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The Florida Keys Coming to Hamilton

A Florida Keys flats guide idles away from the dock during the dawn of a new day in Islamorada, Fla. Featuring an angling diversity found in few saltwater sportfishing destinations, Islamorada is known as the "Sportfishing Capital of the World." Photo by Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau
Grab a free piece of Key lime pie and learn about the group of connected islands that are a winter destination for Canadians in an event at Hamilton City Hall Nov. 9 and 10.

Want to experience a slice of Florida as the chill of fall firmly takes hold? Come down to Hamilton City Hall on Nov. 9 or 10, between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. and enjoy a complimentary slice of Key lime pie (while supplies last). Look for the temporary tiny house covered in Florida Keys images and surrounded by energetic individuals passionate about the Florida Keys. 

Why? The Florida Keys promotional team is in town for two days promoting the Florida Keys as a winter destination of choice for travelling Canadians, especially those in Hamilton and Toronto. A similar Toronto event is planned for Nov. 6 to 8 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Dundas Square.

But the team at LMA Communications Inc. believes Hamilton deserves its own Florida Keys Tiny Home Experience event, so they are heading to Steeltown the next day. Putting their money where their mouth is, event organizers are purchasing the Key lime pie from the Hamilton Meat Pie Co., because supporting local businesses is all part of the celebration. 

The city of Key West, Fla. is the lowest latitude point in the continental U.S. Photo: Florida Keys Tourism Council

Visit the Florida Keys in Hamilton for two days only

When you arrive at Hamilton's City Hall, look for the  2.5-by-6 metre temporary tiny house covered in Florida Keys imagery: scenic beach views, sea turtles, and Mile Marker 0 - the southern-most point in the United States. The tiny house is intended to mimic the subtropical vibe associated with the Florida Keys and remind us the weather in the Florida Keys is preferable to the chill of Canadian winter.

"We invite everyone (in Hamilton) to visit the tiny home and enjoy authentic Key lime pie and find out more about what makes the Florida Keys & Key West so unique,” says Stacey Mitchell, director of the Florida Keys Tourism Council. Free giveaways and prizes, along with that free pie, are in the plan.

Free Key lime pie

Why give away Key lime pie specifically? According to legend, Key lime pie was created in Key West in the 1800s using the juice of the tiny yellow limes found on the small island. Key West is the final stop along the 125-mile-long island chain collectively called the Florida Keys.

Key West is likely the island Canadians are most familiar with thanks to a quirky subtropical vibe punctuated nightly by Mallory Square's busker-filled sunset festival. Many Key West bars boast Hemingway associations, and you can visit descendants of the famed writer's multi-toed cats at the Hemingway House today. 

Visiting the Florida Keys this season

The Florida Keys is actually made up of several islands connected by bridges. The islands in the Florida Keys chain include the following, all with their own environmental focus and reasons to visit:

  • Key Largo
  • Islamorada
  • Marathon
  • Big Pine Key and the Lower Keys
  • Key West

The Florida Keys celebrates its bicentennial in 2023 while continuing a 200-year appreciation for its subtropical ecology. Commitment to environmental conservation in the Keys is an ongoing effort, evident in several initiatives:

  • rescuing and rehabilitating injured sea turtles at the Turtle Hospital in Marathon Island
  • continuing coral reef preservation along the entire coast
  • building and renovating many resorts to withstand category-five hurricanes.

In 2024, the ecological preservation efforts of the Connect Centre in Key Largo will expand to the island of Islamorada when the Protection Centre Whale and Dolphin Hospital opens officially.

Safeguarding for generations what makes the Florida Keys special is currently a priority, and the great outdoors is a major attraction. Deep-sea fishing is still a popular activity for visitors to the Keys, and glass-bottom boat tours at Robbie’s Marina in Islamorda are a new draw for water-loving tourists.

The dawn of a new day in Islamorada, Fla., which is known as the sportfishing capital of the world. Photo by Andy Newman/Florida Keys Tourism Council

How to get to the Florida Keys from Hamilton

Driving to the Florida Keys from Hamilton

Yes, you can drive from Hamilton to Key West, Fla. reasonably easily. The US Route 1, spanning from the Maine/Canada border to the tip of Key West, is on many a road-tripper's bucket list. However, this 3,800 km route is a several-day (or week) commitment along the east coast of the U.S., passing through nearly every interconnected island in the Keys chain.

A shorter driving route from Hamilton is along the I95 to Florida, then pick up US Route 1 and head to any or all the Florida islands. From Hamilton, this route is about a 22-hour (or two or three-day) drive.

Flying to the Florida Keys from Hamilton

Clearly, flying is the fastest way to get to Florida, but mainly from the Toronto airport - United, American, and Delta airlines fly from Toronto to Key West or to Miami. From Miami, it's an easy one-hour road trip via car or bus to Key West.

Currently, WestJest flies from the Hamilton airport to Florida, but to Orlando or Tampa only – both cities are a 4.5-hour drive from the Keys. However, new flights from Hamilton are being announced daily as WestJet sorts out its recent Swoop and Sunwing acquisitions. 

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