The Florida Keys is hands down one of the best places to visit in Florida – especially so if you’re in the mood for the perfect sunshine-filled vacation. Stretching from Biscayne to Dry Tortugas National Parks, there’s a heap of the best things to do in the Florida Keys dotted all across the islands. This all makes the archipelago a perfect holiday spot when exploring Florida.
We had a totally epic time when visiting, and drove down after exploring Miami, Fort Lauderdale and the stunning spots in the Everglades. They were all amazing and the Florida Keys were the icing on our cake when exploring Southern Florida.
Yes, they might be small but they pack a mighty punch with all the places to see. Best of all, there’s something to please everybody in the Florida Keys. Wanna party? Head to the national parks? chill on sun-kissed beaches? Trust me, these islands have it all.
Now, for us, we found the best way to get to the islands was by car. We rented a vehicle from Miami (super easy) and followed the Overseas Highway. Connecting so many of the little islands, t was such a cool drive and a perfect way to stop off at key spots along before arriving in Key West.
So, to help you get the most out of your trip, I wanted to share some stunning places you have to stop along the way.
Take a look, below, at the best things to do in the Florida Keys. Have an amazing trip!
1.) John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
The United States’ very first undersea park, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is beautiful. Not only that, it’s one of the best things to do in the Florida Keys if you love exploring.
To explore the gorgeous coral reef, you can strap on some snorkels or scuba diving gear (with a guide) and jump into the crystal waters around the park itself.
Now, If you’re a certified scuba diver, you can head out on a booked tour. Alternatively, hop on some scuba resort courses to get you up to speed.
If that’s not your thing, stay above the surf and rent a kayak and paddle through mangrove forests. And if you don’t even wanna get in the water, you can even rent your own boat for the day.
Getting peckish? Stop off at the famous Fish House for their catches of the day that are caught locally. Totally informal (and sometimes really busy), their blackened mahi-mahi is so delicious to try.
2.) Bahia Honda State Park
Just off Seven-Mile Bridge, Bahia Honda State Park is a place to visit that’s perfect for nature lovers. You see, you’ve got hundreds of different types of plants and animals that call Bahia Honda State Park home.
This makes it a totally popular spot to visit and even camp for a few days, too.
Not only that, once in Bahia Honda State Park you can rent your own boat to explore more of the stunning waters around the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.
Though, remember, you’re not allowed to venture much beyond the marina area, especially if you’re inexperienced.
Best of all, the waters in Bahia Honda State Park are totally clear, which means they’re great for a swim.
You might even spot the resident turtles or rays that call this park home.
Consisting of around six different islands within the Florida Keys, Islamorada is a great little stopping point to explore whilst driving down towards Key West.
Once here, be sure to stop at the Keys History and Discovery Center that’s a great little spot to learn all about the Florida Keys and their histories. It’s fascinating.
Afterwards, head to the History of Diving Museum which’s easily one of the best things to do in the Florida Keys if you love to dive. Well, maybe the diving is better but this is a close second. Holding the world’s largest collection of diving paraphernalia with historical artefacts and exhibits that date back centuries!
If it’s a tipple you’re after, pop into the Islamorada Brewery who have some ice-cold and crisp brews right from the keys. Just be sure to grab some grub from the BBQ truck, too!
Alternatively, head out into the gorgeous waters with Aqua Blue Adventures. They know their stuff when it comes to sandbar trips!
4.) Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum
Nestled within Key West, the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum is one of the best things to do in the Florida Keys if you want to learn about this incredibleauthor.
Built within the 1800s, it’s a house where Hemingway spent years of his life which you can explore today. Not only that, you might even get to see the iconic cats that call the museum home? If you spot them, they’re the direct descendants from the six-toed cat that was given to Hemingway way back when!
Oh, and don’t forget to wander around the gorgeous gardens, too. It’s a welcome respite after partying it up on Duval Street.
5.) Big Pine Key
Around 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 the quieter spots around Coupon Bight Aquatic Preserve for some snorkelling and pop to see the views from the Blue Hole Observation Platform where you might even spot some deer. Like, I had no idea there was any deer in the Keys before we visited!
Oh, and don’t forget the No Name Pub, which might just be the coolest pub in the Florida Keys. You’ll totally see what makes this place special as soon as you walk inside! You see, the ceiling and walls are plastered dollar bills across every tiny space available.
This unique look, along with the pub’s fascinating history as a bar and brothel opened back in the 1930s, makes the No Name Pub a can’t miss stop during your trip.
Oh, and don’t forget to take a dollar to tac to the wall!
7.) Key Largo
Being the biggest island in the Florida Keys, Key Largo is really easy to visit and the first real island you’ll visit if driving from Miami.
After arriving, head off the Overseas Highway and explore John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (mentioned earlier) for a little time in the surf. Alternatively, for some lovely beach time, chillout at Harry Harris Beach which is close to one of my favourite dessert spots, Blonde Giraffe Key Lime Factory.
Now, lots of people know that the Florida Keys are famous for their Key Lime Pie, right? Though, that doesn’t mean that every spot makes them equally well! Oh no, if you’re looking for the best Key Lime Pie in the Florida Keys, head straight down Key Largo until you reach the Blonde Giraffe Key Lime Factory. Here, you’ll get to try their homemade key lime pie or pie on a stick. Both are incredibly tasty!
Although Marathon is considered a city, it doesn’t really feel like a city as you’d imagine. Think of it as a cosy little city that’s spread around a few islands.
Regardless, visiting Marathon is one of the best things to do in the Florida Keys is you’ve got a hankering for good beaches and some time exploring.
After arriving, be sure to explore Sombrero Beach which is totally stunning and one of the most gorgeous beaches in the Florida Keys. You might even see the resident Loggerhead turtles, too.
If you’ve had enough of all that sand in your pants, pop over to Crane Point Hammock. Here, you’ll be able to ramble the trails and pop in the museum that’s great for a little gander.
Actually, if it’s a hike you’re after, head out on the Curry Hammock State Park Trail that goes right through Fat Deer Key. It’s great for a little wander, just be sure to avoid midday when that sun can be intense!
Read more: Best things to do in Port Charlotte, Florida
7.) Duval Street, Key West
For so many reasons, Duval Street reminds me of Bourbon Street in New Orleans.
If you’re looking to have a great time (and a sore head the next morning), then the Keys’ infamous Duval street is non-negotiable! Lined with popular Floridian eateries, bars and clubs, Duval street is where the party is at and a great place to relax, grab some tasty frozen cocktails and just party into the wee hours.
Grab some drinks at Willie T’s for their speciality Mojitos (I swear we drank them all) and stop by the Green Parrot Bar (just off Southard Street) that’s held live music and pumped beer since the 1800s.
Both are institutions in Key West!
Read more: Best things to do in New Orleans
8.) Mile Marker Zero
When in Key West, you can’t miss driving out to Mile Marker Zero. Yes, it will be a fleeting visit and nothing special to look at, it’s worth a quick peek as part of a wider road trip.
For those not in the know, Mile Marker Zero is the spot where Highway 1, one of America’s most driven highways starts or ends, depending on your perspective.
Either way, a 5-minute stop is all you’ll need and you can’t really miss when on your road trip.
This was officially the starting point for our drive from Key West to Los Angeles and still, remember that moment well!
Read more: Best national parks to visit in the USA
10.) Dry Tortugas National Park
Dry Tortugas National Park is often omitted from Florida Keys itineraries for the simple reason that it is a good 70 miles from Key West itself. This makes it harder to get to but it’s still one of the best things to do in the Florida Keys if you’ve got plenty of time to explore.
Despite being a bit out of the way, Dry Tortugas National Park has a lot to offer on its seven islands and I think you’ll love it. For me, the biggest draw is the amazing 19th-century hexagonal fortress, Fort Jefferson (from the 1800s).
That being said, the reefs are just incredible, too. Both very different but amazing all at the same time.
To get here, you will need to either board the “Yankee Freedom III Dry Tortugas Ferry” from Key West or join a Seaplane Excursion to get you to the park. These can be costly for a day trip, so plan everything in advance.
If you are feeling flush or fancy a more private experience, you can rent your own charter and explore the islands on your own vessel.
Though, if you do charter a boat to visit, be aware that you will need a permit to enter any of the waters within the national park. So, be sure to have all these in place before you set out.
Read more: Best national parks to visit in the USA
11.) Boca Chita Key
One of the most northerly keys to visit, Boca Chita Key (within Biscayne National Park) is much quieter to visit than the more southerly keys. This makes it one of the best things to do in the Florida Keys if you’re looking for a more chilled out island to visit.
Best explored as part of a guided boat tour or charter, you’ll get to wander around the tiny key that feels like a million miles away from Florida. Now, you can moor your boat here for the evening (by paying the mooring fee) and spend as long as you want on this more remote key.
Though remember, there are no facilities at all and you will need to take everything you need with you.
12.) Southernmost Point Buoy
After exploring Duval Street, the Hemingway Museum and Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, be sure to find the Southernmost Point Buoy in Key West.
It’s one of the best things to do in the Florida Keys for a little photo op, especially when strolling the shoreline.
I mean, the buoy itself is more symbolic than anything but well worth seeing as it’s the most southerly point in the USA – and only 90 miles from Cuba!