It’s been a brutally cold winter in the Midwest. Before everyone in the family gets too depressed, why not beat the winter doldrums by planning an island getaway? I’m not talking St. Bart’s or Aruba, but America’s Caribbean, the Florida Keys. The southernmost point in the U.S. is an easily accessible way to escape the winter chill and put the whole family in a sunnier mood.
Hit the Road
Fly into Miami or Fort Lauderdale, rent a car and head for the Overseas Highway. The 113-mile string of islands are connected by this one road, an engineering marvel that makes for a scenic family road trip. Since everything lies along the Overseas Highway, the Keys have a unique system of displaying addresses- it’s all by the Mile Marker. So look for the MM signs throughout your drive.
The Florida Keys, in particular Key West, are known for their wild side. You’ll still find plenty of dives like Sloppy Joe’s, where you’d never want to take your kids. But for a family vacation, consider experiencing the Keys’ other wild side. The Florida Keys are home to plenty of natural treasures where the dives involve snorkeling colorful reefs and the party animals are dolphins.
It’s just over an hour from Miami International Airport to Key Largo, the northernmost of the Florida Keys. If you’re only able to come for a long weekend, spending a few days in Key Largo and the Upper Keys is the way to go.
John Pennekamp State Park is a great place to spend a day kayaking and snorkeling. We made the Hilton Key Largo our home base. It’s a family-friendly resort with a beautiful stretch of white sand beach, something that can be tough to find in the Keys. There’s a kid-friendly pool, as well as an adults only pool. While there isn’t a drop-off kids club, there are plenty of activities, including daily arts & crafts, nightly bonfires with s’mores, plus a basketball and tennis court, along with a beachfront bean bag toss and ping pong. While the kids are busy playing in the sand, parents can kick back at the resort’s classic tiki bar.
The Keys are known as the sport fishing capital of the U.S. and the Hilton Key Largo lets kids in on the action by providing complimentary fishing poles.
Relax on the dock with your favorite fishing buddy and wait for a glimpse of the manatee that often stop by to visit. After a weekend in Key Largo, we found our attitudes were a little brighter, despite the subzero temperatures back home!