18 Things To Do in Key West
Key West, often referred to as the Conch Republic, is the southernmost city in the contiguous United States. It is also a top tourist destination in South Florida, known for its excellent weather (averaging 260 sunny days per year) and myriad fun activities and attractions for tourists and residents alike.
If you are planning a trip to Key West, the good news is that you are spoiled for choice when it comes to entertainment and things to do. In this blog post, we will take a deep dive into everything that the island of Key West has to offer its visitors. Let’s get started with this guide on the 18 best things to do in Key West!
1. Try Your Hand at Snorkeling
Just a short boat ride from Key West is the only living coral barrier reef in the United States. The coral reef of the Florida Keys stretches for more than 350 miles and is home to a wide range of marine life.
If you are interested in seeing this reef and its incredible marine life up close and personal, we highly recommend that you try your hand at snorkeling. There are a number of companies in Key West that organize snorkeling trips.
2. Rent a Bike and Explore
Key West is an incredibly bike-friendly area and renting a bike is a great way to experience everything that the island has to offer. You and your family will love exploring the island in this way, stopping when and where you want and taking in the attractions at your own pace.
For bike rentals in Key West, your premier choice is Island Safari Rentals. We offer multiple types of Key West bike rentals for your convenience, including adult cruisers and electric bikes to sports cruisers and scooters. We even offer tandem bikes for couples and families who are truly in it together!
3. Visit the Southernmost Point of the US
One of the most popular attractions in Key West is undoubtedly the Southernmost Point. It’s a site that thousands of tourists visit each year and is a must-see when in Key West.
The painted anchored buoy was erected in 1983 and highlights the fact that Cuba is just 90 miles away. Given that this area is so popular with tourists, it’s worth timing your visit so that you have the opportunity to snap some memorable photos. Morning times are typically best as the crowds will be smaller than in the afternoons.
4. Marvel at the Beauty of a Sunset
The Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square Dock and Plaza is something else that you must add to your bucket list when visiting Key West. Mallory Square is located in the northwestern part of Key West and is famous for festive street performers and artists. It is also the best place to watch a truly incredible sunset.
The Sunset Celebration is completely free to attend and takes place 365 days a year (weather permitting). Grab a frozen margarita, enjoy the lively entertainment on offer, and marvel at the beauty of the sunset!
5. Head to the Beach
While Key West may not be known for picturesque white sandy beaches, there are still a number of excellent beaches that you can visit for a relaxing day or even just a few hours. Some of these beaches include Smathers Beach (the longest on the island) and beaches at Higgs Beach Memorial Park and Fort Zachary Taylor State Park.
There are many great water activities that you can do at the beach in Key West, including snorkeling, kayaking, standup paddleboarding, swimming, and fishing.
6. Visit the Ernest Hemingway House
Ernest Hemingway, one of America’s best-loved writers, was truly a globetrotting adventurer. Between 1931 and 1931, he called Key West home (907 Whitehead Street to be exact).
The house itself was built between 1848 and 1851 and is where Hemingway wrote some of his best works, including “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”, the “Green Hills of Africa”, “To Have and Have Not”, and “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”. It’s also where the manuscript for the novel “Islands in the Stream” was found after his death.
If you are a fan of Hemingway’s work or incredible life, a visit to his house in Key West is an absolute must. Even if you aren’t, we’re sure that you will enjoy seeing the many famous polydactyl cats that continue to reside at the house.
7. Visit Bahia Honda State Park
Key West to Bahia Honda State Park takes just 45 minutes by car and a visit here makes for a great day trip. It’s a wonderful place to explore the magic of the Florida Keys, with its crystal clear water and sandy beaches.
Some of the best things to do at Bahia Honda State Park include bicycling, riding, camping, boat tours, boating, fishing, hiking, geo-seeking, paddling, picnicking, scuba diving, snorkeling, shelling, swimming, star gazing, wildlife viewing, and more. Access to Bahia Honda State Park is just $8 per vehicle (two to eight people).
8. Enjoy the Famous Duval Street
The main street in Key West is Duval Street, which is 1.1 miles in length. It is packed with iconic bars, making it the perfect place for bar-hopping with friends.
For those wondering where Hemingway drank in Key West, there were quite a few! Chief among these is Sloppy Joe’s Bar, which was known as his favorite haunt during his year living there. Other bars worth a visit on Duval Street include Captain Tony’s Saloon, Green Parrot Bar, and Hog’s Breath Saloon.
9. Hop-On and Hop-Off the Trolley
Another great way to get around Key West when you are busy sightseeing is to use the hop-on-hop-off trolley. The trolley has 12 centrally located stops and provides easy access to more than 100 points of interest in Key West.
Whether you are moving from one sight to another or simply looking for a relaxing way to view the area, the trolley is highly recommended. Given that parking can be a tricky issue in Key West, using public transport and/or bike rental is highly recommended to all visitors.
10. Take a Walk Around the Unique Streets
We have already mentioned the Ernest Hemingway House, but there are also many other must-see buildings in the city, which is rightly well-known for its impressive and historic architecture. The Key West Historic District is a perfect place for exploring on foot and soaking up the history of Key West.
Highly recommended places to visit include the Key West Oldest House and Museum (built in 1829), the Harry S. Truman Little White House (which served as a kind of second White House during Truman’s presidency), Truman Annex Park, and the Key West Lighthouse.
11. Visit Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Museum
Located at 200 Greene Street, the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum contains an incredible collection of 17th-century shipwreck artifacts. Mel Fisher was a well-known American treasure hunter whose legacy lives on at this impressive museum.
Treasure from a host of shipwrecks can be viewed, including the Henrietta Marie, Nuestra Señora de Atocha, Santa Margarita, and the Santa Clara. If you ever dreamed of being a famous treasure hunter during your childhood, you can relieve those dreams at the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum.
12. Visit Dry Tortugas National Park
Located about 70 miles to the west of Key West, Dry Tortugas National Park is another place that makes for a great day tour while you and your family are in the area. Here you will be spoiled with incredible history and natural beauty.
You can explore Fort Jefferson (which was constructed during the Civil War), go camping, take the Yankee Freedom ferry, charter a seaplane, go swimming, diving, or snorkeling, or just stroll around and enjoy the rich history of the Park.
13. Go Shopping for Souvenirs
Whether you are looking for physical items to remember your time in Key West or buy some gifts for loved ones back home, you can’t go wrong with Key West souvenirs. We’ll find a huge range of souvenirs to choose from, including seashells, refrigerator magnets, t-shirts, postcards, hats, and much more.
Of course, no trip to Key West is complete without purchasing some Key lime pie, made from local limes. You can also find souvenirs in many of the local bars and restaurants you will no doubt enjoy visiting during a trip. The Hemingway House also sports an excellent shop where you can pick up gifts for the Hemingway fanatic in your family.
14. Go Fishing
Fishing and Key West (really the entire Florida Keys) go hand in hand! Here, you will find some incredible varieties of fish. Of course, the beauty of Key West fishing is that it is a year-round endeavor, thanks to the tropical climate.
Some of the different species of fish you can find in Key West include mangrove snappers, mutton snappers, yellowtail snappers, lane snappers, tarpons, red groupers, black groupers, goliath groups, lemon sharks, black tip sharks, bonnet head sharks, permits, pompanos, bonefish, yellow jacks, barracuda, cobias, mackerel, spotted sea trout—the list goes on!
15. Dine Out In Style
Given the excellent fishing opportunities in Key West, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to hear that there are many excellent restaurants on the island, too. We’re sure that you’ll love the abundance of seafood, Key lime pie, and frozen cocktails you’ll find on most menus!
Some of the best restaurants in Key West include Latitudes, Blue Heaven, Cuban Coffee Queen, El Siboney, Little Pearl, Cafe Marquesa, Bad Boy Burrito, A&B Lobster House, and Smoked BBQ. A visit to Key West really is a culinary delight!
16. Go Sailing
Another way to make use of the incredible location is to try your hand at sailing. It’s one of the best ways to explore the area and you can either rent a sailboat or, if you prefer, simply hop on a tour. There are a number of sailing tours available from Key West, including guided tours that come with drinks, dinner, and sunset views.
17. Rent Jet Skis
If sailing isn’t your thing or you are looking for something a little more “high speed”, then you can always rent jet skies. There are many jet ski operators in Key West for tours and rentals.
Note that people born after January 1st, 1988 are required to take a boaters safety test to drive any jetski or boat. The test takes less than 15 minutes to complete online and you can learn more about it here.
18. Visit the Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory is located at 1316 Duval Street (just a two-minute walk from the southernmost point buoy) and is home to dozens of different species of live butterflies from around the world.
In addition to the free-flying butterflies, it’s also home to exotic birds, two glorious flamingos, cascading waterfalls, trees, and flowering plants. It’s a great place for families to visit when in Key West. General admission is just $15 and $11 for children aged between four and 12.
Best Things To Do in Key West
As this article has highlighted, there are many wonderful and fun things to do in Key West for people of every age. One of the island’s biggest attractions is its people, who are naturally welcoming, warm, and friendly. We’re confident that you will feel right at home in Key West as soon as you arrive.
Here at Island Safari Rentals, we have you covered when it comes to affordable bike rentals in Key West. Our bike rentals are the best way to see the sights and explore the area during a visit and we have options to fit every need. Contact us today to learn more.