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People, let’s talk about the KEYS!

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We have to admit that the Florida Keys were not high on our list, but after a week in the Southernmost part of the US, we highly recommend the visit. For goodness sakes – it’s right in our backyard and has been compared to the Bahamas and Caribbean – Yowza!

Okay, okay – Key West. Yes, Key West is regarded as the Southernmost point in the country, that can still be reached by land. In fact, it is closer to Cuba than Miami. To top it off, Key West is the city with the highest average temperature in the country (78 degrees). As if being a state of islands, which is probably the warmest in the US too - isn’t cool enough, the Florida Reef is the 3rd largest coral reef in the world!

BUT STILL….there are so many other great things to see and do along ALL the KEYS on your way to Key West and beyond.


We thought Florida was ‘small’ but boy is it a long state to drive through. There are 43 islands in the Keys, connected by 42 bridges, there are actually hundreds, almost 1,000 islands in total.

Cool Fact: If you are in the fourth grade then Florida is the state for you. There are 10 of the Florida State Parks in the Keys, including 4 that you have to get to via a boat. As a fourth grader you get in free – Gigi was very proud of herself while reminding us of this honored fact.

While exploring we found out that Key West was Union held during the civil war. In addition, as we have read while travelling down the Eastern coastline, the Keys were inhabited by Tequesta and Calusa Native Americans. When the Europeans came, they spread disease which cleared out these Natives completely. There are no known Tequesta or Calusa anywhere to date.

We got to experience the Everglades some, or as the locals call it " the Back Country". We took an airboat tour and learned a whole lot about birds, crocs and mangroves.

The 15-foot gator in the waters beside us was not exciting to see – let me tell you! Especially after our captain told us they can jump up 5 feet to catch their prey (birds) in the mangroves.

Did you know you if you use mangrove wood to smoke a fish it tastes better than hickory, or anything else for that matter. Yep – but good luck getting the mangrove – apparently it’s illegal to cut down since Mangrove forests are one of the world’s most threatened ecosystems. More than 35% of the world’s Mangroves are already gone.

Because the Florida Keys is made up of many islands, the keys are often split up into groups. The group of islands farthest north are known as the Upper Keys. Below them are the groups known as the Middle Keys and the Lower Keys. A fourth group is known as the Outer Keys and is made up of islands that can only be accessed by boat.


The beaches in Key West are not what we considered typical. A lot of rock, shells. Come to find most of the sand of Key West's beaches had to be brought over from the Caribbean. Not enough if you ask us! We like our sand castles!

The below reminds us of a Johnny Cash song….Please excuse any typos!

The Upper Keys:

  • [endif]Key Largo (North Key Largo, Key Largo and Tavernier)

  • [endif]Tavernier (Not an island itself but important place of Key Largo)

  • [endif]Plantation Key

  • [endif]Windley Key

  • [endif]Islamorada-The Village of Islands and Sport Fishing Capital of the World (the group of islands of Islamorada, are Plantation and Lower Matecombe, Indian and Lightnumvitae Keys, left and right)

  • [endif]Upper Matecumbe Key

  • [endif]Lightnumvitae Key and Indian Key (Botanical State Parks and Historic Sites, part of the Triangle of History) (both on either side the Matecumbe Keys and US 1, accessible only by boat)

  • [endif]Lower Matecumbe Key.

The Middle Keys:

  • [endif]Craig Key

  • [endif]Fiesta Key

  • [endif]Long Key

  • [endif]Conch Key

  • [endif]Duck Key

  • [endif]Grassy Key

  • [endif]The Marathon Islands are comprised by Grassy, Crawl, Long Point, Fat Deer, Shelter, Boot, Vaca, and Knight’s Keys

  • [endif]Crawl Key

  • [endif]Long Point Key

  • [endif]Fat Deer Key

  • [endif]Shelter Key

  • [endif]Vaca Key

  • [endif]Boot Key

  • [endif]Knight’s Key

  • [endif]Pigeon Key (The Historic Island can be seen from the section of US 1 over the seven mile bridge)

The Lower Keys:

  • [endif]Little Dock Key

  • [endif]Missouri Key

  • [endif]Sunshine Key

  • [endif]Bahia Honda Key (Where the Bahia Honda State Park and Beaches)

  • [endif]Spanish Harbor

  • [endif]Scout Key

  • [endif]No Name Key

  • [endif]Big Pine Key

  • [endif]Little Torch Key

  • [endif]Meddle Torch Key

  • [endif]Big Torch Key

  • [endif]Ramrod Key

  • [endif]Summerland Key

  • [endif]Knockemdown Key

  • [endif]Cudjoe Key

  • [endif]Sugarloaf Key

  • [endif]Park Key

  • [endif]Lower Sugarloaf Key

  • [endif]Saddlebuch Key

  • [endif]Shark Key

  • [endif]Geiger Key

  • [endif]Big Coppitt

  • [endif]Rockland Key

  • [endif]Boca Chica Key

  • [endif]Racoon Key

  • [endif]Stock Island

  • [endif]Key West

  • [endif]Sisgbee Park

  • [endif]Fleming Key

The outlying islands that are only accessible by boat or by the sea planes from

  • Dry Totugas (Home of Fort Jefferson)

  • Marquesas Islands

  • Sunset Key & Wisteria Island

We did enjoy our stay in Key West, we found out a whole heck of a lot out about this small point on our travel map. For instance, Ernest Hemingway – you know, the guy who wrote ‘The Old Man and The Sea’, his home and museum are in Key West – AND home to many 6 an 7 toed cats that are descendants from the writer’s cats – weird huh.

There are some more famous peeps who resided in the Keys: Shel Silverstein, author, cartoonist and musician; Harry S. Truman, U.S. president; Tennessee Williams, author; Calvin Klein, fashion designer; Jimmy Buffett, musician to name a few.

What we found really peculiar, was Key West declared it’s independence from the US in 1982 because of an inspection point on US 1. Apparently the point was hurting tourism in the Keys. The term they used to describe Key West was ‘the Conch Republic’ and is now used to refer to all of the Florida Keys.

Our Brother/Uncle works at the Conch Republic – so we found this little fact very interesting!

While in Key West we got the chance to walk Duval Street. Because it runs across the city from coast to coast it’s called the longest street in the world. We can attest to this since we were on it all day long!

Heavy shipping, strong currents, and dangerous reefs meant that shipwrecks were occurring at a rate of once per week at one time. century….imagine all the treasures washing up onto that little shore. the Shipwrecks made Key West Florida’s richest city in the 19th century.

We tried looking for our own treasures but only found used museum passes.


We learned quite a bit about The Florida Keys – next time we hope to stay on some of the National Park Camp Sites – Bahia Honda is definitely on our list! Off to Naples – for quite a scenery change we’re sure!