Florida Keys is a wonderland of jaw-dropping iridescent waters, lush mangroves, friendly wildlife and a treasure trove of attractions, from rum distilleries to turtle sanctuaries
Gently stretching out towards the Caribbean from the Florida peninsula, the dreamy Key West archipelago forms a trail of untamed beauty and adventure. Spanning from Key Largo to the famed Key West, the islands are threaded together like a string of pearls by the 180km Overseas Highway. Leapfrog from island-to-island, each as beautiful as the last, via 42 bridges, enchanting passageways and endearing seaside towns.
Along the way, discover underwater coral kingdoms teeming with kaleidoscopic colour, dancing dolphins in opalescent waters and twinkling white-sand beaches. Make it to the end where the southernmost point of the continental USA awaits and on a clear day you can see across to Cuba.
Discover our pick of the top things to do in Florida Keys and the experiences you never knew you could have.
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Discover a magical undersea world at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
Kick off your Florida Keys escapade at the archipelago's largest island – home to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park; the first underwater national park in the USA and the self-proclaimed dive capital of the world. Plunge into the glittering topaz waters on a snorkeling or scuba expedition to encounter vibrant tropical fish, friendly dolphin pods, gentle manatees and beloved sea turtles. Set out on a glass-bottom boat tour, kayak through the mangroves or bathe in the shimmering sunrays on one of the many postcard-worthy beaches.
Enjoy a pint at the legendary No Name Pub
Unofficially hailed as THE watering hole of the Florida Keys, No Name Pub is an iconic hotspot for locals and visitors alike. Established in 1931 as a general store, the vibrant eatery has only continued to grow in popularity. Heralded for its honky-tonk atmosphere of beer-drinking, pool-shooting and great southern food, the No Name Pub is consistently top-voted in the ZAGAT survey and was named ‘the best casual dining experience in the Florida Keys’. Its famed dishes are the good ol’ American burger and fries and the Carribean pizza – best washed down with a pint or two.
Support a sea turtle at The Turtle Hospital
While spotting a sea turtle in the Keys isn’t uncommon, a visit to The Turtle Hospital in Marathon guarantees a feel good, up-close-and-personal experience. This non-profit organisation has been rescuing and rehabilitating sea turtles since 1986 and welcomes visitors on a 90-minute tour to meet the resident turtles and hear their fascinating stories. Meet turtles named Mac and Cheese, enjoy an interactive presentation on turtle conservation and enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at the hospital facilities before lining the turtle aquarium for a live feeding. The best part? Your entry fee supports the rehabilitation of up to 100 turtles per year.
Go tipple tasting at Key West First Legal Rum
If you’re going to toast with a tipple in Key West, it has to be rum. Pay a visit to Key West First Legal Rum, the site of small-batch rum heaven made with all-natural Florida sugarcane and infused with coconut, vanilla and, of course, key lime. Take a free behind-the-scenes tour of the rum distilling process and enjoy thirst-quenching samples along the way. The homemade Piña Colada is a must-try.
Walk in the footsteps of a literary legend at The Hemingway Home & Museum
No trip to Key West is complete without a visit to the former home of its most legendary resident – Ernest Hemingway. Walk the path of the Nobel Prize-winner as you pay your respects to his life and memory. Stroll the manicured gardens, admire the charming island architecture and befriend the six-toed cats — some of which are descendants of the writer’s own pets. See the typewriter used to produce the original manuscripts of The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber and The Green Hills of Africa, before visiting the bookstore filled with souvenirs and mementos.
Enjoy family friendly fun at Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory
Walk among hundreds of free-floating butterflies and exotic birds (plus two resident flamingos) at the tranquil Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory. Immerse yourself in a tropical garden filled with peaceful koi ponds, softly chirping birds and serene waterfalls. Whether you are seeking a family-friendly activity or a reprieve from the buzzing energy of Duval Street, a visit to the conservatory is guaranteed to rejuvenate the mind.
Explore a 19th-century fort at Dry Tortugas National Park
Just when you thought you’d explored all of Florida Keys’ wonders, there’s Dry Tortugas National Park. It may be located over 100km west of Key West and accessible only by boat or seaplane, but it’s well worth the journey. Explore the magnificent 19th-century Fort Jefferson, snorkel, dive or swim in the crystal-like waters, take in the ambience as the sea breeze carries the melody of the chirping birds and pitch your tent under the stars.
Seeking sun, surf and sand? Check out our guide to 6 of the USA’s Best Beaches.