What is your idea of a good holiday adventure? If you say visiting an island destination, then we have you set for the beautiful wonder that awaits in the Florida Keys.
Here you can enjoy thrilling water activities like boating, scuba diving, snorkelling, and sport fishing (which leads to opportunities to enjoy some fresh seafood).
This string of beautiful islands is located approx. 120 miles off the southernmost tip of Florida in between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.
Let’s start by identifying the main Florida Keys on a map and explore each Key one by one.
Map of Florida Keys
Key Largo – The Paradise Of Scuba Adventures!
This is the northernmost island of the Florida Keys. It will take approx. 1-hour to reach Key Largo from either of the two major Florida Airports.
Apart from the general mesmerising natural beauty Key Largo displays, it is also home to some seriously inviting beaches, state parks, a national park, and a part of a national marine sanctuary – let’s look deeper.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
Fun fact: this is the first-ever undersea park in the US!
On land, the park is mostly mangrove swamps and tropical hammocks, but the star attraction is the undersea coral park – which you can explore by going on a glass-bottom boat tour or scuba diving and snorkelling.
Kayaking and canoeing are pretty popular here too. You can also have a picnic near the beach and go for a dip.
African Queen Canal Cruise
Take a tour of this very iconic boat. The boat was made famous in 1951, with its appearance in the movie “The African Queen”.
Now the boat is providing travellers canal and dinner/lunch cruises. Lose yourself in a moment. It can get quite romantic as well.
Cruises are available daily at 10 am, 12 am, 2 pm, 4 pm and 6 pm. On Fridays and Saturdays at 6 pm.
Everglades National Park
This breathtaking place is home to a selection of highly endangered species like the Florida Panther, the American Crocodile, and the Manatee.
It’s no surprise that it’s a World Heritage site, as well as an International Biosphere Reserve – in other words, it’s an international gem.
Hammock Botanical State Park
Located more towards the centre of Key Largo, this botanical garden is a must-visit. It is approx.2500 acres of pure nature and panoramic beauty. Here you can follow the shade-filled trails to enjoy a little state park hike.
It homes over 84 protected plant and wildlife species. Ideal for bird-lovers and nature photographers too!
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
This epic sanctuary is where you can enjoy different water activities while exploring its diverse marine beauty and learn about the incredible aquatic life it hosts and its homes. Let’s not forget that it homes 3rd largest coral barrier reef and the only one in North America.
You can go on snorkelling trips on Reefs, experience an eco-cruise and enjoy different water sports!
Recommended Article: Florida Keys – Map of Beaches
Islamorada – The Global Fishing Sports Capital!
This island has a huge density of ongoing water sports and activities.
Here’s a place you can swim alongside sea life like dolphins, and sea lions.
Go whale watching, and surround yourself with coral reefs. The best time to visit is from May to October when the temperatures are warm, and the sky is ever-blue!
The Theatre of the Sea
Get up close with the friendly ocean life. Swim with dolphins and sea lions while also enjoying quality time with sea turtles. It’s an interactive marine life program- where you can extend your knowledge about the incredible sea life that calls the ocean their home.
It opens daily but between the times 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Wild Dolphins Tour
Enjoy your fair share of Sandbar Boat tours and snorkelling here. Swim and explore the stunning and vibrant coral reefs that call the Islamorada coast their home. You can enjoy 2 to 4-hour tours – either privately or through an ‘open ‘boat tour. The best time to visit is between May – October.
Robbie’s of Islamorada
When you’re taking a break from the water activities, head to Robbie’s of Islamorada (a.k.a Robbie’s).
You come here to get a taste of what Islamorada is to its people. Apart from countless souvenir shops, witness the local action here. There’re many restaurants, bars and a fully functioning marina that offers boat rentals and fishing charters.
If that’s not enough – for 4 USD, you can also feed some large tarpons – these fish are massive! Once you’re done feeding the hungry tarpons, you can go feed yourself (not to the tarpons..)
Marathon – Boasting Of The Best Boat Activities
The charming coastal city of Marathon is the middle region of the Florida Keys, and it’s set on 13 islands – just a 2.5-hour drive from Miami. You can find more activities than boat tours, canoeing and even kayaking. We are talking about Paddle-boating, jet-ski tours, dinners at water-front restaurants and more!
Curry Hammock State Park
This untouched sanctuary is one of the most charming state parks you can visit here. It’s a resting/breeding ground many native and migratory birds and wildlife tend to visit during certain seasons.
It’s also home to protected mangrove swamps, seagrass beds and Rockland hammocks. Here you can enjoy kiteboarding across the pristine fresh waters, go kayaking and paddle boating. It will allow you to observe upside-down jellyfish, manatees, horseshoe crabs and more!
Dolphin Research Centre
If you’re obsessed with Dolphins, then this is where you should be.
This research centre has a special needs arm for injured dolphins and interactive sessions that allow visitors to observe and understand dolphins. You can plan an entire day at the DRC, go on a camp to learn more about Dolphins and extend your knowledge while making it a memorable trip!
Pigeon Key island
It’s the ideal place to head for those who travel with family. Apart from enjoying a complete island holiday with picnics and snorkelling, you can also learn much about Florida’s history.
If you want a nice beach picnic with calming clear waters, perfect for a cooling dip – this is the beach to visit. You have a playground for the children folk and clean bathrooms and a volleyball court – if that’s your kind of game.
Lower Keys – The Nature Sanctuary!
The Lowers Keys are made of several incredible islands. Despite being called the Lower Keys this is not the last of the keys. If you are in any way a nature lover like us then you’ve hit the jackpot.
Observation Deck Blue Hole
Get a breathtaking overview of the blue-hole freshwater pond against the thick green fence of trees and the blue sky above! It’s a sight to behold. From the viewing platform, you can easily observe many of the freshwater marine life including massive gators.
You can even spot these apex predators swimming silently quite close to the viewing platform – which can be exciting! You can even spot iguanas, diverse water birds and more!
Note – you do have to pay approx.10 USD to get access to the blue hole.
The National Key Deer Refuge
The Florida Key Deer is the smallest, the most adorable white-tailed deer you can ever observe from afar (other than Bambi and his mom). They’re almost the size of a big dog, and they have adorable eyes that could capture hearts. Unfortunately, these beauties are endangered.
You are allowed to drive through the trails at an accepted speed limit of 45mph – during the day and 35 mph at night. Please be responsible enough to follow these instructions.
Note – federal law does not allow visitors to feed these Key Deer. Go nuts over their cuteness, but refrain from approaching them, making physical contact.
Bahia Honda State Park
If you enjoy white sanded beaches that also allow plenty of recreational activities – this is where you come. The beaches here have earned a reputation as one of the most beautiful beaches in America, and rightly so.
Here you can experience epic water activities like snorkelling, kayaking and even boat tours. The shallow ends with pristine calm waters stretch far, and it’s almost otherworldly.
Key West – Redefining Island Nightlife!
This is the southernmost island city in the continental U.S.A.
Located at the very bottom of the string- technically, it is the closest island to Cuba. Key West is the perfect island destination. The beaches, the warm climate, the honeymoon appeal – we could go on. The nightlife is insane!
So let’s head to the bottom to show you the top places you shouldn’t miss out on.
Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum
If you’re a fan, you have to drop by his cosy island house located on whitehead street- which now is also a museum. You get to walk in the writer’s shoes and explore his comfy little beach palace.
There’re 30-minute tours available, and it’s open daily from 9. a.m.- 5. p.m.
Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
It’s a perfect place to bring the younger aged travellers. Here they will be captivated by the diverse number of Butterflies that share the space. Of course, you don’t have to be a kid to enjoy this incredible butterfly garden – which also has a glass conservatory.
Fun fact– you can also enjoy an educational film about the butterflies and learn about their incredible life cycle and more!
This is where you get the whole Key West experience, as you set in to enjoy the sunset, the place livens up with music and street bustle – meaning it’s time to thrive in the nightlife scene! From beachside cafes to rooftop restaurants, the live music and crowd noise flowing from every direction, and it feels amazing.
America’s Southernmost Point
It’s a top tourist spot. You cannot leave Key West without taking a selfie or pic (whichever you prefer calling) with this iconic giant cement buoy. During peak season, queues get long, so come early as possible.
Dry Tortugas National Park
A formidable-looking historic structure that is surrounded by pristine blue beaches and soft white sand.
You have a catamaran and other ferry-guided tours to take you to the island. Here you can explore the fort, learn about its military history, explore the land and then head to the clear waters of the sea to enjoy some snorkelling – maybe even spot some chilled sea turtles swimming nearby.
Click here to read up on our detailed guide for Key West!
How To Get To The Florida Keys
Florida Keys – is like a different coastal universe. We have explored all their regions and now, let’s see how we can get there.
Travel By Air
If you plan on flying to Key West, you’ll be happy to know that there are direct flights available from several cities to the Key West International Airport. Here’s the current list of airlines that offer direct flights.
- American Airlines (direct flights from Miami, Philadelphia, Charlotte, Dallas, Chicago, New York and Washington D.C.)
- DELTA (direct flights from Atlanta and New York)
- Silver Airways (direct flights to Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando, and Tampa)
- United Airlines (direct flights to Houston, Newark, Washington-Dulles, and Chicago)
- JetBlue (direct flights to Boston and New York)
- Allegiant Air (direct flights to St. Petersburg, Asheville, Indianapolis, Sanford, Nashville, and Cincinnati)
However, if you’re planning on taking a small charter aircraft, or a private flight you can fly to Florida Keys Marathon International Airport (shuttle buses, taxis, and rental cars are available here).
Travel to the Florida Keys by Road
If flying is a huge NO (or a little no) – you do have the Overseas Highway to reach the islands. To describe it as one of the most insanely scenic routes you can take would be accurate! You will be passing 42 bridges through the only route available in and out of the Florida Keys.
Fun fact: Keys highway has earned the title All-American Road in Florida- which is one of the highest recognitions a road in the US can get under the National Scenic ByWays.
- Key Largo: 58 miles/93 km from Miami (approx.)
- Islamorada: 76 miles/122 km from Miami (approx.)
- Marathon: 111 miles/177 km from Miami (approx.)
- The Lower Keys: 135 miles/217 km from Miami (approx.)
- Key West: 159 miles/256 km from Miami (approx.)
If you’re unable to rent a car or hire one, you can also take a comfortable bus. Buses are available from Miami to Islamorada, Marathon and Key West. The FlixBus, National Charter Bus Miami and the Greyhound Lines are some of the bus services you can reserve to make your trip.
There’s no shortage of shuttle services as well.
Frequently Asked Questions About The Florida Keys
Can we travel by train to the Keys?
Unfortunately no. You can take a train as far as Miami and choose your mode of transport from there.
Can you go RV camping in the Florida Keys?
Yes! The Lower Keys region is the most ideal for this because it has a great number of RV and camp parks for those who want to be a little extra closer to nature.
What are the Key climates Florida Keys experience?
These subtropical lands, usually go through a wet and dry season. The best time to the Florida Keys however falls between March and May, when every single element falls into place.
Are the Florida Keys full of Mosquitos? Possible Precautions?
Unfortunately yes. Throughout the year- especially closer to the rainy seasons. So don’t forget to pack your mosquito repellent gels and creams – and if you’re going camping a mosquito net will be a lifesaver.
Are the Florida Keys Safe?
It is. The crime rates are generally low. As long as you take general precautions, and use common sense, you can avoid being duped, swindled or just becoming a victim of any sort type of crime.
Are there Sharks in the Keys?
Yes- especially in the Key West – the most commonly spotted one is the nurse shark- which most travellers describe as docile.
Which region is the least crowded usually?
The Islamorada Key is famous for sport fishing, but it also has many serene spots to relax.