways (www.britishairways.com) and other major carriers from nearby cities, including Atlanta, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale. On the mainland, the nearest airport is Miami International, about an hour north of the Keys. Virgin Atlantic (www.virgin-atlantic.com) flies direct from London Heathrow. From New York, catch a non-stop flight on United Airlines (www.united.com), American Airlines (www.aa.com) or Delta (www.delta.com).
Boats Many people travel by boat through the Keys, and boat parking is almost as plentiful as car parking. Only experienced mariners should pilot boats, since the waters are quite shallow and quickly turn to marshes or coral reefs.
Automobiles The northern-most Keys are approximately an hour south of Miami; Islamorada is a 90-minute drive. One highway connects the region, so guests are best off renting a car to explore. The chain of islands is linked by a single road, the Overseas Highway (US 1), which snakes 128 miles through the Keys, passing over the rather spectacular Seven-Mile Bridge at Marathon.