Driving the Florida Keys’ Overseas Highway is one of America’s most iconic road trips, but equally inviting adventures lie in the islands’ clear azure waters, which are waiting to be explored on a seafaring adventure. From glass bottom boat tours to dolphin watching excursions and sunset sails, holidaymakers can reap memorable rewards by discovering the waters surrounding subtropical island chain.
Here are five unforgettable boating adventures in the Florida Keys:
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, participants will 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 £19) and $17 (around £13) for passengers ages 4-11 years. pennekamppark.com/glassbottom-boat
Wild Dolphin Watching, Key West: Go in search of wild dolphins in their natural playground off the Key West coast with Captain Victoria Impallomeni of Dancing Dolphin Spirits Charters. Called the ‘dolphin whisperer,’ Captain Victoria is an expert guide to the backcountry waters around Key West and has over 37 years’ eco-touring experience. Equipped with her own signature ‘whistle’ to signal her arrival at the playground, she knows many of the dolphins by name. Trips can accommodate up to six people with a half-day excursion costing $500 (around £389) and full day trip $700 (around £544). dancingdolphinspirits.com/key-west-dolphin-tours
Sportfishing, Islamorada: The 125-mile long arc of islands that comprises the Florida Keys, situated with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico on the other, creates a fishing environment unique in the world, and means a noteworthy catch is possible virtually year-round. In Islamorada, the ‘Sportfishing Capital of the World,’ visitors can search for speedster bonefish on the flats, test their determination against a reel-emptying blue marlin and land mahi-mahi for dinner. Bud N’ Mary’s Fishing Marina, which has the oldest and largest fishing fleet in the Keys, offers a variety of angling opportunities with prices starting at $70 (around £54) per person for a shared ‘party boat’ excursion. budnmarys.com
Journey to America’s Most Southerly National Park, Dry Tortugas: Enjoy a day trip to one of the Florida Keys’ most intriguing hidden gems, 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 £136) per adult and $125 (around £97) per child. On arrival, explore Fort Jefferson, a historic Civil War-era fortress, and enjoy swimming and snorkelling in tropical waters. Entry to the national park costs $10 (around £8) per person for those age 16 and older, and is included in the adult ferry ticket price. drytortugas.com/key-west-ferry
Set Sail at Sunset, Key West: America’s southernmost city is famed for its vibrant sunsets and what better way to view the colourful spectacle than on a sunset sail with Danger Charters? During the trip aboard a 65-foot schooner, guests can relax and enjoy upscale beers, a choice of eight fine wines from around the world and dine on hors d’oeuvres while gliding through the crystal clear waters surrounding Key West on a two-hour excursion. Priced at $85 per person (around £66). dangercharters.com/wind-wine-sunset-sail
Travel to the Florida Keys: Purely America (0844 80 444 80, purelyamerica.co.uk) has seven nights in the Florida Keys from £1,189 per person. Valid for mid-week departures in September 2017, the price includes two nights in Key Largo, three nights in Key West and two nights in Islamorada, together with return Virgin Atlantic flights from London Heathrow to Miami and economy car hire for the duration. The price is based on two adults travelling, sharing room-only accommodation.
For more information on the Florida Keys: www.fla-keys.co.uk