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The Florida Keys
The Florida Keys are located in the south westerly region of Florida and consist of approximately 1700 islands beginning 15 miles south of Miami. The islands divide the Atlantic from the Gulf of Mexico and enjoy a tropical climate. Key West is actually just 90 miles from Cuba. When combining all of the Key islands whether inhabited or uninhabited they occupy a total land mass of 137 square miles.
The Keys gained their form from the period of glaciations that began over 130, 000 years ago. Changes in sea levels caused vast land areas of Southern Florida to become covered in water with lines of reef forming along the land’s edge. Key Largo portrays many of the effects of this with it’s exposed limestone surface.
In the early years the Keys were occupied by Native Americans before discovered by the Spanish where they became known as Cayo’s, Spanish for small island. It was during this period that Key West thrived as the largest town in Florida when a high level of prosperity grew from the many ship wrecks frequenting the island’s waters. Similarly the close proximity to Cuba and the Bahamas encouraged a buoyant trade. It was during the late 19th century that trade dropped dramatically due to improved ship navigation causing Key West to surge into decline.
Due to their position in the subtropics the Florida Key’s climate is very similar to the Caribbean’ s pattern of weather. It is in fact the only area in Florida to be frost free. The weather pattern comprises of 2 seasons, hot and humid between June and October, and drier and cooler between November and May.
The Keys natural environment consists of forest, wetlands and defined shorelines. Plant and animal life is distinctive, some not found anywhere else in the US, and all of the Keys are abundant in plants such as Papaya, Coconut Palm, Bougainvillea and Hibiscus. A very well known fruit is the Key lime and trees grow rapidly, abundant with the small round and very fragrant fruit. And yes, the Florida keys are home to Key Lime pie.
The Florida Keys attract an estimated four million visitors each year, many of whom visit to scuba dive and fish on the only living coral reef in the US. With its beautiful weather pattern and tropical Caribbean feel, it is a place that somehow feels a little different from the Florida mainland. With a wealth of accommodation, albeit a little more expensive than other areas in Florida, it is well worth a visit even if just for a few days before or after having fun in the Orlando area.
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