“A lonely island off the coast of Florida, sultry and sensual, enveloped by the sinister threat of the sea.” That was Key Largo, loudly at least in 1948 Cinema trailer of the Humphrey Bogart thriller of the same name. A not-so-lonely island off the coast of Florida, humid and touristy, encased in bungalows, hotels, boat rentals, pubs and fast-food places, one could say seven decades later.
So pretty ugly? No, that is at most the immediate view from “Route 1” when you turn from the Florida mainland onto this first larger island. Behind the development there are mangroves, palm trees, bird sanctuaries and the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park one of the most famous diving spots in the USA. and Key Largo is just the beginning. Hundreds of tiny to medium-sized islands stretch from the coast south of Miami out into the open sea like pearls on a chain. This chain, in turn, is not a metaphor. It’s made of concrete and steel and is called Overseas Highway. Cars then roll into the mostly bright blue of the American tropics, the Florida Keys.
Why the hamster wheel when there are flip-flops?
Here in the extreme south of the USA there is little to be felt of the retirees’ mecca that Germans in particular often associate with Florida. The proximity to the Caribbean, to the multicultural Metropole Miami and to the loneliness of the Everglades National Park shapes the atmosphere. There are luxury resorts for the rich here, but the Keys are particularly fond of presenting themselves as the home of dropouts and cross-minds. There are still allusions to the buccaneers who once made the islands unsafe die Station “Pirate Radio”. In the meantime, many a hippie dream has come true here, as brightly colored signs on shops and the stressedly relaxed attitude of the locals underline. Why trample on the hamster wheel of the cities when there is life in flip-flops?
Now and then it gets hectic on the Keys. The National Weather Service lists the islands as one of the most hurricane-threatened areas in the United States. Although they have been spared worse storms for years, that remains Risk especially between mid-August and the end of September. But if this time is over and the compatriots in New York and Chicago arm themselves with their winter coats against blizzards, then in the Florida Keys: hardly anything happens. Or rather what people dream of in winter coats. The “Sunshine State” Florida has earned its name and the Keys offer almost seamless summer with an annual average temperature of 25 degrees.
Palm trees, sun, sea – so off to the beach? The Keys promise a good life, but they do not pass as a bathing paradise. After all, you should not jump into the water directly from “Route 1”, nor are mangroves the ideal environment for this. A coral reef almost everywhere prevents sand from collecting on the banks. Next to the island Islamorada Beach fans are at least offered the Bahia Honda State Park as a stop. Those who have paid admission to the park can, depending on their mood, rent bicycles or kayaks or look for a spot on the kilometer-long white sand. However, it is not advisable to jump into the almost crystal-clear Atlantic Ocean: the water here is so shallow that you sometimes wade hundreds of meters before something like swimming is possible.
At the height of Bahia Honda you can admire what some at the beginning of the 20th century called the eighth wonder of the world – the Overseas Railway. In 1935, a hurricane of the century tore the still young prestige project with it. Train travel between Miami and Key West has been history again since then. the “Friends of Old Seven” trying today to save what can be saved and to make the relics part of a new ecotourism. Anglers and joggers use the construction of the former railway bridge for themselves. Next to it runs today with the new Seven Mile Bridge, one of the most spectacular sections of the Overseas Highway – now it is not far to Key West.
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