Even if you have only a few days to spend in Key West, it’s easy to pack a lot of activities in. From sightseeing to fine dining and tours, there are plenty of things to do. These are among the best historical, cultural, adventure, and foodie excursions to choose from.
Hit the Beach
While Key West may not have the miles-long sandy beaches that other warm and sunny vacation spots can boast of, the snorkeling here is magnificent and second to none. The city has several public beaches so even if you’re not staying at a hotel or resort with beach access, you can still enjoy a beach day. Smathers is well-known and among the most popular; it also has amenities like public restrooms and rentals for beach chairs, umbrellas, and snorkeling gear. If you’re traveling with your pup, make sure to visit Dog Beach where your pet will be welcome.
In Key West, fishing is no game–it’s the home of world-class sport and recreational fishing. Whether you book a fishing charter to take you out for deep water fishing, wreck fishing or reef fishing, there’s something exciting waiting to bite year-round. Half- and full-day charters go out for tarpon, grouper, snapper, and more. And what’s more, you can visit a restaurant like Dante’s after your fishing trip and they’ll cook your filleted catch for dinner–your choice of blackened, grilled or fried and served family style.
Enjoy Seafood Al Fresco
One of the best places for seafood and outdoor dining is Eaton Street Seafood Market and Restaurant in Old Town Key West. Pick up your order of lobster roll, crab cake sandwich, grilled lobster tail, fish sandwich, or conch fritters and enjoy people watching as you dine under the shade. All the seafood here is caught daily and prepared to order. And if you can’t get enough of Eaton Street’s seafood, they even ship across the continental U.S. year-round so you can recreate your favorite vacation dishes at home.
Tour the House and Gardens at the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum
One of the most well-known American writers, Ernest Heminway, lived in Key West for a time, and his family home is now open to visitors. Many of the original furnishings of the home are still in place for you to see, and the gardens are spectacular when in bloom. You’ll also see many of the six-toed cats that are direct descendants of those owned by the man known as Papa himself. Don’t miss the in-ground pool–while a feature like that may seem like no big deal today, at the time it was installed, the pool was a technological marvel.
Take a One-of-a-Kind Nature Walk
The Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden is a great place to explore the plants and trees of Key West as they grow naturally. Even though the park has been buffeted by hurricanes in past years and recovery and regrowth are slow, it’s still well-worth your time to take a leisurely walk through the arboretum. In fact, it’s the only one of its kind in the continental U.S. Pack a picnic lunch and your binoculars because you’ll want to spend all day identifying leaves, trees, and the native birds that make their home here, including white ibis, herons, and osprey.
Join in the Sunset Celebration
The great thing about this festival dedicated to winding down the day is that it’s put on nightly so you never really need to worry about missing it. The Sunset Celebration is welcomed by tourists and locals alike, and open to all ages which makes it a wonderful family event. At the end of Duval Street, in Mallory Square, you’ll find this gathering of food and drink vendors, live music, street performers, and more. It’s a wonderful segue to the kids’ bedtime if you’re traveling with little ones or a nice way to kick off your night before a late adults-only dinner or drinks.
Visit a State Park with Something for Everyone
There are lots of historical landmarks and attractions in Key West but perhaps the best known is Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park. It’s home to a Civil War-era fort that’s still standing and open for tours. Learn about Key West’s place in American history throughout the Civil War and Spanish American War. Enjoy the now-peaceful grounds where you can walk or bike along maintained trails, swim at the beach, and lunch at the dedicated picnic area. You can rent beach gear here as well as snorkeling gear. If you don’t bring your own lunch, the Cayo Hueso Cafe serves light fare, including sandwiches, salads, wraps, pizza, hot dogs, and ice cream.
Fill your time in Key West with an array of activities that will leave you entertained, inspired, and engaged with the rich history, culture, and community of this jewel of the Florida Keys. The small size of the island makes it possible to build an itinerary full of things to see and do no matter what time of year you visit.