The Florida Keys are known for swaying palm trees, the flip-flop state of mind and searching for that lost shaker of salt. But there’s so much more to explore here. A rich history, an underwater forest, even the eternal question: Why did the Key West chicken cross the road?
Flagler’s folly: The eighth wonder of the world
For centuries, the Florida Keys were only accessible by boat. Until oil magnate Henry Flagler came along in 1912, and built the “eighth wonder of the world.” As part of the Florida Overseas Railroad, the Keys Extension Bridge now connected train passengers all the way from St. Augustine in the north to the wilds of the islands to the south.
Originally known as “Flagler’s Folly,” the historic railway to the sea project proved to be a success — despite a couple of hurricanes interfering — for trade with Cuba and Latin America. And it had another benefit: The railway brought the first tourists, and more than a century later, they’re still here.
Shake hands with the Christ of the Abyss
Your No. 1, not-to-be-missed Keys adventure is snorkeling or scuba diving. Islamorada and Key Largo are known as the dive capital of the world, the 358-mile Florida reef is spectacular — a whole underwater paradise.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo is the first underwater park in the United States, covering 70 nautical miles. Yes, you can find Nemo here, and all his buddies. You can also visit the historic Christ of the Abyss statue, a 4,000-pound, 8.5-foot bronze sculpture by Italian sculptor Guido Galletti. Did I mention it’s underwater, surrounded by coral?