Sunsets, sun, and relaxing by some crystal clear water with a drink in hand.
These are just a few of the things that come to mind when you think of the Florida Keys. If you’ve ever been lucky enough to visit, you know all the tranquil, natural beauty that these islands have to offer.
If you’re looking for things to do in the Florida Keys then you should know that even though it’s a small island, this place has a lot to offer. The island and its surrounding areas are a big tourist destination for a reason.
There are certain attractions that most people flock to, like Duvall Street and Mallory Square. These are certainly sights to see, but sometimes you need to explore beyond the most popular destination spots too.
From tourist spots to off-the-beaten-path excursions, there is something for everyone to enjoy on the Florida Keys.
Read on for some ideas on how to fully enjoy your trip to Key West, Key Largo, islamorada, Big Pine Key, or home to Ultimate HeliTours— Marathon! Soak up all the beauty, fun, and memories the keys have to offer you and your loved ones.
View the Coral Reefs
The Florida Reef Tract is unique for so many reasons. In fact, Florida is the only state in the continental U.S. with reef formations so closely off its coast. The entirety of the reef runs 360 miles long.
The various reefs in the area make for an ecologically diverse and productive environment. Florida’s reef is mostly made up of three different kinds of reef-building coral.
Brain coral is circular and has wavy ridges that make it resemble a human brain. Star coral is also circular but its pattern is made up of round lump-like formations on its surface. Lastly, elkhorn coral has branches that reach up and out and resemble elk antlers.
You don’t necessarily need proper training to enjoy these reefs either. A snorkeling mask and a sense of adventure are all you need to witness the natural beauty of the reefs, especially since they are so close to shore.
If you find yourself close to one of the numerous beaches, you’ll likely have many snorkeling spots to choose from. Explore the coast near Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, which boasts one of the most favored beaches in the area.
If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can also take a ferry to the nearby island of Dry Tortugas and visit its national park.
If preserving this natural wonder is an interest to you, you can also check out Reef Relief’s Environmental Center. This local program aims to educate visitors about coral reefs and how to help protect them. You can watch short films and read pamphlets on the subject.
You can even learn about coral reefs while enjoying protected snorkeling at Reef Relief’s Key West Marine Park. This park is 40 acres long and is located along Key West’s south shore. Guests can educate themselves while viewing all the wildlife Florida oceans have.
Visit the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum
Ernest Hemingway is considered one of America’s greatest writers. He penned classics like The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell To Arms, literature that is still studied in schools today.
He was also known for revolutionizing American writing with his objective and precise style of prose. As much as he is remembered for his writing, the somewhat contentious writer was also known for his divorces, alcoholism, and infamous death in 1961.
The Hemingway House is where Ernest lived in the 1930s and is located near the Key West Lighthouse. So you could easily visit both attractions on the same day!
The house is famous for its beautiful decor inside and out, its surrounding plant life, and even for the local cats that freely roam the grounds. A sea captain gifted Ernest a six-toed cat named Snow White and descendants of that cat still live on the grounds today.
It was in this home that Ernest finished his semi-autobiographical novel A Farewell To Arms. Visitors can view the trophy mounts from Hemingway’s African safaris and hunting trips that still decorate the inside.
Another interesting feature is the home’s pool, which was the first in-ground pool to ever be built on Key West.
You can walk in and take 20-30 minute guided tours of the home, no reservations or call-ahead necessary. The Hemingway House is open for tours every day, 365 days a year.
You can also visit the shop, which carries everything from tote bags to cat bowls to tranquil island paintings. Of course, the shop wouldn’t be complete without Heminway’s novels, short story collections, and biographical books about the writer.
The property is even available for weddings, elopements, and other special events.
Walk the West Martello Gardens and Fort
If you crave the tranquillity of nature without having to hustle or struggle through a hike, this attraction is for you.
This scenic garden paradise is built on the site of a civil war fort that also includes a tower. The two come together and create a magnificent sight as sprawling nature drapes over the aged structures. It’s equal parts historic landmark and lush, tropical getaway.
Best of all, it is maintained by member-volunteers of the Key West Garden Club, so the site is not only open to the public daily, but admission is also free! You can roam the area on your own and there are also guided tours available by reservation.
The historic Martello Fort was built during the Civil War and is one of the few remaining structures from that era on the island today.
Visitors can walk through the fort and will be able to witness its beautiful vaulted ceilings, historic gun mounts, and a conservatory. The deep red, brick structures left behind from the 1800s are a rare sight to see.
Surrounding the fort are various gardens you can also walk through. You can choose to walk through the waterfall garden, prehistoric garden, native garden, perfume garden, cactus garden, garden by the sea, orchid areas, and even a butterfly garden.
The property also features picturesque gazebo’s, statues, and fountains. There are plenty of places to sit and enjoy the garden and ocean views as well. Personal photography, painting, reading, and bringing your own picnic to enjoy are all encouraged.
Visitors can also visit the gift shop and peruse their selection of garden-themed aprons, books, gloves, t-shirts, water bottles, or even buy a nice new plant to take home.
Hit the Beach
One thing the Florida Keys are never short on? Stunning, beautiful beaches. The nice thing about these gorgeous islands is that you’re surrounded by your choice of beaches.
There are a few to choose from on each island so you might be wondering how to decide on which ones you want to visit.
It’s best to keep in mind the purpose of your beach visit. For relaxing, you’ll likely want a long stretch of white sand dotted with tropical palm and coconut trees is enough to convince you to lay down your towel and relax.
If you’re wanting proper waves for surfing, research online and ask some of the locals about the spots that are safe and ideal for surfing.
Looking for a playful experience or something better suited for kids? There are many good locations for snorkeling with crystal clear water as well! Or you can also choose to play volleyball or visit a nearby vending truck to buy snacks, drinks, and even rafts.
Whatever experience you’re going after with your beach outing, be sure to arrive early if you want to beat the other tourists and locals.
Check Out the Art Scene
Just because you’re already in the most beautiful parts of Florida doesn’t mean you can’t take a break from the outside world and view another form of beauty, the local art scene.
Luckily Florida’s Keys has a high supply of galleries for art lovers to visit.
Art On Duval Key West is a fine art gallery located on the popular Duval Street. The gallery was started by a man who moved to Key West after vacationing there for many years and falling in love with the area.
The gallery features works from a multitude of artists of both local and international acclaim. There is even an in-house design team that will help you decide which pieces of art would work best in your home space.
If you have an interest or taste for photography, Shady Palm Art Gallery and Photography in Marathon is one to check out for events and artist spotlights. If you’ve got a plane ride home, they even offer shipping options so you can have your souvenirs safely shipped to your residence.
Drink up at the Local Watering Holes
It wouldn’t be island life without sipping on a few beverages. What better way is there to spice up your Florida Keys day trip?
Rub elbows and make friends with locals or get to know other travelers over a cocktail and other beverages.
The keys have no shortage of bars with various atmospheres to pick from.
If you’re looking for a place with a carefree, raucous vibe, then you’ll probably want to end up at the “local” spot. Strike up some conversations with different shop owners or restaurant hosts to get a good idea of some less tourist-y spots.
If you’re looking to sip some rum in a more laid back setting, The Rum Bar in Key West is for you. This cozy bar is located on the ground floor of the Speakeasy Inn and carries more than 350 kinds of rum from around the world.
Before you enter the bar you can take in the old balustrades, or decorative railing, around the second-floor balcony.
These railings feature cutouts of liquor bottles and hearts, spades, diamonds, and clubs to sneakily signal that passersby’s could come in for liquor and a game of cards during the prohibition era.
Walk Along Beautiful Residential Streets
It’s fun to do all the normal Florida Keys activities, but sometimes it’s also fun to take a look at what makes up the local life.
If this is what you’re after, you’ll be happy strolling streets that are a little less busy and surrounded by lush foliage and trees. A lot of the time, the houses in the quieter areas are charming and have a vintage-meets-jungle look to them that is unique and shows off the matchless Florida flair.
Eat the Key Lime Pies You’ve Ever Had
It’s rumored that Key West is the birthplace of the key lime pie dessert. So, it’s only natural that you try some of this delicious pastry during your Key West day trip.
Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe has two locations, the most famous being their first spot on the historic Key West Bight at Elizabeth Street.
This shop offers key lime flavors in many recipes, from salad dressing to key lime pie on a stick dipped in chocolate. They even have a whole list of recipes you can try at home so you can bring the flavors of Key West home with you after your travels.
Sweet Savannah’s Bake Shop & Ice Cream Cafe on Overseas Hwy in Marathon offers its own unique version of key lime pie that’s worth a visit!
More than just desserts, this adorable shop sells gifts and books too!
Take an Aerial Tour to End Your Florida Keys Day Trip
Everything on this list can be made with one difference – viewing it from the sky. These islands have so much to offer. So much so that it’s impossible to see it all in one day. However, with the help of a fun and easy aerial tour, you’ll be able to see it all without moving much.
Imagine witnessing the crystal-clear water, the white sand beaches, and the lush gardens that make up Florida’s Keys all with the help of a view from above. Ultimate HeliTours offers awe-inspiring and incomparable sights moreso than anything else you’ll do in the keys.
You can even experience the whole thing with a more romantic flair and book an aerial tour during sunset. Florida sunsets are truly one of a kind, and you won’t want to miss out on a special moment with your loved one.
If watching a sunset from the ground is an event, being immersed in the experience while up in the sky is about as unforgettable as it gets.
Aerial tours are also fun for the whole family. The experience is safe for your loved ones of all ages. The peaceful excursion is a smooth, gentle, and tranquil, so kids can enjoy it as much as the adults can.
On your aerial tour you’ll be able to witness all the wildlife the Florida Keys has to offer, including turtles, stingrays, dolphins, and much more.
Your tour may cover areas such as Pigeon Key, Seven Mile Bridge, Boot Key Harbor, Spanish Harbor, Bahia Honda Park, Hawks Kay, Duck Key, Sombrero Lighthouse, and the coral reefs.
Book Your Aerial Tour Experience Today
Ultimate Helitours offers the unmatchable Florida Keys day trip experience with our aerial tours.
These tours can range in length and there’s a time length for everyone. There is a six-minute Discovery Tour, a 20-minute tour of Pigeon Key and the Sombrero Lighthouse, and even a 60-minute See Everything Tour.
For a romantic night out with your loved one, or just a perfect night of sightseeing with family or friends, there are also stunning 20-minute Sunset Tours available.
See Florida in a whole new light and book your aerial tour today!