The beautiful island city of Key West remains cosily nestled in the southernmost part of Florida. Yes, it’s part of the Florida Keys archipelago, and quite stunning, especially during the springtime (March to May)!
If you immensely enjoy spell-binding sunsets, sailing, snorkelling and exploring historical sites full of rich – well… history and incredible holiday experiences that entertain all your senses, then Key West is where you’re heading. No need to take our word for it, just read all about what is really instore in the island shores of Key West!
Table of Contents
- 1 Mallory Square – Celebrate the Sunset!
- 2 Visit the Tranquil Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
- 3 Tour the Picturesque Dry Tortugas National Park
- 4 Explore The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum
- 5 Party Vibes on the Duval Street
- 6 A Unique Coastal Drive along the Overseas Highway
- 7 Visit the Harry S. Truman Little White House!
- 8 Get Lost in Time at the Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park
- 9 Travel Back in Time on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Ingham Maritime Museum
- 10 Grab a Selfie at the Southernmost Point
- 11 Explore the Age-Old Maritime Splendours at the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Museum
- 12 Have Some Fishy Fun at the Key West Aquarium
- 13 Live, Love and Party hard at the Fantasy Fest!
- 14 Swim in Beautiful Higgs Beach
- 15 Make a Refreshing Stop at the 7 Artists & Friends Gallery
- 16 Tour the Iconic Key West Lighthouse and Keeper’s Quarters Museum
- 17 Take a Boozed-up Tour to the Key West First Legal Rum Distillery
- 18 Visit the Key West Garden Club – The Fort-Turned-Garden!
- 19 Walk on the Docks of Key West Historic Seaport
- 20 Enjoy a Beach Day at Smathers Beach
- 21 Explore the Hidden Beauty of Nancy Forrester’s Secret Garden
- 22 Visit the Saint Mary Star of the Sea
- 23 Explore the Historical Key West Shipwreck Museum
- 24 Step Back in Time at the Audubon House & Tropical Gardens
- 25 Dive deep into the Vandenberg Wreck
- 26 Visit Key West Museum of Art & History at the Custom House!
- 27 Experiences To Have
Mallory Square – Celebrate the Sunset!
Let’s start with the crown destination of Key West. You will find it on the waterfront in the historic town of Key West – adjacent to the cruise ship port. The enchanting sunset against the stunning waterfront is the main attraction here.
But you will also find plenty of street performers, different food stalls, and merry crowds – it’s pretty much a festival. A celebration of the sunset. It’s honestly a must add to your list of things to do in Key West – especially, if you are visiting here for the very first time.
Visit the Tranquil Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
Whether you are travelling solo or with family, this is a must-add to your list of things to do in Key West. Why? Because it’s beautiful. The crowds are there, yet the tranquillity remains very much preserved as much as the rich collection of Butterflies and other lively feathered species that live here.
Spend an hour- or more if you like in this conservatory – quietly nestled in the Duval Street of the city. Witness over 50 to 60 types of stunning butterfly species and more. It’s refreshing and worth a visit.
Tour the Picturesque Dry Tortugas National Park
Surrounded by stunning blue ocean views, this fort is bound to get you excited! The park guides are eager to share its beauty and their knowledge. You can take a flight to the fort/national park or a boat.
Explore the history of this stunning old structure, witness many birds and even go snorkelling in the clear blue waters. How awesome! When reserving your tour, make sure to check how windy it can get. It will decide how much you’ll be able to do on your tour to the Dry Tortugas National Park.
Check out our full guide for Dry Tortugas National Park
Explore The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum
If you are interested in visiting historical sites, then the home of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist – Ernest Hemingway is a cool place to drop by. It’s located on Whitehead Street, right across from the lighthouse on the south coast.
Engage in an informative tour around his home, which is beautifully maintained – fitting the description of a lovely cosy home near the sea. Transport yourself back in time and walk in the shoes of the famous Ernest Hemingway himself for a short while.
Note: Entrance fee payments by cash only.
Party Vibes on the Duval Street
You will find yourself exploring Duval Street and visiting many places. But did you know that the Street itself is a famous tourist destination? Yes, it gets crowded, It’s a happening street and exploring it should be added to your list of things to do in Key West.
You’ll find incredible shops, restaurants, stalls and bars with live entertainment. Some go far as to describe the vibe as a mixture of Las Vegas with a spoon of Fort Lauderdale (imagine!).
Try it, especially if it’s your first time visiting Key West!
A Unique Coastal Drive along the Overseas Highway
Even if you came by flight, renting a vehicle to drive along this route is worth the experience. With nothing but stunning blue ocean views on either side for approx. 110 miles, this is going to be one peaceful drive that you’ll never forget.
All shades of sky and ocean blue fill up your view no matter which side you are on, the smell of the ocean filling your senses, the wind hitting your face, it’s is an experience you will only get along the Overseas Highway Drive. How cool is that?
Visit the Harry S. Truman Little White House!
Did you think you’d find a white house anywhere other than Washington DC? Well, there is a little one on the island of Key West.
Fun fact: this was the vacation home of the US’s 33rd president – Harry S. Truman and it’s Florida’s only presidential museum.
It’s beautifully preserved and has some fascinating historical information. It is located in the Truman Annex in the old town – just five minutes from the popular Mallory Square. There is some mesmerising loveliness to the place, a unique snapshot of history.
Get Lost in Time at the Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park
This famous fort is better known as Fort Taylor, it’s a National Historic Landmark and a Florida National Park. If you are a civil-war enthusiast, then this is going to enthral you deeply. You can engage in self-guided tours or go on a picnic after a historical tour- so much to do!
The fort offers a stunning ocean view and is nestled 5 to 10 minutes from the Old Town. It is an ideal place to witness the famous Key West sunset at the end of a fascinating history tour. Definitely worth it!
Check out our detailed guide for Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park
Travel Back in Time on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Ingham Maritime Museum
Explore this insanely unique museum ship. Named USCGC INGHAM it’s the most decorated ship that served in the US, and now it’s a national historic landmark. Go back in time, and walk in the sailors’ shoes. Obviously, there’s much to immerse in. From the history to the incredible interior that’s well maintained to this day.
Go on a self-guided tour. It will only take about an hour, check out the 14-minute narrative video with pictures and some cool recordings. Many call it an unexpected treat!
Grab a Selfie at the Southernmost Point
Well, this is less of a place but a thing in a place (South Beach). It’s a large buoy. If you enjoy taking pics with a popular landmark to mark your visit, then a visit to the Southernmost Point is worth a go.
After all, it marks the southernmost point (as the name subtly hints) in the continental US. But please remember – if you visit during the high tourist season, chances are you will have to wait in line to get your chance to take your picture next to this big colourful buoy!
Here is our full guide for this attraction: Southernmost Point – Key West
You might also find this related article helpful: Can you see Cuba from Key West Southernmost Point?
Explore the Age-Old Maritime Splendours at the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Museum
You will find this heritage museum on Green Street just a few minutes from the INGHAM Maritime Museum. These ancient fleet exhibits are a splendid treat for history and cultural buffs. There are plenty of exhibits, incredible artefacts and even a short film you can sit and enjoy.
That’s not all! If you love learning about pirates, this is the place to be. The treasures, the lore, the artefacts, all things pirates! It’s a great place to spend a couple of hours and explore the unique beauty this museum holds.
Have Some Fishy Fun at the Key West Aquarium
You can’t go to an island destination and not expect to visit an Aquarium. Luckily Key West has one that can be enjoyed by travellers of all ages.
It can be found just minutes from the famous Mallory Square. The Key West Aquarium homes nearly 100 species of marine life and even birdlife!
It’s small, but it’s fun. Learn a little more about the incredible marine life in Key West, and enjoy the feeding shows and the interesting facts the staff shares. It’s a cool way to kill an hour or two if you need to.
Live, Love and Party hard at the Fantasy Fest!
If you are looking to be a part of the ultimate October festival – that’s not the October Fest, then you are heading to Key West for their Fantasy Fest. Since the festival commenced in 1979, it has been annually carried out on Duval Street. From dawn to dusk, to beyond! The festivities continue for 8 weeks!
The celebrations are not something you want to miss. The festivities include singing competitions, parades, glitzy and vibrant decor, music and lights, and so much more, it’s a proper party!
Swim in Beautiful Higgs Beach
If you are looking forward to some quality time at the beach then Higgs beach is worth including on your list of things to do in Key West.
The water is pristine and calm and inviting enough for a cooling dip. And considering it’s a public beach making it accessible for anyone at any time – it’s very clean. If you want to spend the day lounging and going for a swim, it’s ideal. Some even go snorkelling. You can find easy access to restrooms and food and lounging areas. How cool is that?
Make a Refreshing Stop at the 7 Artists & Friends Gallery
Amid all the popular Key West tour spots we have recommended above, you will find this little gallery quietly nestled along Simonton Street to be a little more refreshing. If you want to take a break from all the big go-to tour places, then hit this joint.
It’s a very small place full of immersive art collections. Yes, you can purchase a piece that tugs at your heartstrings. You might even find yourself having a lovely conversation with the owner and maybe even enjoying an immersive discussion about art pieces!
Tour the Iconic Key West Lighthouse and Keeper’s Quarters Museum
If you want one scenic photographic memory of Key West, then you definitely should visit this legendary place. This historical site is maintained by the Key West Art & Historical Society.
From the Keepers Quarters to the coastal lighthouse, when you climb to the top (there are 88 steps) you can enjoy breathtaking views of the Key West.
Tip: Climb up in the evening to catch that mythical Key West sunset and the magical views at the top of this iconic lighthouse – it’s an epic experience you’ll never forget!
Take a Boozed-up Tour to the Key West First Legal Rum Distillery
Visit the Simonton Road to visit the first legal Rum Distillery to taste some homemade pina Coladas and mojitos. You can enjoy free tours from 12.00 p.m. to 5.00 p.m 7 days a week, enjoy some rum-ilicious free rum samples from Monday to Sunday and learn all about Key West and its booze history!
Not only do these boozy products provide travellers with some good rumming fun, but if you wish to enjoy a good gluten-free product that’s also vegan friendly then you most certainly would enjoy a visit to this rumtastic place!
Visit the Key West Garden Club – The Fort-Turned-Garden!
Ancient forts near coastal areas are definitely alluring. But how cool are forts that are now stunning gardens? Not only do you have some lovely green paths to explore, but it all comes with a gorgeous view of the clear beaches Key West offers.
If you are looking to get lost in the tranquillity of stunning floral greens against the beach background, then the Key West Garden is worth a visit. You can explore and learn all about the exotic and native plants that are maintained here, and it is just a few minutes from the Key West Historic District.
Walk on the Docks of Key West Historic Seaport
If you are travelling with a family, this lovely seaport can be worth a visit. Just a couple of minutes from the famous Key West Rum Distillery, this historic seaport offers some rich maritime history and some unbelievable views.
You will have some lovely docks to see, several fantastic places to have some delicious seafood, and since it’s a seaport, the views are going to be super captivating. It’s not without crowds, but there is plenty to explore and enjoy. A must add to your list of things to do in Key West!
Enjoy a Beach Day at Smathers Beach
Smathers Beach is just a five-minute drive from Higgs beach. It is a public beach, and on a good day, it will look quite inviting. Clear and calming waters, tranquil, ideal for a good dip.
Some travellers say it’s better than Higgs Beach some say no. Either way, if you are a beach lover like us, a day at Smathers Beach will definitely add to your holiday. It can get windy at times, just take note, and talk to the locals before heading there, so you know it’s a good day for a beach day.
Explore the Hidden Beauty of Nancy Forrester’s Secret Garden
Located a few minutes from Duval Street, this famously secret spot is named after the famous environmental activities of Nancy Forrester. It is a place that has been dedicated to caring for south American Macaws and other parrots who have witnessed abuse.
Visitors are welcome to come to have picnics in the gardens and learn all about the incredible birds that are homed here. There is an entrance fee (10$ for adults, 5$ for kids). You may not come to visit with much thought, but you will be leaving with a wealth of wonderful memories!
Visit the Saint Mary Star of the Sea
Sightseeing is never complete without exploring the local ruins and landmarks. If you are an architectural buff, a visit to the Saint Mary Star of the Sea is a must.
It is a stunning basilica with incredible history and equally outstanding interior and exterior space. If you are looking for some serenity, away from the bustling tourist crowds, this is simply ideal. It is also one of the oldest catholic parishes in the US, which is located in the heart of the Key West’s Historic District.
Explore the Historical Key West Shipwreck Museum
Does exploring shipwrecks excite you? If yes, then this Shipwreck Museum of treasures should definitely impress you. Located right next to Mallory Square, this museum is dedicated to homing some incredibly cool shipwreck artefacts.
The introductory video sets off to a great start, and then tour guides will take a role of a past character while taking the tour crowds through the many exhibits. They are engaging and anything but boring. They charge a small price to climb the famous museum tower – which only adds to the experience.
Step Back in Time at the Audubon House & Tropical Gardens
If the old tales of sailors fascinate you, then here’s your chance to peek into the past of Capt. John H. Geiger, harbor pilot and master wrecker. You can enjoy the healthy display of some incredible antiques, take a self-guided tour around the premises and learn much about the Captain’s history.
The garden landscapes invite small feathered visitors and butterflies, which honestly adds to the allure. If this is your kind of thing, then it’s certainly worth including in your list of things to do in Key West.
Dive deep into the Vandenberg Wreck
If you enjoy going on wreck dives, then this one is for you! Swim deep into the blue to explore the wrecked remains of ships and their story, hidden in the darkness of the sea giving it almost a forlorn appearance.
You will dive approx.100 feet to get to the top deck. Observe the incredible marine life making home on these wrecked ruins. Always dive with an experienced dive guide. The water current here can be quite strong, so if you consider yourself a beginner, then this can get a tad too risky.
Visit Key West Museum of Art & History at the Custom House!
Whether you are a history/art enthusiast or not, visiting this historic building is a must add to your list of things to do in Key West. Looking over the famous Mallory Square – this red brick shaded 200-years old towering structure, is full of stories, artefacts and immersive exhibits.
Inside these walls, you can let the story of Key West unfold. Informative and unexpectedly enjoyable. Will keep you guessing and will keep your attention absorbed in all it has to offer. If you’re visiting Key West for the first time – this place is a must!
Experiences To Have
Sail into the Waters and Swim along with Wild Dolphins
Go on a half-day sailing adventure! Get onboard a comfortable sailing vessel at the historic seaport and embark on a memorable voyage to the pristine blue ocean waters of Key West.
Enjoy watching the wild dolphins go about their day, head near a coral reef and go snorkelling in the cooling blue waters, you might be able to feast your eyes on some of 600 odd species of stunning and colourful marine life, and when you are done, you can grab a cool drink on the vessel and just enjoy the splendid ocean sceneries.
Enjoy a Tipsy Tour through Key West’s Craft Cocktail Trails!
If you thought the rum distillery was something, then you’ve seen nothing yet! If you enjoy a good drink – Key West has much to offer. Why not dedicate a day tour simply to explore the different cocktail wonders in the city? Travel from off-beaten boozy joints to historic pubs and boutique hotels to discover the locally crafted boozy delights that await your tasting pleasure!
Learn all about the Key West history and culture through the locally crafted cocktails and gourmet finger food that will just delight your body and soul!
Enjoy a Kayak Tour at Mangrove Maze of Key West
Exploring all the incredible sites on land can be an unending pleasure. But Key West has a lot more to offer than just beaches, sunsets, museums and incredible festivals. If you want to get off the usual route. Then try a 2-hour tour that allows you to navigate yourself on a kayak through the cooling mangroves.
Here you will have the chance to witness tropical fish, crabs, seabirds and other local wildlife with the help of an expert guide. It’s always better to use a known tour agent to ensure your safety.
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