Florida Keys

Time right to head for the Keys

Islamorada Sunrise fishing guide

Islamorada Sunrise

~ There is no better time of year for Floridians to visit the Keys than late Spring.

Spring breakers and winter snowbirds have gone home or back to school. The weather is absolutely gorgeous, traffic on the Overseas Highway lightens up, rates go down, sometimes dramatically, and campsites suddenly become available, although savvy Floridians have already booked their camping reservations at the Keys’ four state parks.

If you can get away for a few days, now’s the time —  before the last week in July, when the boisterous lobster mini-season (July 29-30) kicks into play, setting the stage for the Keys’ frenetic “second season” that carries into early fall.

Things to Do in the Florida Keys

Don’t leave home without Florida Rambler’s comprehensive Florida Keys Mile-Marker Guide

Trail for kayaks and canoes through mangroves at Pennekamp State ParkPaddling — There are hundreds of paddle trails for you to explore from your kayaks, canoes and paddle boards. You can just pull off the Overseas Highway almost anywhere and launch your boat. A few special spots we like are in the primitive back-country islands of the Lower Keys, and no kayak guide knows that area better than Bill Keough at Big Pine Kayak Adventures. You might also want to arm yourself with Capt. Bill’s excellent Florida Keys Paddling Guide or Bill and Mary Burnham’s Florida Keys Paddling Atlas.

Related article: 12 Great Kayak Outings in the Florida Keys

Bicycling — Work has accelerated on The Overseas Heritage Bicycle Trail, which, when complete, will extend 107 uninterrupted miles from Key Largo to Key West. You can experience much of that trail today, and the most enjoyable sections span old bridges, now abandoned to bicyclists, walkers and fishing, We suggest riding out on the Old Seven Mile Bridge the 2.2 miles to Pigeon Key. You can download this PDF that defines 70 miles of segments now open to cyclists. For urban exploration, peddling through the streets of Key West’s Old Town is another great bicycle adventure.

Related article: The Old Seven Mile Bridge & Pigeon Key in Marathon

The undersea world at Fort Jefferson and the Dry TortugasSnorkeling — The most popular destination for snorkeling is John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, but that’s not all there is to see in the Keys. For something different, paddle your kayak out to the lighthouse off Marathon and snorkle with the fishes, or try a snorkeling expedition to Looe Key Reef off Big Pine Key. You can join a snorkeling expedition to the reef from Bahia Honda State Park or with any of the numerous dive shops along U.S. 1 in Big Pine and Ramrod Key.

Related article: John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park for snorkeling

Fishing — Many of the old bridges in the Keys have been retro-fitted with fishing balconies, and these bridges draw fishers 24/7. We recommend trying the Channel 5 and Channel 3 bridges that link Lower Matecumbe Key to Long Key (Islamorada). Fishing charters, including party boats, deep-sea charters and private flats guides, are available at marinas throughout the Keys, the most popular being Holiday Isle, Whale Harbor, Bud ‘n’ Mary’s and the Marathon Lady in Marathon.

Florida Keys beachBeaches – Those of us who live here don’t think of the Keys as a beach destination, unless we’re in a boat and anchor out on the many sandbars and remote islands of the Keys. But there are more beaches here than you might think. We especially love the award-winning beaches at Bahia Honda State Park, and I personally have an affection for the beach at Curry Hammock State Park.

Related article: Best Beaches in the Florida Keys; Free beaches in the Florida Keys

Camping — Warm days and breezy nights make spring the ideal camping season in the Florida Keys. Savvy campers have already snapped up the campsites at the four state parks in the Keys, but there are dozens of private campgrounds from Key Largo to Key West that have sites available at reduced rates, whether your are in a tent or RV.

Related articles: Best Tent Camping in the Florida KeysLower Keys Camping: Try these hideaways;

For campsite availability at state parks, check ReserveAmerica for Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Long Key State Park, Curry Hammock State Park and Bahia Honda State Park.

Private options include Sugarloaf Key KOA and Sunshine Key Resort and Marina in the Lower Keys, the Jolly Roger Travel Park and Fiesta Key RV Resort in the Middle Keys, and Key Largo Kampground in the Upper Keys.

Sunset Grille tiki barUnique Dining and Libations — Seafood restaurants and the ubiquitous tiki bar dominate the dining scene in the Florida Keys, but travelers should not bypass the legendary pit stops and offbeat hole in the wall symbolic of the Keys lifestyle. From Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen and Hobo’s in Key Largo to Blue Heaven and the Hogfish Grill in Key West, you will find a happy place to graze.

Related articles: 

Eight Key West restaurants for authentic local flavor

Top 10 ‘pit stops’ along the Overseas Highway

Hogfish Grill: Where Key West locals go for fresh fish

Florida Keys: No Name Pub worth finding on Big Pine Key

Florida Keys restaurants that capture the local flavor

 

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