Not just the home of Ernest Hemingway and his sportfishing friends, the Florida Keys boast some of the finest cruising waters on the U.S. East Coast. The Keys are a 125-mile long archipelago comprising about 1,700 islands, many uninhabited and accessible only by boat.
This part of the Sunshine State presents a nice alternative to the Bahamas. Sometimes called “America’s Out Islands,” the keys are the only area with coral reef in the continental United States.
The warmth of the Gulf Stream contributes to the tropical climate. The locals are friendly and the native-born are called Conchs. Others who have lived there more than ten years are called Freshwater Conchs and everybody else is a tourist!
In the Keys you can cruise in any style that suits you. If you like seclusion, there are plenty of places to hide. You could spend several weeks just swimming, fishing or exploring uninhabited islands and deserted beaches. If you prefer resort experiences or night life excitement you can cruise from one luxury marina to another, enjoying golf courses, spas, tennis courts, gourmet restaurants and local musical nightlife.
There is nothing like eating freshly caught fish, shrimp and lobster while you cruise. These are just some of the treats your charter chef will prepare for you.
This is an area with a colorful history, from the Spanish Galleons to privateers and the most notorious of all – salvage wreckers! At one time this was one of the most dangerous coasts in the world. Wreckers salvaged distressed ships, helping crews ashore. Wreckers were even known to lure seafarers into unsafe waters! Lore has it that the sale of salvaged goods furnished the homes of Key West and once made it America’s richest city.
Sailing down Hawk Channel from Miami there are numerous places to stop, swim, fish, and enjoy lunch. You can then swing into Cape Sable, which has incredible beaches. Then from Marathon to Key West it’s a good day’s run. Plenty of sailing, inside or outside of the channel, is available if weather turns frisky.
More to visit in Florida
Known for many things, KEY WEST is the southernmost point in the continental USA! Historic old Key West is one of the high points of any cruise of the Florida Keys.
It’s a charming city with a colorful – if rowdy – past, popular with artists, writers and sport fishermen. Home to Ernest Hemmingway for years, Key West has is a large diversity of people. Boating facilities are excellent and the restaurants of Key West are famous, especially for seafood, Conch and Spanish cooking. Since this
is a commercial fishing area, shrimp and seafood purchased directly from the fisherman are delicious and very reasonably priced.
In the main entrance by sea to Key West Harbor there are several areas where you can anchor in calm weather and be within walking distance of the old city. There are numerous marinas that are also a short distance to all that Key West charm has to offer. Walking through the town, you notice the culture is unique with its architecture, exotic plants, handmade leather work, musical instruments and hand rolled cigars. Some of the plants have actually blown in on the trade winds as far away as Africa and cannot be found anywhere else in the continental U.S.
Key West, a blend of New England, Caribbean and Spanish influences, spiced with seafaring, piracy and rum-running days of old.
Mallory Dock is a restored area in Key West that faces the west for a sunset feast every night and a focal point for Key Westers.
A walk out on Mallory Dock, you may be puzzled by a sign announcing the precise time of sunset for the day. In Key West, sunset watching is a daily ritual. I
don’t know any other place in the world where this phenomenon occurs. If you try walking east on Duval Street at the end of the day, you may be trampled by the
crowds heading west. Key Westers and tourists alike start gathering on Mallory Street about two hours before sundown where the nightly sunset celebration starts with buskers from all over the world.
Dry Tortugas are known as the Gibraltar of the South. Almost 70 miles (113 km) west of Key West lay the remote Dry Tortugas National Park. The 100-square mile park is mostly open water with seven small islands. Accessible only by boat or seaplane, the park is known the world over as the home of magnificent Fort Jefferson, picturesque blue waters, superlative coral reefs and marine life, and the vast assortment of bird life that frequent the area.
The seven keys (Garden, Loggerhead, Bush, Long, East,
Hospital and Middle) collectively known as the Dry Tortugas, are situated on the edge between the Gulf of Mexico, the western Caribbean, and the Atlantic Ocean. The strategic location of the Dry Tortugas brought a large number of vessels through its surrounding waters as they connect the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Early on, the shipping channel was used among Spanish explorers and merchants traveling along the Gulf Coast.
Fort Jefferson on Garden Key
Fort Jefferson, the largest all-masonry fort in the United States, was built between 1846 and 1875 to protect the nation’s gateway to the Gulf of
Mexico. Supply and subsidence problems and the Civil War delayed construction. The fort was never completed because of fears that
additional bricks and cannon would cause further settling and place more stress on the structure and the cistern system. Distinguishing features include decorative brickwork and 2,000 arches. Time, weather, and water continue to take their toll, necessitating ongoing stabilization and restoration projects.
Fort Jefferson and a Harbor Light
A lighthouse was constructed at Garden Key in 1825 to warn incoming vessels of the dangerous reefs and low lying islands that created hundreds of shipwrecks over the years. Later, a brick tower lighthouse was constructed on Loggerhead Key in 1858 previously creating hundreds of shipwrecks.
Did You Know?
Between the months of March and September, some 100,000 sooty Terns will come to nest on the islands of the Dry Tortugas. They are joined by brown noddies, roseate terns, double-crested cormorants and brown pelicans.