Florida Keys

Things to do in Florida Keys

The coastline provides a variety of activities for the whole family, both educational and recreational – but most importantly fun. Ocean activities include snorkeling through reefs, or viewing sunken ruins, including the Christ of the Abyss in Key Largo. Ocean lovers can also take surfing lessons, fishing tours and set off on other water adventures.

There are also conservation programs and workshops, along with dolphin encounters for those keen to learn about the Keys and the natural ecosystem. Visitors can also take eco-tours or drop by the Key West aquarium for a fun and educational day.

For those whose main objective is relaxation – and who can blame you in this beach paradise? – there are a plethora of wellness centers and spas to chose from when visiting the Florida Keys.
When planning a visit to the Florida Keys, there is something for everyone: nature, adventure, relaxation, learning – and even theater and shopping as well.

Snorkel in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park—which includes part of North America's largest living reef.

Off the beaten path in an old Armory building, this nonprofit creative arts community center serves as an artist residency to more than 40 different artists each year. Mediums include writing, hair and headdress designing, dancing, painting, sculpting, and music.

Cuban cigars are embargoed in the United States, so buy a legal version at this warren-like shop directly across from Mallory Square.

The Yankee Freedom II takes visitors from Key West to Dry Tortugas National Park. The 70-mile excursion aboard this high-speed-catamaran takes a little more than two hours, and guests have about four hours to enjoy Fort Jefferson and the Dry Tortugas beaches.

2008 is the “International Year of the Reef,” so escape the heat while you pay homage to wonderful works of nature by snorkeling, scuba diving, or riding a glass-bottomed boat in the all-underwater John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.

Catch an art film at the nonprofit Tropic Cinema (founded, in part, by writer Jean Carper and George Cooper, a retired law professor and author).

Pick up cartoonlike sculptures (fish in red high heels, anyone?) and bright beachscape-painted tables and chairs at this boutique filled with handmade crafts by Floridian artists. All evoke a cheery Key West sensibility.

Hop the ferry to the Dry Tortugas National Park; the seven islands, 70 miles west, are the last of the true Keys. Evocative Civil War–era Fort Jefferson is spooky to explore (Samuel Mudd was jailed here for his supposed part in Lincoln’s offing). Snorkel in the coral reefs 10 feet from shore.

Key West has attracted its fair share of vacationing presidents (Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Carter among them), and the memorabilia displayed at Truman's former winter residence turned museum immortalizes every presidential visit.

A popular area activity, the Butterfly & Nature Conservatory has more than 50 species of butterflies and 20 species of exotic birds all housed under the glass dome greenhouse.

Almost every item in this ocean-themed shop is covered in seashells. There are handmade sand dollar– and starfish-rimmed mirrors and frames, along with gorgeous sea-glass chandeliers, all of which come wrapped in tissue paper decorated, yes, with shells.

Self-proclaimed environmental artist Nancy Forrester is the mastermind behind this oasis off Simonton Street. Like a patch of rainforest, it has dense foliage, squawking birds, and plenty of hidden nooks.

Yacht owners tie up their boats and grab seats on the wraparound porch at this marina bar and slurp Key lime–garlic oysters during happy hour (4–6:30 p.m., when starters and drinks are half-price).

The Mel Fisher Maritime Museum celebrates its namesake's 1985 discovery of the hull of a 1622 Spanish Galleon named Atocha, uncovered about a one-hour boat ride from Key West that divers and the Fishers still explore.

This recently renovated hotel restaurant hosts its very own cabaret; men in drag do nightly impersonations of celebrities like Madonna and Cher at the Crystal Room. Skip the overpriced poolside restaurant for a fresh mojito on the black-and-white-marble patio.