"It's a Caribbean-like destination with the safety and security of the United States."
That's a pretty good, one-sentence description of the Florida Keys. I'd take credit, but the line comes from Keys tourism spokesman Andy Newman, who gets to spend his time promoting a beautiful and exotic slice of American travel versus, say, Minot, North Dakota.
"You can dive and fish in all the areas of the Keys, but we really have five distinct areas, each with its own forte," Newman said in a recent visit to these parts. "Key Largo is great for snorkeling and scuba and features John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the first underwater park in the U.S. Islamorada (see photo of the Morada Bay resort at right) is great for sport-fishing. It's said there have been more world fishing records off Islamorada than anywhere on the globe. Marathon is great for families as no point of the Keys is more than 90 minutes away. That means you can experience everything and not have to change hotels. And there are two centres for swimming with dolphins."
Newman said Big Pine and the lower Keys is a great eco-centre/wildlife refuge, with herons and mangroves and excellent kayaking/canoeing. It's also where parts of PT 109, the movie about the World War II service of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, was filmed. Little Palm Island and the nearby water stood in for the South Pacific in the film, he said.
Then, of course, there's Key West, with the Hemingway House and the Harry S. Truman Southern White House and great bars and restaurants and colourful houses. There's also a great deal of culture, including the Tennessee Williams Theatre and occasional symphony performances. Also on the cultural side, there's the Morada Way arts and cultural district on Islamorada. Newman said they do art walks with music and food every third Thursday to celebrate the upper keys culture.
If you're heading down in May, you also can check out the Humphrey Bogart Film Festival in Key Largo (where else) from May 2-5.
All in all, an outstanding - and convenient - destination.
CANADA RISES A BIT IN WORLD TOURISM REPORT
The World Economic Forum put out its 2013 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report the other day, and Canada moved up a notch from 2011, taking over the number eight spot.
Topping the charts this year was Switzerland with a 5.66 score, followed by Germany and Austria at 5.39. Then came Spain and the UK at 5.38 each, followed by the U.S. (5.32), France (5.31), Canada (5.28), Sweden ((5.24) and Singapore (5.23). The next ten were Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Hong Kong, Iceland, Finland, Belgium, Ireland and Portugal.
Europe kicked massive butt in this report; nailing down the entire top five and placing 13 entries in the top 20.
As for the bottom 10, the 131-140 spots were held, in order, by Madagascar, Algeria, Yemen, Mauritania (I guess the GET MORE IN MAURITANIA campaign isn't working so well), Lesotho, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Burundi, Chad and Haiti.
JAUNT.CA DEAL OF THE DAY: CHINA AND HONG KONG
Jaunt.ca, a division of Torstar, has a deal for a great, 23-day trip to China and Hong Kong, priced at $4,249.
- EXCLUSIVE SAVINGS: Save over $4000 per couple, when compared to similar packages on other sites!
- 23-Day China In-Depth Tour, including a Yangtze River Cruise, visits to the Ming Tombs, the Great Wall of China, Hong Kong Island, and more!
- Includes round-trip flight with Air Canada from Toronto, Calgary or Vancouver, to Beijing, airport/hotel transfers in China, and all transfers throughout the tour
- Accommodations in 4 or 5-Star hotels. See Offer Details section below for hotels included (based on double occupancy)
- Includes Visa (valued at $115pp) and gratuities for local driver & guide (valued at $265pp)
- Includes meals throughout the tour (as indicated in itinerary below)
- Includes accompaniment of an English-speaking guide and all required entrance fees (as per itinerary)
Why We Love It:
- Experience rural China and its bustling metropolises
- Includes a visit to Hong Kong
- See the Great Wall, the Terracotta Warriors and other world renowned sites
- Enjoy experiences like an acrobatic show, authentic dinner and a river cruise
- Valid for travel on November 7, 2013 from Toronto, Calgary or Vancouver
- Pricing (based on double occupancy, plus tax):
- Hotels include the following: Oriental Bay Hotel, Beijing; Holiday Inn Vista Hotel, Shanghai; Metro Park Hotel, Suzhou; Xinan Counter Villa Hotel, Tunxi; West Lake Golden Plaza Hotel, Hangzhou; Titan Times Hotel, Xian; Park Hotel, Guilin; Shenzhen Airline International Hotel, Shenzhen and the Regal Oriental Hotel, Hong Kong.
- Valid passport is required for travel from Canada
- Prepaid gratuities (which are already included in the price) are mandatory
- This offer is 100% non-refundable at time of booking