10 must do’s in the Florida Keys and Key West
The Florida Keys is one of America’s most iconic road trips. Starting in Miami and extending south until Key West, this 113-mile stretch of road takes only three hours to complete. But to drive end-to-end with no breaks would be doing yourself a disservice.
That’s because this island chain is beautifully diverse and feels a world apart from the theme parks and shopping malls of mainland Florida. While it is Key West that typically gets all the attention, anyone who has taken the time to stop at all the islands will tell you that they each offer a unique experience. Before you start your journey, ensure you have a read through our top 10 must do’s in the Florida Keys and make a point of stopping at least once on each island.
1. Dive/Snorkel at John Pennekamp State Park (Key Largo)
The crown jewel of the state park system and the first undersea park in the U.S., John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park encompasses approximately 70 nautical square miles. It is also home to one of two coral reef formations in United States waters. You can view the coral reef system from a glass bottom-boat, or snorkeling. Other activities available in the park include canoeing, kayaking, fishing, hiking, picnicking, swimming and wildlife viewing.
2. Kayak and explore Everglades National Park (Key Largo)
This is the only eco-system of its type in the world with the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States – boasting rare and endangered species. It has even been designated a World Heritage Site, International Biosphere Reserve and a wetland of international importance.
3. Fish in the Sport Fishing Capital of the World (Islamorada)
Take a charter boat out to one of the only places on Earth where it is possible to catch a sailfish in the morning, and then venture into the backcountry in pursuit of bonefish, permit, tarpon, snook and redfish in just inches of water.
4. View art at Robbie’s Marina (Islamorada)
A nostalgic destination reminiscent of why some of the most talented artists, writers, fishermen and presidents have called the Florida Keys home. Robbie’s Marina rests peacefully among coconut palms with shimmering views of the unspoiled Florida Bay and the Atlantic Ocean converge. With free entry, a private sandy beach, restaurants serving fresh food, and quaint art and craft pavilions, it’s not hard to understand why so many artists have chosen this place to immortalise in paintings.
5. Learn about local marine life at Dolphin Research Centre (Marathon)
The Dolphin Research Centre on Marathon is a not-for-profit research and educational facility that offers several exciting daily presentations demonstrating the dolphins’ high flying athletics, educational fun facts, dolphin research, new behaviour training, medical behaviours, and much more.
6. Turtle Hospital (Marathon)
Visit the Turtle Hospital and see how they rehabilitate injured sea turtles and return them to their natural habitat. Learn how they conduct and assist with research aiding sea turtles and work toward environmental legislation to ensure that the beaches and waters are safe for sea turtles.
7. Visit Bahia Honda State Park and Recreation Area (Big Pine Key)
With its white sandy beaches and abundant wildlife, Bahia Honda Key frequently makes the list of most beautiful beaches in America. Experiences available in the park include biking, bird-watching, boat tours, camping, fishing, and snorkelling.
8. Spend time on Big Pine and the Lower Keys
Spend a half day exploring the backcountry waters off the lower Florida Keys. Encounter key deer, sea turtles and dolphins in their natural habitat as well as exploring the Great White Heron National Sanctuary.
9. Day trip to the Dry Tortugas National Park (Key West)
Almost 70 miles (113 km) west of Key West lies the remote Dry Tortugas National Park. The 100-square mile park is mostly open water with several small islands. Accessible only by boat or seaplane, the park is known the world over as the home of magnificent Fort Jefferson, picturesque blue waters, superlative coral reefs and marine life, and the vast assortment of bird life that frequent the area.
10. Sunset at Mallory Square (Key West )
Celebrate the end of your road trip at Mallory Square where every evening you can enjoy free live music and street entertainers, art and craft stores and enjoy a cocktail as the sun goes down.