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June 09, 2009

The Florida Keys: Then and Now

The face of paradise is changing, but fishing still excels

12 Top Keys Contacts
Visit the following websites to find just a sample of the fishing trips that await you in the Florida Keys as well as a potential itinerary for places to visit when the weather keeps you off the water. (Attractions are listed by "mile-marker" - from east (Key Largo) to west (Key West) - the traditional way a Conch might describe their location.)

Florida Keys Tourism Council. An excellent source of information on traveling and fishing in the Keys.  www.fla-keys.com

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo (mile marker 102.5).  Try snorkeling or scuba trips to a coral reef three miles offshore or kayak and canoe trails. www.pennekamppark.com

Theater of the Sea, Islamorada (mile marker 84.5). This 17-acre marine-mammal facility offers guided tours, snorkel cruises and a chance to swim with dolphins. www.theaterofthesea.com

World Wide Sportsman, Islamorada (mile marker 81.5). Owned by Bass Pro Shops, World Wide Sportsman is the biggest fishing-tackle store in the Keys.  Climb aboard the full-size replica of Hemingway's Pilar[[ital]], and visit the Zane Grey Lounge upstairs. www.basspro.com

Bud N' Mary's Fishing Marina, Islamorada (mile marker 79.8). Historical Keys marina; home to more than 40 charter captains and backcountry guides. www.budnmarys.com

Robbie's Marina, Islamorada (mile marker 77.5). Feed hundreds of tarpon swimming around Robbie's docks.

Dolphin Research Center, Marathon (mile marker 59). Dolphin and sea-lion demonstrations. Swim with the dolphins: www.dolphins.org.

Bahia Honda State Park, Big Pine Key (mile marker 37). One of the few sandy beaches in the Keys, and a popular camping, swimming and snorkeling location. Big Pine is also home to key deer, only 26 to 32 inches tall. www.bahiahondapark.com

Sea Boots Charters, Summerland Key (mile marker 24.5). Solid source of fishing advice in the Middle and Lower Keys. www.seaboots.com

Sloppy Joe's, 201 Duval Street, Key West.  Lots of Ernest Hemingway memorabilia. www.sloppyjoes.com

Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Museum, 200 Greene St., Key West.  Shipwreck treasures, exhibits of cannons, gold, jewels from Spanish galleons. www.melfisher.org

Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, 907 Whitehead St., Key West.  A must-visit in Key West. See Hemingway's writing room, gardens and the 60 cats that live there. www.hemingwayhome.com