Since completing university, Paul has worked as a bookseller; librarian; and freelance writer. Born in the UK, he now lives in Florida.
A popular destination for fishing, boating, snorkeling, scuba diving, and vacationing generally, the Florida Keys are a coral island archipelago near the southeastern tip of the US state of Florida, starting about 15 miles (24 km) south of Miami and extending out in a southwest direction and then west toward the Gulf of Mexico. The islands lie along the Florida straits.
Below are my facts about the Florida Keys.
1. There are over 800 keys in total, stretching over 180 miles (290 km).
2. The longest key is Key Largo, which is 30 miles (48 km) long and 0.5 miles (0.8km) wide.
3. There are 42 bridges connecting the Florida Keys islands. The longest bridge, measuring 35,716 feet long, is the Seven Mile Bridge. Harris Gap bridge is shortest, at just 37 feet in length.
4. Before the arrival of Europeans, the Keys were inhabited by Tequesta and Calusa Native Americans.
5. Key West is the most populated city in the Keys.
6. Key West is the southern most city in the continental USA and is actually nearer to Havana, Cuba than to Miami, Florida.
7. Almost all the Florida Keys are in Monroe County, which has Key West as its county seat.
8. Because the Florida Keys archipelago is made up of many islands, the keys are often split up into groups. The group of islands farthest north are known as the Upper Keys. Below them are the groups known as the Middle Keys and the Lower Keys (Key West is located in the Lower Keys). A fourth group is known as the Outer Keys and is made up of islands that can only be accessed by boat.
9. The term “key” is a corruption of the Spanish word, “Cayo”, which means small island.
10. For a long time, Key West was the largest and busiest town in the whole of Florida, because it was close to the Bahamas and Cuba and provided a trade route up to New Orleans.
11. Key West and the Florida Keys were also associated with the wrecking industry for many years, with the workload peaking in the middle of the 19th Century, as more and more ships traveled the trade routes between the east coast of the USA, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Carbbean Sea. Heavy shipping, strong currents, and dangerous reefs meant that shipwrecks were occurring at a rate of once per week at one time.
12. Henry Flagler's Overseas Railway, which connected Key West to mainland Florida, was completed in the early 1910s, despite work being disrupted by hurricanes in 1906, 1909, and 1910.
13. In 1935 the Florida Keys were hit by one of the worst hurricanes ever to strike the USA. Winds with speeds of 200 miles per hour (320 km per hour) battered the islands and a storm surge of over 17.5 feet (5.3 m) flooded them. 500 people died in the hurricane and the Overseas Railway was severely damaged. (The hurricane occurred on Labor Day and is often referred to as the Labor Day Hurricane.)
14. The Overseas Highway was built to replace the Overseas Railway, after it was damaged by the 1935 hurricane, and the railroad bridges were converted to automobile roadways.
15. The climate of the Florida Keys is classified as tropical. The weather is hot and humid from June to October and relatively drier and cooler from November to May. The Keys are the only frost-free place in Florida.
16. Key West traditionally has strong ties with Cuba and after the revolution, many Cubans settled there. The Keys still experience escaping Cubans arriving on rafts from time to time.
17. The Keys has two airports: one catering for private planes at Marathon and one dealing with commercial flights in Key West.
18. The Florida Keys have long been associated with smuggling, both of illegal immigrants and illicit drugs. Despite increased efforts by Law Enforcement since the 1980s, drugs still continue to enter the USA via the Keys, typically in the form of cannabis and cocaine.
19. The Florida Keys area code is (305).
20. Since 1981 more than 23 artificial reefs have been created in the waters off the Keys, mainly through the sinking of ships, and these provide a home to many corals, tropical fish and other marine life.
Famous Residents of Key West (Past and Present)
Ernest Hemingway, author
Shel Silverstein, author, cartoonist and musician
Harry S. Truman, U.S. president
Tennessee Williams, author
Calvin Klein, fashion designer
Jimmy Buffett, musician
John Dewey, philosopher and psychologist
Shane Spencer, MLB outfielder
Boog Powell, baseball player
Amber McDonald, actress
Paul Cotton, musician
What's the Best Time of Year to Visit the Florida Keys?
I would recommend visiting either from March to early June, or between November and mid-December. There are three reasons for this:
- You are less likely to get hit by a hurricane during these times.
- The sun is not overbearing.
- The popular areas are not overrun with tourists.
Key West vs Key Largo: Which is Best?
If you are seeking lots of places to eat and drink, and things to do, then I would recommend Key West. Key Largo is generally a quieter experience, but there is more nature to explore.
When is Hurricane Season in the Florida Keys?
Hurricane seasons runs from June through November. September has the highest probability of severe tropical storms. Less harsh showers and thunderstorms are regular occurrences during this period, although typically they are fairly short-lived and happen in the mornings.
How Long Does it Take to Drive From Miami to Key West?
The road journey is about 4 hours timewise, the distance being 159 Miles (256 km). Driving the Overseas Highway is a unique and fun experience. The scenery is wonderful and unforgettable.
Questions & Answers
Question: Do the Florida Keys ever get hit by hurricanes?
Answer: Unfortunately, yes they do, some of them deadly and destructive. The worst hurricane was the one that struck on Labor Day in 1935 when wind speeds reached 200 mph (320 km/h) and caused a storm surge of over 17.5 feet (5.3 m) above sea level. Over 400 people were killed by the hurricane.
Question: Are the Florida Keys fun to visit?
Answer: The Florida Keys are an awesome destination. There some excellent state parks and beaches, you can visit the Hemingway House, snorkel or dive. There are some great restaurants and bars too. Perhaps not the cheapest destination, but worth it if you like the island life.
Question: How close are the Florida Keys to Cuba?
Answer: The southern part of Key West is nearest to Cuba, just 90 miles (140 km) away.
© 2012 Paul Goodman
Paul Goodman (author) from Florida USA on August 31, 2020:
Mid 70's F is typical.
Jerry on August 30, 2020:
What is the normal temperature in April in the Keys?
lizzie on February 11, 2020:
how hot can it get
hola on January 26, 2020:
wandering what some facts about resouces and how it formed
Grace on January 23, 2020:
i love the florda keys
hello on January 06, 2020:
thx for calling customer support
Pollotrapical on November 14, 2019:
HELLO COME TO POLLOTRAPICAL AND TRY OUR NEW VEGAN STYLE RICE
Caron on October 08, 2019:
Interesting reading, thank you.
Me on September 17, 2019:
the keys are so cool!
School on May 15, 2019:
Doing school work thx for helping.
Phantom on April 22, 2019:
thanks this really helped my report
ABC on April 10, 2019:
good to know!!! Great article!!!
MY NAME IS JEFF on April 10, 2019:
:P THIS IS AWESOME
Paul Keever from Key Largo Florida on April 09, 2019:
We Love the Keys, Sailing , Kayaking, Snorkeling, Biking, Diving , Bird watching, Fishing, Exploring, Warm water, great Sunsets and down right very nice residents. I know, I am Paul Keever a 20 year resident in Key Largo / owner of Key Lime Sailing Club and Cottages and I LOVE THE FLORIDA KEYS!
"The Keys EAST TO REACH HARD TO FORGET"
larim on April 02, 2019:
i like it
Angie Zarro on March 15, 2019:
Florida keys is probably the BEST vacation I’ve ever been on!! It’s super fun and has lots of things to do:)
butt on February 13, 2019:
i like icecream
big bitch on January 29, 2019:
this really good information thank you
JS on January 27, 2019:
When is the best time to visit the keys?
hh on November 13, 2018:
it seams like fun
jj on October 05, 2018:
Mary on June 29, 2018:
The Keys are an amazing place to go to! So many fun things to do!
Linda Andrus on May 26, 2018:
Love it there.I did find it's not handicap accessible a lot of things.I also had a hard time getting a parking place.
Alice on May 09, 2018:
This is a good article
Jayce on March 18, 2018:
Breana Froggatte on February 17, 2018:
After reading the article I want to go to Key West!
Craig on February 16, 2018:
Going to Key West next week, it was a good article to read before the trip from Minneapolis.
Breana Froggatte on February 15, 2018:
I have been to Florida I thought that the article was very interesting
Ha, on January 10, 2018:
jacquai kilkenny on November 07, 2017:
that is cool
Suzette Walker from Taos, NM on June 10, 2012:
This is quite an interesting and informative article! Welcome! I also live in Florida (Naples) and I must say I learned some new facts about the Keys from your article. I'm never to old to learn - lol! I also like the photo. I've been to the Keys and they are beautiful and I love the laid back atmosphere and culture. I have been to all the major keys and each one is interesting and unique. Thanks for the "facts"!