Road trip route of the week: The Florida Keys

Highway 1 is draped with classic Americana, from kitschy gift shops selling seashell jewellery to burger stands offering shakes and fries, here’s the low down on this scenic island-hopping adventure.

When it comes to all American road trips it’s easy to think of the mighty popular Route 66 straight away. But forget the Midwest and East and West coasts; it’s all about The Overseas Highway in Florida.

Ok, so it’s not going to take you through rugged country and “real” America, but it’s worth a drive just for the simple reason that it’s known as “the Highway that Goes to Sea”.

A modern wonder in its own right, this route is the “magic carpet” by which visitors from Florida’s mainland can cross countless coral and limestone islets through that special world of the Florida Keys.

The highway follows a trail originally blazed in 1912 when Henry Flagler extended his Florida East Coast Railroad from Miami to Key West.

It was in the late 1930s that the highway was begun allowing for The Florida Keys — which now host more than three million visitors annually —to become an easily accessible tourist destination by car and bus.

And what do these visitors see?  

Key Largo

Key Largo, called “the first of the Florida Keys,” because of its northernmost location along the Florida Keys chain, is an hour’s drive from South Florida’s two major airports. Yet it is a world away.

Home to two state parks, a national park, a national marine sanctuary, Key Largo boasts some of the most fascinating botanical scenery in the state.

Also visit the ‘African Queen’, the boat made famous in Humphrey Bogart’s film of the same name.

Islamorada

Our Village, a collection of Islands, is situated between the saltwater wilderness of Everglades National Park in one direction and North America’s only coral barrier reef and the deep blue waters of the Florida Straits in the other.

This might be the only place on Earth where it is possible to catch a sailfish in the morning and then venture into the backcountry in pursuit of bonefish, permit, tarpon, snook and redfish in just inches of water.

With a fleet of highly-skilled recreational fishing captains, Islamorada’s reputation as The Sport Fishing Capital of the World is well earned.

Marathon

This quaint tropical city is conveniently situated in the middle of the Keys island chain.

Located mainly on Vaca, Fat Deer, and Grassy Key, Marathon is a 10- mile-long family-oriented island community rooted in a heritage of fishing, and reflects the old-Keys lifestyle that residents, snowbirds and visitors enjoy so much.

It is maintaining this simple, seafaring tradition that has made Marathon so special, celebrated through the community’s annual family-friendly seafood festivals.

Big Pine Key and the Lower Keys

If you’ve had enough of an overcrowded and weary world, the islands of the Lower Keys are the place for you.

Here, you can snorkel or dive over the Looe Key coral reef, ride a bicycle through Key Deer country, take a fishing adventure in the back country or troll the deep blue waters beyond the reef.

At the end of the day, you can trade stories with family and friends at one of the area’s tiki bars, RV parks, campgrounds, quaint resorts or licensed vacation homes. The Earthy fragrance of mangrove forests and wetlands is never far away.

Key West

Discover a city where real estate titles date back to the Kings of Spain.

Stroll the palm-lined streets and spot the gingerbread mansions, tin-roofed conch houses, the John Audubon House and Ernest Hemingway’s home.

Walk in the footsteps of Thomas Edison, Lou Gehrig, Harry Truman, and Tennessee Williams.

Gaze at the fabled treasure of the galleon Atocha and discover tomorrow’s fine art treasures by Key West’s well-known and unknown artists.

Watch the video below and take a first0hand sneak-peek at what this magnificent 125 mile route has to offer.

 

Have you been on a road trip through America? Tell us more about your experience below or tweet me @Shabana_FAM

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Shabana Adam