The Florida Keys are one of the best places to visit in Florida – especially if you are in the mood for a perfect holiday full of sunshine. Stretching from Biscayne to Dry Tortugas National Parks, a bunch of the best things to do in the Florida Keys are dotted across the island. All of this makes the archipelago the perfect vacation spot when exploring Florida.
We had a totally epic time during the visit and after the exploration headed downhill Miami,, Fort Lauderdale i stunning places on the Everglades. They were all amazing, and the Florida Keys were the icing on our cake when exploring South Florida.
Yes, they may be small, but they pack a powerful punch with all the places to see. Best of all, everyone on the Florida Keys can be pleased. Do you want a party? Go to national parks? cold on sunny beaches? Trust me, these islands have it all.
Now we have found the best way for us to get to the island by car. We rented a vehicle from Miami (super easy) and followed the overseas highway. Connecting so many small islands, it was such a cool drive and the perfect way to stop at key places before coming to Key West.
So to help you get the most out of your trip, I wanted to share some amazing places that you need to stop along the way.
Check out the best things to do in the Florida Keys below. I wish you an amazing trip!
1.) John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
The first underwater park in the United States, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is beautiful. And not only that, it’s one of the best things on the Florida Keys if you love to explore.
To explore the beautiful coral reef, you can hook up diving or diving equipment (with a guide) and jump into the crystal clear waters around the park itself.
If you are a certified diver, you can head to a booked tour. Alternatively, hop on some resorts to speed up.
If that’s not your thing, stay above the surf and rent a kayak and paddle through the mangrove forests. And if you don’t even want to get in the water, you can even rent your own boat for the day.
Are you becoming peckish? Stop at the familiar Fish House for their daily catch caught locally. Completely informal (and sometimes really busy), their blackened mahi-mahi is so delicious to try.
2.) Bahia Honda State Park
Right next to the seven-mile bridge, Bahia Honda State Park is a place to visit perfect for nature lovers. You see, you have hundreds of them different types of plants and animals that call Bahia Honda State Park home.
This makes it an extremely popular place to visit and even camp for a few days.
And not only that, once in Bahia Honda State Park you can rent your own boat to explore more stunning waters around the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.
Although, remember, you shouldn’t venture far beyond the marina area, especially if you’re not experienced.
Best of all, the waters in Bahia Honda State Park are completely clear, which means they are great for swimming.
You may even spot turtles or rays that call this park home.
Consisting of about six different islands within the Florida Keys, Islamorada is a great little stop to explore as you drive towards Key West.
Once here, be sure to stop by the Keys History and Discovery Center, which is a great little place to learn all about the Florida Keys and their history. It’s fascinating.
Then head to the Diving History Museum, which is easily one of the best things on the Florida Keys if you love diving. Well, maybe diving is better, but this is the moment. It has the world’s largest collection of diving equipment with historical objects and exhibits dating back centuries!
If you’re tipped, enter the Islamorada Brewery which has cold iced and sharp coffees directly from the keys. Just make sure you also take some crushing from the barbecue truck!
Alternatively, head to the beautiful waters with Aqua Blue Adventures. They know their stuff when it comes to beach trips!
4.) Home and Museum of Ernest Hemingway
Located in Key West, the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum is one of the best things on the Florida Keys if you want to learn about this amazing author.
Built during the 1800s, it is a house in which Hemingway spent years of his life that you can explore today. And not only that, maybe you even see the icons of cats that the museum calls home? If you notice them, they are direct descendants of the six-toed cat that was given to Hemingway a long time ago!
Oh, and don’t forget to wander around the beautiful gardens as well. It’s a welcome respite after a party on Duval Street.
5.) Large pine key
About a 40 minute drive from Key West, Big Pine Key is a great place to spend a day exploring.
Once here, be sure to head to quieter places around the Coupon Bight Aquatic Reserve, some scuba diving and pop to see the views from Blue hole observation platform where you might even notice a deer. Like, I had no idea there were deer in the keys before we visited it!
Oh, and don’t forget No Name Pub, which could be the the coolest pub in the Florida Keys. Y.You will totally see what makes this place special as soon as you get inside! You see, the ceiling and walls are plastered dollar bills in every little space available.
This unique look, along with the fascinating history of the pub as a bar and brothel opened in the 1930s, makes the No Name Pub a must-see stop during your trip.
Oh, and don’t forget to take a dollar to stick to the wall!
7.) Key Largo
Being the largest island on the Florida Keys, Key Largo is really easy to visit and the first real island you’ll visit if you’re driving from Miami.
Upon arrival, take the overseas highway and explore some surfing at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (mentioned earlier). Alternatively, for some nice weather on the beach, a chillout on Harry Harris Beach, which is near one of my favorite dessert spots, the Blue Giraffe Limestone Factory.
Now many people know that the Florida Keys are famous for their key lime pie, right? Although that doesn’t mean every place makes them equally good! No, if you’re looking for the best key lime pie on the Florida Keys, head straight for Key Largo until you reach the Blond Giraffe Key Lime Factory. Here you will try their homemade lime pie or stick pie. They are both incredibly delicious!
Although the Marathon is considered a city, it doesn’t really feel like a city to imagine. Imagine it as a pleasant little town spread over several islands.
Regardless, a visit to the Florida Marathon is one of the best things about the Florida Keys, which is a desire for good beaches and some time to explore.
Upon arrival, be sure to explore Sombrero Beach which is absolutely stunning and one of the most beautiful beaches on the Florida Keys. You might even see the inhabitants of the Loggerhead turtle.
If you’re tired of all that sand in your pants, jump to the Crane Point hammock. Here you will be able to walk the trails and enter the museum which is great for a little gazer.
In fact, if it’s hiking, head to Curry Hammock State Park Trail which passes right through the key of the fat deer. It’s great for a little wandering, just avoid noon when that sun can be strong!
7.) Duval Street, Key West
For so many reasons Duval Street reminds me of Bourbon Street New Orleans.
If you want to have a good time (and a sore head the next morning), then the infamous Duval Keys Street cannot be negotiated! Along with the tobacco of popular Florida restaurants, bars and clubs, Duval Street is a place where there is fun and a great place to relax, take delicious frozen cocktails and just have fun in the wee hours.
Have a drink at Willie’s T for their Mojitos specialty (I swear we drank them all) and stop by Green parrot bar (right next to Southard Street) where live music and beer pumping have been held since the 1800s.
Both institutions are in Key West!
8.) Mile Marker Zero
When you’re in Key West, you can’t miss the ride to Mile Marker Zero. Yes, it will be a passing visit and nothing special to look at, worth a quick peek as part of a wider trip.
For those unfamiliar, Mile Marker Zero is where Highway 1, one of the busiest highways in America, starts or ends, depending on your perspective.
Either way, a five-minute stop is all you’ll need and you can’t miss it when you’re on the road.
This was officially the starting point for our ride from Key West to Angels and still, remember that moment well!
10.) Dry National Park Tortugas
Dry Tortugas National Park it is often left out of the Florida Keys itinerary for the simple reason that it is a good 70 miles away from Key West itself. That makes it harder to get to, but it’s still one of the best things on the Florida Keys if you have enough time to explore.
Although a bit out of the way, Dry Tortugas National Park has a lot to offer on its seven islands and I think you will like it. For me, the biggest drawing is the amazing hexagonal fortress from the 19th century, Fort Jefferson (from the 1800s).
That being said, the reefs are also amazing. Both very different, but at the same time amazing.
To get here, you’ll need to board the “Yankee Freedom III Dry Tortugas Ferry” from Key West or join a seaplane trip to get to the park. It can be expensive for a day trip, so plan everything in advance.
If you feel nervous or want a more private experience, you can rent your own charter and explore the islands with your own boat.
While renting a boat to visit, keep in mind that you will need a permit to enter any of the waters within the national park. So make sure you put it all in place before you go.
11.) Bottle Chita key
One of the northernmost keys to visit, the Boca Chita Key (within Biscayne National Park) is much quieter to visit than the southern keys. This makes it one of the best things on the Florida Keys if you are looking for a cooler island to visit.
Best explored as part of a guided boat tour or charter, you’ll have to wander around a small key that feels like a mile away from Florida. Now you can moor your boat here for the evening (by paying a mooring fee) and spend as much as you want on this more remote key.
Although remember, there are no facilities at all and you will need to bring everything you need with you.
12.) The southernmost point of the buoy
After exploring Duval Street, the Hemingway Museum and the historic Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, be sure to find the southernmost buoy in Key West.
It’s one of the best things to do on the Florida Keys for a bit of photography, especially when walking along the coast.
I mean, the buoy itself is more symbolic than anything, but it’s worth a look because it’s the southernmost point in the United States – and only 90 miles from Cuba!!