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Private Paradise in the Southernmost Florida Keys

Whether itís a family getaway, corporate retreat or family reunion, the Southernmost Florida Keys are a world-away paradise easily accessible by car, plane or even by boat.

Lounging in a hammock on your own beach under tranquil starry nights or watching the warm tropical sunrise over a panoramic ocean view, there are some great secluded island settings in this undiscovered corner that provide for a variety of activities as well as world-class relaxation.

The Southernmost Florida Keys begins where the Florida Keys island chain takes a graceful westerly turn toward the sunset, shortly after the famous Seven Mile Bridge. Big Pine Key, at mile marker 33, is the gem of the Southernmost Florida Keys. Here, you can explore every kind of water sport, kayak through uninhabited mangrove forests and wetlands, as well as something very unusual on land: the Key Deer.

Big Pine Key is home to the National Key Deer Refuge, a large expanse of mostly undeveloped pine flatlands where the diminutive Key Deer live. These tiny deer are not found anywhere else in the world. They are believed to have migrated to the Keys from the mainland thousands of years ago. With the melting of a giant glacier the sea rose, dividing the land into small islands now known as the Florida Keys and trapping the deer on what is now known as Big Pine Key. The Key deer are a subspecies of the Virginia white-tailed deer and are the smallest of all white-tailed deer. At birth, the Key Deer weighs only 2 to 4 pounds. They feed on native plants and can tolerate small amounts of salt in their water. With only 250 to 300 of these tiny deer remaining, Federal law prohibits the disturbance and feeding of the deer. Driving on Big Pine Key will almost always provide you with a photo opportunity of the Key Deer from your car.

If youíre looking for an offshore adventure, Big Pine is also the jumping off point for numerous snorkeling and dive charters to Looe Key Reef. Named after the H.M.S. Looe, which ran aground and sank on the reef in 1742, Looe Key was designated a National Marine Sanctuary in 1981. Located just off Big Pine Key, Looe Key is regarded throughout the world as one of the most picturesque places to scuba dive and snorkel. With its bustling reef depth ranging from 0 to 40 feet, the reef maintains exceptional visibility year-round. An amazing array of marine life calls the reef and its towering coral fingers home. The living coral has claimed the wreckage of many ships, and the beauty of this reef holds a wealth of that history.

Other key islands that make up the chain of the Southernmost Florida Keys include Summerland Key, Big Torch and Little Torch Keys, Cudjoe Key, and Sugarloaf Key. This pocket of paradise is also home to the uninhabited Saddlebunch Keys - a network of sandy lagoons and mangrove islands of memorable beauty - especially at sunset. The Southernmost Florida Keys are an easy drive to the bustle of Key West.

The vacation rental properties of Big Pine Key are set on some of the largest parcels of waterfront property in the Florida Keys chain of islands. Each one has its own unique look and Keys 'style' - which is defined by pastel colors and hammocks stretched between Coconut Palms that provide front row seats to the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets found in America.

The homes are outfitted with all the comforts of home, and easy access to all the adventure found in this pristine part of the world. Whatís more is that back bay and deep-sea fishing, world-renowned scuba diving and snorkeling, sailing,

Kayaking, and much more are available right in the back yard of your vacation home - as agents are now taking on the role of concierge for these beautiful vacation homes.

According to Cheryl Moses of Action Keys Realty - who was the first to create the concierge-type services available as part of the vacation home rentals of the lower keys - the enclave of Big Pine Key is the only Florida Keys destination that offers such large oceanfront compounds that make for huge adult, family and company playgrounds.

"From sailing to spa treatments, almost anything is available to guests with a phone call. Baby sitting, groceries, beauty treatments, maid service, guided fishing expeditions that will pick you up from your own dock - itís all part of the special treatment that makes staying in these homes very special," said Moses.

Mangrove House and Island House, just two of the many beachfront houses in the lower Keys that Moses rents by the week, are situated on Coral Sands - a large waterfront estate with itís own marina and tropical cove, and can be rented together or separately.

Mangrove House is a two bedroom, two-bath house with a large lanai on the Ocean side and an outdoor Jacuzzi. Island House is a three bedroom, two-bath house with a gourmet kitchen, Hemingway style furniture, large outdoor Jacuzzi and screened lanai with a beautiful water view. The two houses share a volleyball court, picnic area, private marina and cove that has direct access to some of the best fishing, sailing and scuba diving found in the Florida Keys.

Rented separately, Mangrove House is $1,500 per week, and Island House is $2,500 per week. Discounts apply for the rental of both homes and during the vacation season July through September.

Big Pine Key is just over a three-hour drive from Miami down the picturesque Overseas Highway. Moses added that her company provides a shuttle pickup from the Key West Airport for groups staying at the vacation homes managed by Action Keys Realty (www.actionkeysrealty.com.


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