12 best things to do in Florida Keys

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Crystal-clear waters, swaying palm trees, soft beaches, tropical wildlife and fascinating history — the Florida Keys has all those attributes making a great vacation great. Add to that, of course, the fact that it never gets cold here: Florida Keys boasts endless summer (you have no valid excuse to overpack this time around).

But what exactly is there to do in the Florida Keys? In order, from north (mainland Florida) to south (Key West), these are our favorite things to do in the Florida Keys.

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1. Splash in John Pennekamp State Park

  • Mile Marker: 102.5
  • Area: Key Largo

The Florida Keys are famous for its diving and snorkeling, so it’s no surprise that you find an exceptional stop for just that right at the start of the Overseas Highway. Are you ready to plunge into the inviting water of the Florida Keys?

Encompassing 70 nautical square miles, John Pennekamp State Park is so big that there always are new corals and more marine wildlife to admire. Underwater, the curious creatures of the sea greet you to their lovely world.

But you, actually, don’t have to go below the surface to explore John Pennekamp. Other popular activities in John Pennekamp State Park include kayaking, canoeing and exploring by glass-bottom boat.

Visit: John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

2. See dolphins at Theatre of the Sea

  • Mile Marker: 84.5
  • Area: Islamorada

Floating south of mainland Florida’s southern tip, the Florida Keys’ waters are filled with marine life. The Theater of the Sea, a marine mammal park founded in 1946, hosts and shows many of these species up close.

Lessening the gap between Florida’s animal kingdom and you, the Theatre of the Sea presents an array of animals — many of which have been rescued and deemed non-releasable by agencies — such as dolphins, sharks, turtles, alligators, fish and birds.

Visit: Theatre of the Sea

3. Learn at History of Diving Museum

  • Mile Marker: 83
  • Area: Islamorada

The Florida Keys, boasting warm and clear waters, is a mecca for divers. To add some background to the diving experience, stop by at the History of Diving Museum.

Preserving and showcasing — with a Florida Keys focus — the History of Diving Museum tells an engaging story spanning from early days of free diving to scuba diving.

Learn the facts every diver should know, be amazed by jaw-dropping diving equipment from the past and hold a silver bar, which actually has been recovered from a shipwreck (it’s heavy), in your hands. As you tour the museum, a scavenger hunt tests your observational power.

Visit: History of Diving Museum

4. Paddle to Indian Key

  • Mile Marker: 78.5
  • Area: Islamorada

No matter how great the Overseas Highway is, it can’t take you to every island in the Florida Keys. One such unconnected island, located within sight of the Overseas Highway, is Indian Key.

You certainly wouldn’t think so when you see Indian Key from a distance, but this tiny island became the first county seat for Dade County in 1836. Then it was a hub for the at the time booming shipwrecking business.

If you kayak the half a mile over to Indian Key, you find remnants of buildings from the old shipwrecking community. The history is a fascinating ingredient, but many just come to swim or for the adventure.

Visit: Indian Key State Park

Need a kayak? Don’t worry, you can rent kayaks at the nearby Robbie’s Marina.

Colorful chairs set on white sand among large palm trees.
Discover the lovely Islamorada.

5. Hang out at Robbie’s

  • Mile Marker: 77.5
  • Area: Islamorada

Robbie’s likes to mention that it has been voted the number one place to visit in the Keys. This is an Islamorada and Florida Keys hub appealing to visitors of all ages.

Masses of tarpon, often over 100 silvery creatures, wait at Robbie’s dock for food. When a tarpon spots bait fish in your hand, it prominently rises up from the water to grab it from you.

Although the tarpon feeding is Robbie’s number one show, other reasons to visit are the Hungry Tarpon Restaurant and Thirsty Tarpon Bar. If you want a memory with you home, check out Robbie’s open-air shops.

Visit: Robbie’s

Tip: Beware of pelicans at the feeding. Those birds want that fish too.

6. Go back in time at Crane Point

  • Mile Marker: 50.5
  • Area: Marathon

Dominated by thick vegetation of hardwood hammock, the 63-acre Crane Point Hammock doesn’t reveal much to bypassing Overseas Highway drivers. But those who find its greenery-framed gate are rewarded greatly.

Immerse yourself in everything from the Florida Keys’ human history to its rich nature at the Crane Point Museum of Natural History. Next door, get to know the feathered patients at the Marathon Wild Bird Center, rehabilitating sick and injured birds.

When you’re ready, Crane Point’s trails showcase the unique ecosystem of the Florida Keys. Take the 1.5 mile (2.4 km) loop, with several exciting extensions available, to admire hardwood hammock, mangrove forest, native plants and the undulating Florida Bay.

Keep an eye out for the Adderley House. Completed in 1906 by George and Olivia Adderley, it’s the oldest house in the Florida Keys outside of Key West, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

7. Relax on Sombrero Beach

  • Mile Marker: 50
  • Area: Marathon

It doesn’t have to be complicated: Swaying palm-trees, crystal-clear water and soft sand takes an Overseas Highway stop a long way. Like a Florida Keys dream, Sombrero Beach in Marathon shows that brilliantly.

So unfurl a towel, sit down and let Sombrero Beach do its magic while a gentle breeze blows through your hair. But the dreamy setting makes it inevitable: Soon you’ll want to get some sand between your toes and plunge into that inviting water.

Visit: Sombrero Beach

8. Marvel at Florida Keys Turtle Hospital

  • Mile Marker: 48.5
  • Area: Marathon

The Florida Keys region is inhabited by five turtle species. To learn about and get to know those shell-protected reptiles, there’s no better spot than the Florida Keys Turtle Hospital.

First watch an educational presentation about turtles. Then tour the facilities where injured turtles recover — with the ambition to return to their natural habitat. Top if all off by feeding some of the permanent residents.

Need more motivation? The money you spend here goes towards future rehabilitation of turtles.

Visit: Turtle Hospital

For the cause: Check out the Turtle Hospital’s gift shop.

Swimming turtle at the turtle hospital in Marathon
Be amazed at Marathon’s Turtle Hospital.

9. Photograph Bahia Honda Beach

  • Mile Marker: 37
  • Area: Lower Keys

Although there are several pretty beaches in the Keys, Bahia Honda Beach overshadows all other when it comes to picturesqueness. Framed by the Bahia Honda Rail Bridge, this beach provides second-to-none photo opportunities.

Get that mandatory picture for Instagram — likes will flow. With your social media manager satisfied, plunge into the warm blue water and soak up the iconic Florida Keys bridge from another perspective.

Visit: Bahia Honda Beach

10. Spot deer at National Key Deer Refuge

  • Mile Marker: 30.5
  • Area: Lower Keys

“Cute”, “tiny” and “where is it” are common reactions in the National Key Deer Refuge. Here, the adorable key deer, North America’s smallest white-tailed deer subspecies, lives.

These animals, unique to the Lower Keys, are really small. Bucks reach 30 inches (76 cm) and does 26 inches (66 cm) at the shoulders.

For the best experience, get out of your car and hike the trails in the refuge. To increase the chances of wildlife encounters even further, visit early or late in the day when the key deer is as most active.

Visit: National Key Deer Refuge

11. Enter Hemingway’s world on Whitehead Street

  • Mile Marker: 0
  • Area: Key West

At road’s end, after 113 miles (182 km) of stunning Overseas Highway sights, the show continues in Key West. It’s hard not to fall for the southernmost island city, and one who certainly did so was Ernest Hemingway.

Hemingway, celebrated American writer, spent several of his most productive years in Key West. While he lived in Key West in the 1930s, he among other novels wrote Green Hills of Africa and Death in the Afternoon.

Today, you can visit Hemingway’s old home and workplace on Whitehead Street in Key West. Come to see how he lived, hear entertaining stories about his life and cuddle with descendants of his cats, many of which have six toes.

Cat lying on Ernest Hemingway's Key West bed
Step into Hemingway’s Key West home.

12. Celebrate 5 PM on Duval Street

  • Mile Marker: 0
  • Area: Key West

Few places, if any, live by the widely used “It’s 5 PM somewhere” motto like Key West. Duval Street, the island’s main drag, is a hub where something fun is always going on.

Explore sights, such as the Butterfly Garden, browse shops full of quirky trinkets, have a refreshing beverage, and then have another one — it’s 5 PM somewhere.

There’s more: Check out all the best things to do in Key West.

Entrance to Southernmost Point Bar in Key West
Southernmost Point Bar on Duval Street.

Best things to do in Florida Keys FAQ

Which are the best things to do in Florida Keys for history buffs?

The Florida Keys has lots of history in store. History enthusiasts flock to attractions including the History of Diving Museum, Indian Key, Crane Point and the Hemingway Home.

Which are the best things to do in Florida Keys for couples?

The Florida Keys sets a romantic scene that’s like made for a couples’ trip. Tour historic sights, explore pristine nature or just enjoy spending relaxing time together, on the beach or by the pool.

How many days do you need for the Florida Keys?

For the best experience, we recommend allowing at least a week for the Florida Keys. However, if you target a certain area, such as Key West, a long weekend can be sufficient.

Keep planning your Florida Keys trip

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