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Remarkable Islands: How Many Florida Keys Are There

How Many Keys Are In the Florida Keys

how many keys are there in the Florida Keys - sunset beach
Beaches on any Key like this is what the Florida Keys are known for.

While a casual observer would think these are the same questions, in fact, they are much different. While Florida Travel Blog will answer both questions, we first must explain the differences between the questions.

The question, “How Many Florida Keys Are There” refers to ALL of Florida and not just a reference to the group of islands protruding from south of Miami southwest from the mainland.

The second question, “How Many Keys Are There in the Florida Keys” refers to JUST that group of islands off Miami described above.

The first issue we will address is what is a Florida Key?

how many Keys in the Florida Keys - Key Largo
Since Keys are coral heads, many shorelines like this one in Key Largo are rocky, but beautiful.

What is a Florida Key?

In the context of Florida geography, a “key” refers to a type of low-lying island such as found in the Florida Keys archipelago. These islands are typically long and narrow, composed primarily of limestone and coral reefs, and are surrounded by clear turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.

In Florida, the term “key” refers to a specific type of island, not an actual key you might use to unlock something. These islands are called keys because they are derived from the Spanish word “cayo” which means “small island”.

Here’s a breakdown of what Keys are:

  • Limestone & Coral Base: Florida Keys are low-lying islands formed from accumulated coral reefs and limestone. Keys are islands, stretching along the coast of Florida from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Unique Ecosystem: Keys in Florida boast a unique ecosystem with mangrove forests, seagrass beds, and coral reefs. This environment provides a habitat for a variety of marine life, including fish, birds, manatees, and sea turtles.

Not all “Keys” are in south Florida in the stretch of Keys from Miami. Examples of other “Keys” in Florida include Cedar Key, Key Biscayne, Manasota Key, Siesta Key and Lido Key.

What Are the Florida Keys?

how many florida keys are there - seven mile bridge
The seven-mile bridge in Marathon is the longest bridge connecting the islands.

The Florida Keys are a coral cay archipelago located off the southern coast of Florida. They extend in a southwest direction from the southern tip of the Florida peninsula, beginning near Miami and continuing to Key West, the southernmost city in the continental United States.

The Florida Keys are composed of approximately 1,700 islands, grouped into three main regions: the Upper Keys, Middle Keys, and Lower Keys.

Some of the well-known keys include Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, Big Pine Key, and Key West. The Keys are connected by the Overseas Highway (U.S. Route 1), a series of bridges and causeways that stretch across the ocean, providing access to each island.

Known for their stunning natural beauty, clear blue waters, coral reefs, and vibrant marine life, the Florida Keys are a popular destination for tourists seeking tropical escapes, water sports, fishing, and relaxation.

things you need when flying

The Florida Keys are an archipelago of coral cays located off the southern coast of Florida, United States. They’re an archipelago, meaning a chain of islands, stretching along the southern coast of Florida from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico.

These low-lying islands boast a unique ecosystem that offers organisms relief from the sun, heat and winds. Life starts near the shores of the Keys.

Most of the Florida Keys are connected by bridges, forming a scenic Overseas Highway that allows visitors to drive from island to island. However, some outlying islands are only accessible by boat.

how many keys are in the Florida Keys - Islamorada
Many resorts in the Florida Keys have beaches that look like this.

The Florida Keys are a popular tourist destination known for their beautiful beaches, relaxed atmosphere, and abundance of water activities.

Here are some of the popular things to do in the Florida Keys:

  • Relax on the beach: The Florida Keys are home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. With crystal-clear water and soft sand, they’re the perfect place to soak up the sun and relax.
  • Go snorkeling or scuba diving: The Florida Keys are home to the third-largest barrier reef system in the world, making it a haven for marine life. Snorkeling and scuba diving are popular activities that allow visitors to explore the underwater world.
  • Visit Key West: Key West is the farthest island chain, and it’s a particularly popular spot. It’s known for its historic district, Duval Street, which is lined with bars, restaurants, and shops. Visitors can also visit the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum, or take a sunset cruise.
  • Go fishing: The Florida Keys are a world-renowned fishing destination. Visitors can go deep-sea fishing, flats fishing, or backcountry fishing.
  • Explore the natural beauty: The Florida Keys are home to a number of parks and wildlife refuges. Visitors can go hiking, kayaking, or canoeing through the mangroves, or take a boat tour to see the wildlife.
How many Florida keys are there - key west
Sunsets in the Florida Keys are spectacular like this one in Key West.

Clarification of a Florida Key and the Florida Keys

Hopefully, the information above clarifies the meaning of “key” in the context of Florida and geography!

There is another issue that should further help to distinguish keys. All keys are islands, but are all islands keys?

Are All Islands Keys?

No, not all islands in Florida are considered keys. While many islands in Florida are indeed part of the Florida Keys archipelago, there are also numerous other islands along the state’s extensive coastline that are not technically classified as keys.

How many keys are in the Florida Keys - Islamorada Lighthouse
The Keys have many lighthouses like this one in Islamorada. Shallow waters near the coral reefs require navigation aids.

For example, there are barrier islands along Florida’s Atlantic and Gulf coasts that are not part of the Florida Keys chain. These islands, such as Sanibel Island, Captiva Island, and Marco Island on the Gulf Coast, St. George Island, and Sanibel Island on the Gulf Coast.

On the Atlantic Coast, they have their own distinct geological formations and ecosystems such as Amelia Island, Singer Island, Hutchinson Island and many more.

Additionally, Florida has many other types of islands, including mangrove islands, tidal islands, and sandbars, which may not meet the criteria to be classified as keys. Therefore, while the Florida Keys represent a significant and well-known chain of islands in the state, they are just one part of Florida’s diverse island geography.

All keys are islands, but not many islands are keys because the nature of their formation is not coral bulkheads protruding from the water.

How Many Florida Keys Are There?

As we have seen, that is not an easy question to answer. The answer is complicated and would take many geological surveys.

How many Florida Keys are there - Key Beach
Beach scenes like this can be found on many Keys in Florida, not just in the Florida Keys.

Determining the exact number of keys with a coral base among the estimated 4,500 islands in Florida is challenging, as it requires detailed geological surveys and analysis of each individual island’s composition.

However, the majority of keys with a coral base are concentrated within the Florida Keys archipelago, which extends southwest from the southern tip of the Florida peninsula to Key West.

Outside of the Florida Keys, there may be a few smaller keys or islands with a coral base along Florida’s coastline, particularly in areas with reef formations or limestone bedrock. However, these are likely to be less numerous compared to the keys within the Florida Keys archipelago.

How Many Keys Are in the Florida Keys?

The Florida Keys are a coral cay archipelago located off the southern coast of Florida. They extend in a southwest direction from the southern tip of the Florida peninsula, beginning near Miami and continuing to Key West, the southernmost city in the continental United States.

The Florida Keys are composed of approximately 1,700 islands, grouped into three main regions: the Upper Keys, Middle Keys, and Lower Keys. Some of the well-known keys include Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, Big Pine Key, and Key West. The Keys are connected by the Overseas Highway (U.S. Route 1), a series of bridges and causeways that stretch across the ocean, providing access to each island.

The Florida Keys are an archipelago, meaning a chain of islands, and the number of islands can vary depending on how you define an “island.” Here’s a breakdown of what we know:

  • Over 800 islands: This is a widely accepted estimate acknowledging numerous small islands and islets with names. Monroe County, which administers the Florida Keys, recognizes around 800 named islands.
  • Over 1,700 islands: This broader estimate encompasses all the tiny islands, sandbars, and even some emergent land masses that dot the region. Most are uninhabited.

There’s no universally agreed-upon number because:

  • The landscape is dynamic: Storms and erosion can reshape coastlines, potentially connecting or separating land masses over time.
  • Defining an island can be subjective: The distinction between a large sandbar and a small island can be blurry.

Therefore, while a precise figure is elusive, it’s safe to say there are well over 800 islands that are named, and potentially over 1,700, in the Florida Keys archipelago.

Another sunset - this one on Sugarloaf Key in the Florida Keys.
Another sunset – this one on Sugarloaf Key in the Florida Keys.

Known for their stunning natural beauty, clear blue waters, coral reefs, and vibrant marine life, the Florida Keys are a popular destination for tourists seeking tropical escapes, water sports, fishing, and relaxation.

What Are the Florida Keys So Popular?

The Florida Keys are popular for several reasons:

Stunning Natural Beauty: The Florida Keys boast breathtaking scenery with crystal-clear turquoise waters, pristine white sandy beaches, and vibrant coral reefs teeming with marine life. Visitors are drawn to the area’s picturesque landscapes and abundant opportunities for outdoor recreation.

World-Class Snorkeling and Diving: The Florida Keys are home to the only living coral barrier reef system in the continental United States. This makes it a paradise for snorkelers and scuba divers, who come from around the world to explore the vibrant underwater ecosystems filled with colorful fish, corals, and other marine creatures.

Year-Round Tropical Climate: The Florida Keys enjoy a subtropical climate with warm temperatures and sunny skies year-round, making it an ideal destination for beach lovers and outdoor enthusiasts seeking to escape cold weather elsewhere.

Key West’s Unique Culture and History: Key West, the southernmost city in the continental United States, has a rich cultural heritage and storied history. Visitors are drawn to its charming Old Town with its colorful Victorian architecture, lively nightlife, and famous landmarks such as the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum. Things To Do in Key West

Abundance of Outdoor Activities: From boating, fishing, and kayaking to snorkeling, diving, and wildlife viewing, the Florida Keys offer a wide range of outdoor activities for visitors of all ages and interests. The area’s diverse ecosystems provide ample opportunities for exploration and adventure. Things To Do in the Florida Keys

Relaxed and Laid-Back Atmosphere: The Florida Keys have a laid-back and welcoming vibe that attracts visitors seeking a slower pace of life and a break from the stresses of everyday routine. The island lifestyle encourages relaxation, enjoyment of nature, and appreciation of simple pleasures.

Overall, the Florida Keys’ combination of natural beauty, outdoor activities, unique culture, and inviting atmosphere make them a beloved destination for travelers seeking a tropical escape and unforgettable experiences.

how many keys are there in the Florida Keys - Key West
Once you get to South Beach in Key West, you are at the end of the Florida Keys.

Conclusion to How Many Keys Are in the Florida Keys

Our intention was to educate and not complicate the answer to how many Florida Keys are there but we aren’t sure there is an exact answer. The definitions, descriptions and locations can be varied but we did find out how many Keys are in the Florida Keys.

One thing we do know is that the Florida Keys are second to only Orlando for visitors in Florida. Key West alone gets millions of tourists each year. They come by air, drive through the Keys or come on the cruise ships docked here almost daily.

If you haven’t visited the Florida Keys, pack your bags and head to this tropical paradise in Florida.

Related Content:

Fun Things To Do in the Middle Keys

Best Florida Keys Family Resorts

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