Key Largo, the "first" of Florida's Keys, has two state parks: Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park, and a divers paradise, the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, 50+ year old underwater park. Six miles offshore in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary you will find the wreck of the Spiegel Grove, a 510-foot former US Navy ship intentionally scuttled in 2002 as the backbone for a new coral reef. No wonder locals call Key Largo the Diving Capital of the World! The Everglades National Park offers the perfect adventure for kayakers, birders and other eco-tourists.
Islamorada, "Village of Islands" includes the islands of Lower Matecumbe Key, Upper Matecumbe Key, Windley Key and Plantation Key in the Florida Keys. Islamorada is considered the Sport Fishing Capital of the World due to the number of world records and the number of different species which can be caught within a short boat ride of town. The name "Islamorada", meaning "purple isle", is thought to come from early Spanish explorers.
Marathon began in historical times as Cayo de Bacas or Vacas. Occasionally populated, Key Vaca eventually became Marathon after Flagler built the Overseas Railroad. Marathon was originally the name of one of the railroad station houses. Marathon is a major sports fishing destination, and also is home to the Burrowing Owl. The Turtle Hospital is also located here: a special facility devoted to the rescue, care and rehabilitation of injured Sea Turtles.
Big Pine Key in the Florida Keys is known for its Key Deer. If you are driving through the keys, you can not help noticing that you are approaching the National Key Deer Refuge because the speed limit changes from 45 MPH to 30 MPH at night. No records exist documenting the origin of the deer in the keys. It is believed that the deer migrated to the keys from the mainland many thousands of years ago, across a long land bridge.
Key West is the southernmost city in the United States. The city is closer to Cuba than it is to Miami. The whole island is a bird sanctuary since there are many endangered species there. Key West has the most inhabitants of any of the keys. Of the 800 keys, only 30 are inhabited by people. All of the sand on the beaches of Key West were shipped in on barges from the Caribbean.
Marathon is a well known vacation destination, and about 10,000 people live there year round. Popular activities include boating, fishing and snorkeling. Regional air service is provided by Florida Keys Marathon Airport. Marathon is also a hub for Fed Ex.
Marathon boasts of a modern hospital, excellent education system, low crime, no traffic, and high speed wireless internet.
There is an interesting story behind the naming of this city. It is said that when workers were toiling day and night to complete the Florida East Coast Railroad, someone remarked that the project was like a Marathon. The local train station became known as Marathon Station, and eventually, the nearest town.
The city is fairly new and was incorporated in 1999. For more information about local events and history of the area, visit Pigeon Key Foundation.
Marathon Seafood Festival- March
Pigeon Key Art Festival- February
Local Marathon Attractions:
• Sombrero Beach
• Coco Plum Beach
• Marathon Community Park
• Jesse Hobbs Park
• Rotary Children’s Park
• Seven-Mile Bridge
• Crane Point Hammock
• Events Field
The most exciting thing to do in the Everglades- is to go see it's nature. Many Eco tours are available by various mode of transportation: Swamp Buggy, Air Boat, Pole Boat, Canoe, Kayak, and Hiking on Foot.
Fakahatchee Strand - This strand is accessible by boardwalk and ranger-led swamp walks one Saturday each month during the winter. A scenic drive through the preserve is popular with bicyclists.
Collier-Seminole State Park - Explore mangroves and cypress swamp by land or water via boat tours, canoe rentals and hiking trails. Tent and RV camping are available.
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary - World-famous among photographers, birders and other wildlife watchers, the sanctuary hosts hundreds of alligators and almost 200 bird species, including nesting wood storks.
Big Cypress National Preserve - Home to alligators, herons, bald eagles, white-tailed deer, bobcats and the endangered Florida panther.
Everglades National Park -The northern section of the main park road will take you through the park entrance, The Anhinga Trail, Long Pine Key, The Pa-hay-okee Overlook Trail, and Mahogany Hammock.
Everglades National Park - Gulf Coast Visitor's Center, Everglades City - The visitor center offers educational displays, orientation films, informational brochures, and back country permits.
Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge - Open during daylight hours only, the trails provide the refuge visitor with a chance to experience the various habitats found on the refuge.
Ten Thousand Island National Wildlife Refuge - The refuge is part of the largest expanses of mangrove forest in North America.
Miami Beach, originally a man made island and a coconut plantation, is a busy and beautiful tropical vacation destination, otherwise known as the American Riviera. Miami Beach has a few special areas of interest that visitors should take notice of.
Restored and revitalized, tourists visiting the South Beach district of Miami Beach will drive along Ocean Drive, which runs parallel to the beach. Ocean Drive is a popular spot due to it's Art Deco Hotels, trendy cafes, and nightclubs, and of course close proximity to the beach.
Lincoln Road has a beautiful 7-8 block pedestrian mall, with over 400 businesses, including Art Galleries, Restaurants, trendy shops, and nightclubs. You can find delicious food, from Cuban, to American, Mexican, and French.
This area of South Beach is perfect for a stroll, drinks, dinner, or dessert. Local Street performers create an unique and fascinating presence, perfect for those who enjoy "people" watching. On Sundays there is the Farmers market, offering fresh foods, and produce, and for bargain hunters, there is an Antique market on every other Sunday.
Arrive early in the day before the crowds, and enjoy a delicious breakfast and hot Cuban coffee from one of many street cafes.
Miami Beach Festivals
Fort Lauderdale got it's name due to a series of U.S. military sites, with the first fort being established in 1838 during the Second Seminole War. All of the forts were named after Major William Lauderdale, who was the commander of the detachment of soldiers who built the first fort.
Like many popular vacation destinations, Fort Lauderdale became a stop on the Florida East Coast Railway which gradually extended along the entire east coast of Florida. The first passenger train arrived in Fort Lauderdale on February 22, 1896, and the rest, as they say is history.
Fort Lauderdale was a winter vacation destination that literally exploded overnight in 1961 when Fort Lauderdale Beach became the college spring break destination as the direct result of the Hollywood hit movie 'Where the Boys Are', starring singer Connie Francis. Fort Lauderdale remained a major destination for college spring breakers well until the mid-1980s, and it continues today, though in lesser numbers.
Boating is a popular pastime in Fort Lauderdale, as the area has a lot of canals, and along with the Intracoastal Waterway, and New River. These features has earned Fort Lauderdale the nickname 'Venice of America.'
Visitors will find plenty to do, with 23 miles of beach, several shopping districts, museums, parks, and recreational activities like boating, fishing, and touring the Big Cypress Swamps.
Miami began when Julia Tuttle convinced Standard Oil co-founder Henry Flagler to extend his railroad from central Florida to Miami. Once there, Flagler build a luxury hotel, the Royal Palm Hotel, and laid out the new town, creating an unique Florida vacation destination. Every winter, tourists came to the warm and sunny climate, and more hotels and resorts, such as the Biltmore were built to accommodate them.
Today, Miami is rich and diverse: Restaurants, Nite Clubs, Sporting Events & 24 hour Entertainment keeps the city active around the clock. For outdoor recreation Miami offers more than 800 parks, including Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, considered one of the top 10 Best Beaches in the U.S. Miami is also home to two unique national parks, Biscayne National Park and Everglades National Park.
Tennis and golf are popular activities, as well as water sports, such as parasailing, windsurfing, wave-running and jet-skiing.
Miami is home to Florida Marlins Baseball, Miami Dolphins Football, and Miami Heat Basketball. Visitors to Miami, should venture out to Miami Beach’s unique Art Deco District, known as South Beach, and view the world’s largest collection of Art Deco Architecture, over 800 buildings!
Beneath Miami lies above the Biscayne Aquifer, a natural underground source of fresh water. Most of the South Florida metropolitan area obtains its drinking water from this aquifer. As a result of the aquifer, it is not possible to dig more than 15 to 20ft (4.57 to 6.1 m) beneath the city without hitting water, which impedes underground construction.
Miami is home to one of the largest ports in the United States, the Port of Miami. It is also the largest cruise ship port in the world.
Nestled within the Ten Thousand Islands, Marco Island is the larges of the mostly uninhabited mangrove islands that stretch down to the southern tip of the Florida. These islands provide an unspoiled natural habitat that is a haven for saltwater fishermen, nature lovers, kayak and canoe paddlers, photographers and more.
Shelling on Marco Island's beach can rival that of Sanibel and other better-known shelling destinations. Avid beachcombers can charter boat tours to the beaches of the nearby deserted outer islands and sand bars, and discover unclaimed treasures from the sea.
Swamp hikers who bravely take ranger-guided tours at the local Big Cypress National Preserve and Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park are often pleasantly surprised by the clear, flowing water, which cools the air. Nature has created the perfect system, two natural predators, the mosquito fish and the carnivorous bladderwort plant naturally feast on mosquito larva, which keeps the cypress swamps remarkably bug-free.
Tourists eager to see the rare and elusive ghost orchid visit the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, otherwise known as the native orchid capital of the United States. Many visitors learned of the rare and endangered flower from reading the book 'The Orchid Thief' authored by Susan Orlean or by watching the recent movie 'Adaptation' which is based on the book.
Sanibel is one of the unique barrier islands in Florida and due to it's unique east-west orientation the island has great sandy beaches and an abundance of shells. Every March, local residents and tourists gather to compare and appreciate shell collections and shell art at the annual Sanibel Shell Fair & Show.
The best time to look for shells is at low tide when the seashells are more exposed. Other factors that increase the odds of finding keepsake shells, like the elusive Junonia, are at low spring tides (at full and new moons) and after Gulf storms.
Check out our shelling guide to identify some of the most commonly found shells.
Beach rules on Sanibel Island stipulate that pets must be leashed, and must be cleaned uap after. Alcoholic beverages are prohibited November through May. No open fires and collecting of live shells is strictly forbidden. Basic restrooms are located at all public beach accesses. Some have picnic tables and showers, all have free handicap parking. Parking at Sanibel Island public beaches costs $2.00 an hour.
Lighthouse Beach & Fishing Pier is Located on the eastern tip of Sanibel, wrapping around to the bay side. This is where the t-dock-fishing pier is and a boardwalk nature trail winding through native wetlands.
Bowman's Beach is clean and quiet, without any hotels. Visitors can park and walk over a bridge to secluded white beach. There is an outdoor shower and this is the only beach with barbecue grills.
Tarpon Bay Beach has easy parking for recreational and over sized vehicles, and a short hike from the parking lot to the beach.
Gulfside City Park is quiet and secluded and visitors there can use the picnic tables.
The Causeway Beaches are great for recreation: swimming, fishing, windsurfing and picnicking. Vehicles can park right up to the waters edge. There is no parking fee when you park on the causeway beach. Located along both sides of the road. Restrooms are also available.