KEY WEST ELOPEMENT PHOTOGRAPHER // FLORIDA KEYS ELOPEMENT
When you think elopement, what comes to mind? Traveling to the western United States to check out Zion or Yosemite? Going across the ocean to Ireland or Italy to run through endless fields and exceptional food?
GUESS WHAT?! We are overlooking a chain of islands right here in the United States where you can escape to an adventurous elopement filled with fun, good food, sunny weather and silky sand – the Florida Keys. The Keys are a string of 1,700 islands (🤯) that span over 120 miles off the southern tip of Florida in the Atlantic Ocean. These islands are known for their watersports, food, and history. Out of these many islands there is so much to explore and be done. I created a list of my top 5 cities in the Florida Keys that offer a unique experience: Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, Big Pine Key, and Key West.
Key Largo is the city that is the closest to the mainland, only 69 miles from Miami. It is the self-proclaimed Dive Capital of the World and known for hosting the world’s largest artificial reef. One of the many state parks that Key Largo has to offer is John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. It is the first undersea park in the U.S. There is an abundance of activities to part take in from taking a glass bottom boat tour to snorkeling to swimming at the beach. This would be a memorable place to say your vows, maybe even on a glass bottom boat! If you and your partner are interested in spending some time during your adventurous elopmenet scuba diving, you should check out Grecian Rocks, a coral reef east of Key Largo. There are several boating companies that offer tours and take you out to the reef. If your dream is to say your vows on the beach, look into Harry Harris Park with its beautiful palm trees along the ocean. A few other places to check out in Key Largo are Rowell’s Marina and Far Beach. Also, only an hour away is Everglades National Park, a 1.5-million-acre wetlands preserve where visitors can bike, boat, hike, kayak and canoe.
Next on the list is Islamorada, known for its sport fishing, watersports and coral reef, but don’t worry – you can have a relaxing beach vacation here too! While here you can say your vows or just check out Indian Key Historic State Park, a tiny island a few hundred yards off U.S. 1. This little island used to be inhabited in the 19th century, but since then has been a ghost town and is a great spot to check out! Now if you are looking for a tropical forest to explore and spend your adventurous elopement, Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park is the place for you. It is important to note that it is only accessible by private boat or tour boat, but come on how neat would it be to rent a boat for a day, swim in the Gulf, say your vows back on board, and then go explore a tropical forest?! Don’t want to explore a tropical forest? There is also an abandoned quarry where you can hike the trails and investigate the quarry at Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park. If the beach is more up your alley, check out Anne’s Beach and Founders Park. Both offer stunning clear blue waters and silky white sand.
Marathon is comprised of 13 islands and is known for its barrier reef and beaches. The town has a retro, nautical atmosphere and hosts seafood festivals throughout the year (yum!). Ever dream of diving at a shipwreck?! Check out Thunderbolt wreck dive site, one of Marathon’s most popular wreck sites. The boat is a 188-foot former WWII cable-laying ship that has been there for three decades. Divers and those that want to snorkel can also check out Sombrero Reef, a spur-and-groove coral reef. Feel like checking out 1,000 acres of state park? Look into Curry Hammock State Park! This park features swamps, hammocks and seagrass beds. This park is the ideal destination to kayak and paddleboard while having the Atlantic Ocean as the scenery. However, if your idea of the perfect adventure is a little quieter and you want to spend your days relaxing on the beach with maybe even saying your vows there, here are some great ones in the area: Coco Plum Beach, Sombrero Beach, Sunset Park Beach, and Oceanfront Park. Finally, in 2021, the state will also be reopening the Old Seven Mile Bridge which is a neat place for pedestrians and cyclists to explore, and would be a fabulous place to take pictures!
The fourth “key” is Big Pine Key, this is further down in the keys and hosts a multitude of watersports including boating, fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling and kayaking. There is also a super cute flea market here that is open on Saturdays and Sundays starting in November and going through Memorial Day weekend. They offer a large assortment of food, crafts, household goods AND a fish fry (🤤). Of course, there is a great beach on the island too, Calusa Beach. If you are wanting to watch the sunset, this is the place to do it! Bahia Honda State Park has 500 acres of land and sea to check out. From the beaches to the historic bridge there is plenty to explore. Finally, the second rock quarry you can check out is the Blue Hole in the National Key Deer Refuge. It is now filled with fresh water, but was once empty and in use. Key deer can also be seen throughout the property!
Key West, famous for its watersports, nightlife, beaches, and historic sites is my final recommendation – you could elope in Key West, the southernmost populated island in the Keys. It is 90 miles from Cuba (day trip!) and a short plane ride (or boat ride) to Loggerhead Key and Dry Tortuga National Park. Loggerhead Key is an uninhabited tropical island that features a lighthouse. Dry Tortuga National Park on Garden Key can be accessed via plane, boat or the Yankee Freedom III Dry Tortugas Ferry. Fort Jefferson is situated in the national park and is a really fascinating place to explore. You can also camp on this island. Boca Grande Key is another location you have to access via boat, but is 183 acres of white sand and dunes. While in Key West you should bike around town; walk around Old Town and Duvall Street; and check out Smathers Beach and Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park. Key West also boasts a 15 acre Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden that is open daily to the public. Finally, if you want a really unique place to stay while in Key West, stay at Jules Undersea Lodge where you have to scuba dive to get to the underwater hotel!
Long story short, the Florida Keys have numerous islands you can’t go wrong with! All of them have access to watersports, history, and pristine white sandy beaches. Whichever of these you choose, you would be beginning your life together in a memorable place full of adventure and beauty. Good luck planning and happy elopement!