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Archive for May, 2010

Florida Keys Scenic Highway

Monday, May 31st, 2010

Over Seas Travel

The Florida Keys Scenic Highway may be the closest you’ll ever come to driving on water.
By Stacy Tillilie

It’s been called “the Highway That Goes to Sea,” “the most spectacular highway in the U.S.” and even “the Road to Paradise.” It’s the kind of road that not only gets you some place but takes you somewhere. And it’s 1 of only 31 roads in the country that’s deemed an All-American Road by the National Scenic Byways Program, sealing its reputation as a destination in itself.

It is the Florida Keys Scenic Highway, a 106.5-mile ribbon of road wrapping across 42 bridges over the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and Florida Bay and unfolding through some of Mother Nature’s most generous gifts: seamless stretches of calm turquoise waters and vast blue skies; patches of mangroves and palm trees bowing in the breeze; and a string of lazy little islands, or keys—some seemingly so fragile that if you blink, they might disappear with the tide. But you don’t merely look at the scenery here; you’re engulfed in it.

You could drive the scenic highway from Key Largo to Key West, which follows in the tracks of oil tycoon Henry Flagler’s ill-fated Florida East Coast Railway (defunct spans of which still stand parallel to today’s modern highway), in just a few hours. But linger for an entire day to fully experience these islands where nature remains untouched and life is laid-back. And along the way, take time to drop a line off an old fishing pier, enjoy Conch cuisine, explore little-known museums, or relax on a beach and keep watch for birds and dolphins in the distance.

Your journey begins in the Dive Capital of the World: Key Largo, home to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (Mile Marker 102.5), the first undersea park in the U.S. Snorkel or take a glass-bottom boat to explore the living reef, teeming with a menagerie of coral and hundreds of species of fish. Or dive to see the nine-foot-tall bronze Christ of the Deep statue, or scuba to the Spiegel Grove artificial reef.

Continuing south from Key Largo, you’ll come upon Islamorada, the Sportfishing Capital of the World. Here, you can take a charter boat to fish for everything from mahi-mahi to tarpon to bonefish. Or stay on land to visit the Florida Keys History of Diving Museum (Mile Marker 83), showcasing the world’s largest collection of diving helmets and artifacts.

At the heart of the highway is Marathon, home to the Crane Point Museums (Mile Marker 50.5)—composed of the Museum of Natural History of the Florida Keys and the Florida Keys Children’s Museum, as well as a preserved tropical hardwood hammock. Kids will especially enjoy touring the nearby Turtle Hospital (Mile Marker 48.5) and getting up close with its resident sea turtles.

Back on the highway, you’ll reach the famous Seven Mile Bridge (Mile Marker 47), one of the world’s longest bridges stretching 6.79 miles over open water. When the original bridge was completed in the early 1900s, it was called “the eighth wonder of the world.” The new bridge, completed in 1982, runs alongside its predecessor, which now serves as a fishing pier and walking trail.

Next come Bahia Honda Bridge (Mile Marker 36)—get your camera ready for the boundless vistas—and Bahia Honda State Park (Mile Marker 37), renowned as one of the top 10 beaches in the U.S. Here, you can camp, swim, fish, snorkel, hike and kayak.

Traveling the last leg of your journey is the gateway to Key West, where the highway ends at Mile Marker 0, the southernmost point in the continental U.S., just 90 miles from Cuba. Key West is where you’ll want to spend days—if not a lifetime—retracing the steps of authors, U.S. presidents and pirates; snorkeling, diving and fishing; popping in and out of shops, art galleries, and open-air restaurants and bars; and celebrating the sunset, as locals and visitors alike do at the end of every day.

You’ve come a long way. You’ve virtually driven on water. Bring a towel, and as they say, leave only bubbles.

Top 5 Little-Known Finds

While you’re exploring those places in the Keys you’ve always heard about, take time to discover these lesser-known locations you’ve likely never heard of: Long Key State Park (Mile Marker 67.5), once a luxury fishing resort, where you can still enjoy some of the area’s best bonefishing.

Grassy Key, where kids can learn about and interact with Atlantic bottle-nosed dolphins and California sea lions at the Dolphin Research Center (Mile Marker 59).

Big Pine Key, home to the National Key Deer Refuge (near Mile Marker 31), the habitat of the endangered Key deer.

Looe Key (off of Big Pine Key), a reef that’s also a national marine sanctuary and regarded by those in-the-know as one of the world’s best snorkeling and scuba locations—along with being the site of the annual Underwater Music Festival.

Pigeon Key, featuring a museum exploring the history of Henry Flagler’s railroad and the lives of the workers who resided on the island (Mile Marker 45).

—ST

Photos courtesy of Floridakeys.com.

June Events

Monday, May 17th, 2010
 
 
Islamorada / June 02 to June 03

Islamorada Fishing Club Captain’s Cup Dolphin Tournament Just three fish are all that’s needed to capture the $25,000 winner-take-all grand prize, but the aggregate weight of the three dorado must be the highest in the tournament. Entry fee is $2,500 for this IGFA Offshore World Championship qualifying event.
Contact: Theresa Reineman at 305-664-4735
Email: fishing@theislamoradafishingclub.com

Islamorada / June 04 to June 06

Islamorada Dolphin Tournament Hosted by the Islamorada Charterboat Association, this second annual event is headquartered at Whale Harbor Marina, with $15,000 in prize money and an unlimited number of anglers.
Contact: Dianne Harbaugh at (305) 852-2102
Email: ditournaments@aol.com

Islamorada / June 07 to June 11

Don Hawley Invitational Tarpon Tournament The world’s top fly-rod anglers endure a five-day test of will and muscle, fishing Keys waters using fly tackle and either a 12- or 16-pound tippet. Named for the late fly fisherman and conservationist Don Hawley, the tournament benefits the Don Hawley Foundation, assisting professional fishing guides and supporting backcountry fishery conservation. programs.
Contact: Charlotte Ambrogio (305) 664-2444
Email: csasun@aol.com

Islamorada / June 15 to June 17

Women’s Fly Series – Tarpon
CANCELED
This invitational fly tournament is open to men and women and benefits children’s charities. The all-release, challenge requires anglers use a tournament-supplied 16-pound tippet. Scoring is based on the total number of releases, so anglers must hook, fight and release tarpon as quickly as possible — making the competition a true test of skill and endurance.
Contact: Charlotte Ambrogio at (305) 664-2444
Email: csasun@aol.com

Islamorada / June 16

History of Diving Museum presents: FREE Seminar Series This month’s free seminar is to be given by Chris Dutton, themed “Diving History in the Florida Keys.” Starts at 7 p.m. at Diving Museum, mile marker 83 in Islamorada. Immerse yourself in the fun!
Contact: 305-664-9737
Email: info@divingmuseum.org

Islamorada / June 18 to June 19

6th Annual Island Grill Charity Dolphin Tournament & Fun Day Event not only benefits Baptist Hospital’s Children’s Cancer Center, anglers compete for a $5,000 grand prize for the best three dolphin caught, and a Mercedes GLK SUV for the angler that breaks the state record for dolphin. Father’s Day celebration on the beach Sunday. A perfect family event.
Contact: Rebecca May at 305-664-8400
Email: keysislandgrillevents@gmail.com

Islamorada / June 21 to June 25

Gold Cup Tarpon Tournament This prestigious tournament, whose founders include baseball great and avid fly-fisherman Ted Williams, pits 25 fly-rod anglers against the tenacious silver king for four straight days of fishing. Experienced tournament anglers and novices are welcome to compete. Tournament proceeds benefit children’s charities in the Keys.
Contact: Charlotte Ambrogio (305) 664-2444
Email: csasun@aol.com

May Events

Monday, May 17th, 2010
Islamorada / April 30 to May 02

Florida Keys Fly Fishing School Learn fly fishing in saltwater with world class instruction in a fun and no-pressure environment. Two-day schools present a unique opportunity for beginners and experienced anglers, as well as couples. Call or visit Web site for details.
Contact: 305-664-5423
Email: info@floridakeysoutfitters.com

Islamorada / May 17 to May 19

Golden Fly Tarpon Tournament Anglers are allowed to fish only with fly gear, using a tournament-furnished tippet not greater than 20-pound test. Tarpon in this challenge must measure at least 48 inches in length to earn release points, and weigh at least 70 pounds for weight points. Are you up to the challenge?
Contact: Charlotte Ambrogio at (305) 664-2444
Email: csasun@aol.com

Islamorada / May 19

History of Diving Museum presents: FREE Seminar Series This month’s free seminar is to be given by Florida Keys Shipwreck Salvor and Historian Captain Carl Fismer, themed “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Shipwrecks.” Starts at 7 p.m. at Diving Museum, mile marker 83 in Islamorada. Immerse yourself in the fun!
Contact: 305-664-9737
Email: info@divingmuseum.org

 
 

Stay Review

Monday, May 17th, 2010

What a way to relax

“Peaceful and Romantic”

Lookout Lodge Resort
Truestarlight 7 contributions North Carolina
May 14, 2010 | Trip type: Couples Through a twist of fate we ended up at the Lookout Lodge and felt like we were in Paradise.

It is a small resort but immaculately clean and beautiful rooms. The dock area give you stunning views of the gulf and the sunset.

This is not an all inclusive, cater to your every need kind of resort, but it is a peaceful little paradise in the Keys.
My ratings for this hotel

Value Rooms Location Cleanliness Service Sleep QualityDate of stay April 2010
Visit was for Leisure
Traveled with With Spouse/Partner
Age group 35-49
Member since June 25, 2008
Would you recommend this hotel to a friend? Yes


Lookout Lodge Resort 87770 Overseas Highway Islamorada, Florida 33036 United States Phone: 305.852.9915 Toll Free: 800.870.1772 Fax: 305.852.3035