Families planning a stateside getaway this October half term should consider swapping the traditional beach or theme park break for a water-based adventure in the Florida Keys.
From adrenaline-pumping Jet Ski tours to sub-surface exploration amidst an underwater jungle, here are five family-friendly activities to enjoy in the subtropical island chain.
SNORKEL: At Key Largo’s John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, families can explore America’s first underwater preserve where the indigenous population comprises countless species of fish and coral varieties. Snorkelling and diving excursions are offered daily and one of the park’s most popular dive sites is the nine-foot bronze ‘Christ of the Deep’ statue that sits in 20 feet of water. Park entry costs $8.50 (around £6.50) per vehicle. pennekamppark.com
SPORTFISHING: 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, largest and most established fishing fleet in the Keys, offers a variety of fishing opportunities, with prices starting at $65 (around £49) per person. budnmarys.com
SNUBA: Blending the simplicity of snorkelling and the excitement and freedom of scuba diving, Snuba is the ideal way for travellers age 8 and above to explore the Keys’ underwater world. Requiring no prior diving or snorkelling experience, Snuba allows visitors to dive down and breathe underwater using a 20-foot air line that is attached to an air supply floating above. During guided Snuba sessions, participants are never more than 20 feet from their air source, but can view undersea wonders including reefs, wrecks and diverse sea life. Try Snuba at Hawks Cay Resort near Marathon, which is one of the few places to experience the activity in the continental U.S. Excursions are priced from $150 (around £113) per person. diveduckkey.com
ECO-KAYAK: Join local legend, Captain Bill Keogh of Big Pine Kayak Adventures, for an eco-kayaking tour around the Lower Keys. Navigate the shallow waters surrounding the mangrove islands of the Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge and National Key Deer Refuge in sit-on-top kayaks to explore the backcountry’s sponge and grass flats and mangrove forests during this unique nature experience. Three-hour group tours are priced from $50 (£38) per person. keyskayaktours.com
JET SKI: For a sea view of Key West, circumnavigate the island on a two-hour guided Jet Ski tour on one of Barefoot Billy’s Yamaha Waverunners. The exhilarating 27-mile course includes stops at the Southernmost Point, Key West’s Historic Seaport and Sunset Key, while offering families breathtaking views and the chance to spot Florida Keys marine life frolicking in the surrounding waters. Drivers must be over 18, but passengers of any age can enjoy the ride. The Island Jet Ski Tour, including safety instruction from expert guides, is priced from $140 (around £106). barefootbillys.com
Take the family to the Florida Keys: Departing on 22 October 2016, America As You Like It (0208 742 8299 / www.americaasyoulikeit.com) has a seven-night break in the Florida Keys from £1,130 per person (based on two adults and two children under age 12 travelling). The price includes return Virgin Atlantic flights from London Heathrow to Miami, room-only accommodation and car hire for the duration.
For further information on the Florida Keys & Key West, visit www.fla-keys.co.uk.