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Big Pine Key

Visit Big Pine Key and enjoy the best Florida holiday deals with your family in a tropical paradise setting far from the stress and bustle of metropolitan city life. Your loved ones are sure to enjoy diving and snorkeling among the powdery, white sand beaches of Big Pine's coasts or you can opt to laze around under the cool shade of palm trees in the myriad hotels and resorts which can be found around the area. Here are a few tips on how to better enjoy your holidays in Big Pine Key.

Relax in the laid-back atmosphere of the natural Florida Keys on Big Pine – only 30 miles from Key West, but worlds away. Hike through the wetlands and hardwood forests, explore the mangrove flats by kayak, or recline on sand or hammock beside the sunlit sea. The 9.8 square miles of Big Pine sit just 5 feet above sea level – both the Atlantic and the Gulf waters lap at Big Pine’s beaches and beckon visitors to explore their crystal-clear depths. Favorite area dive sites include the Looe Key Reef National Marine Sanctuary and the Adolphus Busch wreck off Cudjoe Key. Bahia Honda Beach, among the top-rated in the world, awaits at Mile Marker 37, just north of the Seven Mile Bridge. The sparkling white sand beaches and active shallow-water reef spurs make Bahia Honda the ideal spot for an afternoon bask beneath the radiant Florida sunshine.

Big Pine Key is the anchor of what is typically known as the Lower Keys, which stretches from the Spanish Harbor Keys below the Seven Mile Bridge south to Big Coppitt Key. Large environmental preserves and a comparatively low population density have saved the Big Pine area from destruction and commercialization, allowing you to enjoy the Keys as they were meant truly to be. Biking, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, camping, and lounging are favorite Big Pine activities. Alternatives for those seeking some action and excitement include fishing and diving charters, backcountry eco-tours, water sports, and dips with dolphins at the nearby marine parks. Unwind at the day’s end on a sunset cruise, followed by dinner and cocktails beside the starlit sea.

Plan your visit in April and enjoy the Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce Annual Jazz Festival at Parmer's Resort on Little Torch Key. July visitors won’t want to miss the Underwater Music Festival, when radio programs are broadcast through the waves surrounding Looe Key reef. Art & music festivals run throughout the year in Big Pine and the Lower Keys, as do a number of world-renowned offshore fishing tournaments.

Dining on Big Pine can be as casual or as upscale as you’d like, from fried conch fritters to decadent French desserts. Spend the day trolling the flats and bring your fresh catch to any of the local eateries that will prepare your fish any way you like. Among the more famous Big Pine Key restaurants are Bobalu’s Southern Café, Mangrove Mama’s, and Rob’s Island Grill. The romantic atmosphere and exquisite Asian-Floribbean cuisine at Little Palm Island truly makes you doubt you’ll ever leave the resort; and if you must go, the chefs will prepare a custom picnic basket for your trip home – or to the other side of Big Pine for a seaside luncheon. Finally, all visitors ought to ask directions to the well-hidden No Name Pub – it’s unquestionably worth the search, since their pizzas are even better than the unique décor.

The hotels of Big Pine Key strive to make your stay on the island as comfortable, relaxing, and pleasant as possible. You’ll truly feel as though you’ve escaped to paradise when you’re surrounded by lush tropical landscaping, refreshing pools and Jacuzzis, and rooms decorated in island-inspired rattan and bark cloth. Whether you choose a luxurious seaside resort or a secluded cottage, your visit to Big Pine is sure to be a pleasantly memorable one.

KEY DEER

A trip to Big Pine isn’t complete without a glimpse of the island’s most famous residents, the tiny Key deer. A subspecies of the Virginia white-tailed deer, Key deer are the smallest in the world – bucks average 80 pounds and between 28-32 inches at the shoulder, while does average 65 pounds and between 24-28 inches tall. They’re found only on Big Pine and the immediate surrounding islands, where the National Key Deer Refuge supports over 700 of the miniature creatures on nearly 9,000 acres of preserved land. After the deer dropped to a low population – possibly fewer than 30 animals – in 1957 and the Refuge was established, they’ve bounced back and can now be seen from the Johnson Keys to the Saddlebunch Keys.

Key Deer are most active at dusk and dawn, but rest in Big Pine’s endangered tropical hardwood hammock habitat during the heat of the day. Scattered across Big Pine are wildlife and Key Deer viewing areas, or you can stop at the Visitors Center on Key Deer Boulevard off U.S. 1. Don’t try to feed or approach the deer, and please obey Big Pine speed limits – over 70% of Key deer fatalities occur on the roadways, and the local government is fiercely protective of the little deer.

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