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Key West and the Florida Keys

Florida: Empire of the Sun


The Keys—The new Overseas Highway to Key West over the chain of coral islands stretching one hundred and twenty-five miles out into the ocean from the Florida peninsula is a journey unique for even the experienced world traveler. The last water gap of this scenic motor highway, thirty-six miles wide, is now spanned by ferry.

At Caesar's Creek stands the exclusive Cocolobo Cay Fishing Club and opposite it rises Black Caesar's Island, where a negro pirate of the eighteenth century was said to have made his headquarters. Between the keys and the mainland lies Florida Bay, the sheltered cruising ground of many beautiful yachts and smaller craft. Besides the rich colors of the transparent waters and their marvelous undersea growth, the foliage of the keys presents an unforgettable picture with its beautiful assortment of tropical flora, bearing such curious names as sapodilla, custard apple, mamey, papaya, and tamarind. Here, indeed, "the wind is in the palm trees," and the "flying fishes play."

Pirates Cove Fishing Camp is a new resort twenty miles north of Key West on the Overseas Highway. It is equipped with guest cabins, community dining room and all facilities for comfort. Among the game fish caught in the waters nearby are the lightning-like bonefish, sailfish, barracuda, kingfish, tarpon, bonito, and African pompano.

Key West—Southernmost city in the United States, Key West is located on the island of Cayo Huesco (Bone Island), so called from the piles of human bones found there. In the days of treasure fleets and freebooters, many a great ship ran afoul of the coral reefs when warning lights were hidden and wreckers lay in wait for the spoils that washed upon the shore. Later, however, this business of the piratical wreckers became an efficient salvage fleet, a boon instead of a terror to ships. The Cuban insurrection brought many refugees in 1868, resulting in the establishment of large cigar factories in this little island city.

Fishing, turtling and sponging fleets lend color to the busy docks. With its fine year-round climate and rare trees, plants and flowers, Key West has a charm for the tourist comparable to that of Hawaii, and in fact, lies almost in the same zone. Here is the only part of the United States from which the Southern Cross may be seen. The much-prized green turtle soup, all varieties of fish, crabs and lobsters delight the epicure, while many interesting varieties of preserved tropical fruits are also available. The government has an important naval and aviation station here, and the busy harbor is indeed a valuable asset to the nation.

Excerpt from "Florida: Empire of the Sun" Published by the Florida State Hotel Commission, Tallahassee, Florida. 1930.


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Exploring Florida: A Social Studies Resource for Students and Teachers
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College of Education, University of South Florida © 2005.