35 things to do in Florida Keys (based on where you stay)
In this guide, you have a list of the best things to do in Florida Keys depending on your actual stay.
There is no point in suggesting a place you need to drive for four hours back and forth.
The keys are over 100 miles (160km) long and you will need to drive around 2 hours from Key Largo to Key West (the extreme points.
For example, the Fort Zachary Taylor Beach in Key West is lovely, however, I would not suggest it if you stay in Key Largo. The return trip alone is 4 hours and honestly there are many other beaches between to see and experience.
You get the point. This is an actionable list, not just a sequence of activities.
Without further ado, let’s get into it.
Table of Contents
- 1 Things to do in the Florida Keys
- 2 Key Largo
- 3 Islamorada
- 4 Marathon
- 5 Big Pine Key and nearby
- 6 Key West
You can read also
- All you need to plan a road trip to the Florida Keys
- The best islands/keys and hotels to stay in Florida Keys
- Best itineraries in Florida Keys, from 3 to 10 days
- Where to stay in Key West (for beaches, couples and families)
Things to do in the Florida Keys
All the below things to do in Florida Keys are organised from north to south.
I have started below with the northernmost key/island, Key Largo, and finished with the southernmost one, Key West
Within the island, again all the attractions are listed from north to south.
The only exception is the Visitor Center, listed as the first stop in Key Largo.
I have also built and shared a handy Google Map with all the attractions so you can easily get around
Located on the northernmost tip of the Florida Keys, this island is one of the longest in the entire archipelago.
It is considered to be one of the best areas for action sport like diving and fishing
This is the starting point of any road trip to the Florida Keys.
You will get to learn more about the Florida Keys and you will be able to collect maps, info on private tours run in the area, new restaurants, events and maybe discounts on activities.
My tip here is that you should check out always with the clerks about particular activities and/or opening/closure of experiences.
Things may change, especially following severe thunderstorm winds and tornadoes.
A lush span of 6,700 acres sprawling with different flora and fauna – and, of course, lots of crocodiles – hence the name.
The well-preserved Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge allows you to leave the urban feel and immerse yourself in nature.
The park is accessible free of charge.
Be sure to check out the butterfly garden on your trip here.
Due to COVID, some areas have restrictions – like the Visitors Center.
There are plenty of trails here for walks and bike rides – but remember to bring along your bug spray.
This quiet spot at the top of Key Largo comes with tropical trees, wild cotton and lovely butterflies.
Pay attention while on the trails, since there are only a few “formal” paths – the Full loop and half loop, and the side trails are not marked.
Swim with dolphins. Or watch. Your pick, but loads of fun either way.
Bring the kids along, book them the Signature Swim experience and watch the little ones’ faces beam with joy.
Watch the dolphins do tricks, get them to kiss your hands and high-five you – you’ll make great memories at Dolphins Plus Bayside.
The trainers and staff are friendly, and they treat the dolphins with care. You will want to come back.
Pet dolphins, make them do tricks – with their consent of course, learn about the amazing animals and make exciting memories – all under the guidance of friendly Dolphins Plus staff.
They are a knowledgeable crew as well, actually being the only emergency responders for dolphins in Miami to Key West region.
But no more Dolphin kisses though (yeah, COVID).
Pop into the Laura Quinn Wild Bird Sanctuary and feed some pelicans.
The sanctuary was built for injured birds, and you get to see herons, hawks, cormorants and owls here.
It’s great for bird lovers and kids.
Entry is by donation – with it being for a worthy cause since it primarily helps birds that cannot survive in the wild.
Hit the beach to have a picnic or go for a swim, kick back with some barbecue or go on a boat ride – you can do it all at the Harry Harris Beach and Park.
Entrance is free on all days except weekends and holidays- and so is the parking.
No dogs allowed though.
This is probably the key with the most things to do, from relaxing at the beach to nice walks in the park.
If you are into diving, you should not miss the History of Diving Museum.
Here is the full list.
From taking a walk on the beach, bringing your furry friend to the well-managed dog park, getting some action on the soccer field or basketball courts, to an Olympic-sized pool complete with diving boards and a splash pad – there’s plenty to do at the 45-acre Village of Islands Founders Park.
Go for a swim, have a picnic, dock your boat and take in the sunset – the park is great for outings.
That big lobster outside will be the first thing that catches your eye – but there is more waiting for you in the Rain Barrel Village.
Pick yourself and your loved ones some gifts and unique pieces from the different artist shops and boutiques.
Definitely snap some pics with Big Betsy as well – the giant lobster that was sculptured as a tribute to the local lobster fishing industry.
Go for walks and learn about the history and geology of the region at the Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park, that was built around an old limestone quarry.
The rangers taking you on the educational tour of the ancient fossilized coral reef are well informed.
Both kids and adults can enjoy exploring the short trails through the trees. The paths are properly maintained – but bring your bug spray with you, especially during the summer.
Catch dolphin and sea lion shows at the Theater of the Sea, a marine park that also has turtles, alligators and even parrots.
The setting of the park – with all that lush greenery and orchids makes it an ideal spot for a relaxing family outing, and the shows are a favorite for the young and old alike.
Don’t worry about missing a beat – the shows are run on a repeating basis over the day, so you can go ahead and take your time touring the park and hopping on a boat ride.
Take a trip down history, learning about how diving evolved through the centuries.
See how diving tech went from early diving masks, the hard hat diving all through to full pressure suits.
Checking out the displays at the Diving Museum is an intriguing way to spend a couple of hours while in the area.
Are you a fan of Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea?
Then you will love the Nautilus room.
Learn all about Keys right from its early days at the Keys History & Discovery Center.
Here, artifacts have been carefully collected and put on display, and there are also theater shows – including interviews with hurricane survivors.
If you’re keen on taking it all in, then you can spend about 4 hours here.
Here it’s all about seafood served hot and fresh from the open kitchen.
From some bang bang shrimp or a huge sea bass serving, to a spiced-up Turtle Chowder, lobster eggs Benedict or Pecan Crusted Grouper – there is plenty for you to pick from.
The Bloody Mary’s at the Green Turtle Inn are worth the mention as well.
A marina with a restaurant – what do you do?
Definitely feed the tarpons for one.
Watch the sneaky pelicans, get up close to close to manatees and even sharks – it’s an adrenaline rush.
The shops are also loaded with gifts and antiques for the family to pick up.
The food and music add to the ambience, and with all this it’s no surprise that things get quite busy at Robbie’s.
Plenty of activities in also in the Marathon Key.
If you can make just 3 of them I highly suggest the Cable Park, the Turtle Hospital and Sombrero Beach for a swim.
More dolphins here!
Show up for interactive sessions and programs like the “Trainer For A Day” where you learn how to take care of and work with dolphins, and swim with them as well.
With the “Royal package”, you even get to be towed by dolphins – how cool is that?
At the Dolphin Connection, you spend more time in the water engaging the inspiring animals, making it worth the trip
One word: wakeboarding.
Water sports at the Keys Cable Park will get your adrenaline pumping.
Skim the surface of the lake and afterwards relax with a cold beer and live music at the property restaurant.
The packed menu has something for the entire family.
A hotspot for dolphin lovers, the Dolphin Research Center prioritizes the animals’’ welfare, while letting you get up close and personal with them.
The profits go into the care of the Center’s wildlife, including sea lions, iguanas, and tropical birds.
It’s loads of fun for kids and adults alike as you play and interact with smart dolphins – and remember to bring some sunscreen.
You can go camping or fishing at the beachside park. Hop on a kayak tour as check out the wildlife from the sea creatures to the birds swooping in to catch them.
Hike through the relaxing trails with your loved ones.
The seaweed does make it difficult to lay out on the beach though
Take a recreational dive, have the kids dig for shark teeth and touch starfish, go snorkelling and pet the stingrays – you have it all at the Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters.
Feed the diverse marine life from sharks to alligators.
Take a guided tour of the aquarium, and safely interact with sea life at the touch tanks – there’s plenty for you to do here.
For dining, check out the cafe and on-site snack points
As you drive through the Keys, pop into the Marathon Air Museum for a chance to see and hear from stories and aviator facts from volunteer pilots.
Nice displays have been set up, with everything from planes, photos to a flight simulator that you can use.
The museum is free – but you can always leave a donation.
It’s a nice little park which works perfectly if you are travelling with kids.
There is a small playground for the little ones and a skate park for the grown ups.
This is also a park used by the community for concerts and events.
Check out the program at the Florida Keys Visitor Center in Key Largo.
This is a turtle rescue and rehabilitation centre.
Learn about the marine animals, and how the facility rehabilitates and releases them into the wild – you can even get to see them being taken through surgery.
Those that wouldn’t be able to survive on their own even after treatment are kept on site, becoming permanent residents of the Turtle Hospital, where they are cared for.
The money you spend here goes to this noble cause.
All your favourite beach activities can be done here.
Lay out in the sun, have a picnic, step into the clear turquoise waters, get into some beach volleyball on the soft sand, catch views atop rocks – and access is free.
Go boating, fishing and swimming, and it’s pet-friendly too.
Note that between April and October, Sombrero Beach is a Loggerhead turtle nesting ground
This is probably the most relaxed area of the Florida Keys.
This is where you want to be if you are looking for a secluded stay.
The things do here are mostly related to parks and beaches
There’s plenty of beach area here to relax on, and the waters here are some of the clearest in the area.
The spot is great for both kids and adults to go snorkelling, and the facilities are well maintained.
Take a 15-minute hike to the highest part of the bridge for a view of the entire Bahia Honda State Park.
Pick up memorabilia at the gift shop, and there is a snack station where you can get foodstuff.
This is a home for endangered species like Key deer & the marsh rabbit.
Timing is everything, since at around dawn or dusk you’ll be able to find the deer roaming all up and about in the open.
There are also trails in the 9,200-acre National Key Deer Refuge Nature Center that are good for a hike.
Also check out the Blue Hole – a clear freshwater pond with alligators.
Bring out the family for picnics, swimming and snorkelling at this hidden gem.
The waters at the Ramrod Swimming Hole are very clear, and you can enjoy the spot without worrying about crowds.
On the other hand, there are no restrooms because it’s not a heavily trafficked area.
You can go kayaking though, or just set up your beach chair and get lulled by the sounds of the waves and overhead birds.
The most famous of all keys. This is where you will find most of the accommodations and the handy airport, too.
If fly in for a week stay, I suggest renting a car on 1 or even 2 days and explore the remaining part of the Florida Keys
Key West is also the location where you will find most of the organised adventures as:
- A sunset sail on a dreamy 105-foot schooner
- A Sunset Party Cruise by Catamaran, including food and drinks, alcoholic too, a real bargain
- The unmissable snorkeling trip at the local reef, for the amazing colors. Or this combined eco tour including also dolphins watching
- For a fun family day, you should not miss out on the Hop-On/Off island tour on the Old Town Trolley
- For some real fun check out the Ultimate Watersports Adventure Tour
Here are other experiences you can do on your own.
This is a great place for a 2 hours paddleboard (SUP) tour, especially if you do it at sunset time.
Located just outside Key West, the owner, Madeleine, will guide you through the local area to experience the marine life.
After a short safety and how-to tutorial you will be ready to go on your well maintained (or new) inflatable paddle board.
You will be very likely to see snappers, turtles, lobsters besides so many birds.
There is a small fee to enter the park ($2-3) and honestly it is such a great value.
You will get to explore the Fort, see the cannons, make a few photos of the stunning park
The beach is spectacular to see, however, it has some coral and rock (sandals are highly suggested)
For other better beaches you should check out my beach section in Key West.
Take a relaxing walk as you interact with birds and butterflies at this glass enclosure.
There are numerous species here and friendly staff to tell you all about them.
From beautiful flamingos and songbirds, to butterflies landing on you – it’s a memorable experience.
The gift shop at the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory is quite stocked too so you will have plenty of items to pick from.
Mornings are best since there are fewer people and the butterflies are very active.
Get hands-on with sea anemones, feed sharks and fish, and break away from the sweltering Florida heat in the cool and air-conditioned Key West Aquarium.
There are guided tours and feeding shows every 30 minutes.
Some of the exhibitions have been closed though as part of COVD restrictions.
This waterfront square is famed for its sunsets and night festivals.
There is plenty of room to snag a picturesque photo and allow yourself to take in the ambience and great feel as you and everyone around enjoys a singular moment.
Street acts from a fire spinner to juggling and other local talents, live music, a great view of water and boats, plenty of food areas – the Mallory Square is a must-visit.
Check out this historic house that comes complete with relaxing gardens that many even book to be their wedding locations.
Learn more about the historic district and go over reproductions of Audubon art during the informative tours by the friendly staff.
A lovely boutique museum in the heart of the Historic Port area.
You will get to learn more about the history of Key West, once the United States’ richest city per capita.
You will become familiar with the time when tall ships navigated the tricky waters of the Caribbean.
Then, proceeding through the exhibition, you will see the time in America when railroads opened up the frontiers of an emerging nation.
It’s a bit like walking into a time machine, a beautiful one.
A great fun for adults and kids alike.
This is a small and lovely island about 2 hours by ferry from Key West, an absolutely pristine paradise.
Discovered in 1582, the island was named after the big population of turtles (tortugas in Spanish) living around the island.
Still today, you will be very likely to spot a few either swimming in the water or when you go for some snorkelling (highly suggested)
The island was also reported as “dry”, or without fresh water, which was a very important information back in the days.
From there the name of the island, Dry Tortugas.
The island is home of the 150 years old Fort Jefferson that you can visit on a 60 minutes tour.
The fort is so well preserved, especially considering the many hurricanes.
Overall, a great day trip from Key West.
You can check the tickets and the timetable directly on the Dry Tortugas National Park concessioner website.