Thursday, December 15, 2005

Key Largo and the upper Keys

UPPER KEYS MAIN OVERVIEW

Once you leave civilization at Florida City, Key largo is the first town and first island you come to as you travel down US 1 -- across a dozen plus miles of beautiful and still totally pristine Everglades country, then along a narrow strip of mangrove splitting Barnes Sound from Blackwater Sound and Florida Bay, now across the old swing bridge at Jewfish Creek, finally over Lake Surprise.


And there it is: Key Largo, the stuff of myth, located some 55 miles and about an hour south of Miami International Airport and just 24 miles south of Homestead. You are now on a different planet.

Since 1948, when it was the setting for the movie, "Key Largo," starring Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson and Lauren Bacall, the name Key Largo has become world famous. In fact, Key Largo is one of the oldest place names on early maps of the North American continent, dating back to the sixteenth century when the Spanish explored the area looking for riches to take back to Spain. Today it is Miami’s Cape Cod -- and for the rest of us it is the Gateway to the American Caribbean.

The climate is subtropical and foliage is lush. Temperatures have only a few degrees day-night fluctuation, compared with much of the rest of Florida. There’s a steady sea breeze, and rain tends to be passing showers

Key Largo has become synonymous with the laid-back Keys lifestyle. Yet Key Largo is also a particularly vibrant community due to it’s being close to Miami. On the weekends, it is an easy drive for people to visit the Keys and their unique ambience. For investors it means great occupancy rates, for 2nd homeowners a quick and easy getaway. If you want to make this your home, well, Key largo was ranked No. 11 of the 50 Best Places to Live list by Men's Journal Magazine in 2002.

If you’re looking to relocate here, there are homes as of Sept 2005 listed from $269,000. Of course they go up from there: the median price is XXXX to give you some perspective. (To get an idea on how prices work, look under the investment page for the Florida Keys.)

The Key Largo housing market is diverse and eclectic, and includes everything from ultra-modern big new houses and condos to just plain old-Florida funky, and everything in between. It is a complex market, and will take the buyer or investor some time to comprehend.

The market also covers a lot of physical territory: Key Largo itself, the largest and longest of the Florida Keys, stretches for 30 miles from the resort yachting community of Ocean Reef at the island’s north end (which exits to the Mainland by a separate bridge over Card Sound) to the community of Tavernier at its southern tip

Moreover, another part of the diverse Upper Keys real estate market is Islamorada, the 17-mile long, half-mile wide, often handsomely groomed municipality that picks up where Key Largo leaves off and is comprised of Plantation Key, Windley Key, and Upper and Lower Matecumbe Keys

Some Facts About Key Largo
• It has a year-round population (not counting the ebb and flow of tourists and weekenders, and Miami daytrippers) of approximately 15,000 and a median age of 43.
• The primary industries here are:
◦ Arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation and food services
◦ Retail trade
◦ Educational, health and social services
◦ Construction
• Key Largo is served by a full-service hospital in Tavernier, providing easy health care access to all residents
• Key Largo children attend award-winning public and private schools covering grades from pre kindergarten through High School

Recreational Options

You can’t really get bored here, unless you just don’t like the water.
• Dive: If you snorkel or dive, Key Largo is a terrific place to live. Long considered the sport diving capital of the world, Key Largo is home to John Pennekamp State Park, the world’s first underwater park. I used to camp and snorkel there on weekends with my kids.
And I’ve also had some great times diving wrecks and exploring the surrounding waters of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. There are lots of dive shops for folks at all skill and preference levels.

Fish: If you like to fish, Key Largo is (if that’s possible) an even better place to live. Stretching down to Islamorada, the bonefishing capital of the world, there is a fabulous “backcountry” – Florida Bay – and offshore you’ve got the Gulf Stream and every kind of pelagic sports fish you can imagine. If you’ve got your own boat, great; if you don’t, you’ll find one of the largest fishing fleets per square mile in the world, between Key Largo and Islamorada.

Boats and Toys: See above. There is every possible sea thing to rent and enjoy. In fact, Key Largo and the rest of the Upper Keys, including Islamorada, are much better this way than the Middle Keys or Lower Keys with the exception of Key West.

Kayaking, Canoeing, Photography and Birding: These don’t all necessarily go together. My friend and I did a lot of fishing from our kayaks before it became the latest craze. But if you want to explore shallow-water backcountry to enjoy birds and wildlife, and want to consider paddleboating as opposed to motorboating as the way to do it, then this part of the Keys will likely please you more than areas farther south and west.
• If you’re a private pilot, there’s a basic airstrip for small planes on Tavernier, and you can even live next to the runway.

Living Here – Other Options

So what about the rare person who buys a home here but doesn’t want to spend every waking minute on the water? No problem. Here’s just a few things that contribute to the quality of life for the person who relocates to Key Largo.

Eating out: You’ve got tempting choices here, ranging from easy drives to Islamorada – famous throughout the Keys for its eateries – to the Mainland. And right here on Key Largo you’ve got excelent choices of just about every possible cuisine. And not only that: ever noticed how few waterfront restaurants and bars there seem to be in waterfront areas? Well, Key Largo is an exception!

Gallery hopping: Not exactly Key West by any means, but the Upper Keys from Key Largo through the long slender town of Islamorada offer a lively community of artisans, artists in residence, and galleries

Shopping: One of the drawbacks (to some residents) of living farther “down” the Keys (in the direction of Key West) is the “need to get off the Rock” syndrome combined with the reality of limited shopping options. In the Upper Keys (Key Largo, Islamorada) that’s less of a problem. You’re an hour from Miami

Other stuff: There’s local night life in the Upper Keys, unlike the Middle Keys (some, but less) or the Lower Keys (not much). And there’s lots of tennis, if that’s your game. There’s also plenty of local shopping and services; that’s worth mentioning because the farther south and west you go in the Keys, the less true that is.

In conclusion, Key Largo definitely feels like you’re in a different part of the country, due partly to the aquamarine water and the Tiki bars and just the general ambience. So if you want to be away from traffic and a rushed lifestyle, but yet want to be near shopping and everything else that Miami has to offer, this could be just the ticket. It’s hard to imagine a better price-value proposition in the Keys.

1 comment:

Dixie Rose said...

Yep, this is going to be home after I graduate in a couple years! Making my plans now! MY LITTLE PIECE OF HEAVEN ON EARTH! BEAUTIFUL!