Escape to a tropical island and relax under the warm rays of sunshine, even in January. The Florida Keys are one of the most popular destinations for a both sun-seekers and eco-tourists in the United States. While Key West is the crown gem of the string of islands along the Overseas Highway, smaller islands in the Lower Keys region also boast an avid an base.
Big Pine Key offers the same fabulous views and balmy temperatures as Key West, but with a smaller price tag and a bit more pristine outdoor adventure space. What the smaller island lacks in nightlife, it makes up for in eco-tourism activities. Experience the added elbow-room on your next vacation. Both guided and self-constructed tours on and around the island will fill at least two days on your getaway agenda. Go snorkeling with stingrays, diving around a natural coral reef or join a deep-sea fishing trip. Hike through the mangrove forest in the back country region of the island and marvel at the environment which has gone untouched by commercialism.
Lodging options are not vast, but neither are they limited. Rent a site at one of the RV resorts or campgrounds and sleep on the beach. Awaken to the sounds of playful dolphins, romping not far from shore. Small, yet luxurious and resorts feature a blend of southern charm with tropical gardens and rocking chair filled verandas. Traveling with a group or children? Rent a vacation home along the Gulf of Mexico with a private beach or within walking distance from public beaches.
Mile marker 33, the official address of Big Pine Key, is also the shopping mecca of the Lower Keys region. If you are searching for big-box stores or commercial franchises, you will have to get back on the Overseas Highway and head due north. Boutiques and quaint stores owned by Big Pine Key residents feature tropical fashions, exquisite sandals and jewelry handcrafted by island artisans. Bert and Frannie’s Salon, Day Spa and Boutique offers both Florida Keys souvenirs and refreshing skin and beauty treatments. Start your day in paradise with a hot stone massage or mud bath.
Located nearby at mile marker 37 is the Bahia Honda State Park. The white sandy beaches on the island have routinely been ranked among the “world’s finest” for decades. Rent a canoe or kayak to traverse the near shore waterways or journey inland and traverse nearly 500 acres of unspoiled island trails. Register for a snorkeling tour of the Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary and become an underwater adventurer for an afternoon. Novice snorkelers and children age eight and older receive a brief training session and learn how operate the snorkeling gear before leaving shore. Don’t forget to swing by the concession stand and refuel with a snack or buy a t-shirt commemorating our visit to the state park.
Step away from the hustle and bustle of work and over-crowded beaches and find utopia on Big Pine Key. The island boasts a family friendly and pet loving environment. Smaller Lower Keys islands located on either side of Big Pine Key include Big Torch, Little Torch, Sugarloaf, Big Coppitt, Cudjoe and Summerland. Lodging options are very limited on these keys, but offer even more opportunities for solitude and eco-tourism adventures. Saddlebunch Key is uninhabited and is comprised of a grouping of tiny mangrove filled islands and sandy lagoons. Charter a boat from Big Pine Key and explore the tiny tropical plots for unexpected discoveries and unparallelled sunset views.