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Florida Keys & Key West … Laid-Back and Legendary

April 7, 2014 Destination North America No Comments Email Email

First-time visitors to the Florida Keys comment almost immediately on the island chain’s unique laid-back atmosphere that seems to be a world away from big cities and theme parks.

It’s the kind of ambiance that lured renowned novelist Ernest Hemingway to reside in Key West throughout the 1930s, when he drew creative inspiration from the subtropical island’s lush environment and colorful residents. There he penned some of his most famous works including “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “To Have and Have Not” and “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.”

A necklace of islands that begins just south of Miami, the Florida Keys are connected by the Overseas Highway’s 42 bridges — one almost seven miles long — over the Atlantic Ocean, Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. In 2009, the famed highway was designated an All-American Road, the highest recognition possible under the National Scenic Byways program established by the United States Congress.

The Florida Keys are divided into five regions: Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, Big Pine and the Lower Keys, and Key West. Each region has its own special flavor, attractions including historic museums, flora, fauna, restaurants featuring local seafood and other specialties, fishing, diving, watersports and boutique-type shopping experiences.

Vistas of the Keys are dominated by emerald-green harbors, turquoise seas, nodding palms, rustling pines and olive-green mangroves. Sharing this eco-paradise are white herons, roseate spoonbills, pelicans, sea gulls, ospreys and countless underwater creatures.

The coastal waters of the entire 125-mile island chain, including its shallow water flats, mangrove islets and coral reefs, have been designated the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

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