The Florida Keys offer a unique blend of natural beauty, outdoor adventure, and vibrant culture. This chain of islands stretches over 100 miles, from Key Largo in the north to Key West in the south, and is surrounded by turquoise waters teeming with marine life.
Closer to Cuba than to Miami, Key West is Florida’s southernmost island paradise. Connected to the mainland by the Overseas Highway, this famed little spot was home to the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Robert Frost and Jimmy Buffett. With palm lined streets, gingerbread mansions, and pastel-hued conch houses, the island’s culture sees a mix of Bahamian and Cuban influence.
With its crystal-clear waters, abundant marine life, stunning sunsets, and laidback lifestyle, the Keys have become a renowned vacation destination for locals and tourists alike.
Here are 10 of the best things to do in the Florida Keys:
#1: Make your trip a road trip and check out Key Largo en route to Key West.
Key Largo is the first island of the Florida Keys. It’s name is derived from Cayo Largo, which is Spanish for “long key.” Surrounded by the warm waters of the Florida Bay, the Florida Straits, and the Atlantic Ocean, Key Largo is a water lover’s paradise. Stay at Baker’s Cay Resort, dine at Calusa and grab a beer at Florida Keys Brewing, before continuing on your way to Key West.
#2: Stop at the Seven Mile Bridge
For the ultimate views, aim to get to the Seven Mile Bridge around sunset. Park your car before the bridge and check out the pedestrian side. The famous bridge connects Marathon to the Lower Keys and is one of the longest bridges in the world. Originally built in 1912, the driving bridge has since been replaced with a modern version parallel to the older one.
#3: Take a sunset sail with Sebago
Key West is renowned for its beautiful cotton candy coloured sunsets. What better way to enjoy them than on a sunset sail? Complete with a drink in hand and live music, Sebago offers a catamaran experience that will sail you into the night, providing the perfect atmosphere for watching the sun dip below the horizon.
#4: Visit the home of Ernest Hemingway
In the 1930s, famous author Ernest Hemingway lived in Key West. His home has since been turned into a museum where you can tour the house and see the writing studio where he would have wrote some of his most famous works.
#5: Learn about the turtle conservation efforts at the Turtle Hospital in Marathon
Once of the most unique—and educational—experiences offered in the Keys is taking a tour of the Turtle Hospital. This nonprofit organisation is dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of injured sea turtles. Visitors can take a guided tour of the facility where they’ll learn about the different species of turtles found in the Keys. The tour includes a visit to the hospital’s surgical suite and rehabilitation tanks, where you’ll be able to see and interact with some of the resident turtles.
#6: Go dolphin watching with Honest Eco
Head out into the harbour and beyond with the first electric hybrid charter, Squid. This sustainable eco-tour will teach you about the different animals in Key West, as well as the different threats to them and the initiatives in place that combat these issues. As you cruise along, you’ll be on the lookout for dolphins and other local wildlife—making a pit stop to snorkel at the midway point!
#7: Dinner at Latitudes on Sunset Key
Located on the exclusive island of Sunset Key, Latitudes is an idyllic dinner spot with delicious food and sweeping scenic views. You’ll need to book a table in advance as you’ll take the Sunset Key’s charter boat over to the island from the mainland before your reservation. Our advice: plan for a sunset meal time as the island is called Sunset Key for a reason! Perfectly complimenting the views is the innovative seasonal menu, which features local fish, fresh produce, and a variety of island classics.
#8: Do the Southernmost Food Tasting & Cultural Walking Tour
During this three hour walking tour you’ll visit a variety of locally owned establishments that have made their mark in the historic old town of Key West. You’ll try a ton of different food offerings and experience the island from the viewpoint of a Conch—which is the endearing term for a local of the Florida Keys.
#9: Explore Duval Street
Duval Street is the most popular street in the Florida Keys. Stretching across the island, running from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean, the street is lined with restaurants, cafes, shops, and everything in between. This iconic destination is a must for visitors to explore.
#10: Enjoy the Sunset Celebration
Sunset Celebration is a nightly “street carnival” at Mallory Square. Overlooking Key West Harbor, the celebration hosts a multitude of arts and crafts exhibitors, street performers, food carts, psychics, musicians and entertainers. Crowds of visitors from around the world flock to the celebration each evening to observe the setting of the sun over the water.
For more information on the Florida Keys and Key West, visit Fla-Keys.com.