SENIOR TRAVELERS DISCOVER THE KEYS

Jan 16th, 2012 | By James E Becker | Category: Senior Travel

Seniors Enjoy the Florida Tropics

The Florida Keys have become a popular destination for seniors looking for a tropical vacation without leaving their own country. The Florida Keys can be considered the American Caribbean and features all the same amenities as other island destinations such as world class Florida Keys fishing, scuba diving and snorkeling, boating, sailing, kayaking and eco-tours. Just be prepared for a long drive down the highway and over water as it is some three hours to Key West,  one hour from Miami by plane.

The drive from Miami to the Keys is a slow descent into an unusual but breathtaking American ecosystem: on either side of you, for miles ahead, lies nothing but emerald waters. On weekends, however, you will also see plenty of traffic.  Strung out across the Atlantic Ocean like loose strands of cultured pearls, more than 400 islands make up this 150-mile-long necklace.

The Florida Keys are  a unique coral archipelago in southeast United States. They begin at the southeastern tip of the Florida peninsula, about 15 miles south of Miami, and extend in a gentle arc south-southwest and then westward to Key West, the westernmost of the inhabited islands, and on to the uninhabited Dry Tortugas.

The Keys were long accessible only by water. Today seniors will find one of the longest bridges when it was built. Today, the Seven Mile Bridge connects Knight’s Key, part of the city of Marathon in the Middle Keys to Little Duck Key in the Lower Keys. The islands lie along the Florida Straits, dividing the Atlantic to the east from the Gulf of Mexico to the west, and defining one edge of Florida Bay. At the nearest point, the southern tip of Key West is 90 miles from Cuba. The population is just over 80,000 and Key West makes up over 30% of the entire population of the Keys.

TripAdvisor lists over 170 things to see and do along your path to Key West. Once you pass through the Everglades seniors will enjoy North America’s only coral barrier reef and the deep blue waters of the Florida Straits.

One might say that there’s not much going on between the Seven Mile Bridge and Key West, but that’s just the way the Big Pine Key residents like it. The Upper Keys – from Key Largo to Islamorada – are cluttered with touristy shops and motels, and from the highway you can’t even see the water. But as you go further south into the Middle Keys, the land starts to open up, offering the startling realization that you’re actually driving from island to island.

Florida Keys & Key West appeal to visitors through a varied cultural menu. The islands’ creative community is vibrant and varied, overflowing with an energy and enthusiasm that has drawn visitors for decades. Today this community is attracting a growing national and international market of people interested in heritage and cultural tourism and who want to experience the arts, with events ranging from an annual literary seminar to a professional symphony orchestra series.

The Keys are famed for many festivals that bring in flocks of tourists. Key West, the most renowned — and last — island in the Lower Keys, is literally at the end of the road. The southernmost point in the continental United States, made famous by Ernest Hemingway, this tiny island is the most popular destination in the Florida Keys, overrun with cruise-ship passengers and day-trippers, as well as franchises and T-shirt shops. More than 1.6 million visitors pass through it each year.

Fodor’s will keep you busy in Key West with museums, beaches, zoos, aquariums and even cemeteries. You can learn almost as much about a town’s history through its cemetery as through its historic houses. Key West’s celebrated 20-acre burial place may leave you wanting more, with headstone epitaphs such as “I told you I was sick,” and, for a wayward husband, “Now I know where he’s sleeping at night.”

This website has lots of history, tips for senior visitors, how to get around the Florida Keys and other helpful information. Enjoy diving? You will find world-class accommodations here as Key Largo offers some of the finest diving and snorkeling in the Florida Keys. One of the main attractions in Key Largo is the John Pennekamp State Park. A perfect introduction to the Florida Keys, this nature reserve offers snorkeling, diving, camping, and kayaking. An underwater highlight is the massive Christ of the Deep statue.

There are many Key Largo dive companies that run guided trips to the park and to area sunken wrecks just off Key Largo.  Learn ten facts about the Keys prior to your trip to enhance your vacation. The Florida Keys is the third largest barrier reef in the world, and the only living coral reef in the USA. Key Largo is known to be the Scuba Diving Capital of the World.

Old Shipwrecks and Maritime History Intrigue Senior Visitors

There are hundreds of old shipwrecks all along the coast and many sites still being discovered and loaded with gold and silver. In recent years, centuries old historic wrecks have been joined by ships that were intentionally sunk to create artificial reefs and now are home to 55 varieties of delicate coral and nearly 500 species of fish in the sanctuary’s federally protected waters.

Art McKee is considered the grandfather of Florida Keys treasure salvage. He began salvaging the La Capitana wreck, from Spain’s 1733 Armada, in the late 1930s. After finding the Capitana, he discovered an ancient map that he compared to a modern one. He then uncovered the sites of the Infante, Herrera, Chaves, San Pedro and San Joseph, according to fellow salvor Jack Haskins of Islamorada. The area is full of maritime history and reflected by the many divers who still seek treasure.

So bring along your flippers, a good dive mask and a desire to check out some beautiful coral, thousands of colorful fish and plenty of Florida sunshine.  While you are down there under the water, look for a couple of nice conches. Enjoy the Keys and enjoy that 70 degree weather. jeb



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