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If you are going to Florida soon, you must visit the Florida keys. This string of tropical islands located at the most southern end of the continental USA is a true paradise.
Over 1,700 islands make up the Florida keys. However, they are divided into 6 regions: Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, Big Pine, Key West and Dry Tortugas.
🗒️ Planning a trip to the Keys?
Whether you are already in the Keys or just want the short version of this article, here is the practical information you need to know.
☀️ Top Experiences To Book in Advance in the Florida Keys:
- Mangroves and Manatees – Guided Kayak Eco Tour in Tavernier (incredible 5-star experience! – my personal fave)
- Key West Sunset Sail with Full Bar, Live Music & Hors D’oeuvres (most popular cruise)
- Dolphin Watching and Snorkeling Eco Cruise Tour
🛌 Top Hotel in the Keys: Simonton Court Historic Inn & Cottages in Key West
🚗 Need a car?
Click here to see the best car rental rates in the Keys.
The most popular place is Key West but there are way more Florida Keys attractions than just the things to do in Key West. In this article, you will discover everything you need to know about the keys!
The Florida keys are, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most beautiful places in North America.
Want to know what to do in the Florida Keys? We’ve got you covered! Let’s discover to discover the best things to do in the Florida keys?
1. Kayaking or Paddling in the Mangroves
If you go to the keys, you have to do some kind of water activity. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a boat ride, snorkelling, diving, paddling or kayaking!
If you want to enjoy the true beauty of the keys, you need to get yourself out on or in the water. It’s literally the best thing to do in the Florida keys!
There are many water activities in Key West but Key Largo has loads to offer as well!
There are many mangroves in Key Largo and you can go kayaking there.
I went on a 2-hour kayaking guided tour in Tavernier and it was amazing!
Our guide, Steve, was awesome! He was passionate about the nature and environment that surrounded us.
It is very refreshing to be in such a touristy place and get to enjoy it with someone so knowledgeable that truly cares about nature and wildlife there.
I chose this trip because we would go through the mangroves and the sea.
The tour starts in the sea where you get to see pelicans, birds, upside-down jellyfish and if you are lucky manatees.
You then head towards the mangroves, in a little canal for about an hour. It is absolutely beautiful, so different and unique.
You will get to see birds too, crabs and if you are very lucky (or unlucky) crocodiles!
You can choose between a single kayak, double kayak or a paddle board.
2. Exploring Duval Street in Key West
When you get into KeyWest, the first place you should head to is Duval Street.
It’s the main strip in Key West downtown and that’s where all the bars and restaurants are.
More importantly, it’s where the magic of Key West happens.
KeyWest is a very unique place and Duval Street offers the best of it.
You will find all kinds of bars, pubs, saloons, restaurants from all over the world.
Roosters crossing the streets, Trump lookalikes, big Irish pub next to a Texan saloon… that paints a pretty good picture of what Duval Street is like.
If you are looking for things to do in the keys at night, this would be it!
There is live music everywhere and most bars have happy hours offers, you can also take your glass away and drink it in the street.
It’s very nice and chilled so just choose your poison and enjoy!
It’s also a great place to go on a cocktail crawl!
3. Visit the museums in Key West
There are many museums with amazing collections in Key West.
Key West has always been home to loads of artists and authors so it’s not surprising that a lot of museums popped up through the years.
Here are the museums you should visit in Key West:
- The Ernest Hemingway Home
- Key West Art & Historical Society
- Truman Little White House
- Mel Fisher Maritime museum
- Key West Shipwreck museum
- And plenty more!
4. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
Florida is home to some stunning state parks and the keys are no exception. When you get to Key Largo, make sure to visit John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.
It was America’s first underwater reserve.
You will find amazing corals there. The best way to experience it is by going kayaking, paddling, diving or on a glass-bottom boat tour.
It might not quite be the Great Barrier Reef but it is stunning! The Florida Keys are the only place in North America where you will find a coral reef.
If you don’t have your PADI, you can go on a snorkelling tour from Key Largo. Click here for more information and prices.
There are also hiking trails available. The entrance fee is $8 per vehicle.
5. Scuba Diving & snorkelling
If you are thinking about getting your PADI, Key Largo is a good place to do. You can go diving and discover the beautiful coral reef.
Another option is to go on a snorkelling trip! This is a great option if you don’t have your Scuba diving license and want to enjoy some of the best spots!
6. Driving on the Seven-mile Bridge
This is one of America’s most famous and iconic bridges! The first one was built between 1909 and 1912.
It was the first one to connect Marathon (and therefore Mainland Florida) to the Lower Keys (Big Pine and Key West).
It wouldn’t be for this bridge, we wouldn’t be able to go to Key West so easily!
This bridge was damaged several times by hurricanes which is why a new Seven-Mile Bridge was built in the 80s!
This is the one you actually get to drive on.
Driving the Seven-Mile Bridge is an amazing experience! Whether you are the driver and feel like you are about to fly, or the passenger who can look at the dolphin jumping… it’s amazing!
More than just a view, it’s an experience!
You will be driving on the new bridge but the old bridge is still standing next to you so you can see it as well!
Keep an eye on the road but try to look for dolphins, they are everywhere.
I would recommend stopping in the mini rest areas on the side, just before and after the bridge. You will get beautiful views and they are great photo spots!
7. Sombrero Beach and Reef
Unlike what you may think, the Florida Keys is not really about going to the beach.
That having been said, Marathon is home to a very nice beach: Sombrero Beach.
If you want to relax a bit, that will be the perfect place to do so.
If you want to do a bit more snorkelling, you will be able to see the Sombrero Reef. It’s pretty amazing!
8. Visit Pigeon Key
If you are into history, head to Pigeon Key. This teeny tiny island played an important role in the history of the keys.
Back in the days, this small island was home to the railway workers who were building the old seven-mile bridge that connected Key West to Mainland Florida.
Quite cool, right? So if you’d love a bit of history while you’re in the keys, Pigeon Key is the place for you!
If you want to know more about the history of Piegon Key, you may want to consider going on a tour. The guide will tell you everything!
9. Looking for deers in Big Pine Key
The keys are a magnificent ecosystem, whether it’s in the water or on land.
On your way to Keywest you will go through a key named Big Pine.
This is the deer key, if you want to look for them you will get to see many Florida deers.
They are so cute and just wander around! You might find some eating flowers in people’s gardens.
It is quite a fun thing to do, just drive around and try to spot them.
10. Get a drink at the ‘No Name Pub’
While you are on Big Pine Key, I would recommend going all the way to ‘No name Pub’ to be sure to see them.
Most people don’t go that far but if you do I can guarantee you will see deers. This pub is also a cute hidden gem in Florida.
It’s only a few miles drive so it shouldn’t be much of a detour and that will make your day.
Also, the pub itself is a quirky place where you might want to take a break and enjoy a beer.
11. Bahia Honda State Park
When it comes to state parks, Florida is blessed. There are some amazing state parks all across the Sunshine State and Big Pine key is no exception.
Bahia Honda State Park is home to some of the whitest beaches in the keys. Perfect for people who want to relax for a day!
It’s also a great snorkelling spot.
If you are into bird watching, it will be your paradise. There are all sorts of herons and hawks!
You can also go walking! There is a beautiful trail that goes from the Calusa area to the Old Bahia Honda Bridge.
Finally, it’s also a great place to go on a boat tour. They are organised by the state park itself!
12. Go to the sunset celebration on Mallory Square
Looking for free things to do in the keys? This one’s for you!
Every day, people gather at Mallory Square (north-west tip of Key West) for the sunset celebration.
It is a very nice thing to do as you can take your drinks there and enjoy one of the most beautiful sunsets ever with happy people.
There is live music, street performers, singers… it’s very lively.
If you don’t like the crowds I would recommend going to the bar on the right-hand side of Mallory square.
They have their own terrace on the docks so you will get a better view, fewer people and also live music.
Drinks aren’t necessarily more expensive than in other places and you will enjoy the sunset in a more peaceful way.
I would recommend going at least 30 mins before sunset either way if you want to be sure to catch a good spot.
13. Snuba Diving
If you don’t have your diving license and do not want to get it either.
Snuba diving will be a great option. It’s basically a mix between scuba diving and snorkelling.
You won’t have a tank on your back, you will be connected to the air at the surface through a very long pipe.
It’s quite unique as you won’t really find that anywhere else and is a great opportunity to get the best of scuba diving with the simplicity of snorkelling.
14. Eat a key lime pie
Did you know that the key lime pie originated in Key West? Well it has! It’s the most traditional desert you can find in the keys and you cannot leave Key West without trying one!
The best places to get a homemade key lime pie in Key West are:
- Key West Key Lime Pie Co
- El Mason De Pepe
- Green Turtle Inn
15. Dry Tortugas National Park
If there is one thing you should do from Key West, it’s going on a day trip to Dry Tortugas National Park.
This beautiful group of islands is located further west from Key West. You can only access it by boat.
Whether you love nature or history, you will be spoilt in Dry Tortugas.
Fort Jefferson will be your starting point. It used to be a prison during the civil war. You can go on a history tour there or a ranger-led tour.
From there, you can go snorkelling or diving. The marine life is incredible!
16. Florida Keys Road Trip Itinerary Miami to Keywest
It takes about 4 hours (200 miles) to drive from Miami to KeyWest.
If you are staying in Miami, you might be wondering whether it’s worth going to KeyWest or not. Let me answer this question for you: YES!
No matter what, if you are going to the Florida Keys, you have to go all the way down to Keywest! It’s a very unique place and it’s definitely worth a visit, even if you don’t have much time ahead of you.
The atmosphere is unique and incredible. People are happy and laid-back. Everything is easy over there. Live music, artists, bars… you can drink, chat, dance, listen to music and watch the sunset. Just wander around and enjoy all the diversity KeyWest has to offer!
The drive itself is also very unique. The 7-mile bridge offers breath-taking views! 7 miles of nothing else than water and the bridge you are on. You will probably get to see wild dolphins jumping, birds flying. It’s an experience not to be missed.
Technically speaking, you can go from Miami to Key West and back in one day but it will be a very exhausting day and you won’t get to enjoy everything that the keys have to offer.
I’d recommend staying a minimum of 3 days but ideally for 6 days.
17. Turtle Hospital and Dolphin Encounter Center
Marathon is the best place in the Florida keys to see and encounter marine animals while being respectful of their space and safety.
As a visitor, it’s normal you want to see some of them too and these places will be the best to do so.
Not only you will get plenty of valuable information from the vets and carers but you will also be sure they are treated well.
18. Eat at Robbie’s
Robbie’s is way more than a restaurant. It’s an attraction itself.
Not only does it feature a great terrace so you can eat a delicious meal enjoying the view over the keys.
Robbie’s also offers an open-air market, the possibility to hand-feed the tarpon and do some water sports.
Anything you would want to do, you will find it at Robbie’s!
19. History of Diving Museum
If you love diving and want to know more about it, the History of Diving Museum will be your favourite attraction in Islamorada.
This museum features an amazing collection of diving items. It includes photos, equipment and can sometimes be a bit quirky if I’m honest.
There is even a Helium Bar! The kids will love this part (and adults too!)
It’s located in Islamorada, just by Publix. You can’t miss it.
It’s open every day from 10 am to 5 pm. The entrance fee is $15 (standard).
20. Wreck diving
Key West is very famous for wreck diving. There are so many wrecks there and loads of divers come just for that!
The most popular ship for recreational diving is the Vanderberg. You can go diving there any day of the year.
21. Going to Blue Hole
The Blue Hole is the largest freshwater lake in the Florida Keys.
The fact that it’s made of freshwater as opposed to the rest of the surroundings make it the perfect place for people wanting to discover the wildlife.
You will get to see deers, birds, turtles, alligators and plenty more! There are so many species there.
You will find a few short walking trails. I highly recommend going on them as you will discover the true beauty of the place.
Where To Stay In The Florida Keys
If you scroll back up, you will find a more detailed list of accommodation in each key but here is a summary of the best places to stay in the Florida Keys.
Where to stay in Key Largo
💵 Budget accommodation in Key Largo: Holiday Inn Key Largo is one of the best and cheapest options. There aren’t any “cheap” accommodation per see but Holiday Inn offers one of the best prices and is very good value. Click here for more information and see the latest prices.
💵 💵 Mid-range accommodation in Key Largo: Kawama Yacht Club Apartment is a great place to stay at. The view is beautiful and you will get access to the beach and a pool. Click here for more info and see the latest prices.
💵 💵 💵 Luxury accommodation in Key Largo: Playa Largo Resort & Spa, Autograph Collection is the ultimate place to stay in Key Largo. Beach cabanas, hot tub, pools… they have it all! Click here for more info and see the latest prices.
Where to stay in Islamorada
💵 💵 Mid-range accommodation in Islamorada: Treasure Harbor Resort & Marina offers a bit of a unique experience as it is a boathouse! There is a parking lot and AC. Click here for more info and see the latest prices.
💵 💵 💵 Luxury accommodation in Islamorada: Anglers Reef Paradise is a beautiful holiday home with pool and parking spot! It’s perfect for a relaxing holiday. Click here for more info and see the latest prices.
Where to stay in Marathon
💵 Budget accommodation in Marathon: Coconut Cay Resort is great if you are looking for an affordable and great place to stay. You will get access to the pool and kayaks! The area is quiet and nice. Click here for more info and see the latest prices.
💵 💵 Mid-range accommodation in Marathon: Key Breeze Hideaway is an amazing villa with garden and patio. It’s located in a secluded place, perfect to enjoy a relaxing holiday! Click here for more info and see the latest prices.
💵 💵 💵 Luxury accommodation in Marathon: Isla Bella Beach Resort & Spa is the ultimate choice in Marathon FL! This resort has all the features and facilities you’d want to have including a private beach! Click here for more info and see the latest prices.
Where to stay in Big Pine Key
💵 Mid-range accommodation in Big Pine Key: Parmer’s Resort is a fabulous place to stay at. There is a pool and a private beach. Click here for more info and see the latest prices.
💵 💵 💵 Luxury accommodation in Big Pine Key: Sunshine Key King Travel Trailer 6 is a stunning holiday home on wheel! If you are looking for something a bit different, that will be perfect! Click here for more info and see the latest prices.
Where to stay in Key West
💵 Budget accommodation in Key West: There isn’t much going on in terms of budget accommodation in Key West. The Florida Keys are not really a cheap destination. One of the best way to get a good deal though is to book an Airbnb. Click here to see the Airbnbs in Keywest.
💵 💵 Mid-range accommodation in Key West: Courtney’s Place Historic Cottages & Inns is ideally located only a minute away from Duval Street. Click here for more info and see the latest prices.
💵 💵 💵 Luxury accommodation in Key West: Simonton Court Historic Inn & Cottages is an insanely cute inn in Key West Historic centre, with pool! Click here for more info and see the latest prices.
So? Are you ready to make the best of your trip to the Florida keys?
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