Some of the most unique vacation destinations in the world can be found in unexpected places – such as the Florida Keys. Located just off the coast of South Florida, these islands have a relaxed feeling, stunning tropical scenery, and exotic wildlife; yet they are all located a relatively short distance from cosmopolitan Miami and the excitement of South Beach, where the journey begins.
- Elliot Key
- Key Largo
- Duck Key
- Newfound Harbour
- Key West
Miami is South Florida’s playground, and for good reason – there is no where like South Beach to both enjoy the sun, sand, and surf by day, and live it up by night in the area’s many exclusive night clubs and restaurants. Whether you want to dance all night and enjoy premium bottle service or simply have a wonderful meal by the water, launching in miami ensures that you will start your voyage off in the most exciting way possible.
Visiting during one of the many major annual events that occur in Miami (including Art Basel, the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, the Orange Bowl, and more) will make your trip even more outstanding.
As the northernmost and largest island in the Florida Keys, Elliot Key was once used a refuge for pirates and today it is home to Biscayne National Park, with its lush vegetation and amazing beaches that offer both remarkable solitude and spectacular vistas – along with a variety of exotic birds and butterflies. You can also explore the island by kayak – there are many hidden lagoons, mangrove-covered shorelines, and winding creeks to discover. What’s more, you can enjoy your own catch for dinner after a day of capturing fish, lobster, or crab.
Key Largo is considered the “Diving Capital of the World”, with plenty of scuba diving, snorkeling, and sport-fishing options for avid enthusiasts – what’s more, it is located near the Everglades, allowing for easy access for kayaking and eco-tourism as well. It is the home of the only living coral barrier reef in the continental United States, and enjoys more than three thousand hours of sunshine per year, making it perhaps the quintessential island vacation destination.
Named after the original settlers’ boat the “Island Home” and now nicknamed the “Village of the Islands”, Islamorada is home to many notable residents (including Major League Baseball players Ted Williams and Miguel Cabera as well as actor Gene Hackman), this is one of the more serene island destinations in the Florida Keys as well as one of the world’s premier fishing destinations. Luxury resorts, shops, and art galleries are part of the Islamorada scene, but there are plenty of beaches that offer more solitude.
With less than two hundred residents, Duck Key is perhaps the closest version of a deserted island that’s still easily accessible from the contiguous U.S. With world class fishing and sandy beaches, the island is also home to a luxurious spa and offers the opportunity for visitors to swim with dolphins.
Newfound Harbour not only offers spectacular scenery, it is home to the Florida Keys Sanctuary preservation area, which is partially located within the Coupon Bight Aquatic Preserve. The amazing sea life that visitors to the island will enjoy includes star corals and giant brain corals – perfect for amateur or inexperienced divers since these are located within in depths of 18 feet or less. Angelfish, butterflyfish, surgeonfish, damsels, wrasses, grunts, snappers, and parrotfish swim alongside the occasional grouper, along with many other types of fish that you’ll find colorful, striking, and unusual.
Along with some of the most interesting coral reefs in the world, Newfound Harbour is home to a sheltered tropical lagoon that serves as an oasis for a wide range of wildlife, including the tiny Florida Key deer, wading birds, and sea turtles.
Taking a little time to leave it all behind in Key West may be the ultimate form of relaxation – particularly if you happen to visit during one of the island’s most distinctive festivals (The annual Fantasy Fest held in October is the most famous). There’s excellent opportunities for scuba diving and snorkeling around the coral reefs and shipwrecks in the nearby waters, including the recently sunk USNS Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg, which created an artificial reef.
However, the island’s unique National Parks and wildlife refuges are perhaps the most interesting (at least for nature buffs), and the nightlife in general is not to be missed, with a variety of options that range from casual tropical dives to trendy nightclubs. All in all, Key West is the perfect culmination to your customized trip through the Florida Keys.
Sailing the Florida Keys may possibly be the very best way to unwind and explore a corner of the United States that hardly resembles anywhere else in the country – or the world, for that matter. And there’s no better way to experience this special part of the world than on your own private yacht.