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Before you go diving at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, stop by the wood-plank beach house that’s home to REEF, an organization that encourages citizen participation in the protection of reefs. Purchase an underwater survey kit and tally the yellowtail snapper, smooth trunkfish and other marine life you come across. When you resurface, send in your data and it will be entered into the organization’s international species database.

98300 Overseas Hwy., 305-852-0030,

2. Florida Keys Brewing Co.

In an enormous pastel-blue warehouse tucked away from Route 1, bearded Canadian Craig McBay brews beers inspired by his adoptive homeland: The Bale Beach is a hoppy American pale ale named after a neighbouring beach where illicit cargo regularly washed up in the 1970s. Locals gather at the reclaimed-wood counter when they’re not playing a round of giant Jenga or Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots (like we did).

200 Morada Way Islamorada, 305-916-5206,

3. Caribbean Watersports

Captain Dan, whose white mane is proof of his years of experience, knows everything there is to know about the spellbinding landscape of the Keys. You’ll learn that mangroves, those trees with exposed roots, protect the coast – and are full of creatures. As he steers his zodiac gently through hammocks (tree islands in marshy saltwater) you’ll spot crocodiles, iguanas and green herons. Bonus: He also knows where manatees hang out.

Reserve directly at Playa Largo Resort and Spa or at 305-852-4707,

Playa Largo Resort and Spa

Photo: Playa Largo Resort and Spa

4. Playa Largo Resort and Spa

Situated on 14 acres of lush forested land, this chic waterfront resort is three steps (built directly into the seawall) away from the turquoise sea. In the late afternoon, when the Sand Bar’s clock beckons, settle into a hammock to admire the sunset with a cocktail in hand. At Sol by the Sea, sit on the large terrace that extends directly over the water and dive into tempura-battered rock lobster served with mango rum butter. For a more secluded stay, reserve one of the 10 bungalows, and Kaitlin Nutty, the “Bungalow Ambassador,” will fill the fridge with your favourite snacks before you arrive.

97450 Overseas Hwy., 305-853-1001,

5. The Fish House

Stuffed pufferfish, seashell string lights hanging from the ceiling and walls plastered with old-timey maps: A night at this local institution will give you a healthy dose of Keys kitsch. The menu options are many, but you can’t go wrong with the classics, including an appetizer of conch fritters, crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, followed by the catch of the day, lightly breaded and swimming in a butter, lemon and sherry sauce.

102401 Overseas Hwy., 305-451-4665,

Frozen dessert

3 Spots for a key lime high

Key lime pie gets portable at Blond Giraffe, where a frozen slice (graham-cracker crust and all) is dipped in smooth chocolate and put on a stick.

92220 Overseas Hwy. Tavernier, 305-922-2400,


Since 2012, Kristie Thomas has run Key Largo Chocolates out of a neon-green bungalow decorated with pink flamingos. Try the dark, milk or white-chocolate truffles, stuffed with key lime cream.

100470 Overseas Hwy., 305-453-6613,


Chill out with a Key Lime Freeze, a cross between a milkshake and a float, at Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen, a bustling restaurant with lamp shades made out of licence plates.

99336 Overseas Hwy., 305-451-3722,



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