You have booked an epic trip to Key West, Florida, but are unsure where to start? Located at the tip of the Florida Keys, there is so much to see and explore. So, no matter how many days you’re spending in tropical Key West, these are the top 10 things to do in Key West you won’t want to miss!
Get ready to explore beautiful beaches, historic sites, and more!
1. Smathers Beach
Smathers Beach is hands down one of the best places to visit in Key West. This sandy public beach is lined with palm trees and truly encapsulates tropical vibes. You can also hit the water with water sports rentals or play beach volleyball if you bring your net. It is also the largest beach in Key West, giving you plenty of room.
Sandy beaches are quite rare in Key West, which makes Smathers a must! Most of the beaches in Key West are either rocky or very small. Even with just a weekend in Key West, make sure this beach is on your bucket list.
2. Mallory Square
Whether you come for the sunset celebration or the shops, Mallory Square is another iconic place to visit. As mentioned, this plaza is most well known for its Key West sunset celebration that started back in the late 1960s.
Every day, people start gathering around 2 hours before sunset. You will find people from all over the world doing performances, food vendors, and souvenirs, all while the sun sinks below the horizon. Oh, and since you’re allowed to have open containers in Key West, the party is just starting here!
Mallory Square is also just as lovely for shopping during the day. And even if you’re not in the market to buy something, the seaside vibes are worth touring alone.
3. Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park
If you love historic forts, beautiful beaches, and nature, you won’t want to miss out on Fort Zachary. While not as sandy as Smathers Beach, Fort Zachary also offers a little slice of heaven in Key West. This beach is perfect for shell hunting and also offers excellent snorkeling.
If you’re looking for resort vibes, pop by the Cayo Hueso Café for food and drinks, and then sit back and relax on one of the lounge chairs you can rent with umbrellas.
You also won’t want to miss out on the historic Fort Taylor, which was named after President Zachary Taylor. The fort was occupied by the Union throughout the entire Civil War and then used again during the Spanish-American War. Now, you can tour through this brick fortress and see the cannons that were used.
4. The Southernmost Point
A Key West classic thing to do is visit the famous Southernmost Point Continental U.S.A. landmark. This colorful concrete bouy was built in 1983 and is a symbol of Key West. It has withstood multiple hurricanes and is beloved by tourists for photos!
If you want a photo of yourself with the Bouy, just anticipate a line since it is considered one of the most photo-worthy places in Key West.
5. Key West Lighthouse & Keeper’s Quarters
Built in 1848, the Key West Lighthouse is another top attraction to visit in Key West. Visitors will love the climb to the top, which offers panoramic views of the island. After enjoying the views, head over to the Keeper’s Quarters.
This is where you will learn more history about the lighthouse. Interestingly enough, this lighthouse had one of the first female keepers during this time period. You won’t want to skip out on visiting.
6. The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
Picture having hundreds of butterflies and tropical birds flying right over your head. If that sounds cool to you, make sure to add the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory to your Key West bucket list. Those traveling with kids will love a visit here.
It is one of the most popular Key West attractions to visit, so make sure to arrive early if you want to beat the crowds. You will also be greeted by the beloved pair of Flamingos that call this home.
7. Ernest Hemingway Home
A world icon, Ernest Hemingway needs no introduction.
Even if you’re not an avid reader yourself, getting to visit Ernest Hemingway’s home is a once-in-a-lifetime type of activity.
The house is now a museum and is open every single day. You can choose to walk around the home yourself and be enriched by the history, or you can join a guided tour, which is included in your ticket price, and go into far more depth about this famous author’s life.
Don’t miss out on enjoying the garden, which is beautiful, and if you love cats, you will see plenty! This home is also famous for being the home of the 6-toed cats. The entire location has a relaxing atmosphere that truly makes you want to sit down and read!
8. Duval Street
Duval Street is a commercial street that leads to the Atlantic Ocean, but this is not just any street.
The street gained its name from William Pope Duval, the first territorial governor of Florida, and since then has become a prominent part of the Key West.
Along the length of the street, you’ll find beautiful Bohemian and Spanish mansions that have been preserved since the 1960s. You’ll also find a collection of art galleries and boutiques that are fun to visit and add a lot of character to the street!
Additionally, the street is renowned for having a great collection of restaurants and bars. In the evenings, this entire area becomes alive, with many tourists and residents attending what the locals call a “Duval pub crawl.” If you love to party, return here after the sun goes down.
This street holds so much history, and no matter what time of day you visit, there’s always something going on.
9. Key West Shipwreck Treasure Museum
Ready to step back 150 years and attend the Shipwreck Museum?
This is such a unique visit and is great for families! Inside the museum, you’ll have the opportunity to discover the world of shipwrecking, hear all about the story of Isaac Allerton, and even learn about pirates.
To give you some context, Isaac Allerton was a famous ship built in 1838. This ship was an impressive 137 feet long and weighed a whopping 594 tons. In 1856, this ship was caught in a hurricane and sunk deep into the water. Over 130 years later, the wreck was rediscovered by local divers and is now a huge part of Key West’s history.
This is also where you can experience the best views in Key West! Climb up the watch tower for some epic panoramic views.
10. Dry Tortugas National Park
One of the most unique experiences you can have while visiting Key West is taking a day trip to the stunning Dry Tortugas National Park. This National Park consists of 7 islands, but Garden Key is by far the most popular. The unique aspect of visiting is that it requires either a ferry or a seaplane to get there.
Fort Jefferson, located on Garden Key, is the most popular attraction. This 19th-century Fort was one of the greatest military assets.
Surrounded by crystal clear water and thriving coral reefs, you will have an incredible opportunity to snorkel here with a wide variety of tropical fish and marine wildlife. If you’re lucky, you may even see sea turtles.
A Key West travel tip to remember is that the ferry and seaplane sell out fast – sometimes months in advance, depending on the season.
Best Things to Do in Key West Wrap-up
This concludes the top 10 things you won’t want to miss during a visit to Key West! Now pack up your beach bag and head over to the Keys!
Samantha Oppenheimer runs Find Love and Travel