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About The Florida Keys
A necklace of islands that begins just south of Miami, the Florida Keys are connected by the Overseas Highway's 43 bridges - one seven miles long - over the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. The area is divided into five regions including Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, Big Pine Key and Key West. Each region has its own special flavor, attractions including historic museums, flora, fauna, seafood restaurants, fishing, diving, watersports and unique, boutique-type shopping experiences.
The coastal waters of the entire 125-mile island chain, including its shallow water flats, mangrove islets and coral reefs, has been designated the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
Key Largo is the longest island of the Keys chain. Key Largo is the site where Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall filmed a movie of the same name. Bogart's Key Largo connection still is evident today as visitors can ride the African Queen, the actual boat Bogart skippered in the movie of the same name.
But Key Largo's star attraction is John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park - the first underwater preserve in the US - and the adjacent Key Largo National Marine Sanctuary. These two refuges, part of the Keys marine sanctuary, feature 55 varieties of delicate corals and almost 500 different species of fish.
Islamorada is the centerpiece of a group of islands called the "purple isles." Spanish explorers named the area after the Spanish meaning of the word "morada" either for the violet sea snail, janthina janthina, found on the seashore here, or for the purple bougainvillea flowers found in the area.
Known as the "Sportfishing Capital of the World," Islamorada is heralded for its angling diversity and features the Keys' largest fleet of offshore charter boats and shallow-water "backcountry" boats.
The Keys boast more sportfishing world records than any other fishing destination in the world, according to the International Game Fish Association. Anglers can find sailfish, marlin, dolphin (the fish, not the mammal), kingfish, snapper, barracuda and grouper in the ocean. Tarpon, bonefish, redfish and other species can be found in shallow coastal waters.
Marathon, home of the Seven Mile Bridge, is the heart of the Florida Keys and is centrally located between Key Largo and Key West. Marathon also is home to Crane Point Hammock, a 63.5-acre land tract that is one of the most important historical and archaeological sites in the Keys. The Museums of Crane Point include the Museum of Natural History of the Florida Keys and the Florida Keys Children's Museum.
A drive across the new Seven Mile Bridge, the largest segmental bridge in the world, leads to the Lower Keys. But visitors shouldn't pass up Pigeon Key, a small island below the middle of the old Seven Mile Bridge, that is accessible from a visitors center at the west end of Marathon. Pigeon Key once housed the workers who built Flagler's railroad in the early 1900s.
Big Pine Key is noted for the Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary, rated by many as one of the most spectacular shallow-water dive experiences to be found. Just to the west of Looe Key, the 210-foot island freighter Adolphus Busch Senior rests on the bottom of the ocean as an artificial reef providing additional habitat for marine species as well as another site for divers. Popular nature tours by kayak, sail, or motorboat offer unforgettable opportunities to view the unique flora and fauna of this facet of the Keys.