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Photograph: Rob O'Neal/Florida Keys News BureauKEY WEST

The best things to do in Key West

Grab your camera and your snorkeling gear to partake in the best things to do in Key West right now

Megan duBois
Written by
Megan duBois

Key West: an idyllic slice of island paradise where locals aren't stingy about sharing the best spots to hang out and tourists aren’t just relegated to one main downtown square. Sure it's small – the best things to do in Key West are usually within a few blocks of each other – but this domestic vacation destination packs a punch with tons of fun activities (and no need to rent a car to get there). 

If you’re willing to step off the main drag, Duval Street, and explore a little more of the island you’ll find there’s much more than just tourist traps and dive bars here. (Think: beaches and national parks located in the middle of the ocean and key lime pie worth writing home about!) 

And like we said, don’t worry about getting around the island – hop on and off the trolly tours to see the best things to do in Key West or check out one of the many places to rent a bike and cruise the shoreline. 

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Best things to do in Key West

If this is your first time in Key West, consider soaking up local sights and knowledge aboard the Conch Tour Train. The trolly tours take you past some of the most iconic sights in Key West like The Hemingway Home, the Southernmost Point and the Harry S. Truman Little White House. The best part? You can hop on and off as many times as you like – so feel free to spend hours marveling at the six-toed cats at the Hemingway Home before getting back on the train.

Open daily, step into the chaotic life of Ernest Hemingway at this historic home and museum. A tour of the house and grounds takes about 30 minutes (cash only), and includes a peek into the gardens, rooms and pool that Hemingway called home in Key West. You'll also notice some interesting cats prowling the location – these are the descendants of the famed, original six-toed cat that Hemingway lovingly took care of while residing here. 


Seventy miles west of Key West is Dry Tortugas National Park – a great spot for exploring, learning and soaking in the crystal clear waters of Key West. The national park is known for its top-notch bird watching with over 300 species of bird known to circle the area. Snorkeling is also a favorite activity and waters rarely get deeper than 15 feet. When it’s time to dry off, take a walk around Fort Jefferson and have a scenic lunch at one of the picnic tables. 

Located at 24 degrees 33 minutes north latitude and 81 degrees 45 minutes, The Southernmost Point is exactly what it seems – the southernmost point of the United States (though there is some debate). Easily one of the most photographed places in Key West, the line for a selfie can get long, but it moves quickly, especially as high tide rolls in and water starts to flood the street near the landmark. For the best photos possible, check what time low tide will be or go early in the morning when the air is clear.


The biggest draw in Key West is the ocean, of course. Book a boat tour to get out on the water. Tours can take place during the day or at night and offer activities like snorkeling, sandbar hopping and private dinners on board. Tours with Key West Boat Trips start at $350 for six people, but splitting that between friends makes this excursion a cheap and fun day trip. 

Florida’s only presidential museum is the Harry S. Truman Little White House in Key West. The home was built in 1890 as housing for naval officers and was most famously used by former President Truman as a vacation stop – he spent 175 days of his presidency there – thought other notable figures that have stayed here include Thomas Jefferson and John Kennedy. The home is open daily for tours, which run every 20 minutes until 4pm. 


The Key West Lighthouse has been a focal point of the island since 1848, when its first keeper was a woman (nearly unheard of in the 19th century). It underwent numerous upgrades since its construction – including being made taller and the introduction of electricity – until it was decomissioned in 1969. Today, visitors can climb the 88 steps to the top for breathtaking views of Key West. Don't forget to peek into the keeper's quarters, too, for a glimpse of maritime life in the late 1800s. 

Duval Street
Photograph: Rob O'Neal/Florida Keys News Bureau

8. Duval Street

Duval Street is easily the most popular street in Key West, and for good reason. The bustling thoroughfare is known for its plethora of bars, restaurants and nightlife establishments. While most locals tend to stay away from the tourist- and cruise-ship-passenger–flooded part of town, no trip to Key West is complete without visiting and walking down the iconic street.


The Overseas Highway connects Key West and other parts of the Florida Keys to mainland Florida. Stretching 113 miles across the Atlantic, the expanse takes about four hours to travel across (one way), but the scenery makes it worth it if you're considering driving to Keys. Along the way you'll hit Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon and more before stopping in Key West. For a mini road-trip, drive the Seven Mile Bridge between Marathon and Key West – it's nothing but blue skies and bluer water the whole way. 


Located in historic Mallory Square, in the middle of the tourist district of Key West, the aquarium hosts an array of ocean creatures to observe including jellyfish, sharks, reef fish, conch and sea cucumbers. Kids can get up-close-and-personal with sea stars, sea urchin, and horseshoe crabs at the touch tanks and the entire family will love learning about the resident sea turtles on the Sea Turtle Conservation Tour too see what the aquarium is doing to protect the species in the wild.

Smather's Beach
Photograph: Rob O'Neal/Florida Keys News Bureau

12. Smather's Beach

It wouldn’t be a trip to Key West without some time in the sand, and Smather’s is the largest public beach on the island. The beach begins at mile marker zero and stretches on for about half a mile, so you don't have to worry about it getting too crowded. Along the shore, there are cute shops and restaurants to pop into while you wait for sunset – believe us, it will be glorious. 

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