Key West is actually closer to Cuba than any major US city. Attitudes are laid-back - almost Caribbean-like - and popular activities include snorkelling, diving, fishing and boating. You can also swim with dolphins, enjoy a sunset sail or venture into the Everglades National Park for a walk on the wild side. There are around 800 islands in the Keys, 42 of which are linked by bridges. Different parts of the Keys will suit different people. For families, the Upper and Lower Keys are the place with an abundance of water sports and activities. For couples or groups, head further south to Key West.
The Florida Keys are a region of Florida. The Keys are an archipelago of about 1700 islands extending south and southwest of the Florida mainland.
Biscayne National Park
U.S. Highway 1 leads from Miami to the Keys via the famous Overseas Highway.
The two main airports in the Keys are the seaplane base on Marathon Key (ICAO : 42FL) and Key West International Airport (ICAO : KEYW). These are only used by private or commuter aircraft, mainly coming in from Miami (ICAO : KMIA IATA : MIA), which is the closest international airport.
Greyhound has service to and from the Florida Keys. There are terminals on Marathon, Big Pine Key, and Key West.
Multiple ferry services are available from Fort Myers to Key West. Most of them are large catamarans that will accommodate 20-30 passengers. Sailing time is about 3 hours.
The Keys (at least the accessible, commercial islands) are connected by US Highway 1. A useful and interesting "quirk" about the linearity of the Keys (and US-1) is that directions to establishments and attractions are locally described by the "Mile Markers" along US-1. If you ask someone how to get to a certain beach or hotel, they will tell you that it is at "Mile Marker 68.5"; many signs and brochures will say "MM 68.5" (of course, there is no mile marker 68.5, this just means that the hotel is halfway between mile markers 68 and 69). These numbers start at zero at the start of US-1 on Key West, so the numbers get larger as you go north.
The speed limits in the Keys are generally 45 MPH on the built-up Islands, and 55 MPH on the bridges and less built-up islands. There are areas (very built-up strips, or animal sanctuaries) where the speed drops to 35 MPH.
The Florida Keys are sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico and the Florida Bay in the Upper Florida Keys. This makes for stellar fishing! The warm Gulf Stream current runs just off the coast of the Florida Keys and creates a path for migrating species of fish.
The Florida Keys Reef Tract is the only living coral barrier reef in North America and is the 3rd largest coral barrier reef in the world. The first is the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the second is the Meso-American Reef in Belize. The reef extends approximately 221 miles down the South East coast of Florida and runs parallel to the Florida Keys starting at Key Biscayne near Miami all the way down to the Dry Tortugas which are 70 miles west of Key West. The reef is found from 1 mile to 8 miles offshore.
The Florida Keys have wreck diving, reef diving and artificial reef diving with different skill levels from beginner to advanced diving. Water temps peak in the low 80Fs in summer, and can drop to the low 70Fs in winter. Visibility is usually good, typically no less than 50 feet, and you'll see more fish life than you might expect.
As you would expect, there is a lot of seafood served in the Keys, but all types of restaurants exist. These include most of the staples of American fast-food, mom-and-pop diners, and many kinds of ethnic fare.
The Florida Keys are the birthplace of Key Lime Pie once made using limes exclusively grown here.
Another Key specialty is conch (pronounced "konk"), a large crustacean often served in chowder.
Police/Crime Prevention In an emergency, dial 911 from any phone in the Florida Keys.
Visitor Assistance Line, 1-800-771-KEYS (5397). Multi-lingual staff are ready to help you with directions and phone numbers to medical facilities and law enforcement offices and much more. The staff work 24 hours a day, every day of the year.
Boating Safety In an emergency, dial 911 from any Florida Keys land or cellular phone or contact the United States Coast Guard, via Channel 16, on a marine VHF radio.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, 305-289-2320, . The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission is responsible for enforcing safe and environmentally-friendly boating and fishing practices in the Keys. FWC officers patrol docks, bridges and waters.
Monroe County Bike/Pedestrian Planner, Phone: 305-289-2514.
Overseas Heritage Trail, Phone: 305-853-3571. Bicyclists are encouraged to use the Overseas Heritage Trail adjacent to the highway wherever the trail is available.
Divers suspecting decompression illness should seek medical attention immediately at one of the Keys hospitals. The staff at these facilities know how to diagnose and treat the condition and, if necessary, will transfer patients to one of two decompression facilities in the Keys. The U.S. Military operates a decompression chamber in Key West. The other, more often used, facility is located in the Upper Keys at Mariner's Hospital.
Mariner's Hospital, Phone: 305-434-3000, Mile Marker 91.5, Tavernier. Middle Keys
Fishermen's Hospital, Phone: 305-743-5533, Mile Marker 48.7, Marathon. Lower Keys and Key West
Lower Keys Medical Center, Phone: 305-294-5531, 5900 College Road, Stock Island.
Big Pine Key - home of the protected "Key Deer"
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