Random Facts about the Florida Keys
Just south of the Florida mainland lies the Florida Keys, a necklace of islands surrounded by emerald-green harbors, turquoise seas, nodding palms and olive-green mangroves. Since first settled in the early 1800s, the islands have been seasoned by the rich American and Cuban culture, sweetened by the unabashed romantic appeal of their natural beauty, and energized by their community. The islands’ year-round balmy, subtropical climate and unique “anything goes” flavor have made the Florida Keys an ideal visitor destination.
You may know the Florida Keys as a lush tropical paradise, but did you know these five facts about the area?
- In the Atlantic Ocean waters off the Florida Keys lies the continental United States’ only contiguous living coral barrier reef – the third largest coral barrier reef in the world. Additionally the coastal waters surrounding the entire island chain, including shallow water flats, mangrove islets and coral reefs, have been designated the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, which encompasses approximately 2,900 square miles. The sanctuary includes John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, America’s first underwater preserve and predecessor to the sanctuary.
- The Florida Keys & Key West have been home to a number of literary greats including; Ernest Hemingway, Zane Grey, Tennessee Williams, Judy Blume and Robert Frost. Hemingway’s legacy still lives on in Key West today and each year, a celebration dedicated to Hemingway is held around his July 21 birthday. Events include a “Papa” Hemingway Look-Alike Contest, a whimsical Running of the Bulls, a short story competition and a fishing tournament.
- Every year the Lower Keys stage what is likely the world’s only Underwater Music Festival. The quirky annual concert draws divers, snorkelers, curious fish and even characters costumed as mermaids and other mythical denizens of the deep. It’s held at Looe Key Reef, acclaimed as a world-class dive site, and spotlights the need for reef protection.
- Key West is closer to Cuba than the Florida mainland. Key West lies at the southernmost tip of the 125-mile-long chain of islands that are the Florida Keys but is only 90 miles from Havana, Cuba. The string of islands are connected by the Florida Keys Overseas Highway’s 42 bridges over water—one almost seven miles long.
- Completed in 1982, the modern Seven Mile Bridge is one of the longest segmental bridges in the world. The Old Seven Mile Bridge that parallels the modern span was the jewel of the Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad that was completed in 1912, and was a technological marvel that took four years to construct. The old railroad bridges and road became the Florida Keys Overseas Highway in 1937. Despite popular belief, the original Seven Mile Bridge was unharmed in the filming of the Arnold Schwarzenegger blockbuster “True Lies.” Filmmakers used pyrotechnics on a model of the historic span. And each year in April, the modern bridge is closed to traffic for about two hours as 1,500 runners compete in the Seven Mile Bridge Run, a footrace over the convergence of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.