You see the huge “Welcome To the Conch Republic” sign welcoming you, and you’re wondering, What are the best things to do in the Keys? No matter what kind of traveler you are, the Florida Keys will certainly wet your whistle.
Looking for a beach vacation? The Keys boast some of the most incredible beaches perfect for snorkeling, tanning, and all-around fun! Not to mention some of the cutest beach cottages and Airbnbs.
You won’t find better seafood than in the Keys, either. You’ll eat like a king in this dining destination. The only way you could taste something fresher is to cook your own fish right on the boat! Also, what better place is there to taste Florida’s premiere dessert, Key Lime Pie?
With loads of tropical state parks, the Keys are a great way to get back in touch with nature. Bask in the beachy nature trails or take a paddle in a kayak! With many national landmarks and historical sites, history buffs will enjoy their time in the sun too!
The Florida Keys have some of the best attractions in South Florida. It’s time for you to experience the islands that make Florida a tropical paradise. Here are the best things to do in the Keys.
15 Best Things To Do In The Keys For Every Type Of Traveler
On the south side of Biscayne Bay, you can find one of the most unique things to do in Miami. Stiltsville, a group of wood stilt houses, stands on reinforced concrete pilings in between Miami and the Keys.
A group of pastel buildings appears to hover over the greenish water. At a distance, they even appear to be boats. There are currently seven houses, although a number of them have been destroyed due to hurricanes.
In Biscayne National Park, one of the best national parks in Florida, you can take a boat tour of the mysterious community. The ride to get there lasts an hour, but the sight of the Miami skyline makes it worth it. You can even see native Florida animals like sea turtles!
You are free to charter your own boat as well! Try Monty’s in Coconut Grove or Haulover Marina in North Miami Beach. Be advised the area around Stiltsville can be difficult to navigate. With only one deep channel running through the houses, pay attention close attention to markers.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
The first undersea park in the United States, John Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo is 70 nautical miles of beautiful coral reefs! If pine trees and hiking trails are getting old, trade in your hiking boots for a snorkel and jump into one of the best things to do in the Keys.
A Florida National Marine Life Sanctuary, the living, shallow-water coral reefs are alive and vibrant with color. Divers from around the world travel here to experience the area’s extraordinary wildlife.
While the park boasts mangroves and tropical hammocks, the reefs are the star attraction. You are permitted to scuba dive and snorkel to get a closer look. If you want to stay dry, rent a glass-bottom boat to see the beauty underneath you!
For a truly unique experience in one of the prettiest state parks in Florida, exploring the underwater worlds will be one of the best things to do in Key Largo with kids!
Marathon Marine Park
An aquarium and conservation center, a visit to the Marathon Marine Park is one of the best things to do in Marathon Key. Their mission is to teach about ocean and its majestic creatures through close, or even one-on-one interaction.
Through many aquatic exhibits, you can take a free-guided audio tour. Tours led by a Marine Biologist are still given, but in light of the circumstances, they are limited to no more than 10 people.
Marathon Marine Park also features four different touch tanks: Tide Pool, Nursery, Stingray Cove, and Giant Isopod! Here you can see and gently touch different aquatic species. Just remember to keep them underwater!
While not included in your admission, consider taking an exclusive encounter! You can get up close and personal with baby stingrays, entire coral reef ecosystems, and even big sharks! Marine biologists on site will teach you about the majestic creatures as you interact with them.
General admission costs $24.50 for adults and $17.50 for children. Special encounter tickets start at $95.
Coral Cay Activities & Adventures
Sometimes when you’re on vacation, you need to ditch the kids and have some alone time. You’ll find some relief at Hawk’s Cay resort, home to one of the best things to do in Duck Key for kids!
Hawk’s Cay is home to Coral Cay Activities & Adventures, a haven for kids and teens alike. Keep in mind, kids under 13 will need an adult or someone over 18 with them at all times.
Coral Cay offers swimming pools, sports venues, great food, and all sorts of programs and events to make sure kids and teens have an awesome time! So the adults can escape and enjoy some peace and quiet!
Kids will enjoy activities and educational programs through water sports like snorkeling! There’s also a game room offering board games, foosball, and video games.
Don’t forget access to the kids’ exclusive Pirate Ship Pool. There’s also a playground, a putting course for miniature golfers, as well as basketball and volleyball courts!
Bahia Honda State Park
When people visit the Florida Keys, they tend to only visit the most famous beaches like Key West and Key Largo. We’re here to tell you they’re missing out! Bahia Honda State Park on Bahia Honda Key is one of the most beautiful things to do on your drive from Miami to Key West.
Visitors to the park experience breathtaking views of what makes Florida the Sunshine State. Palm-lined shores are lapped up by gin-clear waters. Balmy breezes will keep you warm year-round in this South Florida State Park. This is truly one of the Best Beaches In The Florida Keys and you must check it out!
Explore the world just underneath the waters of Bahia Honda on a self-guided snorkeling tour. Among the seagrass beds and rocky bottoms, you’ll catch a glimpse of spiny lobster, starfish, and queen conch poking their heads out to say hello.
Perhaps the most beautiful thing to do at Bahia Honda is star gaze. Once the sun sets on the turquoise waters, stars fill the night sky and the beaches become a magical wonderland. Walk the Old Bahia Honda Bridge and gaze up at the constellations, or just lie back in a beach chair and let the majesty wash over you.
Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum
One of the most interesting things to do in the Keys is to pay a visit to the home of Ernest Hemingway. This unique residence is now one of the most interesting museums in Florida, dedicated to all things dedicated to one of America’s most respected authors.
Because Hemingway found solace in the tranquil waters of the Atlantic Coast, he made Key West his home. Subsequently, he spent 10 years cultivating his personal home and writing there!
Inside the residence, you’ll see the furniture he and his family used. Along the walls, oil paintings from his personal collection hang. Make sure to see the massive chandelier collection of his wife, Pauline.
Outside, the surrounding gardens are lush with gardenias, plumbagos, and powder puffs. Before you leave, make sure to gander at the massive pool. A luxury in Hemingway’s time, it lights up in the evening. It was described to look like “luminous frogs in a green fire.”
Meanwhile, throughout the grounds, 40-50 polydactyl (six-toed) cats run free! These cats are all descendants of Hemingway’s first six-toed cat, Snow White. Consequently, Tabbies, Calicos, and Tortoise-shell cats with six toes make the museum their home. They are all named after celebrities, in Hemingway’s tradition.
The Ernest Hemingway Museum is open from 9 AM – 5 PM every day. Admission is $16 for adults and $6 for children.
Famous for its beautiful sunsets, Mallory Square holds 26,000 square feet of shops, boutiques, art galleries, exhibits and places to eat! Right on the water, this is one of the best things to do in the Keys.
Start your day for one of the best Key West breakfasts at Cuban Coffee Queen for Cafe con Leche and then head to one of the art galleries like Wings of Imagination. You can pick up handcrafted wares and Florida souvenirs at shops like Native Colors or Nature’s Treasures.
The fun doesn’t stop there! Mallory Square is home to the world-famous Mallory Square Sunset Celebration. A staple in local nightlife and one of the best things to do in the Keys, this celebration has turned into a tradition.
While you’re walking through the Square, you will enjoy the entertainment of musicians, street performers, and you can even buy something unique from a street vendor! Spend a few hours here and enjoy the party!
Dry Tortugas National Park
If you’re looking for scenic Florida Keys camping, you can’t beat the sights and sounds of Dry Tortugas. One of the most beautiful national parks, this is one of the most fun things to do in the Keys.
The Dry Tortugas form 100-square mile park made up of seven small islands. A tropical paradise known as the home of magnificent Fort Jefferson, this island is a place where nature, history, and relaxation meet to form something quite special.
The only way to get there is by private boat, chartered seaplane, or the Yankee Freedom Ferry. The upside? Mosquitos are virtually nonexistent because there is no fresh water on the island. This makes it perfect for camping in Florida.
While there are no camping reservations, the National Park Services does limit the number of campers. Reservations for the ferry fill up very quickly, so you’ll need to plan several months in advance.
Camping at Dry Tortugas is incredibly primitive. There is a bathroom, but nothing else, not even drinking water. If you’re camping multiple days, you can get lunch or snacks on the ferry when it arrives each afternoon.
Near the outhouse, campers will leave leftover supplies in a plastic bin when they leave, as a friendly courtesy.
While camping is only $15 per night, the Yankee Freedom Ferry runs about $200 round-trip. So it may be worth chartering your own boat to get there!
Check out our full guide for exploring Dry Tortugas National Park!
Long Key State Park
Once only available to the rich and famous, one of the most beautiful things to do in the Keys is now open and available for all to enjoy. A trip to Long Key State Park will allow you to bask in Florida’s natural beauty.
Many celebrities and authors like Zane Grey once made Long Key State Park their haven. Many US Presidents even fished here! After the Labor Day Hurricane in 1935, the course of the park changed forever.
Everyone is now welcome to enjoy outdoor recreation like kayaking, hiking, birding, picknicking, flats fishing, and even snorkeling! There are even two excellent hiking trails to explore and see the natural flora and fauna of the Keys up close.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can try primitive camping. Since Hurricane Irma, there are 60 oceanfront campsites! Make sure to reserve your reservations in advance, camping on the beach is very popular.
Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail
Sure, you can drive the Seven Mile Bridge on a road trip, but there’s a different way to experience the Florida Keys. One of the best things to do in the Keys is to take it all in from the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail.
Many existing pathways and bridges from the remains of Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway make up the trail. Currently, it features 90 linear miles of transportation corridor, soon to be 106 miles in total spanning from Key West to Key Largo.
The inspiration for the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail parallels Highway 1 in California. The FKOHT today aspires to be a National Scenic Highway and All-American Road.
Pedestrian and bicycle-friendly, here you can go hiking, running, bicycling, skating, sightseeing, fishing, and paddling. Always check the weather and fishing pier closures before heading out. Conditions on the bridges may be treacherous.
From the trail, you can access many points of interest like Everglades National Park, Biscayne National Park, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and more! You also have access to 10 Florida State Parks as well as private campsites.
Harry S. Truman Little White House
History buffs, rejoice! You can learn more about American history at Florida’s only Presidential Museum! Get a little education at the Little White House, one of the best things to do in the Keys.
For 175 days over 11 visits, Harry Truman spent his time here in Key West as a winter getaway when the White House and D.C. became too cold to bear. While named after Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Clinton all used this space during their presidencies.
Among the exhibits, you can look through the records of Truman’s time in official trip logs. While some overlook these logs as souvenirs for staffers and family, history buffs can read into clues as to the working president of Key West.
For $20 per adult and $10 per child, you can tour the house and the grounds and see how the presidents lived while they were visiting Key West!
Key West Art & Historical Society
For a taste of culture down south, visit the Key West Art and Historical Society! One of the best things to do in the Keys, the society collects, safeguards and interprets all facets of Florida Keys culture.
While you can visit the Society’s headquarters in the Custom House directly, you are encouraged to visit its four culturally distinct museums. These include the Key West Museum of Art & History, the Key West Lighthouse & Keeper’s Quarters, Fort East Martello, and the Tennessee Williams Museum!
Take the self-guided marker trail and see 120 Historic Markers in the Largest Historic District of Frame Buildings in the United States. Among the sites, you can see Casa Antigua, one of Key West’s oldest hotels. Don’t forget the Oldest Drugstore and the Southernmost House!
The society also hosts many events and festivals annually. There’s always something going on and sometimes you can participate remotely! Enter the Tennessee Williams Poetry or Short Story Contest. Or join other families each week for Littles on the Lighthouse for a special story time!
Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory
If you’re looking for a different way to connect with nature, consider a walk through the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. One of the best things to do in the Keys, a stroll here will afford you close-up views of hundreds of butterflies and birds!
When you arrive, a 15 minute film will set the stage, explaining basic facts of interest about butterflies. There’s also a wall size mural map, depicting butterflies by their country of origin, as well as illustrated diagrams on butterfly anatomy, physiology and a look at the incredible Monarch migration.
When you walk through the climate-controlled, glass-enclosed habitat, you’ll experience the collection of flowering plants and glistening waterfalls. Nestled among the flora are the butterflies, the “flowers of the sky.” Check out their live webcam!
There’s even a chamber where you can see the transformation of caterpillar to butterfly! The caterpillars are never taken from the wild, rather bred in this haven to keep them safe and keep their numbers up!
After your stroll, wander to the Gift Shop and Gallery! In addition to stunning artwork depicting butterflies and Florida nature, you can take home all things butterfly related to the nature lover in your life!
Sea Turtle Hospital
If you love animals, then you’ll love the work of the small non-profit, the Sea Turtle Hospital. One of the most heart-warming things to do in the Keys, you can take guided tours to see the rehabilitation of sea turtles in Florida!
The Sea Turtle Hospital functions as a veterinary hospital for sick and injured sea turtles. Every day, they rescue, rehab, and release sea turtles in the Florida Keys.
On what was once the Hidden Harbor Hotel, the hospital was built. The old motel rooms function as living quarters for the staff so they can take care of the turtles 24/7.
In order to see the turtles, you must take a guided educational tour of the hospital facilities and sea turtle rehabilitation area. This provides a behind-the-scenes look at just how delicate marine life can be. At the end of the tour, guests are invited to feed the permanent residents!
Each tour lasts approximately 90 minutes and runs daily on the hour, every hour from 9 AM – 4 PM. Guests are encouraged to book their reservations in advance, as the tours are very popular.
Southernmost Tip of Continental USA
Throughout this post, we’ve discussed some of the best attractions in South Florida. For this last attraction, we’re going WAY down south. No really!
One of the best things to do in the Keys is to visit the Southernmost Tip of the Continental USA. This is the coolest thing Florida offers, kind of like the Four Corners in the Midwest!
At the corner of South Street and Whitehead Street, you can visit the concrete buoy anchored in the spot marking exactly what it’s named for! 18-feet above sea level, this is one of the most photographed spots in the entire country!
While the actual southernmost point of the Continental US is truly in Ballast Key, to the southwest, this spot on Key West remains a sort of cultural placeholder. It is easier for tourists to reach, and who wants to move a slab of concrete that’s 12 feet tall and 7 feet wide?
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