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The Florida Keys

9369661keymainFirst-time visitors to the Florida Keys comment almost immediately on the island chain's unique laid-back atmosphere that is a world away from big cities and theme parks.

It's the kind of ambiance that lured famed novelist Ernest Hemingway to reside in Key West from 1929 to 1939. The subtropical island's lush environment and colorful residents provided Hemingway substantial creative inspiration. Key West was his home when he wrote some of his most famous works including "For Whom the Bell Tolls," "To Have and Have Not" and "The Snows of Kilimanjaro." Hemingway's former residence, inhabited by descendants of his six-toed cats, today is a public museum that honors his literary prowess and the affection he had for his Key West lifestyle.

A necklace of islands that begins just south of Miami, the Florida Keys are connected by the Overseas Highway's 43 bridges - one almost seven miles long - over the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. The area is divided into five regions including Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, Big Pine and the Lower Keys, and Key West. Each region has its own special flavor, attractions including historic museums, flora, fauna, seafood restaurants, fishing, diving, watersports and unique, boutique-type shopping experiences.

Vistas of the Keys are dominated by emerald-green lagoons, deep-blue seas, nodding palms, rustling pines and olive-green mangroves. Sharing this eco-paradise are white herons, roseate spoonbills, pelicans, sea gulls, ospreys and countless underwater creatures.

The coastal waters of the entire 125-mile island chain, including its shallow water flats, mangrove islets and coral reefs, have been designated the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Multi-language visitor guides are available free of charge by writing to Florida Keys & Key West Tourist Development Council, P.O. Box 1147, Key West FL 33041 U.S.A. Downloadable brochures and videos are available at the official Florida Keys & Key West Web site at www.fla-keys.com. Or, in the U.S. and Canada, dial toll-free 1-800-FLA-KEYS (800-352-5397).

Information & Photo Provided "Courtesy of the Florida Keys & Key West Tourist Development Council" Photo By Steve Powell