26 Fun Things to do in Key West Florida

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by Kristin Young | Updated On: December 27, 2021 | Florida Keys

Are you planning a trip to the islands and looking for things to do in Key West, Florida? Lucky you! We adore the Florida Keys and can tell you that there are lots of Key West activities and attractions to get involved with.

From the must see Key West attractions or the best activities on Key West to sampling the best Key Lime pie in Key West, we have you covered. On this tropical island you can mingle with flamingoes, see colourful butterflies and discover the history and culture of this part of the US. Whatever your interests, all the top places to visit in Key West Fl are outlined here.

That’s before you even get out on the water. Key West offers unparalleled opportunities for snorkeling, kayaking and paddle boarding. You can also visit a sandbar and take a trip to the Dry Tortugas National Park, as well as sampling adrenalin-inducing activities in Key West, such as jet skiing and jet surfing.

While Key West makes a great base, we’d recommend coming without a car. Parking on the island is scarce and trying to find a space is stressful, so rent a bike or scooter instead. That way you can explore while enjoying the fresh ocean air and taking it all in at the more laid-back pace that’s typical of island life.

Still looking for the perfect place to stay?? Check out our favorite Beach Hotels in Key West HERE.

If you want to find out all about the top 25 things to do on Key West, then stay right here because we’ve listed them all! From a self-led bike tour to admiring the island’s most photogenic old buildings and lighthouses, this is the definitive guide to what to do in Key West.

In this post post:

KEY WEST THINGS TO DO MAP

Top things to do in Key West travel map

26 OF THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN KEY WEST

11 Mile Self Bike Tour

Kristin riding bike on Key West sidewalk

One of the best ways to see many of the attractions in Key West is to hire a bike for part or all of your stay on the island. While parking is horrible here, cycling is quite the opposite. Why not find your own places to go in Key West as you discover the landscape on two wheels?

Biking around Key West means taking things at just the pace that suits you. You get to see everything close up while enjoying the refreshing sea breeze, and can also stop to explore further whenever the whim takes you.

Taking the chance to travel the 11 mile loop around the edge of the island is a Key West must do. Following the route means passing almost all of the best things to see in Key West, and whenever you feel like jumping off the bike and diving into island life, history or even the water, you can do exactly that.  

Flamingle at the Butterfly Conservatory

Flamingos at the Butterfly Conservatory Key West

If you love Gone With The Wind, then you can’t miss the chance to meet Scarlett and Rhett. Even if they are a pair of flamingoes rather than the silver screen’s classic star-crossed lovers.

You can ‘flamingle’ with the pink pair each day during the late afternoon. As spaces are strictly limited to a maximum of six guests at a time, it’s best to book early for this popular Key West attraction – and don’t show up late or you may not be admitted!

Flamingle takes place from 4:30 pm to 5:45 pm each day at The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. For many, Rhett and Scarlett are a must see in Key West.

Butterfly Conservatory

Key West butterfly conservatory

If you do decide to seize the opportunity of getting familiar with a pair of exotic flamingoes, then don’t miss the chance to discover everything else that goes on at the Butterfly and Nature Conservatory while you’re there.

The center’s glasshouse is in fact home to a range of other exotic flora and fauna. In addition to over 50 species of butterfly, there are more than 20 exotic birds at the site. If you’ve ever wanted to see the likes of a colourful mandarin duck from the Far East close up, this an experience not to be missed.

There is also a Learning Center, gift shop and gallery at this star attraction in Key West, so you can even sort your post-vacation gifting at the same time. As attractions in Key West Florida go, this one has much to offer.

Hemingway Rum Company, Papa’s Pilar Distillery

Hemingway Rum Company

The Hemingway Rum Company is named for the writer who loved this Floridian island that he made his home, while ’Papa’s Pilar’ refers to his father’s treasured boat that gave them both access to adventures on the water.

A visit to the distillery is thus one of the most popular Key West things to do. Visitors love the enthusiasm of the tour guide – as well as the free rum tasting offered. The rum is of course available for purchase – will you be able to resist taking a bottle or two home with you?

You can also go behind the scenes to learn how rum is made, or even take a cocktail class led by expert mixologists. It all feels very Caribbean at this Key West must see – even though geographically speaking, you’re actually by the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.

Snorkel Charter

Snorkel Boat in Key West
Photo Credit CREATISTA, Getty Images

Snorkeling is one of the most popular things to do Key West, Florida. Of all the bunch, Looe Key is the best-loved of all: in fact it’s one of the top snorkeling spots in the entire US.

If you want to explore the underwater world at Looe Key, taking a snorkel charter trip is the best way to go. Captain Hook’s has offices in Key West and Big Pine Key, and they offer a range of boat excursions departing from both Keys.

Key West Transit operates a 50-minute shuttle bus service from the N Roosevelt and 4th Street stop in Key West to Lobstertail Road on Big Pine Key, so you can depart from there if you want to see Looe Key.

Otherwise, you can book various Captain Hook day trips from Key West to the inner and outer reef, as well as local shipwreck sites. They even offer night dives – ideal for those seeking unique things to do in Key West.

Visit a Sandbar

A sandbar in Key West
Sand Bar Key West/ Photo Credit: Radoslav Cajkovic, Shutterstock

Visiting a sandbar is one of the top things to do in Key West. Snipe Point is one of the longer sandbars, and there is plenty of space for visitors to stroll along its white sands or swim and snorkel in the clear, warm waters.

Snipe is also famed for its swing. Hanging from a mangrove over the shallow water, it’s been featured on numerous Instagram feeds.

Other Floridian sandbars worth mentioning include romantic Boca Grande, which is often visited by  dolphin pods as well as humans. Mud Keys offers the opportunity to explore mangrove clusters bisected by a series of maze-like creeks, while Woman Key is prized for its populations of conches and nesting birds.

As with snorkel sites, the easiest and most enjoyable way to visit the sandbars close to Key West is to book onto an organized boat trip, as operators know all the best places to visit in the Key West area.

Sunset Boat Cruise

Sunset cruise in Key West
Sunset Boat Charter/ Photo Credit: Misterbike, Getty Images

Whether you’re looking for things to do in Key West at night or romantic things to do in Key West, a sunset cruise is a fabulous option.

A wide range of these Key West sunset trips is available. Options include cruises with a tropical buffet, live island music or a sunset glass bottom boat tour.

You can also take a sunset trip aboard a floating tiki bar as part of a small group of six. Trade the mass gathering in Mallory Square for a peaceful cruise around Key West Harbor, as you sip colourful cocktails aboard a customised boat complete with a thatched roof.

Jet Ski

The excitement of a jet ski ride is guaranteed to make you smile – as well as providing a powerful, feel-good adrenaline surge. As long as you pick your area carefully, the ocean’s your playground for a fun-filled and scenic trip. Definitely one to add to your Key West to do list if you’re a thrill seeker.

Jet skis cannot be used in the wildlife refuge areas around Key West. These are mainly found on the Gulf side, so it’s wise to plan on playing around on the Atlantic Side instead.

Again you can take an organized jet ski trip via a local operator such as Fury. As well as the electrifying ride, you may also get to spot tropical birdlife or sea life such as sea turtles or dolphins during your tour.

Paddleboard or Kayak Tour

Woman paddleboarding at Higgs Beach Key West

Yet another way to take to the water is by joining a kayak or paddle board tour. It’s one of the best things to do in Key West, especially if you want to explore the backwaters and the local ecosystem.

Companies like Lazy Dog allow you to hire a kayak or paddle board so you can take your own self-guided adventure. They supply a map and a lesson before setting off for your two or four hour tour, so you won’t get lost or stuck while discovering the hidden must sees in Key West.

Paddling or kayaking along the shallow backwaters is fabulous way to discover the quieter side of Key West, as you can expect to get up close to some local flora and fauna along the way.

From sea grass beds to protected mangroves, there is lots of wildlife to look out for as you glide along the surface of the water. 

Go Snorkeling

A baby shark hiding under a rock in Key West sea

Donning a mask, snorkel and fins to explore the fascinating underwater world is one of the most popular activities in Key West. The top spots we recommend include Higgs Beach and Fort Zachary.

Higgs Beach is a small seaside location with a pier. The pier is relatively new and has replaced an older one. Over time, this original pier has developed into a rather reef-like structure, and is often teeming with local sea life. You can expect to see the likes of colorful fish, conches, sea urchins, sting rays and barracuda when snorkeling off Higgs Beach.

Fort Zachary beach is also highly recommended. It’s definitely up there among the top coastal Key West places to visit, and is a popular place for fishing, picnics and swimming as well as snorkeling. Underwater life to witness here includes a variety of corals, parrot fish, lobster and schools of tropical fish.

Visit Fort Zachary State Park

Cannon at Fort Zachary Key West

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park combines the very best of local wildlife and history, making it another of the top things to do in Key West, Florida. Open daily from 8am until sunset, it houses the world’s largest collection of Civil War weaponry and equipment.

Plan your day carefully and you can delve into US history as well as diving into the tropical waters of the nearby beach. You can also see and snap another favorite among Key West tourist attractions – the iconic wooden finger post sign. It’s right by the snack shop and points to locations as far afield as Honolulu and San Francisco.

A clever combination of interactive displays, helpful tour guides, gun and cannon ports and immersive exhibits at Fort Zachary enables visitors to gain a deeper understanding of how life really was for the nation’s defense force.

Mallory Square

Mallory Square at sunset
Photo Credit worldofphotos, Getty Images

Seeing the sun sink low over the horizon from Mallory Square is first on many a Key West what to do list. This is no minor event – it’s a lively festival that has been taking place here since the 1960s, and is now a firmly established local tradition.

To mark the end of another beautiful day, make sure to arrive around two hours before sunset (you can check today’s sundown time here). This is, without doubt, up there with the top things to do in Key West for free.

The evening party is attended by visitors from all over the planet, plus there are special guests to ensure the most memorable of experiences is had by all. You may see a range of entertainers such as jugglers, magicians, clowns and musicians; get to see the latest works by local artists; and sample delicious dishes from a variety of food vendors.  

Mile Marker 0

A portion of Caroline Street in Key West

If you like to take pictures, then one of the best things to do in the Florida Keys it to visit the site of the Mile Marker 0 sign. As the most southerly point in the US, the sign denotes the start and end of Highway 1.

It also forms part of the Florida Scenic Highway. At 2,370 miles long, the road connects many of the major Eastern cities that lie between upper Maine and Key West. The route is the States’ most lengthy North to South highway.

Making it to Mile Marker 0 means you’ve gone as far south as you can on land, and taking a photo as you stand beside it as proof is, for many, a must among stuff to do in Key West.

Key West Postcard Sign

Post card sign Key West

Another photographic must do in Key West exists in the form of the vintage postcard style artwork decorating one outer wall at the Cuban Coffee Queen cafe.

On Margaret Street, the iconic mural proclaims ‘Greetings from Key West, Florida’ and depicts a beach scene with blue waters, white sands and palm trees.

Some also say the cafe serves the Old Town’s finest coffee, and we’d recommend getting here early. Even if you don’t need an excuse to order the classic Key Western breakfast sandwich from the Cuban Coffee Queen.  As well as being among Key West Florida attractions, this eatery serves up a mean feast!

Try Jet Surfing

Jetsurfing in Key West
Jetsurf/ Photo Credit: Oleg Spiridonov, Getty Images

You may have tried surfing and you may have taken a jet ski ride – but have you sampled jet surfing? For thrill seekers in particular, this is surely one of the best things to do in Key Largo or Key West.

A jet surf board is a motorized surf board, and you can rent the latest models to try this sensational water sport for yourself. Locally based Jet Surf Watersports, for example, can hire you one at Key West’s biggest beach, Smathers.

Jet surfing is kinda like surfing, but no waves are even required when taking part. Key West fun all the way.

Historic Seaport

Historic Seaport Key West

One of the top attractions in Key West, the Historic Seaport is located by the waterfront, where the walkway connects the ends of half a dozen central streets via a seaside promenade.

The bustling site occupies 20 acres, and offers varied shopping, accommodation, drinking and dining options. You may also hear live music, take part in water sports or visit museums, all while enjoying panoramic coastal vistas.

Key West Bight Marina also forms part of the Historic Seaport, and visitors can watch the glistening sailboats that come in to dock here. Back on dry land, the cluster of one-off shops housed in cute beach huts is a fabulous place to browse. If you can resist buying, you could even count this one among free things to do in Key West!

Wander the Residential Streets in Old Town

Residential home in Key West Florida
Photo Credit Mike Cherim, Getty Images

The traditional homes in Old Town with their lush foliage are a beautiful sight to see. Stretching for around half a mile, one of our favorites, Caroline Street is one of the top places to see in Key West for those that love wandering through this historic area and taking it all in.

Many of the peaceful, shady streets remain largely residential, with fine examples of Colonial, Victorian and ‘conch style’ architecture to be seen. The latter is somewhat unique to the Keys, and is attributed to Bahamian immigrants.

Key Lime Pie Taste Testing

A slice of Key lime pie

Sampling the local dessert specialty is a must – but who sells the original Key lime pie in Key West?

The pie made by Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe is the best known, but of all the fun things to do in Key West, finding your favourite version is quite possibly one of the most enjoyable of all. Some prefer their pie with a topping of whipped cream, while others will plump for meringue.

If you’re a fan of the baked egg white and sugar style topping, we hear that Blue Heaven’s key lime pie is irresistible. But there’s only one way to be certain which is best – and that’s to try them all. Other hotspots include Cuban eatery El Mason De Pepe, The Stoned Crab and Matt’s Stock Island Kitchen and Bar.

Visit the Dry Tortugas

Aerial shot of Dry Tortugas

Dry Tortugas National Park in the Gulf of Mexico is just under 70 miles from Key West. This getaway destination is rich in sea life and offers fantastic snorkeling and diving opportunities, colorful reefs and birdlife breeding grounds.

The Dry Tortugas National Park comprises seven islands abundant in white sandy beaches, as well as the warm tropical waters that surround them.

If you possibly can, wild camping in Dry Tortugas is one of those quintessential Key West Florida things to do. As is traveling there by seaplane – but you will need to book early if you want to tick that one off the list: it’s hugely a popular pick among Key West vacation ideas.

Even the ferry there is often booked out far in advance, so do plan ahead as much as you can. If you do decide to camp, all supplies must be brought with you – right down to your drinking water.

Duval Street

Duval Street, Key West
Photo Credit: Darrylbrooks

Lively Duval Street is Key West’s party central and the hub of the island’s social and cultural scene.  Along the main drag you can find coffee shops, art galleries, local restaurants, one-of-a-kind stores, live music venues and convivial bars.

Duval Street is the place to be if you want to go souvenir shopping, stay at Southernmost House, take a bar crawl, see a drag show, hop onto the conch train, snap the facade of the former Strand Theater or even meet a cat with six ‘toes’ at the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum.

The street also adjoins Caroline Street and Mallory Square, so you can combine your visit with a stroll along the former or seeing sunset at the latter.

Southernmost Point

Southernmost point buoy in Key West
Photo Credit: Renato_Pessanha, Getty Images

The Southernmost Point of the US is appropriately marked, by a permanently anchored buoy made from concrete, and it’s one of the most visited Key West FL attractions. In fact it’s one of the most popular attractions in the entire country.

Yep, among things to do in Key West, FL this is right up there, so do arrive early if you want to avoid the crowds.

Line of people in Mile Marker 0
This is what the line for pictures looks like nearly all of the time.

The current concrete buoy was erected to replace a little sign that formerly marked the spot at the corner of Whitehead Street and South Street. Even the paintwork of this was damaged by Hurricane Irma, but it was soon restored by the original artist.

Fort West Martello and Gardens

Historic Fort West Martello in Key West
Photo Credit: Rachael Cash, Getty Images

Overseen by the Key West Garden Club, West Martello Tower is a fort dating back to the Civil War. The historic site is home to seaside tropical-style gardens, with intimate garden rooms abundant in potted plants enclosed by red brick walls.

There are various rare plant collections to discover at West Martello, as well as the pleasure of wandering the delightful gardens and delving into American history. Where Florida Key West attractions are concerned, this is one of the most relaxing to spend time in.

Highlights include the Perfume and Butterfly Gardens, and don’t miss seeing – and capturing on camera – the exotic orchids in the courtyard. Scenery wise, this is one of the best places in Key West for sure.

Hemingway Home

The Hemingway house in Key West
Photo Credit: Graeme Crouch, Getty Images

Occupying an imposing colonial structure on Whitehead Street, Hemingway Home is almost as famous for its furry residents as for the writer himself.

One of the most fascinating things in Key West is that many of the cats that wander the grounds are descended from Snow White, a six-toed cat once gifted to Hemingway. These unusual creatures make it onto many a list of what to see in Key West.

Apart from felines, much at Hemingway House is about his maritime adventures as well as his Nobel prize-winning literature. Visitors can take a guided tour of the house and museum before stopping off at the gift shop for a memento.

Key West Lighthouse

Key West Lighthouse
Photo Credit: Iroberg, Getty Images

Once a US Naval base was established on Key West in the early 19th century, the lighthouse soon followed. Due to the abundance of reefs and shallow waters, it was a safety essential for the vessels arriving on and departing the island.

The lighthouse has seen some landmark developments – not least the fact that its first Keeper was female. After various upgrades, it was decommissioned in 1969 by the US coastguard, and seeing it is one of the most popular things to do in Key West today. 

Visitors can discover former residents’ belongings and climb the 88 steps to the top. If you want to add this to your list of things to do in Florida, Key West, it’s worth buying tickets ahead as online discounts are offered.

Key West Aquarium

Located on Mallory Square, the aquarium is one of the best things to do in Key West with kids. It can also fill the time while you await the daily sunset party that takes place in the square.

Highlights include jellyfish and shark exhibits, the sea turtles conservation tour and the hands-on touch tank. Feedings also take place daily.

Other interesting sea life that can be seen range from alligators and stingrays to clownfish, spiny lobsters, angelfish and stone crabs. If you’re traveling as a family, then this is surely one of the top 10 things to do in Key West.

Truman Little White House

The Little White House in Key West FL

Former President Harry S Truman used the ‘Little White House’ in the Old Town as his winter residence, and now it’s one of the best places to visit in Key West.

It’s the only presidential museum in Florida. Truman served as the 33rd US president between 1945 and 1953, and during his time saw some landmark moments including VE Day, the Baby Boom, the establishment of NATO and the introduction of significant legislation like the National Security Act.

If you’re interested in US political history, the Little White House is one of the most absorbing things to see in Key West.

Bonus:  Take a Day Trip up the Keys

If you’re wondering what to do in Key West, Florida, how about thinking outside the immediate area? The following list of Key West Florida activities all involve heading a little way north.

A day trip up the Keys involves looking beyond Key West sightseeing to explore some of the other treasures of the region during your vacation.

Bahia Honda State Park

Bahia Honda State Park in Florida Key West

These include Bahia Honda State Park, a paradisical getaway where you’ll find Loggerhead, Sandspur and Calusa beaches. As well as an abundance of wildlife and natural beauty, there’s also a historic landmark bridge here.

Sombrero Beach, Marathon

Sombrero Beach, Marathon, Florida
Photo Credit: Rachael Cash, Getty Images

If beach life is your thing, don’t miss Sombrero Beach in Marathon. It’s famous for nesting loggerhead turtles between spring and fall, and is also popular for picnicking, swimming and playing volleyball.

Snorkeling the Keys

Looe Key Reef Shark

For avid fans of the underwater world, Looe Key, Sombrero Reef, Alligator Reef and the John Pennekamp State Park offer some of the finest snorkeling available anywhere. Glass bottom boat tours are also available.

Seven Mile Bridge

Aerial shot of Seven Mile Bridge
Photo Credit: FloridaStock, Shutterstock

The Seven Mile bridge is Florida’s longest, and also well worth seeing first-hand. Completed in 1982, it connects Knight’s Key in Marathon to the Lower Keys. In fact there are two bridges, once for vehicles and the original structure used only for cyclists and pedestrians. The latter dates back to 1912.

Tarpon feeding at Robbie’s

People Tarpon feeding at Robbie’s

Known colloquially as the ‘Silver Kings’, an entire school of sizable tarpon pay a daily visit to Robbie’s in Islamorada. It’s an impressive spectacle, and you can also browse the souvenir store, dine in the restaurant, sip a cocktail or beer on the deck and even take fishing trips from here. 

Following the Bloodline

The Key West house featured in Netflix show Bloodline

While in Islamorada, you can also tour various locations featured in the Netflix show Bloodline. A number of local spots featured on the show, including Coral Bay Marina, Moorings Village hotel and spa, Alabama Jack’s bar and of course Robbie’s of Islamorada.

WHICH THINGS TO DO IN KEY WEST WILL MAKE YOUR LIST?

If you’ve been wondering what is there to do in Key West, we hope this post has helped to answer that question!

From adrenalin-inducing activities in Key West FL or the best places to visit in Key West Florida for history buffs, how to have fun in Key West all depends on your personal preferences.

Whether you’re more keen on Key West water activities or the idea of finding the top Key lime pie in Key West FL, the best places to go in Key West are those that will ensure yours is a tropical vacation to remember.

Looking for more Florida Keys info to plan your trip? Check out all of our Florida Keys Guides HERE.

Profile Kristin and Andrew with palm tree background

Hi!  We’re Kristin & Andrew, lovers of everything tropical.  We spend as much time as possible searching for the best beaches, snorkeling, hiking, and fun in the sun!