Big Pine & The Lower Keys Eco-Tours, Dolphin Encounters, Wildlife Displays
Beyond the Seven-Mile-Bridge, the islands suddenly take a westerly turn toward the sunset. And starting at Big Pine Key, there is suddenly more land than sea. For centuries, powerful tides have whipped back and forth between the islands of the Lower Keys. This action has formed a ring of tiny uninhabited mangrove islands and shallow grass flats to the north of the main islands. Welcome to the fabled Lower Keys backcountry, home to the glistening waters of the Content Keys and Snipe Point. At Big Pine Key or Sugarloaf Key, you can rent kayaks and explore portions of the backcountry on your own or sign up for a variety of guided tours. If you feel like taking a drive, you might head up the Keys to Bahia Honda State Park, where huge barracuda cruise through the sandy shallows.
Launch your kayak or canoe at Bahia Honda State Park and walk slowly through the calf-deep shallows. With any luck, you'll spot a four-foot barracuda scouting the white sand for a careless needle fish. You might even see a school of bonefish rooting for crabs. Out in the Lower Keys backcountry, it's not uncommon to spot a pod of dolphins feeding in water seemingly much too shallow for them. Paddle along the edges of the uninhabited mangroves and you are almost sure to see egrets, herons, kingfishers and white-crowned pigeons among other migratory and shallow-water bird life. On the Atlantic side, the mangrove-lined Coupon Bight is a popular kayaking destination at Big Pine Key. Experienced sea kayakers or those on popular guided tours can venture into the open ocean to snorkel over patch reefs at any of the Lower Keys.
But you don't have to take to the water to have an ecotour in the Lower Keys. Big Pine Key is famous for its pines and the diminutive version of the white tail deer that has evolved among them. Park along one of the roads passing through the National Key Deer Refuge and you are almost certain to see one of these deer. Please don't feed or pet them. Managers want to keep the Key Deer as wild as the Lower Keys backcountry itself.
BACKCOUNTRY KAYAKING TOURS
Reflections Nature Tours
Big Pine Kayak Adventures, Inc.
Florida Keys Kayaks, Canoes & Eco Tours
Great White Heron National Refuge
Keys Boat Tours