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A day out on the water deep-sea fishing, scuba diving or snorkelling is a common activity. Key West Marine Park was established to protect nearby coral reefs, while charter boats take people to reefs and atolls further out. About an hour’s drive up US 1 in the Middle Keys, Marathon is a sizable town with a variety of good shoreside restaurants. About 70 miles off Key West in the Gulf of Mexico, the Dry Tortugas National Park and Fort Jefferson, a Civil War prison, are reached by charter flight or high-speed catamaran.

Miami is a three-hour drive or an hour’s flight from Key West International Airport. There is also service to other Florida cities like Tampa and Orlando, and Delta debuts flights to New York’s LaGuardia Airport in December 2012.

Practical info
While properties in the most coveted neighbourhoods are selling within weeks of being listed, prices are down about 20% from the height of the market. “It’s a great opportunity for buyers to get their slice of paradise,” Molinet said. But the low interest rates and an influx of cash buyers also mean the real estate market is experiencing a brisk recovery. Properties range from small condos and conch houses to larger lots in Casa Marina and Old Town, where the average home is a two bedroom, two bath between 1,200 and 1,500sqft on a 2,500 to 3,000sqft lot. An average single family home needing renovations starts around $500,000, while a recently redone house costs between $700,000 and $1 million. “Condos start around $300,000, but can go as high as $1.5 million in the Truman Annex area,” Molinet said.

While vacation rentals cost $6,000 to $7,000 a month in winter’s high season, long term rentals are much less. A one bedroom costs $1,500 a month and a two bedroom goes for $2,500 to $3,000.

Further information
Keysnews: Daily news, features and colour from around the Florida Keys

Conch Color: News and photos of island life

Keysnet: Online version of weekly Florida Keys Keysnoter newspaper, covering news, fishing and diving

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