Did you know that the Florida Keys is actually a collection of both islands (keys) and towns? That’s right! The “Florida Keys” is the name of the collective destination of the archipelago extending off the southern tip of Florida. There are more than 800 keys, although not all are inhabited. There are 42 bridges connecting the Keys to each other, and there are lots of small settlements.
The towns of the Florida Keys are not as many as you’d expect. While the main keys along the Overseas Highway are well settled, there are only a few specific townships: Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon and Key West. There are lots of communities but not too many full on town sites.
Key Largo – Northernmost Town
Key Largo is the first of the Florida Keys that you’ll come to. It’s very developed and there are plenty of great hotels and resorts to stay at. You’ll find Florida State Parks to explore, lots of art and murals, and plenty of great food (our favorite Key Lime Pie is here!) Depending on where you stay, it’s walkable to restaurants and marinas.
This is also where you’ll find John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. A great place for kayaking in the Florida Keys, they also do tours out to the reef. This is home to the sunken Christ the Redeemer statue, if you’re into diving.
Islamorada – Middle Keys
The town of Islamorada actually encompasses several keys: Plantation Key, Windley Key, Upper Matecumbe Key, Lower Matecumbe Key, and Teatable Key. It’s known as the Sportfishing Capitol of the World and being such, you can find charters and marinas on both sides of the Overseas Highway.
Islamorada is a great mid-way point in the road trip through the Florida Keys. At about an hour south of Everglades National Park or 1.5 hours from Miami, this is about as far south as we’d recommend if you’re doing just a day trip into the Florida Keys. It’s a wonderful town/collection of islands and you’ll love your time here.
Marathon – Start of the Lower Keys
When I think of Marathon I always think of the famous Marathon Sea Turtle Hospital. There’s more to this town at the start of the Lower Keys than this though. Marathon is also where you’ll find the best beaches in the Florida Keys. With very few actual beaches, you’ll love your time here.
Marathon is also where you’ll find that amazing (and popular) Marathon Seafood Festival each March. Since there is just the Overseas Highway going through most of the town, during the festival, plan to travel through EARLY in the day or in the evening. Much fun to be had!
Key West – the Conch Republic
For many, Key West IS the reason they’re making the journey through the Florida Keys. This historic town is full of beautiful architecture, amazing food, historic B&Bs and it’s the launch point for getting to Dry Tortugas National Park. No amount of time in Key West is enough.
Called the Conch Republic after it seceded from the USA in 1982 (and rejoined) it’s a vibrant, culturally diverse destination. Full of Pride and rainbow crosswalks, Key West is also a very welcoming and open community. No matter who you are, you’ll find a place for yourself in Key West.
As we continue to grow TheKeysExplored.com we’ll add more of the smaller villages and communities of the Florida Keys. If you’re a resident of the Keys and would like to share about your town and how visitors can plan a trip, let us know!