FLORIDA KEYS — Every day is full of natural wonders throughout the Florida Keys, known for their sweeping, scenic backdrops of earth, sea and sky.
The Florida Keys & Key West encompass 10 state parks, two national parks — Dry Tortugas National Park and the Flamingo district of Everglades National Park — and four federally protected havens: National Key Deer, Great White Heron, Key West and Crocodile Lake national wildlife refuges.
Throughout April, Keys visitors and residents can celebrate Earth Day with unique outdoor activities to be experienced only in the Florida Keys. This year’s Earth Day is Sunday, April 22. Among Earth Day celebrations:
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo is to celebrate Earth Day with the theme, “Do One Thing for the Earth,” at its visitor center and aquarium. The park also is to offer a ranger-led nature walk Sunday, April 22. Children can participate in crafts at the visitor center, which is offering extended hours on Earth Day from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Located at 102601 Overseas Highway at mile marker 102.5, Pennekamp was the first undersea park in the United States. Its mangrove swamps, coral reefs and wildlife offer visitors a unique state park experience. Visit floridastateparks.org or call 305-451-6300.
Key Largo’s Reef Environmental Educational Foundation, or REEF, holds two Earth Day–related events in April. A monthly seminar set for Tuesday, April 10, is to feature University of Miami marine biology and ecology professor Martin Grosell discussing “In the wake of an environmental disaster – is there a silver lining?” The event begins at 6:15 p.m. at REEF headquarters, 98300 Overseas Highway, with complimentary appetizers, beer and wine and a 7 p.m. presentation. From 12 to 2 p.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, April 19, shoppers at Whole Foods Market stores in Broward and Palm Beach counties can sample lionfish ceviche and learn how to filet lionfish at the stores’ seafood departments. Five percent of the day’s net sales in the two South Florida counties will be donated to REEF for support of the 2018 REEF Lionfish Derby Series, held throughout the summer in several Florida locations. The Key Largo derby is scheduled Friday through Sunday, Sept. 14-16, at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Visit reef.org or call 305-852-0030.
In Marathon, Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters, where participants immerse themselves in a 200,000-plus-gallon saltwater tank, is to offer “Go Green and Save Green” encounter experiences on Earth Day with special-value tickets. A Coral Reef Regulator or certified dive experience is priced from $99 per person, while a Coral Reef Snorkel is priced from $89 per person. Stingray Encounter is priced from $45 per person, excluding taxes. The special values are valid Sunday, April 22. Tickets must be purchased on Earth Day; no advance purchases are allowed. Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters is located at 11710 Overseas Highway. Visit FloridaKeysAquariumEncounters.com or call 305-407-3262.
On Grassy Key, Dolphin Research Center is to sponsor the annual Tom’s Harbor Bridge Cleanup and Earth Day Celebration April 19, from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Volunteers can collect and remove discarded trash, monofilament fishing line and other debris at Tom's Harbor Bridge at mile marker 62. Participants should bring a reusable water bottle, bug repellent and sunscreen. Water, scissors, trash bags, gloves and hand sanitizer are to be provided. Founded in 1984, the nonprofit Dolphin Research Center specializes in presenting marine mammal education and research programs to the public. Home to a family of Common bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions, the center is located at 58901 Overseas Highway at mile marker 59. For the bridge cleanup date and details, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. For information about Dolphin Research Center, visit dolphins.org or call 305-289-1121.
A new Straw-less Key West campaign, initiated by Reef Relief, is reducing the use of straws, harmful as debris that can end up in the ocean, in bars and restaurants. The campaign provides customers with only-on-request straws. The campaign, launched in January, includes more than 60 participants, including: Blue Heaven, La Grignote, Santiago’s Bodega, Key West Bed and Breakfast, Sunset Pier, Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar & Restaurant, Sinz Burritos and Brews, Charlie Mac’s, Mary Ellen’s, Island Dogs, Bagatelle, First Flight Brewery, nine one five, Hot Tin Roof, Blackfin Bistro, Turtle Kraals, Firefly Key West, Paradise Pizza, Croissants de France, Pepe’s Cafe, ViV Wine and Cheese Bar, Grimal Grove, Grand Cafe, Shanna Key Irish Pub & Grill, The Porch, Thirsty Mermaid, Garbo’s Grill, Sugar Apple, The Cafe, Keys Coffee Co., Ocean Key Resort & Spa, LIQUID, Cork and Stogie, Geiger Key Marina, The Green Pineapple Cafe, Mangoes, La Creperie French Cafe, Date & Thyme, Amigos Tortilla Bar and The Green Room. Reef Relief also offers “tips for eco-friendly living” on its website. Reef Relief is located at 631 Greene St. in Key West. Visit ReefRelief.org, email email@example.com or call 305-294-3100.
In Key West, revelers age 21 and older can celebrate Earth Day with a “fugitive band of hippies from the 1960s who have been hiding out and performing in Key West.” The “Earth Day Jam with That Hippie Band” is scheduled Saturday, April 21, at Key West Theater, 512 Eaton St., with tickets priced from $25 to $35 per person. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show begins at 8 p.m. The band reunites Keys musicians to play favorites from popular 1960s bands such as the Grateful Dead, the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Jefferson Starship and Crosby, Stills & Nash. Visit thekeywesttheater.com or call 305-985-0433.
The 22nd Annual Earth Day 5K Run Walk Key West, sponsored by the Florida Keys Wildlife Society, the friends group for the National Wildlife Refuges of the Florida Keys, is to begin at 8 a.m. Saturday, April 21, at McCoy Indigenous Park. Participants can pre-register and pick up packets 5-7 p.m. Friday, April 20, at the park, located at 1801 White St. Pre-registration is priced from $10 to $15, with a free race T-shirt for the first 100 registered participants; registration is free for children under age 5. Earth-friendly recyclable awards await the top overall winners. Proceeds benefit the Florida Keys Wildlife Society. The event is co-sponsored by Key West Southernmost Runners Club. Visit floridakeyswildlifesociety.org/earth-day-5k or call 305-731-6362.
Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park is to celebrate Earth Day in Key West with live historical re-enactments of life during the Civil War from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, April 21-22, at the park’s Fort Zachary Taylor. Presentations include interpretations and demonstrations of weapons and camp life with costume-attired Union and Confederate soldiers, townspeople, craftspeople and performers who re-enact the period of 1861-1862. The educational re-enactments share the rich history of Fort Taylor, completed in 1866 as one of a series of forts built in the mid-1800s to defend the nation’s southeastern coastline. Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park is located at 601 Howard England Way. Visit floridastateparks.org/park/Fort-Taylor or call 305-292-6713.
The Key West Turtle Museum is to host an Earth Day celebration Sunday, April 22, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The publi is invited to tour the museum, located at 200 Margaret St., to explore a new exhibit about sea turtles’ role in Key West’s unique history. Visitors can meet a young loggerhead sea turtle and staff from Marathon’s Turtle Hospital, which opened more than 30 years ago as the world’s first state-licensed veterinary sea turtle hospital. They also can discover ways to help keep beaches and oceans safe for nesting turtles with the Key West Sea Turtle Club. The museum showcases the history of sea turtle fishing in the early Florida Keys and emphasizes today’s conservation efforts. The free-admission facility is open Thursday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visit keywestturtlemuseum.org or call 305-294-0209.
The Key West Aquarium is to commemorate Earth Day Friday through Monday, April 20-23, with themed educational programs, creature “meet and greets,” scavenger hunts, games and prizes. Special Earth Day activities are scheduled for 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. The aquarium opened in 1935 as one of the first family-friendly attractions in the Keys, and is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Children can touch small sea creatures and interact with them through a touch tank. Key West Aquarium is located at 1 Whitehead St. Visit keywestaquarium.com or call 305-296-2051.
Mote Marine Laboratory’s Ocean Fest: A Community Celebration is slated for 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, April 14, to celebrate the unique marine environment of the Florida Keys island chain. The free-admission event is to be held at Key West’s Truman Waterfront Park and the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center, a visitor facility for the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary at 35 E. Quay Road. Attendees can explore conservation and environmental exhibits, experience touch tanks, meet live marine animals, hear insights from Mote scientists and researchers, view and purchase works by local marine artists and craftspeople, and rock to live music. Marine life artist Wyland is to give painting demonstrations and auction his work to support the Keys’ underwater environment. In addition, two free fishing clinics are planned for children. Proceeds support coral reef restoration and research programs of Mote, a nonprofit research organization based in Sarasota, Florida, with a field station on Summerland Key. Visit moteoceanfest.org or call 305-809-4750.
Throughout the Keys
A “Got Your Bags? Florida Keys” campaign encourages voluntary reduction of single-use plastic bags and the adoption of reusable bags to decrease marine debris and litter in the Keys. The Keys’ Green Living & Energy Education organization, a nonprofit dedicated to education and promoting sustainable living in the Keys, launched the grass-roots initiative. Visitors can find complimentary reusable bags at Chambers of Commerce offices throughout the Keys or at environmentally friendly events. Visit facebook.com/keysglee or email firstname.lastname@example.org. In the Village of Islamorada, call 305-664-6411.
The Florida Keys' tourism council’s “Ten Keymandments for Keys Travelers” are offered to guide visitors in how to have meaningful, memorable vacations while respecting and helping preserve the Florida Keys & Key West’s unique environment. Surrounded by nearly 3,000 square nautical miles of national marine sanctuary waters, the Keys are home to the continental United States’ only living coral barrier reef. “The Ten Keymandments” suggest activities such as planting or adopting a coral, leaving only digital footprints and capturing lionfish. Visit fla-keys.com/greentravel/ten-keymandments.cfm to learn more about the “Keymandments.”
Florida Keys green travel information: fla-keys.com/greentravel
Florida Keys visitor information: fla-keys.com or 1-800-FLA-KEYS
Volunteers can join the Dolphin Research Center to collect and remove discarded trash, monofilament fishing line and other debris at Tom's Harbor Bridge at mile marker 62.
Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park is to celebrate Earth Day in Key West with live historical re-enactments of life during the Civil War.
The free-admission Mote Marine Laboratory’s Ocean Fest: A Community Celebration event is to be held at Key West’s Truman Waterfront Park and the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center.
“Ten Keymandments for Keys Travelers” guide visitors to have meaningful, memorable vacations while respecting and helping preserve the Florida Keys & Key West’s unique environment.