GETTING THERE: The Florida Keys are easily accessible from Miami's airport. Take Florida Route 836 West from the airport to the Florida Turnpike South (Route 821). The Turnpike ends at U.S. Route 1 just before it becomes the Overseas Highway across the Keys.
Pan Am, Eastern, Presidential, Piedmont, Delta and People Express are among the airlines flying to Miami. Rates change frequently in this highly competitive market. We paid $299 for an Eastern round-trip ticket earlier this month; People Express flights in April are listed from $98 (selected Dulles departures), $238 and $298, depending on flight time and departure airport. Presidential lists fares from Dulles of $196 round-trip week nights and $258 other times.sw sk
WHERE TO STAY: The Florida Keys Visitors Bureau can provide an accommodations listing. Contact the bureau at P.O. Box 1147, Key West, Fla. 33041, (800) FLA-KEYS.
We stayed at Hawk's Cay resort, Mile Marker 61, Marathon, Fla. 33050, (800) 327-7775. The 178-room inn compares quite favorably in service and amenities with Key West's famous and very pleasant Pier House, (800) 327-8340. Hawk's Cay offers four sea-view restaurants serving very fresh seafood and a cozy poolside bar.
Winter rates at Hawk's Cay through the end of March begin at $160 a night for two people, and an ocean-view room is $205. On April 1, those rates drop to $95 (beginning) and $135 (ocean-view). The price includes a buffet breakfast.
Many of the major motel chains are represented in the Keys, including Holiday Inn and Howard Johnson's. The Sheraton Key Largo, (305) 852-5553, is brand new and spiffy. The Cheeca Lodge at Islamorada, (800) 327-2888, is a classy-looking old resort that seemed to be dozing under the sun when we stopped for lunch.
Sunshine Key Camping Resort at Mile Marker 39, one of the most attractive of the private campgrounds, has 400 campsites on a 75-acre island and offers a swimming pool, beach and a full range of water sports. Rates are about $25 to $30 a night per site year-round, (305) 872-2217.
A handy reference to Florida's outdoor recreation, including chapters on fishing, camping and diving on the Keys, is the "1986 Florida Outdoor Guide," published by the Miami Herald Publishing Co. Mail copies are $5.50 from The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla. 33101 or $3.95 at many Florida magazine counters and sporting goods stores.
For camping reservations at John Pennekemp Coral Reel State Park: P.O. Box 487, Key Largo, Fla. 33037, (305) 451-1202. For information on glass-bottom boat cruises and other tours: Coral Reef Park Co., P.O. Box 1560, Key Largo, Fla. 33037, (305) 451-1621. The popular tours frequently fill up, so reservations are recommended.