From Jewfish Creek Bridge in Key Largo to Old Town Key West, the Florida Keys Scenic Highway is unlike any other. With its natural beauty and iconic points of interest, a mobile app is helping guide travelers through the 100-plus mile corridor — and it recently gained national recognition.
Back in April, the National Scenic Byway Foundation bestowed the 2020 Byway Organization Marketing and Communications Award to the Florida Keys Scenic Highway. The special honor is the result of a project by Two Oceans Digital, an internet marketing company out of Key West, that created an innovative mobile app for visitors to enhance their experience driving through the Keys.
“We are proud to be involved in this team effort to create the Florida Keys & Key West app with ‘Driving Tours,’” said Clint Barras, vice president of business development for Two Oceans Digital. “This award is a testament to the great work that can be created when many different people and perspectives collaborate together to solve a challenge.”
By clicking the Driving Tours tab on the app, travelers are able to customize their stops from Key Largo to Key West or vice versa. Destinations include parks, Robbie’s Marina in Islamorada, Tom’s Harbor Channel Historic Bridge on Duck Key, The Blue Hole on Big Pine Key and more. Barras said more points of interest will be added as well as videos.
With narrated tours of the island’s best points of interest (which was written by Keys Weekly’s very own Mandy Miles and narrated by Bill Becker of U.S. 1 radio), the Florida Keys & Key West Travel app also highlights places to play, stay and eat. Judy Hull, Islamorada Chamber of Commerce executive director and FKSC Alliance vice president, said the app keeps drivers safe.
“We’ve seen people take video off the sunroof as they’re going over bridges or stopping on the road to take a picture. This app allows them to be patient as it tells them where there’s a safe place to pull over for an opportunity to take a picture,” she said. “I’m delighted it was recognized nationally and I think it will keep the highway safe. The app accomplished what we were looking for.”
Hull said the Monroe County Tourist Development Council, which funded the project, chambers of commerce and Two Oceans Digital were all involved with the project. The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office even came in to ensure all major pull offs on the app were safe.
Based on a traveler’s location, nearby restaurants, attractions, and points of interest are visible in real-time on the app. People can also customize their own itinerary with the ability to add trip dates and “favorite” anything they find of interest as they search through the app.
Stunning 360-degree video views of major interest points and views underwater are also found in the app. In addition, the mobile application links travelers to local webcams, weather conditions, introductions to each island community, events, maps and social media.
Hull and others originally were invited for an award presentation at the Heartland Byway Conference in Lawrence, Kansas in October. That’s on hold, however, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Florida Keys Scenic Highway was designated as a Florida Scenic Highway in 2001. The byway was managed by Clean Florida Keys, but after two years, that group disbanded. That’s when Hull and others stepped in to bring life back to the group, establishing the Florida Keys Scenic Corridor that assumed management and responsibility.
In 2007, the Florida Keys Scenic Corridor Alliance was formed to enhance the scenic image, preserve heritage and diversity and promote the natural beauty of the highway. Hull said FKSCA works through partnerships and agreements with other organizations and serves as an advocate for the resources along the highway.
Hull played a role in enhancing the scenic image of Overseas Highway, and her leadership and efforts were rewarded last year when she received the 2019 Garry Balogh Inspiring Excellence Award during a Florida Scenic Highways meeting in DeBary. Recognizing leadership, innovation and achievements that have made a lasting impact on a scenic highway, the award was destined for Hull, who played a key role in resurrecting the byway organization in the Keys and achieving All-American Road status for Overseas Highway.