what to do in the florida keys

The Florida Keys consist of 44 islands connected by 42 bridges, and they stretch over 100 miles off the southern tip of Florida. Every year, hundreds of thousands of tourists arrive to experience the islands’ natural beauty, clear blue water, and sandy beaches.

In the islands’ robust tourist trade, thousands of activities compete for your attention. Tourist spots in the Florida Keys are numerous. Figuring out what to do in the Florida Keys can be overwhelming to new visitors. 

So what are the best things to do in the Florida Keys? Whether you’re a nature lover, history buff, or simply love to relax in the sun, read on for the ultimate guide on how to make the most of this tropical paradise.

What to Do in the Florida Keys: Take a Helicopter Tour

A helicopter tour of the Florida Keys lets you get a sense of the geography of the area, gives you the chance to see wildlife and natural wonders, and makes for a one-of-a-kind vacation experience.

Whether it’s for only 10 minutes or an hour or more in the air, an aerial tour by helicopter is one of the most unique things to do in Florida. You’ll swoop over reefs, by lighthouses, and over aquamarine water. You can not only see the larger inhabited islands, but also the tiny uninhabited ones that few visitors get a chance to see up close.

Helicopter tours also give you the chance to see marine life such as turtles, manatees, and sharks. You can even go up at sunset for an unforgettable romantic journey.

No matter what else you find yourself doing in the Keys, a helicopter tour is a great way to get a full sense of the scale and beauty of the islands.

Driving Down the Keys

A road trip is a classic way to experience the Florida Keys. The Florida Keys Overseas Highway runs through the entire island chain, connecting them all by bridges. It is the southernmost stretch of U.S. Highway 1, which begins at the Canadian border.

The 100-mile stretch can be driven in an afternoon, but most tourists take two to three days so they can experience the highlights of the Keys at their leisure. 

Key Largo and Upper Keys

18-mile long Key Largo marks the start of most Florida Keys adventures. The island is only an hour from Miami but feels far away from the grit and glamor of the city. Its proximity to the South Florida metro area makes it one of the biggest tourist spots in the Florida Keys.

Key Largo is also one of the world’s best places to snorkel or scuba dive and the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is the country’s only underwater state park. It encompasses 70 square miles of reefs populated by tropical fish, barracuda, sharks, octopuses, and more. Tour the park in a glass-bottomed boat, by kayak, or descend into the depths with a scuba or snorkel outfitter.

After Key Largo, affluent Islamorada is home to world-class sport fishing, one of the most popular activities in Florida. The Upper Keys are also home to bird sanctuaries and other state parks. From Islamorada, you can paddle out to Indian Key State Park and visit the remains of a 19th-century fishing and salvaging village.

Cinephiles can also check out the filming locations of the Netflix series Bloodline and the 1948 John Huston classic Key Largo, both of which were filmed in the Upper Keys.

Middle Keys

The Middle Keys are home to commercial fishing and roadside seafood shacks, as well as nature tourism. Marathon is home to both the Dolphin Research Center and the Turtle Hospital, both of which are open to the public via guided tour. 

The Turtle Hospital rehabilitates hundreds of injured turtles per year, allowing the population to stay steady in the face of pollution and boat injury. The Dolphin Research Center does the same for dolphins and offers visitors the chance to swim with the gentle creatures.

The Middle Keys are home to the darkest skies in the Florida Keys and some of the only protected Dark Sky Areas in South Florida. Stargazers can take guided tours from many resorts in the Middle Keys to spot the Milky Way, roving satellites, and more.

When you’re done in the Middle Keys, drive over the stunning Seven Mile Bridge, a long road over a beautiful stretch of crystal-blue water.

Key West and Lower Keys

Key West is the main draw of the Lower Keys, attracting both bar crawlers and literary types. The former can make their way down rowdy Duval Street’s legendary beachside bars, while the latter can visit Ernest Hemingway’s preserved Hemingway House.

The house sits just as it was left by the famous writer, and is famously home to descendants of his beloved six-toed cats. Every July, the Hemingway Days celebration brings fans of the writer to one of the most popular events in the Florida Keys.

You’ll also find the southernmost point in the continental United States in Key West, marked by a famous buoy reading “90 miles to Cuba”.

The Lower Keys hold more than just Key West, though. You can meet the tiny, three-foot-tall Key Deer at the National Key Deer Refuge, or rent a kayak and paddle into the empty, mangrove-covered islands.

Exploring the Florida Keys and Beyond By Helicopter

Now that you know all about what to do in the Florida Keys, it’s time to book your aerial tour for an unforgettable vacation experience.

Located in Marathon, Florida, we offer helicopter tours in a variety of flight lengths. We fly to many of the islands’ natural wonders, seven days a week from 9:00 until sunset. If you’re ready to see the Florida Keys as you’ve never seen them before, book a helicopter tour today.