Three Perfect Days: The Florida Keys
Story by Jacqueline Detwiler | Photography by Tristan Wheelock | Hemispheres December 2016
The moment you set foot in the Florida Keys, you see them: Conch Republic flags, a seashell on a yellow sun in a blue field of stars. The flags stem from a quixotic secession campaign the islanders hatched in 1982, after the U.S. Border Patrol set up a checkpoint near Homestead, Florida, about 45 minutes south of Miami, that effectively cut the Keys off from the mainland. The U.S. government, unsurprisingly, rejected the proposal, and the Keys did not secede. But, in a way, they never really had to. This pleasing, sun-bleached archipelago has been its own thing from the very beginning. Just 45 of the 1,000 or so tropical islands are connected to Florida by a single road; the rest are accessible only by boat. (Everyone has a boat.) In many places, chickens walk the streets. The lobsters are striped, and people eat meat out of conch shells. The Keys are still a little wild in all the best ways. They're the kind of place where you can still legitimately get lost — which is when things get really interesting.
In which Jacqueline catches mutton snapper, meets some turtles, and spends time at the preferred resorts of two former U.S. presidents.
The gentleman at the other end of the bar at Mangrove Mike's is wearing an eye-popping Hawaiian shirt that is completely unbuttoned. It is blearily early, and it's all I can do to focus on my Mangrove Oscar — an English muffin topped with poached eggs, béarnaise sauce, spinach, and blue crab. The man is absorbed in the TV on the wall, which is playing sport fishing's equivalent of a big-wave-surfing highlight reel.
“Have a nice day, Pete," the waitress says as the man pays his bill.
“You too, sweetie."
Pete must be going fishing. There is no other reason to be awake at 6:30 a.m. in Islamorada, a sandy village that spans six islands about a third of the way down the Florida Keys. Snapper, bonefish, tarpon, marlin, mahi-mahi, wahoo, amberjack, goliath grouper — the waters here teem so heartily with marine life it doesn't seem fair to try to catch it. But people do: More saltwater sport fishing records have been established here than anywhere else in the world.
Smathers Beach in Key West
With about 6,500 residents, Islamorada is one of the larger communities in the Keys, the homes set back from the road along the water, most with a boat docked at a slip. Alongside the electric-blue sea, the buildings look blanched and bony, a row of pastel shells. Shops sell their mementos — sea sponges, wind chimes — along either side of U.S. 1, which evolved from the “railroad into the sea," built by oil tycoon Henry Flagler in 1912, into a highway that now connects the archipelago to the mainland.
I've dragged my boyfriend, Alex, along on this trip because we're both keen sport fishers. Actually, that isn't true. I've brought Alex along because I'm from Orlando, which makes the Keys a sort of idyllic backyard to the Disney- and alligator-filled jungle of my youth, and I feel he should see it. Also: I've brought him because my parents fell in love here, and I figure I should too. But let's not get ahead of ourselves — maybe we'll just start with some fishing.
Down the road from Mangrove Mike's, Captain Randy Towe's boat is docked in a small marina behind Lorelei Restaurant & Cabana Bar. When we find him, he's already hopping on and off the boat, tying knots and placing important doodads in necessary locations. Captain Randy has lived in the Keys for 35 years, since an injury ended his minor-league pitching career, at which point he started a rod-making business. (He counts former President George H.W. Bush among his clients.)
Randy Towe, fishing guide
We step aboard Captain Randy's boat, a 34-foot Pursuit Center Console with twin 300 Yamaha engines — which in English means midsize and fast. About 20 minutes later, we reach a spot where he's had luck catching mutton snapper. The current tugs us slowly over the Crocker Reef as Captain Randy baits the lines and casts for us. Almost immediately, the lines zing with bites, and soon I've reeled in three flapping fish. Nothing to it.
Having tossed our haul into chilled seawater, the captain steers us back to dry land. “These'll be the best fish you ever tasted," he says, deftly stripping the fillets from the bones. “Because I don't put them in fresh water. If you rinse them in saltwater, like I do, they'll last a week. If you freeze these, they'll last a year." Captain Randy is not a man of many words, but the words he does say are awfully useful.
Like most restaurants in the Keys, the Lorelei does “catch and cook." I hand over our fillets and the chef pan-fries them in blackening spices and serves them with fries. While we wait on the deck, we order a round of key lime coladas, which taste as if someone dropped a slice of key lime pie into a blender full of rum. The snapper is indeed some of the best fish I've ever tasted. The key lime colada, however, is the best thing I have ever tasted.
“The best time to see the bars and restaurants in Islamorada is at sunset. The Lorelei goes crazy every night. Another good place is the Tiki Bar at Holiday Isle, which they're famous for. And the Postcard Inn is kind of a landmark." –Randy Towe
Fed and buzzed, we return to our previous night's hotel, Cheeca Lodge & Spa, an oceanfront resort that opened in 1946. A siesta is probably in order, but instead we head to the nearby beach to borrow paddleboards from the activities desk. We paddle out to a submerged log. I make the first complete circumnavigation, and Alex claims it in the name of room 403.
Back ashore, we wander past photos of the Lodge's notable visitors, who have included Bing Crosby, Paul Newman, and Jack Nicklaus. (It was also a favorite of the senior President Bush.) Our room has an open-air terrace and a soaker tub that fills from a faucet in the ceiling. I lie on the bed under an old wicker fan until the tub is full, then take a bath in the fresh air to wash off what's left of the ocean salt.
On our way down to Marathon Key, we stop at Robbie's Marina, where they'll let you look at tarpon for a buck and feed them for three and change. At first I think this is a scam. Then I hear the screams. I walk to the end of a dock and hold a limp fish over the water. One second. Two seconds. Three. A tarpon appears and opens its weird bony mouth under my hand. Its jaw looks like the prongs on a Trapper Keeper. Alex gets a slow-motion video of my face contorting as I recoil in horror. It's definitely worth $4.
Colonial architecture on Key West's Duval Street
Back on the elevated highway, I get the sense we're following the perspective line in a painting of the sea. We are surrounded by water, and the view is so beautiful that, over the next half-hour, we see three people driving convertibles while holding GoPros on selfie sticks.
We stop at Marathon because I am determined to see the Turtle Hospital, a former motel where vets rehabilitate ailing rescued turtles before releasing them back into the sea. One tank is full of turtle hatchlings the size of key limes. These guys aren't sick; they just got lost and need a ride back out to the ocean. They are unreasonably cute.
Back on U.S. 1, we drive 20 minutes to the check-in desk of Little Palm Island Resort and Spa, on Little Torch Key, to board a boat to the resort's private island. The boat is named the Truman, largely because the former president and his wife were regulars on the island. Our room is a thatch-roofed cabin with a private deck and hot tub. There's a four-poster bed trailing mosquito netting, and a standalone bath fitted with a candleholder. A path down to the water leads to a secret nook with a firepit and two chairs. Other paths lead to small clearings with white hammocks. If I can't fall in love at a place like this, I'm a lost cause.
The Key West lighthouse
Dinner is at The Dining Room at Little Palm, which won Zagat's Best Hotel Dining award in Florida in 2010, achieving “extraordinary to perfection" ratings in every category. At a table by the sea, we completely overorder: raw oysters, wahoo in coconut milk, butter-poached lobster, steak, corn biscuits, wine. More wine.
After dinner, we head down to our little cove, where we find a crackling fire, lit by some secret handyman while we were away. We lie back, listening to lapping waves and flip-flopping fish trying to escape tiny sharks, looking up at the stars and thinking about nothing at all. A storm rumbles off in the distance, but it, like everything else, is too far away to worry about.
In which Jacqueline stumbles on a shark, staples a dollar to a bar wall for all eternity, and goes to a bar that's unsuitable for children — or anyone, really.
Breakfast this morning shows up at a more reasonable hour, and we eat it in bed because it's a bed that's exceedingly difficult to leave. Eventually, we head off to meet Ray Scarborough, an adventure guide at the resort who also leads spearfishing, sunset sailing, and fishing charters.
Scarborough is the first person I've met in the Keys who didn't come on vacation and just decide to stay. He was born in Miami but grew up here and has been a boat captain since he was 20. “I've had a boat since before I had a car," he says. “I used to drive it to high school. At Key West High School, the beach is about a block away." I imagine the kind of grades I would have gotten at a school like that and shudder.
The old Hemingway haunt Sloppy Joe's, on Duval Street
Scarborough is taking us to Looe Key, which is not a Key in the shops-and-sandy-beaches sense but rather a part of one of the largest coral reefs in the world, which skirts the Keys along the Atlantic Ocean side like an eyebrow. When we arrive, there's a sense of utter isolation. We are in the middle of the sea. Underwater, though, it's like an aquatic rainforest. Purple fan corals wave. Iridescent parrotfish make audible crunching noises as they chip bits of algae off the coral with their beaks. Eventually, a four-foot reef shark appears out of the murk and heads straight for us, which we take as our cue to head back to the boat. Reef sharks usually aren't dangerous if you leave them alone, Scarborough tells us, but swimming mere feet from one is about as much adrenaline as I can handle before lunch.
Back on dry land, we check out of Little Palm, taking a boat back to Little Torch Key and our car, which waits, A/C on, in front of the check-in office. On the dash is a small bottle of the mango-coconut scent used in the hotel's shampoo and conditioner. Was it all a dream? It already seems like it.
Before following U.S. 1 to its terminus, at Key West, we double back to Big Pine Key, to eat lunch at a strange little bar called No Name Pub. Once a bait and tackle shop, it's spent several decades as a popular and quirky watering hole, completely papered in signed dollar bills. “About $250,000 worth," says the bartender when I ask. “It's 20 layers deep in places." We eat spicy Caribbean-style wings and sweet, vinegary smoked fish dip, washing it all down with the house ale, No Name Amber. All the while, we doodle on a dollar bill with markers supplied by the friendly bartender. On the way out, we staple the bill below the TV stand. “Jacqui + Alex," it says. May we last as long as this bar.
Ray Scarborough, adventure guide
Also on Big Pine, we find the National Key Deer Refuge, which is home to about a thousand of the smallest subspecies of white-tailed deer in North America. We take a short walk to Blue Hole, a small freshwater-surfaced lake in an abandoned rock quarry, and, lo, a Key deer comes rustling through the leaves for something to nibble on.
Adorable deer photo secured, we drive to Hogfish Bar and Grill on Stock Island for even more food. Hogfish is a sprawling tiki-roofed garage bar in the back of a working marina covered in out-of-state license plates. Because it serves only fresh-caught seafood (and because the species, sadly, is overfished), Hogfish doesn't always offer its namesake. If it is available, order it — the flesh is uniquely flaky and tasty. We try it fried in taco form, and it's even better than the snapper we caught yesterday.
Next, it's on to Key West, which has an architectural style similar to New Orleans' French Quarter, as well as the same laissez les bon temps rouler spirit. We drop our bags at the Cypress House Hotel, which consists of three traditional 19th-century Conch houses — the homes of the descendants of Bahamian settlers known as Conchs. The hotel's main building is a frothy double-porched thing with a green pool grotto made mostly out of palm fronds.
“There are about a thousand islands in the Keys, and a lot of them are secluded and uninhabited. It's beautiful, and you can just get in the water and swim. When I'm off work I do pretty much the same thing. I can't say I hate my job at all." –Ray Scarborough
After stopping in at the Ibis Bay Resort and renting a couple of bikes, which we take cruising along the waterfront to soak in the salty air, we decide that we're ready for another drink. So we stroll down to Duval Street, Key West's equivalent of Bourbon Street, to see what's what. Live music issues from dozens of open bars and porches. Cover bands play Led Zeppelin, Sublime, the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Most people look at least slightly soused.
Two bars, Sloppy Joe's and Captain Tony's Saloon, claim to have been the preferred watering hole of the notoriously booze-soaked writer Ernest Hemingway, who once lived down the street. As far as I can tell, Papa drank at both. Alex and I end up in a mint green Victorian mansion with white trim, where the cocktail bar Caroline's Other Side is hopping. I order a Hemingway daiquiri — a concoction of rum, lime and grapefruit juices, simple syrup, and maraschino liqueur that its eponymous author was rumored to double fist during his time in Cuba.
Hemingway daiquiris are quite strong, which is the best excuse I have for our next stop: Garden of Eden, a clothing-optional bar up a wrought-iron staircase from Bull & Whistle Bar. Inside, the scene feels a lot like a middle school dance—most of the patrons line the walls, nervously sipping well drinks, while an uninhibited middle-aged gentleman dances, well, uninhibitedly, in the center. We take this as our cue that it's bedtime.
In which Jacqueline goes exploring with a photographer, visits the home of a great American author, and chows down on some ribs.
I awake bleary-eyed and demand a heavy breakfast before I'll set foot on another boat. We walk three blocks to 2¢ Restaurant and Pub, a brunch spot with a large garden and a polished wood interior that looks like the inside of an expensive yacht. I order the Thai chicken wings and waffles. Alex orders something healthy and then steals some of my wings.
After breakfast, we walk to the Key West Yacht Club to meet Jeffrey Cardenas, a gallery owner and photographer who once wrote a Walden-esque memoir about living alone on a boat. Right now, he's working on a project about the Keys and Cuba called Twins of Nature. He has graciously offered to take us on a trip to nearby Woman Key, where he's shooting some landscapes.
Feeding a tarpon at Robbie's Marina
Cardenas drops anchor about 50 feet offshore, near a feeding frenzy. “It's like the Serengeti out here, only wet," he says, watching brown pelicans dive into a school of glass minnows so large it darkens the water to a deep gray. He hops out of the boat and wades up to a small island. On shore there's an impromptu art project created by the island's sporadic visitors — a towering heap of driftwood, netting, buoys, and found objects that looks a bit like a parade float created by a magpie. “Anyone can add to it," Cardenas says. “If you see something you like, pick it up and put it here."
We walk the beach in search of goodies. Camera in hand, Cardenas sits in the sand to get an angle on a piece of driftwood that looks like a cow skull.
“It's hard to believe we're still in America," I say.
“Not for long," Cardenas says. “America ends 20 miles from here."
Before we leave, we add an old milk crate and some sea glass to the construction. Cardenas hangs a piece of string from a stick so that it looks as if the parade float is going fishing. Artists are so creative.
Jeffrey Cardenas, photographer
On the way back, Cardenas drops us off at his gallery/shop, Salt, a couple of blocks from Key West Cemetery, where we pick up salt scrubs and locally crafted jewelry for friends back home. Most of the houses around here are candy-colored Victorians bestrewn with wind chimes and flying Conch Republic flags. A person could walk here all day, imagining buying a house with a hammock and starting, say, a combination yoga studio and laundromat.
The heat down here can be exhausting, which is one reason (along with proximity to Cuba) the coffee's so strong. We stop at Cuban Coffee Queen, a cheery roadside stand in a tin-roofed hut, for a pair of buccis — thick and sugary espresso shots — along with Cuban bread topped with cream cheese and guava jam. It's sweet and rich and pairs beautifully with the taste of coffee and salt.
“There's a guy who makes honey from the mangrove trees here, and another couple has the Earth and Sea Farm — they evaporate the Gulf Stream water and make sea salt out of it for eating. You can buy both at Salt Gallery in Key West." –Jeffrey Cardenas
Now it's time to see the home of the man himself, Hemingway, who lived, boated, and drank in Key West from 1928 to 1939. The house is a bit touristy, but its mystique is powerful enough that it doesn't matter. It's an old place, creaky, with rambling porches and a pool and the writer's peaceful studio up a flight of steps in a separate building. He wrote much of For Whom the Bell Tolls here, surrounded by a rabble of six-toed cats, the descendants of whom still roam the grounds, hoping for snacks.
The fish in the Keys is so fresh it seems like sacrilege to cry uncle, but we do anyway and head to Firefly, a Key West soul-food-fusion restaurant in a two-story Southern-style house that's run by Tricia Coyne, who went to culinary school in Atlanta. We order fluffy bacon-and-crab beignets, deviled eggs, fried green tomatoes, bison short ribs that are falling off the bone, and a pair of beers we've never heard of from an eclectic booze list. Everything is rich and fatty and wonderful and, yes, not fish.
Fishing off the dock at Cheeca Lodge
We are starting to get into the idea of spending the rest of the evening doing nothing, and there's a fine porch waiting for us back at the Cypress House, so we stop at a gas station to pick up a pair of Landshark Lagers, the house beer from local hero Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville. The foliage beyond the porch is thick and glossy, and we peer through it at people riding by on bikes on their way down to Duval.
“What's so interesting about the Keys is how seriously people take relaxation," Alex says. He mentions the “no public cell phone use" signs staked all over Little Palm Island, and the man we saw at a bar on Duval who'd brought his own beer koozie. He has a point. We've met so many people who came here on vacation and decided to stay. It's such a common story that there's a look people give you when they tell it, a twitch of a smile and a raised brow that says, “Are you next?"
A decision like that might come easily, but it's a decision nonetheless: Leave the malls and entertainment centers and office buildings to move to a place that is exceptionally beautiful and full of life, but faraway and slower-paced. Risk the hurricanes for a shot at real happiness. Live more, by doing less.Popular Mechanics articles editor Jacqueline Detwiler wonders if her boss would notice if she installed a hammock behind her desk.
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Canada's largest city spreads out along the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario, and it's a dynamic, multicultural and inclusive experience like almost no other place on earth. Not only is Toronto a thriving living city,it's also become one of the world's truly must-visit destinations. Regularly ranked as one of the greatest places to live, Toronto is the cultural center of the country and home to the biggest events, the most pro sports and the greatest concentration of theaters and restaurants.
Recent decades have seen regular multi-million-dollar upgrades to the city's public spaces, with a slew of great museums, iconic architecture and the redevelopment of the now glittering lakefront adding to the city's appeal.
Add in an ever-growing number of world-class hotels, upbeat nightlife that runs from dusk until dawn and a vibrant and diverse culinary scene influenced by the eclectic makeup of the city's people. Bright and bustling, cosmopolitan and cultured, unpredictable and energetic, Toronto has become one of the greatest cities on earth.
What you see and where you go will depend on the length of your stay. A week is good, longer is better. But even a long weekend will give you a taste of 'The Six' — one of the city's many nicknames, reworked recently as 'The 6ix' by one of its most famous sons, Drake.
However long you stay, you can't hope to see it all. So, consider what follows a starting point for your first visit…
City Hall, Toronto
The checklist sites
No visit to The Six can be considered complete without ticking off several of Toronto's true heavyweight sights. All of the following are in or within easy reach of the city's compact, walk-able and very vibrant center.
The CN Tower is unmissable in every sense, a vast freestanding spire that looks down upon the city and takes its place as one of the 'Seven Wonders of the Modern World'. Head up for the city's best 360-degree views, or get your heart racing on the EdgeWalk — a journey around the circumference of the tower's main pod, 116 stories high and tethered by a harness.
Back on solid ground, Ripley's Aquarium is almost right next door to the CN Tower and is home to 16,000 aquatic animals and the Dangerous Lagoon. A moving sidewalk that whisks you through a long tunnel surrounded by sharks and stingrays is guaranteed to make your heart race all over again.
Also close to the CN Tower is the Rogers Center, home to Canada's only baseball team, the Toronto Blue Jays. Visit on game day for the full experience, or take the stadium tour to go behind the scenes and through closed doors.
In a city of so many museums and galleries, the Royal Ontario Museum stands out. Not just because it's home to a world-class collection of 13 million artworks, cultural objects and natural history specimens, but as much because it hosts exciting Friday night events that include dance, drink and top DJs.
Two other must ticks include the Art Gallery of Ontario, which houses 95,000 works of art and is free for visitors under 25, and the Hockey Hall of Fame, which taps into Canada's national obsession in stunning depth.
Art Gallery of Ontario
Casa Loma is a must-visit Gothic castle in the heart of the city. North America's only castle is filled with artworks and treasures from Canada and beyond, but its big pull is the network of hidden tunnels to explore as they stretch out beneath the city.
Toronto's multi-cultural makeup is visible all across the city but reflected best in its remarkable culinary scene (see Where to eat and drink). The city's 'fresh and local' mantra is perfectly showcased at St. Lawrence Market, one of the world's greatest food experiences. Pay it a visit and grab a peameal bacon sandwich — a Canadian staple invented in Toronto and now considered the city's signature dish.
St. Lawrence Market
Afterwards, walk off the calories by wandering the historic cobblestone and car-free Distillery District. Once a vast whiskey distillery and an important spot during prohibition, historians mention that even Al Capone would visit the Distillery to load alcohol destined for the States . This iconic landmark now distils creativity within the 19th century buildings now home to hip restaurants, bars, independent boutique stores, galleries and theaters. Visit in December for the Toronto Christmas Market.
Finally, don't even think about returning home without having had a picture taken with your head poking through an 'O' of the multicolored, 3D Toronto sign at City Hall — the most Insta-worthy location in a city of so many. You'll need to head there early in the morning to avoid the crowds.
If you stay long enough, take a ferry and hop across to Toronto Islands, a chain of 15 small islands in Lake Ontario just south of the mainland. They're home to beaches, a theme park and a breathtaking view of the city's skyline and will very happily fill a full day of your stay.
The bucket list
You absolutely cannot leave Toronto without having witnessed the power of the Niagara Falls and its hypnotic mist up close. Trying to visit the Falls from the States is a trip on its own, but it's almost non-optional when you're less than two hours away in Toronto. Take the trip, buy the T-shirt and tick off one of the world's must-see sights.
Explore like a local
Away from the sleek, gleaming towers of downtown lie many of Toronto's less obvious but no less essential attractions. West Queen West is Toronto's hippest neighborhood and artistic heart, a one-mile strip of very chic galleries, stores, restaurants and boutique hotels. Kensington Market is a fantastically chaotic neighborhood and perhaps the best example of the city's famous multiculturalism. It's not a market as the name implies, but a collection of independent shops, vintage boutiques, art spaces, cafés, bars and restaurants from every corner of the globe.
The Bata Shoe Museum is one of the city's quirkiest collections, an unexpectedly fascinating exhibit that retraces the 4,500-year history of footwear. And as you wander the city, you can't fail to notice that Toronto's walls are alive with graffiti. Take a free 90-minute walking tour through the back alleys of Queen Street West and down Graffiti Alley to gain a better understanding of the city's street art scene. If you visit during the sunnier months, escape the hustle by heading just east of the center to High Park, the green heart of the city where forests, walking trails, picnic spots and even a zoo await you. Ideal to unwind after a long day of urban adventures.
When to go With the sun shining, May through October is a great time to visit, but the city is alive through all four seasons. The Spring and Autumn months are ideal as the humidity and visitor numbers are lighter, while Toronto comes alive through the colder months through a wide array of winter celebrations. One of the most spectacular is the Aurora Winter Festival, a six-week celebration that sees the Ontario Place, West Island transformed into four mystical worlds. Whichever season you choose, plan to stay for at least five nights to get a true flavor of the city.
Toronto skyline view
Where to stay To be at the heart of most of the attractions you'll want to see, aim for downtown. One of the best options is the Marriott City Center, not only because it's located right next to the CN Tower but also because it's attached to the iconic Rogers Center where the Toronto Blue Jays play and countless concerts and popular events are held.
Toronto Blue Jay stadium
Opt for a Stadium room and you'll look out onto the field. If you want to experience Toronto's non-stop nightlife, the Entertainment District is the place to be. If you're looking for a luxury experience, discover Canada's first St. Regis hotel in the heart of downtown.
Where to eat and drink Nowhere is Toronto's incredible diversity more evident than in its food scene — taste Toronto and you're tasting the world. The city is brimming with restaurants and cafés serving everything from high-end fine dining to comfort food from an informal neighborhood joint — plus every option imaginable in between.
For fine dining, consider Alo, Canis and Edulis. Book a table at Canoe, Lavelle, The One Eighty or 360 at the CN Tower and you're guaranteeing a view as spectacular as the food. Or experience the city's remarkable fusion food at DaiLo (French-Cantonese), El Catrin (Mexican-French) and the unexpected mashup of Rasta Pasta (Jamaican-Italian).
The above suggestions don't even scratch the surface of a food scene to rival any city on earth, with options to suit every taste and any budget.
How to get around Toronto is perfect to explore on foot or via a growing network of cycle routes. For a quicker journey, buy a Presto card to use the TTC, Toronto's subway, streetcar and bus system.
How to get there Fly into Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) with United and you're around 15 miles west of the city center. The most comfortable route in is via the Union Pearson Express, which runs every 15 minutes and gets you downtown in 25 minutes ($13).The TTC is a cheaper option at under $5, but it can take an hour and a half and involves a number of transfers, while a taxi will take around 30 minutes and cost $45.
United flies to Toronto from numerous U.S. cities including our Hub city locations. Book your trip via united.com or by downloading the United app.
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Following the devastating wildfires in Australia and powerful earthquakes that shook Puerto Rico last week, we're taking action to make a global impact through our international partnerships as well as nonprofit organizations Afya Foundation and ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency).
Helping Puerto Rico recover from earthquakes
Last week, Puerto Rico was hit with a 5.2 magnitude earthquake, following a 6.4 magnitude earthquake it experienced just days before. The island has been experiencing hundreds of smaller quakes during the past few weeks.
These earthquakes destroyed crucial infrastructure and left 4,000 people sleeping outside or in shelters after losing their homes. We've donated $50,000 to our partner charity organization Airlink and through them, we've helped transport disaster relief experts and medical supplies for residents, as well as tents and blankets for those who have lost their homes. Funding will go towards organizations within Airlink's partner network, which includes Habitat for Humanity, Mercy Corps and Americares, to help with relief efforts and long-term recovery.
Australian wildfire relief efforts
Our efforts to help Australia have inspired others to make their own positive impact. In addition to teaming up with Ellen DeGeneres to donate $250,000 and launching a fundraising campaign with GlobalGiving to benefit those impacted by the devastating wildfires in the country known for its open spaces and wildlife, our cargo team is helping to send more than 600 pounds of medical supplies to treat injured animals in the region.
Helping us send these supplies is the Afya Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit that seeks to improve global health by collecting surplus medical supplies and delivering them to parts of the world where they are most needed. Through Airlink, the Afya Foundation will send more than $18,000 worth of materials that will be used to treat animals injured in the Australian fires.
These medical supplies will fly to Melbourne (MEL) and delivered to The Rescue Collective. This Australian organization is currently focused on treating the massive population of wildlife, such as koalas, kangaroos, and birds, that have had their habitats destroyed by the recent wildfires. The supplies being sent include wound dressings, gloves, catheters, syringes and other items that are unused but would otherwise be disposed of.
By working together, we can continue to make a global impact and help those affected by natural disasters to rebuild and restore their lives
Australia needs our help as wildfires continue to devastate the continent that's beloved by locals and travelers alike. In times like these, the world gets a little smaller and we all have a responsibility to do what we can.
On Monday, The Ellen DeGeneres Show announced a campaign to raise $5 million to aid in relief efforts. When we heard about Ellen's effort, we immediately reached out to see how we could help.
Today, we're committing $250,000 toward Ellen's campaign so we can offer support now and help with rebuilding. For more on The Ellen DeGeneres Show efforts and to donate yourself, you can visit www.gofundme.com/f/ellenaustraliafund
We're also matching donations made to the Australian Wildfire Relief Fund, created by GlobalGiving's Disaster Recovery Network. This fund will support immediate relief efforts for people impacted by the fires in the form of emergency supplies like food, water and medicine. Funds will also go toward long-term recovery assistance, helping residents recover and rebuild. United will match up to $50,000 USD in donations, and MileagePlus® members who donate $50 or more will receive up to 1,000 award miles from United. Donate to GlobalGiving.
Please note: Donations made toward GlobalGiving's fund are only eligible for the MileagePlus miles match.
In addition to helping with fundraising, we're staying in touch with our employees and customers in Australia. Together, we'll help keep Australia a beautiful place to live and visit in the years to come.