On Big Pine Key, a dwindling herd of tiny Key deer – each no larger than a medium-sized dog – can be spotted in the National Key Deer Refuge and are sure to charm the kids. The refuge provides ample hiking and bird watching among tropical forests and alongside Blue Hole, the largest body of fresh water in the Florida Keys, where Key deer are joined by various birds, turtles and alligators for nourishment.
Big Pine Key at mile marker 33, is the main shopping hub of the Lower Keys. Yet, if you prefer solitude, you need only turn onto one of its lovely side roads. Explore the National Key Deer Refuge, a large expanse of mostly undeveloped pine lands where the diminutive Key Deer live, or venture out to No Name Key.
If you’re looking for an off-shore adventure, Big Pine is also the jumping off point for numerous snorkeling and dive charters to Looe Key reef.
Don’t forget about the other islands of the Lower Keys. They are famous for their homey resorts, family-oriented neighborhoods and easy access to the water. Look for intriguing names such as Summerland Key, Big Torch and Little Torch Keys, Cudjoe Key, Sugarloaf Key or Big Coppitt Key. All are an easy drive to Key West. In fact, the uninhabited Saddlebunch Keys are a network of sandy lagoons and mangrove islands that make the jaunt a memorable one, especially at sunset.