by Alex Foster
Beaches and Florida are two words that have always been connected in my mind. You would never think that one could go without the other. Visiting the Florida Keys poses special challenges for beach loving visitors. Beaches are few and far between. Our favorite beach is Cape Sable.
Cape Sable is a long stretch of sand fed by the depths of the Gulf of Mexico. Shelling is fabulous and fishing is quite abundant.
However, down in the Florida Keys, the story is entirely different. We don’t have this sandy shelly shoreline, rather a rocky shoreline with a great marley near shore coastline. This might seem like a definite con on the list of reasons to visit the Keys, but it is a blessing in disguise.
The Florida Keys’ has one of the most beautiful barrier coral reef systems in the world. It is the only living barrier reef in the continental United States, and the third largest in the world after the Great Barrier Reef and the Belize Barrier Reef. The barrier reef runs along the Florida Keys and stretches from just South of Miami all the way past Key West.
Here, in Islamorada, the main reef line is about 4 miles off of our shore. We also have many patch reef sites on the interior reef that start only one and a half miles from our coast. The patch reef sites that we use for snorkeling are very shallow, averaging only 5-10 ft. depth. The Florida Reef is also home to over 1,400 species of marine wildlife including plants, fish, coral, crustaceans, and much more.
Why does a barrier reef have anything to do with beaches? Beaches are created by the steady action of waves or currents bringing sediment to the shore. You will notice that we do not have waves like most places do. That is because the waves break on the barrier reef. Due to the distance that the reef is from our shore there is not enough time/space for the waves to build up again. Thus, there is no sand.
Hopefully when you come down and visit us, we can show you that there is more to Florida than just beaches. With something as beautiful and rare as the Florida Barrier Reef it would be advantageous to join in the fun. See you soon!
By: Alex Foster