Florida: From Boca Raton to Key West
A road trip through the Florida KeysThere is nothing ordinary about a road trip through the Florida Keys and never a dull moment! Your route takes you along the Overseas Highway which links the islands together like a chain and the blue waters of the Florida Straits are with you all the way.
The Keys are the former home of iconic characters such as Truman or Hemingway and that aura of tropical extravagance and outdoor adventures still persists today. The Keys are still a paradise for fishing, diving and snorkelling.
First stop is Miami: see the sights, feel the pulsating Latin vibe of the Hispanic heart of Florida and get in the groove for your four-hour, 322-kilometre road trip.
Boca RatonSophisticated and chic, with beaches, luxury resorts and Mediterranean Revival architecture, Boca Raton is about 64 kilometres north of Miami. Play 18 holes on one of the beautiful golf courses in the area, then head south again towards Fort Lauderdale and Miami.
Latino music permeates the air and on the beach life moves to the pulsating beat. Take a cruise down iconic Ocean Drive where basketball fans can make their dreams come true by scoring tickets to watch NBA legends Miami Heat (although of course the season ends in April).
Foodies are in for a treat with all the Cuban delicacies surrounding the area. The jury is still out on who makes the best Pan con Bistec in town. Continue south towards Key Largo.
Key LargoIf you mention Key Largo, most people automatically think of the film starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. In reality, Key Largo is the biggest island in the Keys and has much to offer – the amazing John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park for one. If you take one of the daily snorkelling trips they organise, you’ll quickly see why the park has such a stellar reputation. Alternatively, chill out in the glass-bottom boat and view the amazing reef from above.
Once safely back on land, watch the chefs work their magic in Snapper’s Fish Restaurant as they prepare your delicious dinner – one of the lobsters you spotted earlier out on the reef. The trip from here to Islamorada by car is no more than a stone’s throw away.
Islamorada: The island villageThis community is designated an “island village” and in reality comprises five separate Keys stretching over 32 kilometres. Anglers have long considered it a fisherman’s paradise. Rent one of the many available boats and explore the rich fishing grounds, best known for their huge billfish.
Canoeing enthusiasts will love the fantastic opportunities to explore the mangroves and shallow waters of the Indian Key Historic State Park. Continuing on through the island chain, admire the views as you cross Seven Mile Bridge before finally cruising into Big Pine Key.
Big Pine KeyThis peaceful island is only 16 sq. kilometres in size and home to the main town in the Lower Keys. With a bit of luck you’ll spot the famous Key deer, a dwarf species found only on these islands and which live in the National Key Deer Refuge.
The 'Blue Hole' quarry, now flooded, is also worth a visit...just keep a look out for the alligators that live there.
Leave your calling card in the No-Name Pub, where the walls are covered with thousands of signed dollar bills.
Key WestA detour to the most southerly island in the chain adds a perfect finishing touch to your Florida Keys road trip. Maybe it’s the Caribbean flair, or the unconventional free-spirit feel of the place that has given it the nickname “The Conch Republic”. Either way, around a million visitors enjoy the flair every year.
The centre of town is lined with designer stores and if you feel like a big bowl of steaming mussels, head straight for the Blue Heaven Cafe. Another must-see sight is the Ernest Hemingway House, which is where he wrote “Another Country”.
If you’ve come this far, you’d never forgive yourself for not going to the bottom of Whitehead Street and looking out at the concrete buoy marking the southernmost tip of the continental USA.
Image rights: (1) Sathish vikram, (2) alexdecarvalho, (3) Kansas Poetry (Patrick), (4) Deanna Keahey, (5) donielle, (6) haansgruber