The Florida Keys
The Florida Keys are a 120 mile long chain of islands that begin at the very bottom of Florida's mainland. They are often referred to as America's Caribbean. This chain of coral islands is legendary for its lore of pirates and sunken treasure, but today countless visitors have discovered the real treasure of Florida Keys lies just offshore, its world-class diving and snorkeling. The waters offshore offer some of the best diving in the world.
The islands are surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other. The Keys offer some of the finest fishing and diving in the world and are the home of the only living Coral Reef in the Continental United States. This teeming backbone of marine life runs the length of the Keys about five miles off offshore.
Most dive sites are equipped with convenient mooring buoys to save the reef from anchors and make it easy for boaters to tie off. Most sites are a short boat ride from the islands, where dozens of highly professional dive operators are ready to cater to you.
The locals generally group the islands into five areas. Each area actually includes several islands and several small communities.
Key Largo is the first island south of the Florida mainland, and Key West is approximately 100 miles south of Key Largo. In between are the beautiful islands of Islamorada, Long Key, Marathon, Big Pine Key and many more. Key Largo is about a 1 1/2 hour drive from Miami Airport and Key West is roughly another 2 hours drive.
While visiting the keys, you'll quickly note that most locations are defined by a curious "MM" designation. For example, John Pennekamp park is a MM 102. The MM stands for "Mile Marker". Mile markers are the small green signs on the side of the road that represent the mile number along the overseas highway (US 1). Mile markers go lower as you go further south. The beginning of Key Largo is located at mile marker 110. Key West begins at mile marker 8.
Once you visit the Keys, you'll see why some of the most renowned dive photographers and writers in the world make this their home base.