Are you on the hunt for the best things to do in the Upper Keys? Don’t go anywhere! We have compiled a list of all the adventures you could imagine!
From swimming the ocean blue to volunteering at wildlife refuges or learning everything you can about the ecological systems of the everglades, there is something in the Upper Keys for everyone! So whether you’re just in the early planning stages of your trip and still trying to figure out when the best times to visit the Florida Keys and Key West are, we have a list for the best things to do in the Upper Keys for all vacation planning stages!
Sit back and relax while we get the wheels turning and help you plan the best vacation to the Upper Keys you could ever want!
What is Considered the Upper Keys?
The Upper Keys are the section of the Florida Keys that are further up on this archipelago! They are close to the mainland and stretch from the beautiful Key Largo all the way down to the enchanting Islamorada! This section of the Keys is a popular getaway for local Floridians and vacationers from all over the world as it is still close to the mainland and a short drive away from other exiting locations while also feeling like a tropical getaway!
This section of the Florida Keys is the diving, snorkeling and fishing capital of America, you’re bound to see some beautiful landscapes underwater out here so definitely don’t skip the Upper Keys!
Best Things To Do In The Upper Keys
Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park
This Florida State Park is located at MM 85.5 near Islamorada is one of the best things to do in the Upper Keys!
This is a former quarry that was used by Henry Flagler when he was building the Overseas Railroad in the early 1900’s! This piece of history is definitely one of the things to do in the Upper Keys with kids because there is plenty to discover within the rocks left behind once decommissioned!
This is one of the best and most iconic stops on the famous Florida Overseas Highway!
Windley Key Fossil Reef is open six days a week, from Thursday to Tuesday from 8 am to 5 pm, and is 2.50 dollars a person to enter! They offer ranger-led tours from 1 am to 2 pm Friday to Sunday, but this State Park can also be experienced as a self-guided adventure and still enjoyed!
Go and explore the awesome fossil corals and quarry machinery from 20th Century Florida that was used until 1960. This is definitely one of the places to visit in the Upper Keys that you cannot skip!
Want more information? We have got you covered! Here’s our article on the best ways to experience Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park!
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is another one of the best things to do in the Upper Keys if you’re adventuring around Key Largo! This is the first underwater park in the USA and consists of 170 acres of dry parkland and 48,000 acres of wetland!
This is a large protected land that is a majority ocean, with pleasant beaches and nature trails! There is a boardwalk that goes through a mangrove trail and gives you a looking-glass view of some amazing species!
It is also home to Christ of the Abyss, which is an 8.5 foot 4,000-pound bronze sculpture of Jesus and supposedly modeled after a similar sculpture off the coast of Genoa, Italy in the Mediterranean Sea!
There is a glass bottom boat that you can take a 2.5-hour tour from (adult/child 24/17), an aquarium you can visit, as well as snorkeling trips (adult/child 30/25), diving excursions for groups of up to six people, and canoe, kayak, and paddle-boards that can be rented per hour or half day! With all their amazing options this is definitely one of the fun things to do in the Upper Keys that you should definitely check out!
Need more things to do in Key Largo? No problem! We have a great article on all the best things to do in Key Largo you should check out!
Captain Sterling’s Everglade Tour
Captain Sterling is a stable for some of the best things to do in the Upper Keys for people looking for tours to help enjoy the landscape!
Located in Dolphins Plus Bayside, Key Largo, Captain Sterling runs tours from 8 am to 7 pm every day of the week!
He offers the Everglades and Florida Bay Ecology Tour which is one of the best activities in the Upper Keys for people wanting to do some birdwatching or hear about local lore! This is a two to six-person tour through a million-and-a-half-year-old reef with a captain explaining all the cool things about the area!
Next is his Manatee Tour! This is definitely one of the fun things to do in the Upper Keys with kids who are fascinated by marine life! On this tour, a captain will take you through the secret locations and hang-out spots for the endangered Manatees! This tour is seasonal!
Lastly, Captain offers a sunset cruise for two to six people! Definitely check out what is to be offered for this option for the best things to do in the Upper Keys for adults and book a romantic sunset cruise along the everglades!
All of Captain Sterling’s Everglades Tours are by reservation only so call ahead and see what availability they have at one of the best things to do in the Upper Keys!
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is next on our list of the best things to do in the Upper Keys!
This sanctuary is massive! It protects the water surrounding the keys from Miami to the Dry Tortugas (excluding the Dry Tortugas National Park), and goes until the high-water mark near shore! This marine sanctuary consists of spectacular resources that are either endangered, or being negatively impacted by snorkelers and divers who are inexperienced, and exists to protect them!
They have a physical site called the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center which has a lot of really cool research and information to help you treat the ocean as delicately as possible to protect wildlife! If you want to go snorkeling, they even provide access to companies that are actively working to protect the ocean just as they are!
If you get the chance, do some research and book a tour with one of their recommended companies and see some cool coral reefs, shipwrecks, and seagrass beds and one of the Upper Keys attractions that is super cool!
Anne’s Beach is definitely one of the best things to do in the Upper Keys because it’s secluded and not as crowded as other beaches in the Keys!
It was named in honor of Anne Eaton who was a local environmentalist and is one of the best beaches in the Upper Keys because of its phenomenal seascape! The clean sandy beaches open up to bright blue skies and tidal flats that are canopied by a tunnel of hammock wetland!
It also features a quarter-mile boardwalk with lookouts and picnic tables making it one of the free things to do in the Upper Keys you can’t miss out on seeing!
Florida Keys Wild Bird Sanctuary and Rehabilitation Center
The Florida Keys Wild Bird Sanctuary and Rehabilitation Center consists of the Laura Quinn Wild Bird Sanctuary and the Mission Wild Bird Hospital! These two locations combine to help protect and rehabilitate injured endangered birds and protect some amazing species in the Florida Keys!
This is definitely one of the best things to do in the Upper Keys if you are obsessed with animals! The Wild Bird Sanctuary houses birds that are unable to be released into the wild and the Mission Wild Bird Hospital is for staff only as they directly tend to injured birds, they do have a visitor section but if you are wanting to see some awesome birds we definitely recommend the Sanctuary!
The Wild Bird Sanctuary houses 90 non-releasable birds of over 40 different species! They are open 365 from sunrise to sunset, and while their admission is free they ask for a 10 dollar a person donation!
Please remember, that while this is one of the best Upper Keys activities, these birds are not to be touched. They are not to be fed. They are endangered species and should only be touched by trained individuals! These individuals will answer any questions you have! Don’t miss out on this option for things to do in the Upper Keys!
Crocodile Lake Wildlife Refuge
The Crocodile Lake Wildlife Refuge is another great option for what to do in the Upper Keys for both animal lovers and people looking to volunteer while away!
If you’re someone who likes to look for places to volunteer while traveling, the Crocodile Lake Wildlife Refuge is definitely where to be! Their refuge is not fully open to the public as it is protecting the American Crocodile, but they have a butterfly garden and a visitors center that’s accessible to visitors! For volunteers, however, they have trash cleanups, tree planting, wildlife surveys, and restoration of the Butterfly garden programs for people looking to give back!
This is definitely one of the unique free things to do in the Upper Keys and you shouldn’t skip it!
Florida Keys Brewing Company
The Florida Keys Brewing Company is definitely one of the best Islamorada activities perfect for a group of friends road tripping through the keys!
Located in the heart of the Morada Way Arts and Cultural District at the 81.6 MM this micro-brewery has an artsy vibe and has 30 beers brewing annually! They like to experiment with flavours and have plenty of tasting options so this is definitely one of the best things to do in the Upper Keys for adults!
They are open from 1pm to 9pm, are right next to a cheap Mexican food truck called Taco Jalisco (which sounds amazing!) and feature some patron favorite options such as the Hibiscus Klosh, Hoppy Nirvana, and Iguana Bait! This is one of the best things to do in the Upper Keys so don’t miss out!
Robbie’s Marina of Islamorada
When looking for what to do in the Upper Keys, Robbie’s Marina of Islamorada is a must-visit! It’s got literally everything for all kinds of adventurers and is at the top of everyone’s list for the best Islamorada activities!
It is the hub for all your dining, drinking, watersports, and boat rental needs! Feed the famous Tarpons here, or stock up on beautiful hand-crafted tchotchkes!
You have the chance to rent boats to drive, charter a boat to take you somewhere (definitely check out Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park if you do, it’s boat access only and gorgeous!), rent kayaks, canoes, paddle-boards, jet-skis or scuba and snorkeling tours! You’ll never go wondering what to do in the Upper Keys if you go to Robbie’s Marina first!
Need more things to do in Islamorada? Don’t go anywhere else but our article on the best things to do in Islamorada because we’ve done all the work for you and we have plenty of ideas for you to explore!
Florida Keys History of Diving Museum
Florida Keys History of Diving Museum is another great option for things to do in the Upper Keys with kids, especially those fascinated with the deep sea!
This museum takes you through the equipment and the history of deep-sea diving! Showing you equipment, photos, and stories of those who have gone to extreme depths! The building is painted with a massive whale shark mural and it takes you on the undersea journey of exploration covering 4,000 years!
They even host free lectures on diving (appropriately) titled “Immerse Yourself” every third Wednesday of every month at 7pm! Definitely don’t miss out on the Florida Keys History of Diving Museum, one of the best things to do in the Upper Keys!
Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park
Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park is definitely one of the fun things to do in Key Largo!
It’s filled with beautiful shady trails through lush landscapes! It’s only 2.50 a person to get in (correct change please!), and is open from sunrise to sunset every day of the year!
This state park is one of the best Upper Keys activities for its conservationism! It’s home to 84 protected species of plants and animals, including the American Crocodile! It is a self-guided nature trail system with information on the ecosystem and wildlife available along the way! There are ranger-guided tours as well if it’s desired!
This is also an accessibility-friendly state park! It has paved walking trails for bikes and wheelchairs! Don’t miss out on this option for the best things to do in the Upper Keys!
Snorkel Alligator Reef
Alligator Reef is a popular snorkeling destination for a reason, it’s definitely one of the best things to do in the Upper Keys!
Make sure to charter or rent a boat because it’s pretty far out, but these amazing snorkeling grounds are located around and underneath an old lighthouse tower that marks a shallow reef!
As deep as 20 feet, this snorkeling haven has three areas that are perfect for all kinds of adventurers! The first is a shipwreck of the Alligator which was wrecked in the 1800’s and is now home to all kinds of fish! The second is under the lighthouse, which is the perfect shady paradise for schools of grey snappers and barracudas! The last is the deeper section for more experienced divers where larger schools can be found of barracudas, and if you’re lucky (or unlucky) hammerhead sharks!
Because of the constant flow of clear blue ocean, it provides the perfect little area of clear visibility for snorkeling and attracts a lot of fish! Alligator Reef is definitely one of the best activities in the Upper Keys!
Are you snorkeling your way through the Florida Keys and want more ideas of where to go? No worries, we can help with that! Here’s our list of the best snorkeling spots in the Florida Keys for snorkelers of all skill levels!
Where To Stay In The Upper Keys
Bayside Inn Key Largo
Bayside Inn Key Largo is a great option for where to stay in the Upper Keys with its private beach and swimming pools!
This is a pet-friendly hotel that offers free WiFi, and is a four-minute walk to Keys Diver Snorkel Tours and a five-minute drive to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park!
Their rooms are contemporary with garden views, a microwave, fridge, coffee maker, WiFi, and a seating area!
They are five km from Key Largo Community Park, Friendship Park, and Peace Park! With an 8.3 rating on booking.com and rooms available for as low as 200 dollars a night, this is a great option of where to stay!
Check rates: booking.com
Hampton Inn Key Largo
Hampton Inn Key Largo is another great option for places to stay in the Upper Keys!
The Hampton Inn has a swimming pool, fitness center, breakfast, great beachfront, and a boat dock! This is also a pet friendly place to stay! Their rooms include a TV, Fridge, microwave, WiFi, and coffee maker! They are a 2 minute drive from John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park!
They are also within four km of Peace Park, Friendship Park, and Key Largo Community Park!
Don’t miss out on this awesome place to stay! It has an 8.1 out of 10 rating on booking.com and has rooms available for as low as 241 dollars a night!
Check rates: booking.com
Cheeca Lodge & Spa
Cheeca Lodge & Spa is definitely one of the cool resorts to stay in while you’re in the Upper Keys!
It is home to 27 acres of lush gardens with 305 meters of private waterfront, it has a 9-hole par-3 golf course, an on-site spa, and a 525 foot fishing pier! The rooms consist of dark wood furniture with a balcony, TV, safe, and coffee maker! They have 3 restaurants on-site, a Tiki Bar, a Sushi Bar, and some amazing tropics-inspired cuisine!
They are in a great spot! Just under 10km from Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park, and the History of Diving Museum! Looking for other resorts to stay in while visiting the Keys? Want to get the best options for the entire Florida Keys? Go no further! Here’s our list of the best resorts in the Florida Keys!
With an 8.5 out of 10 rating on booking.com and rooms available at 300 dollars a night, this is definitely a great option to consider!
Check rates: booking.com
Now that you’ve seen our list of the best things to do in the Upper Keys, don’t forget to look into the Middle or Lower Keys! The Florida Keys are expansive of beautiful blue skies and clear water and plenty of awesome adventures are to be had no matter where you end up! So whether you’re just passing through any of these Keys on the way to Key West, or you’re just looking for an awesome road trip, don’t skip checking out the fun things to do in the Middle Keys and the Lower Keys!