They couldn’t import Florida sunshine to cold, rainy Toronto, but they did have a favourite Florida treat on hand.
Tourism reps from the Florida Keys and Key West set up a miniature “home” in the city’s downtown core on 06NOV and served up helpings of key lime pie to grateful locals and visitors.
There are many great places to explore in Florida, but Florida Keys and Key West Media Relations Manager Ashley Serrate said the art, local culture and history of the Florida Keys make it stand out from the rest of the Sunshine State. Key West is home to both the Ernest Hemingway home and the Harry Truman Winter White House, and has a vibrant culture that’s very LGBTQ friendly. I also enjoy the Audubon House and Tropical Gardens, where you’ll find nature drawings from Audubon himself and beautiful period furniture in a handsome home dating to the 1840s. The garden features weathered bricks, archways and a small pond underneath a thick canopy of trees.
Islamorada has an art walk in the Morada Way Arts and Cultural District on the third Thursday of every month, with local artists and artisans displaying their wares. It’s also a great spot for marinas that can take you out for great ocean fishing, which I got to enjoy a few years ago with great success.
In Key Largo you can go for a ride on the boat used to film the movie, “The African Queen,” with Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart. Key Largo is also well known for snorkeling and diving. Serrate recommends John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. You can take a glass bottom boat trip if you don’t want to get in the water.
History fans and visitors who like to get off the beaten track can take a ferry or a plane ride to Dry Tortugas National Park and explore Fort Jefferson, a handsome, brick fort that dates back to the U.S. Civil War. There is also fine swimming and snorkeling around seven undeveloped coral and sand islands.
Of course, the drive alone is half the fun. Serrate said the Keys go on for 125 miles (201 km’s) and that there are 42 bridges to cross.
“It’s one of America’s best road trips,” she said. “There are so many things to see and do, and the Keys are just a hop, skip and a jump away.”
Most visitors drive from Miami, but Serrate said Keys lovers also can hop on a flight from Fort Myers (less crowded than Miami) or take a ferry from Fort Myers.
As pieces of key lime pie were being cut, Florida Keys and Key West tourism rep Jerry Grymek of LMA Commnications called out to a Toronto tourist bus driver to come get a slice of Florida.
The man laughed.
“Can I get a taste of the weather there, too?”
KEY LIME PIE
There’s a bitter, long-standing debate in the Keys as to whether key lime pie should be topped with meringue or whipped cream.
Kermit’s is a famous spot in Key West where they use whipped cream, but the best version I have tried was at Blue Heaven in Key West. They do theirs with a nice, tart filling and a tall topping of meringue.
Serrate said Chef Michael’s in Islamorada makes a great key lime pie. At Burdine’s Waterfront Marina in Marathon they serve a fried key lime pie.
Serrate said key lime pie should be a pale yellow, not green.
“If it’s green, send it back.”
As for the great meringue/whipped cream debate, Serrate said she votes for neither.
“I like mine plain,” she said with a laugh. “I don’t want anything to interfere with the taste of the pie.”
WHERE TO STAY
Parrot Key Hotel and Villas is a fine family spot in Key West with several pools, lots of greenery and units with nice decks and porches. Amara Cay is a pretty, boutique-style property on the water in Islamorada. There is a sandy area with hammocks alongside a breakwall, with watersports rentals a few feet away.
At Everglades National Park, the all-new 24-unit Flamingo Lodge, including studios and one- and two-bedroom suites with kitchenettes and balconies overlooking Florida Bay, opened Nov. 1. Rates range from $259 to $399 per night, plus tax, through May 2024 with a 14-day maximum stay.
Marathon’s 125-unit Faro Blanco Resort, with a historic 1950s lighthouse, is undergoing renovations and a conversion to become Faro Blanco Resort, a Curio Collection by Hilton, in late 2023.
The legendary 311-room Casa Marina Key West, Curio Collection by Hilton, is to unveil its grand renovation this fall.
KEY WEST FLIGHTS
Key West International Airport (EYW) is currently undergoing a major expansion that’s to be completed by summer 2025. JetBlue is adding flights from Boston Logan (BOS), while Delta has flights from LGA and American Airlines flies in from Ronald Reagan DCA.
For the record, the high temperature in Key West on 06NOV was 80F, or nearly 27 Celsius.
THE KEYS IN CANADA
The Keys and Key West mini-home will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m on 07NOV and 08 NOV. It will be in Hamilton 09NOV and 10NOV. Visitors can enter a contest for a chance to win one of six two-night stays in the Keys and Key West.
More information: www.fla-keys.com