“The Florida Keys: 200 Years of Paradise," a 60-minute television program that explores the culture and history of the island chain from the early 1800s to the present, debuts this spring on PBS channels across the United States. Meanwhile, three special events in Key West showcase aspects of the Keys’ two-century cultural heritage.
Ever since the Florida Keys were settled two centuries ago, the island chain has been known for its residents’ adventurous seafaring spirit. Today, that spirit remains among the Keys’ most appealing attributes. And contemporary visitors can find it in museums and attractions, tales of sunken treasure and dive trips to famed shipwreck sites.
Attention, watersports enthusiasts: boating, fishing and nautical merchandise galore will be available at the 19th annual Big Pine & Lower Keys Nautical Expo, an eclectic market set for Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 14-15. But that’s far from the only attraction in the area — other must-see spots include the Blue Hole and Grimal Grove.
Sunny subtropical holidays in the Florida Keys & Key West are filled with warmth and good cheer throughout the 125-mile-long island chain. From Key Largo to Key West, the 2022 holiday season features spirited events such as lighted boat parades, historic inn tours, only-in-the Keys frivolity, sparkling waterfront celebrations and other island festivities.
Nearly 60 years ago, Captain Gainey Maxwell conceived a way to encourage people to visit and fish Florida Keys waters — and then come back to do it again. He called it the Key West Fishing Tournament. Today, an impressive 46 backcountry and offshore species are targeted during the free-entry tournament’s eight-month span.
Florida Keys residents, and others who love the island chain, are guided by a code of conduct designed to protect the region’s amazing natural environment. Its core is the 10 Keymandments — a lighthearted yet informative set of recommendations for enjoying meaningful, memorable experiences while respecting and helping to preserve the Keys’ treasured eco-realm.
George Bellenger, who co-founded Key West Eco Tours with wife Carla 20 years ago, believes that even a five-minute commitment helps with preserving the Keys’ natural backcountry and dense mangrove islands. The Bellengers’ backcountry eco-tours are operated from the Geiger Key Paddle Hut out of Geiger Key Marina fish camp and RV park.
Most people who care about the Florida Keys probably know that the island chain felt some impacts from Hurricane Ian’s tropical storm-force winds and storm surge when Ian passed well to the west of Key West. So this week, Keys Voices breaks from its usual format to provide readers a post-Ian update.
In the Florida Keys, fresh fish and seafood are menu staples at most popular restaurants. It’s easy to find just-caught snapper, grouper and mahi-mahi served grilled, blackened or fried. In addition, many chefs and restaurateurs in the island chain enjoy showcasing “only in the Keys” dishes, unusual species or innovative preparation techniques.
Divers and snorkelers explored part of the continental United States' only living coral barrier reef recently while rocking to a unique sub-sea concert that promoted reef protection. The Lower Keys Underwater Music Festival takes place annually at Looe Key Reef — one of the most spectacular areas of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.