Florida Keys 101 1


Dive Boat

Fast Facts

Population:
73,000 (2011)

Area:
137.3 square miles (356 sq km)

Currency:
US Dollars ($USD)

Time:
Eastern Time Zone

Language:
English, Spanish

Highest Elevation:
16ft (4.9m)

Vibe:
F’n Sweet

High Season:
January to April

Low Season:
August to October

Introducing the Florida Keys

It took seconds for me to fall in love with the underwater world of the Florida Keys. The first time I laid eyes on Grecian Rocks, a gorgeous reef off the coast of Key Largo, I was hooked.

My girlfriend and I had just rented a boat from John Pennekamp State Park, one of those 21’ center console rigs. We figured we would do some snorkeling and check out what the Florida Keys had to offer. A park worker gave us a map, circled an area on it, and then gave us a heading.

“This is a really great spot right here,” he told us. “Tons of fish.”

This proved to be a vast understatement…

I would’ve said something more to the effect of, “prepare to have your mind blown by the wild beauty of the Florida Keys! Poseidon himself would weep!”

Swimming up to Grecian Rocks Reef, I experienced visual sensory overload . Colorful parrot fish? Check. Giant schools of barracuda? Check. Baby nurse shark? Check. A diverse amount of coral species which I cannot identify? Check. Insanely clear water, with visibility up to 100’? Check.

While exploring the reef, I felt like I was swimming through a huge salt water aquarium. But I wasn’t. I was swimming in the FLORIDA KEYS.

Grecian Rocks was my introduction to the Florida Keys, and inspired me to explore further, and even create this website to share the beauty with the world. I hope you will be as inspired as I was.

Overview

The Florida Keys form the southernmost tip of the continental United States. An archipelago made up of 1,700 islands, only a handful of these islands are inhabited. 43 bridges connect the Florida Keys, including the famous Seven Mile Bridge.

While the entire Florida Keys is a scuba-diving hotspot, the Upper Keys is the crown jewel. At the north end of the Keys is Key Largo, which has been dubbed “The Dive Capital of the World,” and it’s not hard to figure out why. The neighboring Gulf Stream provides crystal clear blue waters, and the infrastructure for diving is phenomenal.

Drive 20 minutes south and you’ll find yourself in Islamorada, the “Sport Fishing Capital of the World.” If you’re into sport fishing, make Islamorada your HQ.

There’s plenty to do in this skinny little tropical paradise. Looking for a more quiet atmosphere? The Middle Keys is a great location for families and home-bodies alike. Marathon is well known as a family-friendly area, with picturesque beaches and nature preserves. Also, Marathon is right next door to the Seven Mile Bridge.

Looking to get into some trouble after the sun goes down? Accidentally start a family? Key West offers you these opportunities. The atmosphere here is in stark contrast to the rest of the Keys, offering a one of a kind experience. A night-life hotspot, Key West has something to offer every kind of tourist, from Rick Steves to Lindsay Lohan. Be sure to catch a sunset at Mallory Square before you vomit up your hard-earned savings on Duval Street. When you’re done making mistakes, be sure to get in the water and check out the Vandenberg, a staple of the Florida Keys Wreck Trek.

Conch Republic Flag

Flora and Fauna

The Florida Keys has a diverse and wide array of flora and fauna. As you cruise down the Overseas Highway, stop off to explore mangrove wetlands, pinewood forests, and pristine beaches.

You’ll need to hop on a boat to explore the main attraction, the beautiful outer coral reef system. Running south from the Miami area past Key West is the Florida reef tract, the third largest barrier reef system in the world, just behind the great barrier reef in Australia and the barrier reef in Belize. This spur and groove reef system lies several miles offshore.

After diving beneath the surface, you will soon realize that the Florida Keys is one of the most biologically intense locations on earth. In some dive sites you can encounter more than 100 species of fish during a single dive. The Florida Keys is truly a nature lover’s paradise.

Did I mention that this barrier reef is the only living coral reef system in the continental United States? Suck it rest of the country…

Puffer Fish
Macro Photo of Fish
Dive Documentaries Contributor Allison Estape
©Kim Eldridge

Get Here

One of the main draws of diving in the Florida Keys is the fact that you don’t have to use a passport to get here. You can fly into Miami, drive straight down US1, and be on a boat in a few mere hours. Bing bang boom.

The Overseas Highway (US1) brings visitors into and throughout the Florida Keys. This unique coastal highway road runs 127.5 miles (205.2 km) all the way down to Key West. Find your location via a Mile Marker system. The Florida Deparment of Transportation maintains a mile marker sign every mile of the Overseas highway.

When to Come

High season:
January to April

Low season:
August to October

While.you can dive the keys year round, there are ideal times to visit. Be aware that no matter the time of year, the weather can change suddenly and unexpectedly. In the morning you can have rough seas, and then it can flatten out and clear up for a beautiful afternoon. Make up your mind Mother Nature…

Spring
March to May
This is an excellent time to visit, with minimal heat and semi-calm seas. Spring Break is slammin busy, with boats and people a plenty, so be sure to plan ahead.

Summer
June to August
Be sure to bring and repeatedly apply your suntan lotion, unless you like to catch on fire and burn alive. Your choice. Enjoy calm seas and warm waters during the summer months, but be prepared for brief showers and thunderstorms to pass through. Don’t be afraid, ya baby.

Fall
September to November
While this is prime hurricane season, you can enjoy some really great diving in the Fall. Temperatures are still good, and you can get calm seas without a lot of tourist activity.

Winter
December to February
Snowbirds flock to the Keys during the winter. Expect a price hike to follow suit. Seas are roughest in the winter, but still


Boone

About Boone

Jason Boone created Dive Documentaries to inspire viewers to care about the Florida Keys underwater world through education, exploration and storytelling. He has a BA in Television Production and an MA in Digital Journalism and Design, and a passion for short-form documentary filmmaking. His work has been featured on National Geographic, Discovery, Current TV and Yahoo!.


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