FLORIDA KEYS — Families now can indulge in a uniquely private tropical getaway experience at the northernmost tip of Key Largo. The 2,500-acre members-only Ocean Reef Club community is offering a variety of children’s summer camps for nonmember family vacation guests between June and August.
While parents relax in well-appointed accommodations at The Inn, children ranging in age from 4 to 17 can enroll in day camps and weeklong camps such as the Don Law Golf Academy & US Kids Camp, where young golfers master fundamentals and solidify strategies with a PGA professional teaching staff.
During the Orvis Fly Fishing Camp, hopeful anglers learn the basics of fly casting, tying flies, essential knots and fighting fish as well as catch-and-release techniques.
Other sports camps include tennis, scuba diving, sailing and the multiactivity Reef Discovery Camp that features snorkeling, dolphin encounters, go-karting, wakeboarding, beach camp-outs and bonfires.
Ocean Reef Club also offers an overnight option for campers. Participating children can stay at The Inn with their parents or bunk with fellow campers in dormitory-style housing with supervision.
For complete details about Ocean Reef Club’s summer camp experiences, visit www.oceanreef.com or call the concierge at 305-367-6516.
For landlubber visitors looking for an enjoyable and affordable family activity, Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park has reopened two nature trails for walking and cycling through its tropical hardwood hammock.
The Port Bougainville Trail forms a two-mile-long loop, while the shorter trail is one mile. Use of the trail no longer requires a backcountry permit and visitors are encouraged to stay on the designated trail path.
The main entrance and marked nature trail are located on Monroe County Road 905, approximately a half-mile north of the road’s intersection with US Highway 1 at mile marker (MM) 106. An honor-system donation of $2.50 is requested for admission to the site.
Additional backcountry trails can be explored by visitors who complete a backcountry permit at the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park Ranger Station.
To learn more about the Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park, visit www.floridastateparks.org/keylargohammock/activities.cfm.
Registered guests at Key Largo’s Kona Kai Resort and Gallery, located at 97802 Overseas Highway, can enjoy complimentary self-guided tours through the property’s new botanic gardens — one of the first ethnobotanic gardens in the southeast United States. Ethnobotany is the exploration of how indigenous plants in a region are used as food, shelter, clothing or medicine.
Kona Kai has partnered with a resident botanist to conduct formal tours, presentations and events within the gardens. All are designed to showcase the elegant, unusual plants that help people become more in tune with nature, and perceive plants and the natural world as a whole.
Guided appointment-only tours for the general public are available as well, weather permitting. Tours are 90 minutes long and limited to six adults. Tour times are Tuesday and Saturday at 9:30 a.m. and Thursday at 4:30 p.m. A $15 donation is required.
For more information visit www.konakairesort.com.
Dedicated to collecting, preserving and displaying artifacts, antiques and photographs relative to diving and its heritage, the Florida Keys History of Diving Museum is to host free “Immerse Yourself” educational lectures through September. The museum contains artifacts and ephemera covering 4,000 years of diving history.
A select group of qualified and trained individuals is to help tell the story of mankind’s attempts to explore, understand and venture under the sea, through informal talks planned for 7 p.m. on the third Wednesday of each month.
Topics range from the evolution and heritage of handcrafted dive helmets to an informative session with world-record holder and legendary diver Neal Watson.
September’s lecture topic is “Founder’s Choice” to be presented by Dr. Sally E. Bauer, the museum’s owner and co-founder. Bauer recently was inducted into the Women Divers Hall of Fame.
As president of the museum’s board of directors, she is working on sharing the story of man’s underwater exploration by establishing the Bauer Research Library as a resource for scholars, historians and museum members.
For details, visit www.divingmuseum.org.
Captain Hook’s Marina & Dive Center now is offering snorkeling and sunset cruise excursions at a second location, from the Tarpon Creek Marina behind Marathon’s new Holiday Inn Express & Suites at MM 53.5.
A Corinthian catamaran accommodates up to 49 snorkelers, and tours depart at 8:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. daily, weather permitting. Sunset cruises featuring champagne and hors d’ oeuvres depart one hour before sunset, and require a minimum of eight persons.
Cost for each tour is $25 per person including gear for snorkel excursions. For information call 1-877-CPT-HOOK (278-4665) or visit www.captainhooks.com.
A new water recreation area is open at Marathon’s Dolphin Research Center, a nonprofit marine mammal research and education facility at MM 59 in Marathon. The Shawn Rodriguez Family Sprayground, named in honor of the center owners’ late son, provides a cool activity for youngsters and adults. Sprayground visitors initiate whale, manatee and dolphin sounds while splashing through sprays of water that shoot out of marine and island-themed figures including a super-size dolphin tail.
The Sprayground also embodies Dolphin Research Center’s commitment to environmental conservation, with the installation a rainwater reclamation system throughout the facility. The filtered and recirculated water helps power the Sprayground’s water features and irrigates the landscaping.
The center also offers a new interactive program called Dolphin Explorer. Up to four participants can meet the facility’s Atlantic bottlenose dolphins and play together, becoming part of research efforts and research-related activities as the staff and scientists study dolphin cognition and behavior.
Participants must be age 5 or older and be able to understand English. An adult must accompany kids ages 5 through 8.
Use of the Sprayground is included in the price of admission. Admission cost is $20 per person for adults, $17.50 for active military members and veterans, $15 for children ages 4-12 and free for children age 3 and under.
To learn about all the programs and activities at Dolphin Research Center, visit www.dolphins.org.
Bahamas Air, provided by Airstar Executive Airways, is offering Friday and Sunday charter flights between Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Florida Keys Marathon Airport in the Middle Keys.
The twice-weekly flights depart Marathon at 10 a.m., while return flights arrive at Marathon at 3 p.m.
One-way flight cost is $169 per person and round-trip fare is $299 per person. Free parking at the Marathon airport is available.
For details and booking information, call 754-200-0005 or visit www.flybahamasexpress.com/marathon.
Southernmost Hotel Collection, a group of four unique properties adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean in Key West’s historic Old Town, recently added spa services to its guest amenities.
The menu of services at The Spa at Southernmost features relaxing Swedish massage and stimulating deep-tissue massage for individuals or couples. Available in-room or in an oceanfront cabana, massages range from 30 to 80 minutes.
Other indulgent offerings include facials, waxing and manicures and pedicures from traditional to the Pinot Noir Manicure and Champagne Pedicure.
The Southernmost Hotel Collection includes the 19-room La Mer Hotel & Dewey House, 506-504 South St., a AAA Four Diamond bed-and-breakfast in a pair of historic homes on an Atlantic beach; Southernmost Hotel, 1319 Duval St., with 126 guest rooms, and the 124-room Southernmost on the Beach, 508 South St.
What combines mind and body relaxation, healthful exercise and an eco-experience in Florida Keys waters? Paddleboard yoga classes from Lazy Dog, a unique outdoor adventure company located at Hurricane Hole Marina, 5114 Overseas Highway on Stock Island.
The two-hour classes are divided equally between paddling time and yoga practice. Participants first paddle out to the calm backcountry waters, spotting sea life and wading birds along the way. The yoga experience is designed to still the mind and increase flexibility and strength through chanting, breathwork and seated and standing postures — all using the board as a “mat” while connecting with nature in a tranquil mangrove setting. The class ends with a paddle back to the dock.
Morning and sunset classes are available, and beginners through experienced yoga practitioners are welcome. Cost is $20 per class.
For more information, and to learn about Lazy Dog’s other kayaking and paddleboard adventures, visit www.lazydog.com.
The January 2012 centennial anniversary of the Oversea Railway’s completion is being celebrated in the Florida Keys with activities including railroad-themed bicycle tours of Key West, the track’s endpoint.
The Oversea Railway connected the Florida Keys to the Florida mainland and each other for the first time. Its track stretched more than 100 miles out into open water via a series of bridges and viaducts regarded as an engineering marvel.
Showcasing sites connected to the railroad and its founder, Standard Oil tycoon Henry Flagler, the Flagler Bicycle Tours are presented by the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail.
Tours are set for 9 a.m. to noon on the first Saturday of each month through December, except May and July, when dates are May 21 and July 9. The route starts and ends at the Casa Marina Resort, 1500 Reynolds St., originally conceived by Flagler to accommodate wealthy passengers traveling on the railroad.
Tours are limited to 15 participants, and riders should provide their own bicycles, helmets, sunscreen and cameras. The tour is free, but riders can pay an optional $8 for admission to two featured museums along the route.
To register, call Cristina Lindley at 305-293-7658 or email email@example.com.
Marriott’s Courtyard Key West Waterfront, located at 3031-41 N. Roosevelt Blvd. in the island city’s New Town district, recently completed a $750,000 lobby renovation and meeting space expansion.
Guests enter the three-story property, which contains 42 rooms and 26 suites, via the new contemporary-style lobby decorated in vivid primary colors. Its attractions include free WiFi service and computer terminals, a 55-inch LCD touch screen offering local information and a 24/7 snack-and-sundries shop offering Starbucks coffee and tea.
The property’s 675-square-foot meeting space also has been renovated and provides a comfortable setting for up to 40 people.
All guestrooms at the Courtyard Key West Waterfront feature queen or king beds, wired Internet access and a balcony or patio. Family suites are available.
Other amenities include free parking and complimentary shuttle service to Key West’s historic downtown shopping and dining district.
For information and reservations, visit www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/eywcy-courtyard-key-west-waterfront/ or call 800-853-1153.
Visitors eager to learn about Key West’s multifaceted history can do so on the Key West Historic Marker Tour recently debuted by historian Bruce Neff. The customized 90-minute walking tours, designed for groups of up to 14 people, spotlight 30 sites in Key West’s historic district and cover nearly 500 years.
As well as showcasing individual historic sites and the people who made Key West history, the tour includes exclusive access to the seventh-story rooftop deck of the Crowne Plaza La Concha Hotel at 430 Duval St. From its rooftop, tour participants can get a birds-eye vista of the century-old architecture, subtropical foliage and harbor area that characterize the island city.
History buffs can learn even more at www.keywesthistoricmarkertour.org. There they will find in-depth information on selected historic sites, an unparalleled collection of cigar box art and labels from Key West’s once-flourishing cigar industry and more. They also can access a free phone tour by dialing 305-507-0300.
Guided walking tours start daily at 10 a.m. outside the Key West Museum of Art & History at the Custom House, 281 Front St. The tax-deductible cost is $25 per person.
For details, visit www.keywesthistoricmarkertour.org or call 305-731-0804.
The last tall ship assembled in Key West, the historic Schooner Western Union, has resumed passenger excursions following a two-year, $1 million renovation.
The 130-foot vessel, the flagship of the City of Key West, underwent an overhaul that included replacing numerous hull, transom and deck planks and refitting all electric, plumbing, engine and steering mechanisms.
Originally launched in 1939, Western Union is the last surviving example of a traditional American coasting schooner. It served the Western Union Telegraph Co. for 35 years and is believed to be the world’s only surviving sailing cable ship.
Passengers can set sail on two-hour nightly sunset cruises that include complimentary refreshments, live music and an opportunity to help the crew raise the vessel’s sails. Cost is $59 per adult and $29 per child.
Day sails and stargazer cruises are to begin soon. Western Union also is available for charters and weddings.
Spearheaded by the nonprofit Schooner Western Union Preservation Society, the renovation was funded in part by a $405,000 grant from the Monroe County Tourist Development Council, a $300,000 donation from the Historic Foundation of the Florida Keys and numerous contributions from Keys businesses and individuals.
Passenger excursions depart from a dock at 201 William St. in Key West’s Historic Seaport. For more information, visit www.schoonerwesternunion.org. For reservations, call 305-292-1766.
For more Florida Keys & Key West travel information, explore the destination’s website at www.fla-keys.com or call1-800-FLA-KEYS (800-352-5397) toll-free in the U.S. and Canada. Keys social media sites include facebook.com/floridakeysandkeywest, twitter.com/thefloridakeys and youtube.com/floridakeystv.