Top-10 Things To Do In The Florida Keys
With so many amazing things to do and see in the Florida Keys, it was hard to narrow this list down to just 10. The keys have everything from world-class scuba diving, National Parks, the Great Florida Reef (the third largest coral barrier reef system in the world), unique history, boating, fishing, nightlife, great cuisine and much more. This top-10 list represents our favorite activities and things we experienced during our 1-week trip to the Florida Keys and since the focus on that trip was scuba diving, our list reflects that.
Top-10 Things To Do In The Florida Keys
10) Watch the Sunset at Mallory Square in Key West
Before the sun begins to set, make your way over to Mallory Square on the northwest side of Key West to join the other tourists and locals alike for the nightly “Sunset Celebration” — a party complete with artists, food vendors, musicians and other street performers. Get a drink “to go” at a nearby bar and bring it with you. Festivities start about 2-hours before sunset and is the only completely free activity on this top-10 list.
9) Turtle Hospital in Marathon
The Turtle Hospital is the best activity in Marathon that doesn’t involve getting on a boat. This small non-profit organization is dedicated to rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing endangered sea turtles back into the wild. They offer 1-hour guided tours where you get to meet their current patients (sea turtles undergoing rehabilitation for release) and permanent residents (those that cannot be released for medical reasons). The tour itself is very informative, chalk-full of turtle puns and ended with us feeding the sea turtles ourselves. Don’t forget to check their website to see if there are any public turtle releases while you’re in town. Best of all, you visit helps to support a good cause.
8) Florida Keys Brewing Company in Islamorada
There are two breweries in Islamorada and we tried the Florida Keys Brewing Company. Even if you don’t like beer, this place is a lot of fun and well worth checking out. We counted 21 different beers on tap — all with funky names, all unique and all brewed right in Islamorada. I loved their signature mermaid tap handles. Get a flight of five 4-ounce pours so you can try a wide range of different beers, everything from ales to sours. The outdoor beer garden is absolutely fantastic, with colorful lights, tropical plants and plenty of laid-back island atmosphere. If they don’t have any live music that night, entertain yourself a game of cornhole, giant Jenga or hula-hoops.
7) The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West
Arguably the most famous attraction in Key West is related to its most famous past-resident, The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum. Even if you have never read a Hemingway novel this is a fascinating place to visit. This Spanish colonial style house was original built in 1851 and Ernest Hemingway lived here from 1931 until 1939 with his second wife Pauline — it is also where he wrote much of his most well known work. Highlights of the home include his writing room, pool, gardens and of course the famous 6-toed cats which freely roam the property.
6) Dive The Thunderbolt off of Marathon
Off of Marathon is the Thunderbolt, a wreck that is part of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Shipwreck Trail. Originally named the USAMP Randolph, she was built and served during WWII as an Army mine planter. After the war she was transferred to the Navy before being sold — eventually she was purchased by Florida Power & Light for use as a platform for lightning research and took so many lightning strikes during this time she was re-christened Thunderbolt. Sunk as an artificial reef in 1986, she sits perfectly upright, intact and is covered by a thick coating of sponges and coral.
5) Eat Key Lime Pie
Key lime pie is the official pie of The State of Florida and a specialty of the Florida Keys. Made from sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks and of course the juice from the small key lime fruit, this is one of my personal favorite desserts. Every single restaurant in the Florida Keys has its own version of the pie (normally advertised as “award winning”) so you will have ample opportunity to sample this world famous dessert. Most pies have a graham cracker crust and come topped with either whipped cream or meringue; variations include dipped in chocolate and deep-fried. A trip to the keys would not be complete without at least one slice of key lime pie!
4) Bar Hopping on Duval Street in Key West
Key West is famous for its nightlife and some of the best late-night spots can be found on or just off of Duval Street — Key West’s answer to Bourbon Street in New Orleans. With so many places to choose from, it is impossible to list them all, but two deserve special mention. The first is Sloppy Joe’s Bar at the intersection of Greene and Duval Street; this is one of the most famous bars in the world because of its association with Ernest Hemingway. A half-block away is Captain Tony’s Saloon, this is the original location of Sloppy Joe’s and is the actual spot where Hemingway did most of his drinking when he lived in Key West; it is also the more interesting of the two bars. Order a drink “to go” and bar-hop until you find a place, music or live entertainment that fits your mood.
3) Dive the Spiegel Grove off of Key Largo
The best dive in Key Largo is without a doubt the USS Spiegel Grove — the third largest artificial reef in the world and one of the best dives in the Florida Keys. When the Spiegel Grove was original sunk in 2002 she came to rest on her side but in 2005 Hurricane Dennis put the ship back on its keel where it remains to this day. It will take you several dives to see the entire wreck. Look for the American and Conch Republic flags proudly waving in the current. Our favorite part was the fantastic swim through along the corridors of the wreck, but always be careful when penetrating any wreck.
2) Dry Tortugas National Park
Located about 70-miles west of Key West is the Dry Tortugas National Park which is one of the most isolated and difficult to get to National Parks in the entire United States. The vast majority of the park is open ocean with the least disturbed coral reefs in the keys, abundant sea life, tropical birds and shipwrecks. The centerpiece of the park is Garden Key and the magnificent Fort Jefferson, an unfinished pre-Civil War fort that is the largest brick masonry structure in the Americas. The fort is most well known for its use as a prison and is where Dr. Samuel Mudd was imprisoned after he was convicted of conspiracy in the assassination of President Lincoln. While at the park, spend the day exploring the ruins of Fort Jefferson, relaxing on the beach, swimming, birdwatching or snorkeling in the crystal clear turquoise Caribbean waters. This is not only one of the best things to do in the keys but in the entire State of Florida.
1) Dive the USS Vandenberg off of Key West
Our number one pick is scuba diving on the USS Vandenberg near Key West — a wreck that is the second largest artificial reef in the world and the best dive in the Florida Keys. Originally named the USS Taylor, she was built during WWII as a troop transport ship and served in the Pacific theater of operation. Ever since the Vandenberg was intentionally sunk in 2009 she has frequently ranked amongst the best wreck dives in the entire world. Look for the Duval Street sign, small Conch Republic flag and the giant American flag.
The Best Things To Do In The Florida Keys
Don’t agree with our picks? Give use your thoughts in the comments below. Here is the complete list of the top-10 best things to do and see while in the Florida Keys:
- Dive the USS Vandenberg off of Key West
- Dry Tortugas National Park
- Dive the Spiegel Grove off of Key Largo
- Bar Hopping on Duval Street in Key West
- Eat Key Lime Pie
- Dive The Thunderbolt off of Marathon
- The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West
- Florida Keys Brewing Company in Islamorada
- Turtle Hospital in Marathon
- Watch the Sunset at Mallory Square in Key West