The southern stretch of U.S. Highway 1, running from mainland Florida throughout the Florida Keys to Key West, has earned many names over the years. It’s been called the Overseas Highway. The Highway That Goes to Sea. A scenic byway. And for those of us who love the Keys, whether as residents or visitors, it’s our road home.
Following Hurricane Irma’s unwelcome visit to the Florida Keys and parts of mainland Florida, that highway also became an enduring symbol of our road to recovery.
That’s because many islands along the Overseas Highway sustained damage from Irma. Some, like Key Largo and areas of Islamorada, as well as the southernmost island of Key West, felt less of the storm’s wrath. Others, like parts of Marathon and the Lower Keys, felt much more of it and will take some time to recover.
The hurricane might have impacted the Keys’ landscape, but the storm couldn’t touch the island chain’s greatest asset and greatest strength: the tough, independent, creative, warmhearted spirit of its people.
In the days and weeks following Irma, we focused on recovery, re-energizing and renewing affected elements. Just three weeks after the Sept. 10 storm, we reopened the Keys to visitors — an important step in our recovery, and vital for residents whose livelihood depends on welcoming both first-time and repeat travelers.
Today as before Irma, the island chain offers a laid-back atmosphere, a much-needed respite from the demands of everyday life, the natural wonders of our marine sanctuary, appealing attractions and galleries, unique environmental aspects and eateries with fresh-from-the-ocean specialties.
It’s not only these elements, however, that capture so many visitors’ hearts and minds. The Florida Keys’ motto is One Human Family, representing a respect for diversity and people of all kinds — and that spirit is stronger than ever following the storm.
So wherever you travel along the Overseas Highway when you journey to the Keys, you can expect a welcome as warm as our year-round subtropical climate. As always, we invite you to “Come As You Are.”
Director of Marketing
Florida Keys and Key West