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Question about the Keys. Any help is appreciated

Atlanta
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Question about the Keys. Any help is appreciated

Hey there. We are planning our July vacation to the keys. I have been once about 6 years ago but only to dive. We stayed in a dive, LOL. We are usually in PCB or Destin, but are going to RELAX to the keys. I have a 2 part question. First, does it matter if you stay on the gulf side vs. the Atlantic side in terms of water conditions and beauty? Also, I completely understand that there aren't many beaches, but taking my Mom, so a small beach is very important for her to be able to get into the water. What is a reasonable place with a beach? My main goal is relaxation, so no nightlife or water sports are necessary. Thanks in advance!

21 replies to this topic
Nottingham, United...
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1. Re: Question about the Keys. Any help is appreciated

Firstly if you stay on the gulf side - you basically have Brackish water - it's a little bit green and off putting for some as the fresh water drains from the everglades into the backcountry. It's fine though. Obviously nice for sunsets this side. The Atlantic side is more like what you would expect - it is the atlantic ocean and where you are likely to find some small beaches. Harry Harris Beach / Annis Beach are nice places. Often Hotels have a "small beach" but they are exactly that - small and often man made.

I stay on both sides - it's all beautiful to me - I have limited knowledge of the Lower keys I have to say.

Knoxville
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2. Re: Question about the Keys. Any help is appreciated

Based on what you posted, I would strongly recommend the middle keys. Anywhere from Islamorada to Marathon would be perfect for you! We LOVE the area near Layton and Bahia Honda beach is the nicest in the middle keys. A lot of hotels have small, man made beaches, so you will want to inquire when you call. It sounds like you will really enjoy the keys . . . as long as you don't expect a typical beach. Enjoy!!

Key Largo, Florida
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3. Re: Question about the Keys. Any help is appreciated

"brackish water" ?????

You must be joking!

Nottingham, United...
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4. Re: Question about the Keys. Any help is appreciated

For the last 9 years I have stayed in Key Largo and the water from the Hotel "Beaches" on the backcountry side are definately Brackish - unless they change it for my visits ;-)

Key Largo, Florida
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5. Re: Question about the Keys. Any help is appreciated

I LIVE on Blackwater Sound and have lived in Key Lago since 1960, with a stint of going to school/universities in the Midwest. I like to accurately describe my home. There is NO brackish water near where I live. The waters are all free flowing and very tidal. The reason it may not look blue is because it is not as deep as the ocean (refracted light) and because of grass and plant life on the bottom versus a sandy bottom.

Not sure where you have 'stayed' in Key Largo, but the water off the Hilton is beautiful. Though not as blue due to sea grass on the bottom, the water off the Marriott is clear and has a green look in the sun. The only place I can think that is a bit more jungle like is by the Dolphin Rescue Center and the Government Center on Tarpon Basin: The ex Howard Johnson's now Hampton Inn. The water is very shallow there and tricky to navigate by boat.

The hotel beaches are all man made. The Keys are made of limestone. As a matter of fact, the development where my house is located was made of fill from cutting out the limestone of Adams Cut (connects bayside to oceanside) in the early 1960's.

Edited: 6:55 am, May 17, 2012
Nottingham, United...
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6. Re: Question about the Keys. Any help is appreciated

I have no wish to malign the keys I love them. However as a Biologist the water IS by correct definition Brackish. Meaning a lower salinity level than sea water but with a salinity level greater than fresh water. In effect in most of key largo you are bathing in an estuary as you know fresh water flowing through the glades mixes with salt water - hence manatees etc that require water of lower salinity than sea water. I have stayed at all 3 of the Hotels multiple times - every time you find people who are a little surprised that the water isn't like the ocean. Its lovely to swim in! No offence - but my description is factually correct and accurate.

Marathon, Florida
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7. Re: Question about the Keys. Any help is appreciated

I have also lived on the bayside on and off Key Largo, and currently do again but not KL, and have to totally disagree with Martin.

Nottingham, United...
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8. Re: Question about the Keys. Any help is appreciated

I have no wish to be obstructive ! Just 2 things to say. 1. This is tripadvisor- the question was about the difference between ocean and bayside. Whilst I don't live there I have had 20 plus extended stays in key largo in hotels and condo's that visitors are likely to be staying in. I love the keys and wish I lived there. Without any malice - it is a common experience to find guests in these hotels who are initialy cautious about the beach - water experience, mostly but not exclusively american. If you were at sundowners on the dock you would dive in . Walk behind it 20 mrs into the basin and I doubt you would. Still blackwater sound. 2. Fact - the water is Brackish- nothing wrong with it - (does word mean something else stateside?) Go to the Marriott , Hampton, Hilton swim from the 'beach' in each with your eyes open (no goggles!) and do the same from Harry Harris - If your brave taste it. I think for Hotel bound visitors there will be a significant difference. Still love it but can only tell it like it has been for me over years.

SDT
Key West
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9. Re: Question about the Keys. Any help is appreciated

I am not a scientist, but I would also not call the waters on the bay side brackish. Brackish water usually indicates a mix of fresh and salt water. While there is certainly fresh water coming into Florida Bay, there is also salt water coming up through the cuts and gaps in The Keys. My guess is the salinity varies depending on weather conditions, but it is not what people in the US would call brackish. We typically call water "brackish" that is in rivers that have some influx from the sea. More fresh, then salt.

If the water were actually brackish, certain saltwater fish such as Tarpon and Snapper would not survive there and are very plentiful in the bay. Also, while Manatees do like fresh water, they are often found on the Ocean side of the Keys such as in the waters off Little Palm Island.

I recently stayed at the Key Largo Hilton and the water was beautiful and very good for swimming.

To answer the OP, I usually consider what is more important, Sunrise or Sunset and pick that side of the road. It is true that the Ocean Side has more traditional "beaches' but none are that great and you are talking a few minutes walk or drive from one side to the other anyway.

Perhaps it is a difference in the use of the word brackish here vs in England. Brackish does not have a positive connotation here, hence the push back from some locals.

Nottingham, United...
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10. Re: Question about the Keys. Any help is appreciated

Thanks - It has a different connotation over here - and obviously it isn't a positive one in the States - I Have stated from the start - I love the place and would live there in an instant :-) Should I win the Lottery or (Lotto) . I said in the last post I wouldn't carry on about the Scientific nature of brackish water!!! I am being a good boy and sitting on my hands - but appreciate your explanation. Hope that the OP's come down and have a great time.

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