105 miles (one way) - Back in the 1980s, when Washington set up a road block and check-point on US 1, the only road leading from the Keys to the mainland, islanders fought back and... formed their own nation.  Renamed the "Conch Republic" the Keys' new designation became a source of local pride - and a major source of promoting tourism.  At one point, "souvenir" passports were even issued to citizens and diplomats.  Every year on April 23, the Keys celebrates its own Independence Day, a week-long series of festivals.  Even if the passports are no longer being issued, the same freethinking spirit remains.  The road south is breathtaking and life is laid back.  You'll pass mangrove swamps and wildlife rehabilitation centers, witness spectacular sunsets, and have your pick of more than 200 restaurants.  Once you hit Key West, consider hopping the ferry to Dry Tortugas, a picturesque national park home to Fort Jefferson, built after the War of 1812 to defend the country's souther coastline.


Points Of Interest

  • Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center (92080 Overseas Hwy, Tavernier, FL)
  • Dolphin Research Center (58901 Overseas Hwy Grassy Key, FL)
  • Ernest Hemingway House & Museum (907 Whitehead St, Key West, FL)
  • Dry Tortugas National Park (www.drytortugas.com)

Lunch Stops

  • Mrs. Mac's Kithen (99336 Overseas Hwy, Key Largo, FL)
  • Latitudes (245 Front St, Key West, FL)
  • Conch Republic Seafood Company (631 Greene St, Key West, FL)

AuthorJames Gerdes