The Florida Keys offers an array of sightseeing opportunities, ranging from Ernest Heminway’s House in Key West to one of the world’s largest coral reefs. But…did you know there’s also a turtle hospital and a fort you can recommend clients visit? In fact, sprinkled across the Florida Keys’ 800 keys are an array of attractions your clients will definitely want to take a detour to. We’ve put the spotlight on a few of them.
6. The Bridges
This one your clients won’t have to take a detour to—the bridges that span the Overseas Highway. There are 42 in total, and they compromise more than 18 miles of the 180 miles of highway. The Seven Mile Bridge is the longest, coming in at 35,716 ft. The shortest bridge? The Harris Gap Bridge, just 37 ft. long. The Seven Mile Bridge connects Knight’s Key in the Middle Keys to Little Duck Key in the Lower Keys, while the Harris Gap Bridge can be found at the north end of Sugarloaf Key in the Lower Keys. fla-keys.com
5. The Turtle Hospital
Located in Marathon, The Turtle Hospital opened its doors in the mid-1980s with the goal of rehabbing injured sea turtles to return them to their natural habitat. Luckily for visitors to the Keys, there’s also an opportunity for clients to visit the hospital for a 90-minute tour. During the educational experience, guests get a behind-the-scenes look at the hospital facilities and rehabilitation area, and at the end of each program they are invited to feed the permanent residents. turtlehospital.org
4. Pigeon Key
Take a few historic steps back in time to when Henry Flagler was constructing his Florida Keys Overseas Railroad, which opened in 1912. Pigeon Key was the base camp for the workers who constructed the railroad and today serves as an educational center and a visitor attraction with a small museum. Visitors can learn about the railroad, which ceased operation in 1935, and after they’ve completed a historical tour, there’ll be time to explore the island, enjoy a picnic lunch, or even snorkel around the dock. Daily historical tours run at 10 a.m., 12 p.m., and 2 p.m.; the Pigeon Key Ferry leaves the Visitor’s Center, located at 2010 Overseas Highway on Marathon, at those times. pigeonkey.net
3. Fort Jefferson
Located in the Dry Tortugas National Park, 68 miles from Key West, the 6-sided Fort Jefferson is a 150-year-old fort that was never fully completed and never fired upon. During the Civil War, Fort Jefferson served as a Union military prison whose most famous prisoner was Dr. Samuel Mudd, convicted of complicity in Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. At its height nearly 2,000 people lived within this remote city on the sea, and in 1908, the fort and its surrounding islands were designated a wildlife refuge. In 1992, the area became a national park. Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the fort and explore the islands, and access is via a ferry. drytortugas.com
2. Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters
Guided aquarium tours, predator reef tank, tide pool touch tank, big shark bay encounter, and a stingray encounter are just some of the many “encounters” your clients can have while exploring this educational marine life center in Marathon. Clients can also take a coral reef private tour or a private stingray encounter, and for those who want to want to touch a baby stingray, there’s a nursery encounter as well. floridakeysaquariumencounters.com
1. Where to Stay
Located on a private beach, the 214-room and -suite Cheeca Lodge & Spa is an upscale resort on Islamorada that exudes a barefoot elegant vibe and covers some 27 acres. With an array of onsite activities—and ideal for serious anglers since it’s located in the “sportfishing capital of the world”—the resort offers three restaurants, a spa, and adult and family pools, including a brand-new oceanfront pool (the third on property) opening soon. Also soon to debut is a second tiki bar, dubbed 25 South, that will be unveiled in the space previously occupied by the saltwater lagoon. cheeca.com
To learn how to package the Florida Keys with Delta Vacations—Cheeca Lodge & Spa is one of Delta Vacations’ hotel partners in the Florida Keys—visit worldagentdirect.com.