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Ultimate Road Trip, Florida Keys And Key West

Kenneth Ng

Visitors: 152

This long line of islands, stretching south of Miami like an alligator's tail, has long captivated visitors. And, just as you'd be careful while hiking through gator territory, exploring the Keys today demands a certain amount of caution. No, there are no real dangers (although the crass consumerism comes close), but there are real highs and real lows. And because the highs are so great - stunning tropical fish, unparalleled views of the sea, scrumptious dining adventures - it's best to not waste any time with the lows of T-shirt shopping or cheesy-hotel stays.

The 45-island chain, held together by a 1130-mile roadway, has a pace of life that becomes more mellow and island-like the further you get from Miami. Surroundings also turn more beautiful as you travel south, and your experience will peak in all ways as soon as you settle into the southernmost point in the lineup, Key West. But don't make the mistake of flying by all that rest spots in between these points.

While much of the HWY 1 (the only road that takes you through) is lined with fortresses of strip malls that block any views of the the gleaming shores, it's worth turning off the highway, breaking through the barrier and enjoying what lies in wait, . Key Largo's John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Grassy Key's Dolphin Research Center, Marathon's kayaking tours and the amazing Cuban food tucked away in Big Pine Key are just a few of the pleasures.

- Islamorada

Islamorada (eye-luh-murr-ah-da) is actually a collection of smaller islands with equally fanciful names - Plantation, Upper and Lower Matcumbe, Lignumvitae. It's one of the best driving stretches because you can actually see water on both sides for much of the way. There are several placid, easily accessible little ocean-beach nooks providing scenic rest stops. Islamorada is known for fishing and as a result has some of the best seafood dining in the Keys.

Author : Kenneth Ng
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