Key Largo is the entrance to the Florida Keys. It’s only an hour ride to South Florida’s two major airports, but it feels like a world away. Key Largo is the largest and northernmost island in the Florida Keys. It is sandwiched between the watery wilderness of the Everglades National Park to the west and the fish-covered coral formations of North America’s only living barrier reef to the east. Locals hail it as the diving capital of the world, but the area is equally noted for its sportfishing. Key Largo is comprised of primarily residential properties, with many commercial properties scattered along U.S. 1 and marinas along the shore line.
Islamorada is known as the “Sportfishing Capital of the World,” with ample opportunities to get out on the water and go after that dream catch. The village of islands also offers more tranquil ways to relax under the sun’s glorious golden rays. You can spend a day shopping in the village’s unique boutiques and galleries, enjoy a beachfront cocktail or take a sunset cruise. The majority of commercial development is located along U.S. 1, with residential development along the side streets. Additionally, numerous residences — many of them estate-sized properties — are located along the highway and extend to the ocean or the bay.
On the Atlantic Ocean or Florida Straits side of this area of the Florida Keys is a string of barrier reefs, four to six miles offshore, with the axis of the Gulfstream two to four miles beyond, flowing northward. This band of turquoise and blue water makes for some of the finest sport fishing in the world. Snorkeling and scuba diving are very popular. Islamorada boasts numerous motels and hotels, as well as many marinas and marine-related commercial ventures.
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Once home to a world-renowned fishing resort that was destroyed by the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane, Long Key remains a popular fishing destination today, with several resorts to accommodate visitors. Layton, the smallest city in Monroe County at just 85 acres and fewer than 200 people, is on Long Key. Its proximity to the Channel 5 Bridge makes boating access to the ocean or bay only a 15-minute trip, even for sailboats. Tennessee Reef, located less than five miles offshore, is a popular diving and fishing spot. Layton is home to the Keys Marine Lab, which serves students and researchers from around the world. The 1,000-acre Long Key State Park is one of four state parks in the Keys that welcomes tent and RV campers, with 60 sites overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
Conch Key is a small bayside island at mile markers 62 and 63, between Long Key and Duck Key. It features a mix of year-round residences and vacation rentals, as well as a waterfront hotel. Keys historian Jerry Wilkinson writes that Conch Key was used by Florida East Coast Railway construction crews as a camp site at the beginning of the 20th century. It wasn’t until the late 1940s and 1950s that development of the island began in earnest, after its purchase from the state by a businessman.
The oceanside Little Conch Key, mile marker 62.2, is also known as Walker’s Island. Historian Wilkinson writes that the island was purchased in 1946 by Paul Walker, who built several cottages that he rented to vacationers. Once only accessible by ferry, the island is now reachable by a causeway from the Overseas Highway.
Duck Key is a small island at mile marker 61 off the Overseas Highway in the Florida Keys. The Hawks Cay Resort and Village can be found with the homes of the residential Duck Key community. Vehicles cross over the island’s canals by way of picturesque arched bridges. In the distance is Grassy Key which is part of Marathon. Sixty miles further south is Key West.
Key Colony Beach is located in the heart of the Florida Keys. It is the perfect vacation area, you’ll have direct access to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, beautiful coral reefs nearby, excellent fishing and diving locations and much more.
Key Colony Beach is about 50 miles driving distance to Key West, and it will take you about an hour and a half to get here from the mainland.
Beside its new concrete counterpart, the old Seven Mile Bridge juts into the sea like a giant pier, inviting walkers and nature lovers to enjoy one of Florida’s most scenic and historic vistas. The blue-green panorama of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean, dotted with lobster traps and sailboats, is not unlike the scene that greeted passengers on Henry Flagler’s Overseas Railroad, which linked the Keys to mainland Florida from 1912 until 1935. Those passengers probably took little notice of the sparsely populated island at the northeastern foot of the Seven Mile Bridge. Today, this island offers some of the best fishing and sport diving anywhere in the world. (Source: http://www.fla-keys.com)
Mile Markers 29.5-33 – Big Pine Key is part of the Lower Florida Keys and is home to the Key Deer. This protected species of smaller white tail deer roam the unspoiled tropical wilderness that makes this area unique. Far from being overcrowded, the pace of life on Big Pine is casual and relaxed. You can dive Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary, go offshore fishing or relax in the Florida Keys backcountry while flats fishing. Bahia Honda State Park is nearby for an afternoon picnic or canoe trip. (Source: http://thefloridakeys.com/bigpine)
Mile Markers 28 & 29 — The three Torch Keys are at mile marker 28 and 29 on the Overseas Highway. There are three keys — Little, Middle and Big Torch. They were probably given their base name, “Torch,” because of the native torchwood tree, Amyris elemifera. The islands’ most likely claim to fame was as a relatively frequent fishing destination for President Harry S. Truman. Little Torch Key is the most densely populated of the three islands and it’s also home to a couple of commercial ventures, including a restaurant and a resort. The famous Little Palm Island Resort & Spa has its land base on Little Torch.
Mile Marker 26-27.5 — Originally named Roberts Island, Ramrod Key was renamed for a ship named Ramrod, which was wrecked on a reef south of there in the early 19th century. Up to the time Henry Flagler built U.S. 1, also known as The Overseas Highway, the only building on Ramrod was a post office that was alongside the train tracks. It is a popular tourist site because of the short distance between the island and Looe reef. Ramrod Key has a hotel and dive shop, two tiki bars/restaurants, a miniature golf course, a small grocery and coffee/sandwich shop and a gas station/convenience store.
Mile Marker 24 to 25.5 — Summerland Key is midway between the cities of Marathon and Key West. The island contains mostly single-family residential properties, with several commercial properties arrayed along U.S. 1. It is home to the Florida National High Adventure Sea Base’s Brinton Environmental Center and a field station for the Sarasota-based Mote Marine Laboratory. There is a private 2,550-foot-long community airstrip located just south of U.S. 1 on West Shore Drive (mile marker 25). Commercial ventures on U.S. 1 include restaurants, two gas stations, a hardware store, a marina and a small, locally owned grocery store. The majority of the island’s development is on its south side (oceanside), where there is a mix of canalfront, oceanfront and dry lot homes.
Mile Marker 20.5 to 23 — Like its neighbor to the north, Cudjoe Key’s development is primarily south of the Overseas Highway toward the ocean. The island is home to Venture Out, a waterfront resort-style development with a mix of long-term residents and vacation rentals. Outside of Venture Out, the island’s east end consists primarily of single-family homes built along canals or on open water. Toward the island’s west end is Cudjoe Gardens, a development made up of mostly ground-level, concrete-block homes built on elevated canalfront lots. The deed-restricted neighborhood caters to boaters with its own marina. There are several commercial ventures along the highway, including restaurants, day spas, fish houses and a fitness center. There is sparse development on the island’s north side, with most of it dedicated to preservation. One of Cudjoe Key’s most famous landmarks usually can be seen floating north of the highway, about halfway down the island. “Fat Albert” as it’s known to the locals, is a tethered radar system reportedly used by the U.S. government to monitor activity in the Florida Straits and to broadcast an American television signal into Cuba.
Mile Markers 16.5-20.5 – Sugarloaf Key is a single island that forms a loop on the oceanside, creating the illusion that there are two separate islands. The island contains two distinct communities known as Lower Sugarloaf Key and Upper Sugarloaf Key. While smaller than Upper Sugarloaf, Lower Sugarloaf has a denser population. The island is home to the Sugarloaf Lodge, the Sugarloaf KOA campground and several restaurants.
Key West, the Southernmost City in the continental United States, is the county seat of Monroe County. It’s also the southern terminus of U.S. 1, State Road A1A and the East Coast Greenway, lying some 129 miles southwest of Miami and just 81 nautical miles from Cuba. The Key West International Airport is served by six major commercial airlines and numerous charters.
Key West is a stop for many cruise ships.
There’s a ferry that runs daily trips (weather permitting) from Fort Myers Beach, and another that takes passengers to Dry Tortugas National Park, which has as its centerpiece a historic Civil War-era fort 70 miles out to sea. There are hotels and guesthouses at every price point. Points of historic interest include Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum, the Audubon House, the Mel Fisher Museum and the Key West Aquarium. Naval Air Station Key West is a key year-round training site for naval aviation because of its superb weather. It is also a reason the city was chosen as the Winter White House of President Harry S. Truman, making his former vacation home, the Truman White House, another must-see spot. The city’s official motto is “One Human Family.”