The Florida Keys is a fascinating place – with its gin-clear waters, pastel color palette, swaying palms and sleepy afternoons it often feels closer to the Caribbean than to the hustle and bustle of modern Americana. Being the gateway for AvYachts heading out to cruise the waters of Cuba, this is also the Keys is also the spot where guests board for their sultry Havana adventures. With a string of islands, thick mangrove swamps hiding keen-eyed alligators, whimsical sandbars, and off the beaten track watering holes, creaking porches, and secret slips of a place – the Keys truly captures that end of the earth feel. For those yacht charters wanting to unravel a place where key lime pie, big fishing, and Hemmingway all have their spot – this is how to cruise the Florida Keys.
Docking or Dropping Anchor
Islamorada offers superyachts a sublime backdrop for soaking up all the laid-back charm of this side of the Florida Keys. While Key Largo may have more clubs and high-class restaurants, Islamorada has a honeyed natural vibe. For the AvYachts Owners and guests who prefer to be closer to the heart of the action, Key Largo is your go-to zone. Here in the Upper Keys, your AvYacht becomes your very own little key as there are several spots in and around to drop the anchor for the day, or even throughout the night!
Heading to the Middle Keys you will find Faro Blanco Resort and Yacht Club in Marathon makes for another mesmerizing marina choice. Punctuated by the white and red lighthouse, the beautiful bayside village boasts full service for suave superyachts, a waterfront restaurant, and bar. It’s a great place to drop anchor, take a jet ski tour, go paddle boarding, and then end with a tall cool cocktail at the elegant Verandah Bar.
Making your way south, Stock Island Marina Village offers the ultimate docking experience down in Key West. Celebrated as the largest deep-water marina in the whole of the Florida Keys, this once upon a time end of the road destination has been transformed into a boutique full-service marina. Those who want to sleep ashore can check into the hotel, dine on fresh seafood at the sumptuous Matt’s Kitchen and Bar, slurp cocktails at the Salty Oyster Grill, and fall in love with the shuttle service that takes you straight to the heart of Key West. A waterfront swimming pool, gorgeous green dog park, and organic community garden all add to the charming scene.
To Fish or Not to Fish
The Keys are known for some of the best fishing in the country. You will, without a doubt, have some of the best seafood while in the Keys. If you prefer to leave the fishing to the professionals, there is more than enough delicious food and good company to keep you busy. When we talk about dining in the Florida Keys this is when the pinch of Caribbean flair really hits the high mark. The bountiful blend of American comfort food enriched with punchy Caribbean spice makes for a mouthwatering combination. Think fresh saltwater shrimp swimming in fiery coconut, rum-addled cocktails, and the tang of the famous Key lime pie to cool the tongue.
Blue Heaven on Key West is truly one of those thoroughly local experiences; roosters crow beneath your table, the al fresco shady spots bring a sigh of relief from the beating sun, and the Cajun barbeque shrimp deglazed with beer and served with warm from the oven corn baked muffins is good enough to make you weep. It doesn't get more Florida Keys than this right here.
Lazy Days on Islamorada you can sit right on the beach, where digging your heels in the floury white sand and sipping ice-cold beer makes for a truly rewarding experience. Be sure to ask for the catch of the day for a plate that comes almost straight from the sea to the table. Ordering local style will spruce up a simple fish dish with panko breadcrumbs and a tantalizing dollop of key lime butter.
Latitudes on Key West is another firm favorite with the foodie crowd. This award-winning dining spot can be found at the much sought-after Sunset Key Cottages and has been named one of the most romantic restaurants in the USA. Linger over artistic plates in the Hemmingway Room or gaze out at pink tinged sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico as you tuck into chilled shrimp with coconut gastrique, pan seared salmon, and butter roasted lobster tail.
Over on Key Largo and those craving fresh conch will be smitten by the conch ceviche or cracked conch on offer over at the aptly named Conch House.
What to Do
When in the Florida Keys you are sure to be enticed by the endless shades of blue and green that make up the warm embrace of the water. The Keys are a playground for passionate fishers and booking a boat trip with the locals to chase down tarpon and grouper out on the smudge of the horizon is an absolute must. If you prefer your fish off the hook, then diving around the six pint-sized islands of Islamorada is heaven sent with crystal clear visibility and high levels of fin-based traffic.
For the best fishing spots – the fabled Islamorada Hump is the most happening spot for sportfishing. Sitting just 15 miles from the Keys, this underwater mountain brims with nutrients making it a feeding frenzy for marlin, blackfin tuna, and kingfish. Marathon Key is another treasure trove for family fishing trips and the waters here are less crowded than other spots.
Literary lovers will adore The Hemmingway House museum. The sardonic author penned Snows of Kilimanjaro and To Have and Have Not while shacked up down in the Keys. Stepping into Hemmingway’s world is fascinating, especially wandering his former home stuffed to the brim with the furniture he shipped from Paris. While you are wandering along Duval Street, you may want to hit up Mallory Square to grab a table and people watch.
Beach buffs will adore the peachy sands and soaring palms of the Bahia Honda State Park over on Big Pines Key. Superyacht snorkelers will also have access to the usually inaccessible reefs around Fort Jefferson – some 70 miles away from Key West and over on the Dry Tortugas National Park. Shallow reefs and sunken ships can also be enticing for scuba divers around the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park over on Key Largo. Looe Key over on Big Pine Key and the Lower Keys also boasts a brilliant 5 square miles underwater ecosystem worth exploring
Simply put; if simple pleasures, fresh seafood, clear waters, and coral islands are your thing – the Florida Keys are sure to keep you enchanted.