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Florida Keys

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Introduction

Key West

Key West

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The Florida Keys are made up of 1,700 individual islands which flow from the foot of Florida towards Cuba. The chain which starts around 25 kilometres south of Miami are connected by a road which ends at Key West. A drive of some 200 kilometres across many bridges connecting the keys.

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Geography

The Keys are divided into three distinct areas: upper, middle and lower. The islands lie along the Florida Straits, dividing the Atlantic Ocean to the east from the Gulf of Mexico to the northwest, and defining one edge of Florida Bay. At the nearest point, the southern part of Key West is just 140 kilometres from Cuba. The Florida Keys are between about 23.5 and 25.5 degrees North latitude.

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Sights and Activities

Dry Tortugas National Park

Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas National Park

Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas National Park

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Dry Tortugas National Park is a national park about 110 kilometres west of Key West in the Gulf of Mexico. The park preserves Fort Jefferson and the seven Dry Tortugas islands, the westernmost and most isolated of the Florida Keys. The archipelago's coral reefs are the least disturbed of the Florida Keys reefs. Fort Jefferson and birdwatching are the highlights here, although there is good snorkelling as well. Visiting the park by private boat is difficult because of its distance, so most visitors come by boat or seaplane from Key West, Florida. Official ferry and transportation services to the Dry Tortugas includes the Yankee Freedom III catamaran and seaplane services. They offer daytrips for US$165 ($120 children), including breakfast, lunch, a tour of Fort Jefferson, snorkelling gear and a great boat trip (usually good weather). Key West Seaplan Charters offers half day and daytrips at (much) higher prices. You can camp at the island for $3 a night but you have to reserve space beforehand, also making sure you book the boatride back.

Seven Mile Bridge

Seven Mile Bridge

Seven Mile Bridge

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The Seven Mile Bridge is a famous bridge in Monroe County, Florida Keys, United States. It connects Knight's Key in the Middle Keys to Little Duck Key in the Lower Keys. Among the longest bridges in existence when it was built, it is one of the many bridges on US 1 in the Keys, where the road is called the Overseas Highway. There are two bridges in this location. The older bridge, originally known as the Knights Key-Pigeon Key-Moser Channel-Pacet Channel Bridge, was constructed from 1909-1912 under the direction of Henry Flagler as part of the Overseas Railroad. The current road bridge was constructed from 1978 to 1982. The vast majority of the original bridge still exists, used as fishing piers and access to Pigeon Key, but the swing span over the Moser Channel of the Intracoastal Waterway has been removed.
The total length of the new bridge is actually 6.79 miles, and is shorter than the original. Each April the bridge is closed for approximately 2.5 hours on a Saturday and a "fun run," known as the Seven Mile Bridge Run.

Other Sights and Activities

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Weather

Temperatures are usually between 25 °C and 30 °C for most of the year, a bit warmer from June to September and cooler from November to March. June to November is the rainy season and hurricanes are a possibility during this time.

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Getting There

By Plane

By Train

The closest train station is in Miami.

By Car

The Florida Keys start about 15 miles south of Miami on route US 1.

By Bus

Greyhound Lines stops at a number of locations between Miami International Airport and Key West.

By Boat

Key West Express runs high-speed passenger ferries between Fort Myers and Key West.

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Getting Around

By Car

The Keys (at least the accessible, commercial islands) are connected by US Highway 1. A useful and interesting "quirk" about the linearity of the Keys (and US-1) is that directions to establishments and attractions are locally described by the "Mile Markers" along US-1. If you ask someone how to get to a certain beach or hotel, they will tell you that it is at "Mile Marker 68.5"; many signs and brochures will say "MM 68.5" (of course, there is no mile marker 68.5, this just means that the hotel is halfway between mile markers 68 and 69). These numbers start at zero at the start of US-1 on Key West, so the numbers get larger as you go north.

The speed limits in the Keys are generally 45mph on the built-up Islands, and 55mph on the bridges and less built-up islands. There are areas (very built-up strips, or animal sanctuaries) where the speed drops to 35mph.

Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. For more information about renting cheaper cars and campers, traffic rules and getting maps it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.

By Bus

The Key West Department of Transportation runs a service between Marathon Key and Key West.

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Eat

As you would expect, there is a lot of seafood served in the Keys, but all types of restaurants exist. These include most of the staples of American fast-food, mom-and-pop diners, and many kinds of ethnic fare.

The Florida Keys are the birthplace of Key Lime Pie once made using limes exclusively grown here. Nearly every restaurant will have their own variation of this dessert, and each will be quite different, ranging from super-tart to sickly-sweet.

Another Key specialty is conch (pronounced "konk"), a large mollusk often served in chowder. Conch fritters, small spheres of fried breading and conch, are an appetizer you should try at least once during your stay.

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Drink

Key West is a famous bar-hopping town, and former haunt of author Ernest Hemingway.

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Sleep

Many of the larger keys have accommodation available. These can vary between budget hostels and motels, through to upmarket hotels. Prices tend to go up towards Key West, which has excellent smaller upscale B&B's and guesthouses.

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Quick Facts

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State
Florida

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This is version 10. Last edited at 12:12 on May 2, 17 by Utrecht. 13 articles link to this page.

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