Southeast Florida and The Keys

Southeast Florida and The Keys are for big city lights, tiny island treasures and plenty of wonderful vacation spots in-between. Warm, clear, blue-green waters splash the coastline of this region, which takes you from the most remote wilderness to our most cosmopolitan centers. More than any other region in the state, Southeast Florida and The Keys offer diversity. With soft beaches, world-class museums, superb diving and snorkeling, cruising from two major ports, fine dining by the water, legendary fishing and plenty of beautiful, relaxing places, this region is the perfect place to plan your dream vacation. So dream on? and then read on to see which city or area best fits your bill.

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The quiet Treasure Coast, so named because of the treasure ships sunk in stormy weather along its shores centuries ago, has retained some of the old Florida charm. Visitors come to Hutchinson Island, Stuart and Jensen Beach for their small-town friendliness, quiet nights and lovely, golden sand beaches. Visitors can observe other natural treasures here as well, such as sea turtles nesting in summer moonlight and a variety of other wildlife including alligators, manatees and eagles along the Indian or St. Lucie Rivers. Inland, Lake Okeechobee is the state’s largest lake, famous for bass fishing. Surrounded by fish camps and resorts, “The Lake” hosts a number of fishing tournaments that bring sports fishermen from all over the world.

In contrast is the Gold Coast, a name reflecting its golden sand as well as the incredible wealth along the region from the Palm Beaches to Miami. Besides offering visitors 47 miles of wide, sandy beaches, Palm Beach County offers 145 golf courses, more than any other county in the nation. Art lovers also flock here for a busy cultural calendar that includes ballet, opera, theater, music and modern dance. With perhaps the most concentrated wealth in the region, the city of Palm Beach is a sunny spot with palm-lined streets, oceanfront estates, elite shopping, and sleek Rolls Royces carrying the privileged about town. Boynton Beach, Delray Beach and Boca Raton are quieter, but still please visitors with scenic beaches as well as a variety of performing arts, shopping and dining.

Visitors to Miami or The Florida Keys often add a trip to Everglades National Park, the only preserve of its kind in the world.

Head south of Miami to visit the legendary Florida Keys. These tiny islands, strung together first by nature, next by Henry Flagler’s railroad and more recently by The Overseas Highway, seem to be in a time zone and attitude all their own. Jimmy Buffet said it best when he sang, “changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes, nothing remains quite the same.” Visitors will find their worries disappear as they cruise U.S. 1 with its huge expanses of blue-green water, certainly one of the most scenic drives in the nation. Along the way, fishing villages, plush resorts, family-owned hotels and plenty of seafood restaurants dot the landscape. Campers will find options from RV resorts to waterfront tenting in state parks.

The most frequently visited regions in The Keys include Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, the Lower Keys and Key West. Main attractions are John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and the adjacent Key Largo National Marine Sanctuary. These two refuges, part of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, feature 55 varieties of delicate corals and nearly 500 different species of fish.

Throughout the islands, water activities top the list of things to do, though Key Largo and Looe Key (off the Lower Keys) are best known for diving and snorkeling. Islamorada and Marathon are most famous for fishing. The Lower Keys are the least developed in the island chain. Most visitors top off their Keys vacation with a trip to Key West, the eclectic end of the continent. This southernmost point of the United States embraces a fascinating mix of history, eccentricity and lush island charm. Civil War-era forts, famous writers’ homes, sidewalk cafés and outrageous residents add to the unique atmosphere of Key West.

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