When it comes to Florida vacations, the Florida Keys are one of the most coveted trips. Located at the southern most edge of the state, the Florida Keys feature hundreds of small islands or keys with some of them connected by bridges. One one side of the Keys is the Atlantic Ocean and on the other the Gulf of Mexico. On the first Key, Key Largo, sits the Ocean Reef community with its upscale vacation rentals, private pools, and amenities. All up and down the Keys are charming coastal communities with varying amenities and nature preserves to explore and you’ll have the best access to them in a Florida Keys vacation rental.

1. Ocean Reef

Ocean Reef
Source: Flickr/Reinhard Link

Choose a luxury condo or single-family home when you settle into the upscale community of Ocean Reef on Key Largo. Schedule a once in a lifetime trip out on the water on a glass-bottom boat at the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and end the day with a picnic on the beach. Learn more about dolphins and take a swim with these friendly sea animals at the Dolphin Center. Don’t forget to stop by the gift shop and pick up photos of your experience.

2. Key Largo

Key Largo Sunset
Source: Flickr/Matt Kieffer

If you’re looking for accommodations that are little more budget friendly, then look around the Key Largo area for a more modest vacation rental. As the first town that visitors to the Keys reach, Key Largo enjoys large crowds on day trips from Miami and other south Florida towns. Pass your days snorkeling in the water, shopping in the eclectic collection of gift shops and art galleries, and eating fresh seafood at a different place each night.

3. North Key Largo

Great Egret
Source: Flickr/Rob

If you don’t want to travel any further down the Keys but want to avoid some of the crowds, look towards North Key Largo for a home base. There are many locations in the area with easy access to the water for fishing, swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking. Rent bikes and ride down to the main shopping area of Key Largo to check out the stores and still make it back to peace and quiet each evening.

4. Tavernier

 Lagoon
Source: Flickr/ Isaac Wedin

Leave the crowds behind you as you travel south down to Tavernier, the next Key with a town and vacation rentals. Along the way, marvel at the stunning scenery as you leave land and travel over bridges with blue waters as far as you can see. Take a walk in the small downtown area and visit the shops with their unique offerings. Rent bikes and take a tour of the Laura Quinn Wild Bird Sanctuary with its large selection of rescued birds.

5. Islamorada

Islamorada
Source: Flickr/liddybits

The community of Islamorada enjoys the name, “Village of Islands.” It earned the name because the cities lie on several of the Keys, including Tea Table Key, Lower Matecumbe Key, Upper Matecumbe Key, Windley Key and Plantation Key. While staying in Islamorada, take the little ones to the Theater of the Seas. Here, they squeal with delight as they watch sea lions and dolphins perform tricks. You can then end the day with stunning views and toe-tapping live music while enjoying American fare at Lorelei Restaurant & Cabana Bar.

6. Layton

Layton
Source: Flickr/Mark Tegethoff

Leave all your stress and troubles behind when you arrive on Long Key and the charming coastal community of Layton. On the Key, you’ll find a small resort, the post office, and a charter company ready to take you out on the water for a day of dolphin watching or fishing. If you’re dive-certified, this is a great place to do some underwater trips.

7. Duck Key

 Duck Key
Source: Flickr/ Thomas Conte

Find a modest vacation rental on Duck Key with its slower pace of life and friendly locals. Rent bikes and explore the key, or don hiking boots and make your way along the water’s edge. While away the days snorkeling in the water, building sandcastles, and reconnecting with your family. On this Key, the Hawks Cay Resort offers spa treatments so you can enjoy some down time getting a massage or facial.

8. Marathon

Sea Watch Condominium
Source: Flickr/ Florida Keys–Public Libraries Photostream

Like Islamorada, Marathon extends its coastal communities over several of the Florida Keys, including Knight’s Key, Boot Key, Key Vaca, Fat Deer Key, Long Point Key, Crawl Key, and Grassy Key. This Key offers a variety of attractions and sees its fair share of tourists visiting the keys, so you can enjoy the local shops and selection of restaurants throughout the area. Your kids will love learning more about aquatic wildlife at Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters with its hands-on exhibits and touch tanks.

9. Big Pine Key

Beach Chairs
Source: Flickr/ Big Pine Key Fishing Lodge

Locate a vacation rental on Big Pine Key and enjoy the isolation and quiet days as you spend time with your family, snorkeling, boating, canoeing, and kayaking. Teach your kids to fish and fry up the catch of the day for dinner. A large part of this key is the Coupon Bight Aquatic Preserve, where you can do some hiking and bird watching.

10. Cudjoe Key

Cudjoe Key
Source: Flickr/Florida Keys–Public Libraries Photostream

Driving in a southwest direction, find your way to Cudjoe Key with its lush trees and grasses contrasted against the blue of the water. Bring bikes and ride around the area. While away the days swimming, boating, snorkeling, and fishing. Take a ride along the keys to enjoy the beauty of the landscape.

11. Upper Sugarloaf Key

Upper Sugarload Key
Source: Flickr/ Florida Keys–Public Libraries Photostream

Pass the days a little bit more slowly with a vacation rental on Upper Sugarloaf Key with its stunning views and chilled atmosphere. The days here include kayaking, fishing, canoeing, swimming, and soaking up the sun. Rent a boat and spend a day out on the water watching the dolphins, fishing, or scuba diving. Enjoy a meal at Mangrove Mama’s that offers amazing fresh seafood dinners and views to write home about.