FLORIDA KEYS — Visitors are now just a finger tap away from comprehensive travel information and guidance from Key Largo to Key West with the free, newly released Florida Keys App.

The application currently is compatible with the OS 3.1.3 or later version of the iPhone, as well as iPod Touch and iPad. Users can travel the Keys with ease, accessing travel-related businesses, local weather, current events and venue locations, as well as interactive maps and videos that allow for an up-close and personal view of the Keys. Both GPS Tours and Audio Driving Tours also are expected to debut in a 2.0 version.

A fully loaded database includes information on accommodations of all types, restaurants, attractions, diving and fishing, boating, marinas and watersports, eco- and kayaking tours, dolphin encounters and even where to stroll the best art galleries or relax in an outdoor park.

Real-time travelers on vacation can even “share” their trip photos and posts and link directly to a Facebook account.

The free app can be downloaded from the App Store as part of iTunes, or by visiting http://floridakeysapps.com/.

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Marathon’s newest lodging property, the Holiday Inn Express & Suites at 13201 Overseas Highway, is slated to open Oct. 20 and will accept walk-ins and rooms booked directly with the property. The Holiday Inn Express main reservations system begins accepting reservations for arrivals after Nov. 5, 2010.

Smoke-free and pet-friendly, the newly constructed hotel has 134 rooms and is to offer complimentary hot breakfast featuring the hotel chain’s signature cinnamon buns. Other amenities include a marina with dockage, large outdoor pool, a 5,000-square-foot tiki bar and 24-hour fitness and business centers.

Guests can stay connected with free wireless high-speed Internet access in rooms and throughout the resort. Each suite features sofa beds, a microwave, refrigerator and wet bar.

For reservations before Nov. 5, call 305-289-0222. For reservations after that date, call 888-465-4329 or visit www.hiexpress.com.

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Affordable elegance is a key message at the Silver Palms Inn, Key West’s newest boutique hotel, that opened Oct. 7 in historic Old Town. The silver thatch palm, a rare and elegant tree native to Florida, inspired the name of the property that offers 50 deluxe contemporary guest rooms and suites surrounding a courtyard, deck and clean-lined pool.

Among the amenities are in-room microwaves and refrigerators, 40-inch LCD televisions, hypoallergenic pillows and duvets, free WiFi and wired Internet access, a fitness room, free covered parking and free breakfast.

Green initiatives include water and energy conservation and use of eco-friendly insulation and products.

In November, weekday rates start at $159 per night, plus tax. For information and reservations, visit www.silverpalmsinn.com.

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Now a member of the Keys Caribbean family of vacation resorts, the Historic Tavernier Hotel, located near mile marker (MM) 92 at 91865 Overseas Highway, recently renovated its 17 intimate rooms. All are outfitted with flat-screen TVs, WiFi in each room and phones with free local and long distance calls.

The homey, pet-friendly resort is a member of the environmentally focused Florida Green Lodging Program.

Rooms with queen or king beds start at $69 a night. A self-sufficient suite with four twin beds, microwave and refrigerator is a perfect accommodation for divers or families.

The Historic Tavernier Hotel is planning to open an on-site restaurant in November 2010, offering breakfast and lunch.
For more information, visit www.keyscaribbean.com/homes/tavernier/ or call 305-853-5015.

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Beginning March 10, 2011, travelers can take advantage of AirTran Airways’ nonstop jet service between Tampa, Fla., and Key West. The AirTran flights are to be offered once daily on Boeing 737 aircraft.

Flights are scheduled to depart from Tampa International Airport at 12:14 p.m. with arrivals at Key West International Airport at 1:19 p.m. Return flights to Tampa are scheduled to depart Key West at 12:59 p.m. and arrive in Tampa at 2:04 p.m.

From Tampa, passengers can take advantage of AirTran’s nonstop flights to approximately a dozen destinations.

One-way coach fares between Key West and Tampa are to begin at $118 per person plus taxes and fees.
AirTran also offers nonstop flights between Key West and Orlando, direct same-plane service between Key West and Atlanta and convenient connections in

Orlando and Atlanta to destinations around the AirTran Airways network.

For more information and to book a flight, visit www.airtran.com.

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Four-legged family members can join overnight travelers to Key Largo when they stay at Amy Slate’s Amoray Dive Resort, located at MM 104 bayside.

“If you’re a pet owner, you know how difficult it can be to travel. No one wants to leave a beloved companion behind,” said Slate, a dog lover herself.

A maximum of two pets is allowed per room and a $50 pet fee applies. Owners must supply a dog bed, and leashes are required on property. A map with dog-walking areas around the resort is provided to guests upon arrival.

The pet-friendly resort is offering a 20 percent savings coupon on accommodations to visitors traveling with pets, valid through Dec. 15, 2010.

For more information, call 800-426-6729 or 305-451-3595, or visit www.amoray.com.

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Visitors to Key Largo, known as the dive capital of the world, have a new opportunity to explore the area’s reefs and wrecks with the Key Largo Scuba Shack.

Located at 97684 Overseas Highway in Key Largo, the PADI-affiliated shop is positioned inside the Seafarer Resort at MM 97.8. The operation’s 37-foot Burpee dive vessel comfortably accommodates six to 10 divers on once-daily three-tank trips. Divers can customize a planned charter for morning, afternoon or night dive excursions.

According to shop manager Luke Popwell, the Scuba Shack offers complimentary divemaster guides with each charter, a for-purchase high-definition DVD video of customers’ dives and even a dip in the outdoor hot tub for a quick post-dive warm-up.

The Key Largo Scuba Shack is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (later for planned night dives). For more information, visit www.keylargoscubashack.com or call 305-735-4313.

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The Florida Keys Wild Bird Center recently celebrated its late founder, Laura Quinn, by renaming its visitors center, located at MM 93.6 in Tavernier, the Laura Quinn Wild Bird Sanctuary.

Quinn is fondly remembered as the driving force behind the Key Largo facility that she began 24 years ago. Lovingly described as the quintessential “bird lady,” she was known for her unflagging dedication and hard work as a pioneer in rehabilitating and caring for sick and injured birds.

Visitors to the center can take a self-guided tour along boardwalks and nature trails that allow a close look at resident hawks, ospreys, spoonbills, egrets and more. The scenic route also offers views of minnows and crabs along with colorful bromeliads enhancing the landscape and water’s edge. Highlights at the natural habitat include watching a late-afternoon bird feeding.

For information about the center, call 305-852-4486 or visit www.fkwbc.org.

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A new book titled “Historic Walking Guides: Florida Keys” brings to life the historic sights of the Keys island chain through a series of guided walks and a look back at their history.

Author Michelle Sheldone is a travel, history and conservation writer who resided in the Florida Keys for eight years. Her travel guide reflects the voices of many who live in and love the area, through tales of pirates and characters such as Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams, and gives a detailed history of the Florida Keys from their discovery to the present day.

The book includes a complete set of fully illustrated, themed walks around Key West, with other walks around Marathon and the smaller Keys in the chain. Also featured are historic eating, drinking and hotel suggestions in each town to accompany the walks.

For more information and to purchase the book, visit www.amazon.com or www.destinworld.com and enter the title.

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Key West’s Sebago Watersports, renowned for offerings including snorkeling, adventure cruise and champagne sunset catamaran excursions, recently introduced private catamaran yacht charters for guests seeking an exclusive on-the-water experience.

Passengers cruise on the elegant 41-foot Sebago Pelican, which offers plenty of deck space for sunning, outside and under-top seating, clear visquene windows that zipper down to keep out the elements, and a small below-deck galley, bathroom and dressing area. The vessel can accommodate up to 20 passengers for dinners, receptions, weddings or commitment ceremonies, birthday parties or corporate gatherings.

Among the Design Your Day excursion options are morning and afternoon snorkel and water-sports trips that include equipment, instruction, food and beverages; full-day adventure and relaxation charters featuring breakfast, lunch and beverages; sunset sails with wines, beers and hors d’oeuvres; and four-course sunset dinner cruises with wine pairings.

Charter fees range from $750 plus tax and gratuity for a sunset cruise for up to 10 people to $2,200 plus tax and gratuity for a full-day excursion for up to 20 people.

For more information, visit www.keywestsebago.com or call (305) 942-1992.

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Eaton Bikes, a popular bicycle rental and sales company at 830 Eaton St. in Key West, now offers two-hour bicycle tours around the island’s Old Town district. Led by an entertaining and knowledgeable guide, the treks include insights into Key West’s unique seafaring history, tropical plants and trees, architectural styles and more.

Locally sourced refreshments are provided, and the $30 per person tour cost includes the rental of a bike with basket and helmet. Tours are offered three times weekly and begin at Eaton Bikes.

The company also offers a variety of rental bicycles including cruisers, mountain bikes, adult three-wheelers and kids’ models available by the day, week or longer. Prices start at $12 per bike per day, with free bike delivery and pickup in Key West included.

For more information, visit www.eatonbikes.com or call (305) 294-8188.

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No matter what their actual time zone, beginning Nov. 4 television viewers can find tropical relaxation on “Key West Time,” a new series produced and shot in the Florida Keys. “Key West Time Starring Howard Livingston” showcases the island chain’s lifestyle through the eyes of Keys singer/songwriter Howard Livingston.

Keys landmarks, special events, history, popular hangouts, fishing and diving, cuisine, environmental wonders and laid-back attitude are all showcased, complemented by Keys-inspired tunes from Livingston and his Mile Marker 24 Band.

The program is scheduled to debut nationally Nov. 4 on the R&R television network, seen on DirecTV channel 354. Each episode will air Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET and repeat Sundays at 7:30 p.m. ET and Tuesdays at 11 p.m. ET. In addition, it will appear on Untamed Sports TV for Comcast and Capital Broadcasting viewers.

After their televised airing, episodes are to be archived and available on-demand at www.KeyWestTime.com so any time can be “Key West Time.”

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The Gardens Hotel, a historic boutique property at 526 Angela St. in Key West, recently debuted an innovative on-site wine bar. At the d’Vine Wine Gallery, an Enomatic dispensing system enables guests to sample a taste, half-glass or glass of 36 different vintages.

Patrons “order” their choice of wines and desired amount on one of the system’s touch screens, paying with a prepaid card similar to a debit card. Those staying at The Gardens, featuring 18 elegant rooms and suites on what was once Key West’s largest private estate, receive unlimited-use cards for their convenience during their stay.

As well as being open daily to hotel guests, the wine bar is open to the public from 5-10 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. The wine selection changes regularly, and bottles of all featured vintages are available for purchase.

The Gardens also offers a poolside tropical garden bar, live cabaret performances Thursday evenings and jazz in the garden Sunday evenings. For more information and reservations, visit www.gardenshotel.com or call 800-526-2664.

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Key West visitors can discover the island’s picturesque Old Town district and learn about its seafaring heritage on the Historic Key West Walking Tour, an entertaining and comprehensive 1.25-mile guided stroll.

Beginning at the Key West Shipwreck Treasures Museum at 1 Whitehead St., the tour includes an overview of the city’s diverse architectural styles, early shipwreck salvage industry, cigarmaking and sponge fishing eras and influence of the U.S. Navy. Famous and infamous residents, indigenous plant life and pivotal events such as the Great Fire of 1886 are spotlighted as well.

Tours are scheduled November through April at 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., and 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. May through October. Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 305-292-8990 or visiting www.trustedtours.com.

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For more travel information about the Florida Keys & Key West call, toll-free in the U.S. and Canada, 1-800-FLA-KEYS (800-352-5397) or explore the destination’s website at www.fla-keys.com. Facebook: The Florida Keys & Key West. Twitter: twitter.com/thefloridakeys.

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FOR MEDIA INFORMATION ONLY:
Contact: Andy Newman/Carol Shaughnessy
1-800-ASK-KEYS (800-275-5397) or (305) 461-3300
www.fla-keys.com/media

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