Imagine a tropical paradise where moonflowers bloom at night and the ocean is luminous shades of turquoise. The Florida Keys, a chain of 1,700 islands south of Miami, stretch 125-miles. The main islands are connected by causeways, 42 bridges, and the most scenic road in the world, the Overseas Highway. Their names conjure up fantasies and promises: Key Largo. Islamorada. Marathon. The Lower Keys. Key West. The Florida Keys were made for a romantic vacation, honeymoon, renewal of vows, or a memorable wedding.
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Key Largo, the most northern of the Florida Keys, is just a short drive from Miami but it is worlds away. Quirky diners and shops dot hidden lanes, but the heart of Key Largo is around the sea and under it. Take your sweetheart to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the first undersea park in the USA. It reaches 3 miles into the Atlantic and it’s 25 miles long. This area preserves the only living coral reef in the continental United States. Get on a glass bottom boat, go diving, and kiss underwater until you scare the fishes. You can get married or renew your vows in full wedding regalia . . . underwater!
Shimmering Islamorada is exceptionally pretty. Situated between the saltwater wilderness of Everglades National Park and the deep blue waters of the Florida Strait, Islamorada is known as the “village of islands.” It’s considered the sport fishing capital of the world, but in that backcountry, romance is a constant companion. Mangroves give way to far horizons of ocean and sky. This island has a laid-back vibe that is incomparable. Consider a sunset cruise and make a toast to your romance.
The halfway point of the Keys, Marathon has a Key lifestyle that feels like a trip into the past. Seafaring traditions are still alive, and there is enough local fish, lobster, and stone crab claw to please any palate. Imagine diving among shipwrecks or going on an eco-adventure together. Perhaps a visit to the turtle hospital or the dolphin research center. Walk through a miraculously preserved tropical hardwood grove of trees. Listen to the birdsong. Breathe. Relax. Go sailing. Make time for love.
Big Pine Key and the Lower Keys
This is where the island chain takes a graceful turn toward the west. The rural region of small islands is connected by the legendary Seven Mile Bridge. Discover unusual restaurants that are blend of cultural influences next to native wilderness. If you want to get into nature, this is the place. There are two national wildlife refuges, a marine sanctuary, and a rich marine environment. Hop on bicycles and spot the rare Key Deer. Get into the backcountry on a kayak. Big Pine is perfect relaxation with time to remember what it’s like when there is just the two of you.
Fabulous, friendly Key West may be the gem of the Florida Keys. Houses line the shore, dressed in pastel colors that come straight from the Bahamas. The palm-lined marketplace has tin-roof stands where conch shells and fresh fruits are sold. Key West has drawn artists from Ernest Hemingway (see his home and favorite bar) to Jimmy Buffet. High end galleries stand next to local dives. All are worth exploring and everyone is welcome. Climate, history, natural beauty, scenic wonder, cultural diversity, and eclectic music all fuse into a town that pays homage to romance every day of the year