The Alternative Summer Family Getaway
Swap the beach and rollercoaster rides for the Florida Keys & Key West
It may only be March, but with the ‘Beast From The East’ still fresh in the memory, many families are already thinking ahead to the warmer summer months and longing for their annual sunshine getaway.
When the summer school holidays do finally arrive, families looking for something new should consider swapping their Mediterranean beach break or big-city theme park trip for an escape to the serene Florida Keys.
Here are six Florida Keys adventures that don’t involve a bucket and spade…or a rollercoaster!
- Glass Bottom Boat Tour, Key Largo: Visitors to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the United States’ first undersea park, can glimpse the Florida Keys’ serene underwater jungle on a glass bottom boat tour aboard the Spirit of Pennekamp catamaran. During the trip, families can view part of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, which protects the waters surrounding the entire island chain including the world’s third-largest living coral barrier reef. Tours are 2.5 hours long and include stops above a number of shallow reefs teeming with sea life. Tours are priced from $24 for adults (around £17.50) and $17 (around £12.50) for passengers age 4-11. pennekamppark.com/glassbottom-boat
- Try deep-sea fishing from Robbie’s Marina: Head out to sea on The “Capt. Michael”, a fully rigged, 65-foot deep-sea fishing vessel. Departing from Robbie’s Marina in Islamorada, holidaymakers can enjoy the thrill of Offshore Sportfishing guided by a professional crew who will help young fisherman joining the voyage to bait their hook and net their fish to bring it aboard. Back at the dock, the team will clean, filet or make steaks of catches and the Hungry Tarpon restaurant at Robbie’s will then cook your catch. The trip runs twice daily for a four-hour excursion, priced from $45 per adult (around £32.50) and $24.50 (less than £18) for children (aged 12 and under). Rates include bait, tackle and a fishing licence. Half-day rod rental is $5 per person (under £4). robbies.com
- Visit the Turtle Hospital, Marathon: Believed to be the world’s first state-licenced veterinary hospital dedicated to treating injured sea turtles, The Turtle Hospital has worked to rescue, rehabilitate and release over 2,000 endangered turtles back into their ocean home since it opened in 1986. Ninety-minute guided tours teach families about sea turtles and rehabilitation efforts by the facility. Entry costs $25 (around £18) for adults and $12 (under £9) for children age 4-12. Tour reservations are recommended. turtlehospital.org
- Wild Dolphin Watching, Key West: Go in search of wild bottlenose dolphins in their natural playground off the Key West coast with Fury Water Adventures on their dolphin watch and backcountry snorkel tour. The excursion includes snorkelling in the shallow backcountry waters where families can try to spot stingrays, juvenile fish and coral formations. Priced from $74.95 per person (around £54), the three-hour tour departs daily at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. furycat.com/key-west/watch-dolphins
- A Bird’s-Eye View of Key West: Experience a helicopter tour over Key West for a stunning aerial view of the continental United States’ most southerly city, its surrounding waters and sites such as Smathers Beach, the Southernmost Point and Fort Zachary Taylor. Spot wildlife like stingrays, sea turtles and dolphins and see lesser-known Key West gems only accessible by air and sea. Choose between five airborne experiences offered by Air Adventures including the Discovery Ride, Key West Eco Tour and Sunset Celebration. Tours are priced from $69 (around £50) per person. fly-keywest.com
- Journey to America’s Most Southerly National Park, Dry Tortugas: Enjoy a day trip to one of the Florida Keys’ most intriguing attractions, Dry Tortugas National Park. Located some 70 miles west of Key West in the Gulf of Mexico, the remote national park is made up of seven coral-and-sand islands surrounded by turquoise waters and coral reefs. Journey to Garden Key in the national park aboard the Yankee Freedom III ferry for $175 (around £126) per adult and $125 (around £90) per child. The price includes the national park entry fee. On arrival, explore Fort Jefferson, a historic Civil War-era fortress, and enjoy swimming and snorkelling in subtropical waters. drytortugas.com/key-west-ferry
Travel to the Florida Keys: Purely America (0844 80 444 80, purelyamerica.co.uk) has seven nights in the Florida Keys from £2,699 for a family of four. Valid for travel in the summer school holidays 2018, the price includes three nights in Key Largo and four nights in Key West, together with return Norwegian Air flights from London Gatwick to Fort Lauderdale and SUV car hire for the duration. The price is based on a family of four travelling (two adults and two children, 11 or under), sharing room-only accommodation. ATOL Protected.
For more information on the Florida Keys: www.fla-keys.co.uk