Along the Overseas Highway Harry Appel and Jen DeMaria live in a secluded beachside retreat in the Lower Florida Keys. On a recent afternoon, an endangered Key deer drops by as they sip iced tea in their backyard. The deer poses for a photo, then scampers away.
For years, New Jersey natives Appel and DeMaria vacationed at the Deer Run Bed and Breakfast in Big Pine Key, just 33 miles north of Key West. They loved it so much that Appel asked the owner to call him if she ever wanted to sell it. About a decade ago, she rang him up, and he and DeMaria, a massage therapist, found themselves in the unlikely role of innkeepers — at a vegan bed and breakfast.
“We found it by accident and just fell in love,” says Appel, a mechanic by trade.
Such serendipitous discoveries happen all the time on the 113-mile stretch between Miami and Key West known as the Overseas Highway. Most visitors to south Florida stick to Miami or Key West, the nation’s southernmost city. But in between is a chain of towns and islands that surprise with their natural beauty, culinary delights and friendly residents.