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20 Best Places to Visit in Key West

Whether you want to see nature and enjoy the outdoors or learn about the maritime history or techniques in a distillery, Key West awaits your next adventure all year round. 

Sail the clear waters and snorkel to see the beautiful coral reefs, meet the turtles and the dolphins up close, or admire the island from above on a helicopter tour. Indulge in mouthwatering cuisines in award-winning restaurants and sample the finest rums right from a distillery.

Here are some of the best places to visit in Key West to make sure you have unforgettable experiences on your holiday.

1. Enjoy nature at the historic Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park

Learn the highlights of US history by exploring the Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park found on Key West’s westernmost tip. Built in 1866, this historic bastion defended the coastline on the southeast during the Civil War and the country’s battle against Spain. 

Visiting this landmark not only teaches you something about the past but also allows you to enjoy the well-preserved natural diversity by snorkeling, hiking, or cycling. 

2. Go snorkeling in the Keys!

Admire the marine life and its vibrant corals by watching them in their own habitat with your own eyes. Sail on a catamaran and dive in the clear waters to witness the beauty firsthand, as it’s one of the most breathtaking things to do in Key West

Snorkeling is your window to a colorful and dynamic underwater world where you can meet friendly turtles and various kinds of fish and sea creatures. 

3. Relax at Smathers Beach

Spanning over 3 kilometers with soft sand and gentle waves, Smathers Beach offers an ideal place to get a natural high feeling while bathing in the sun — one of the exciting places to visit in Key West. 

If you need more action other than swimming, you can also do windsurfing, rent a Jet Ski or play volleyball with friends. 

This family-friendly beach also hosts wild parties, so make sure you time your visit if you’re looking to have a lot of beach fun.  

4. Watch an indie film at Tropic Cinema 

For Hollywood fans, Key West has something for you! The Tropic Cinema regularly shows films of various genres and periods. It aims to satisfy the interests of cinephiles both locals and visitors from different walks of life. 

If you’re a film buff, check the schedules in advance to make sure you get a seat, as screenings are usually limited. 

5. Spend a day in Dry Tortugas National Park

A must-see for those who love history and nature, and are looking for adventures, this cultural site makes a memorable day trip solo or with the whole family. 

Dry Tortugas, one of the interesting places to visit in Key West, can only be reached by boat or seaplane, so joining a tour is the most convenient way to go there. 

Spend your day kayaking, snorkeling, fishing, beachcombing, or wildlife viewing. If you fancy meeting sea turtles, join snorkeling tours led by one of the rangers. 

6. Get inspired at Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum 

Former home of Nobel Prize winner and American novelist Ernest Hemingway, this museum has attracted many visitors from across the globe — bookworms or not. 

Explore its collections of the author’s treasures such as handwritten notes and manuscripts, photos of his fishing expeditions, books, and furniture. 

Surrounded by palm trees and lush gardens, Hemingway’s home is like a treasure cove and haven, especially for lovers of literature. Make sure to remember your visit by dropping by at the shop where you can get a souvenir. 

7. Feed your curiosity or the sharks at Key West Aquarium 

Families traveling with kids and animal lovers, make sure to check out the Key West Aquarium where you can meet sea turtles and alligators — and feed sharks if you like. 

This favorite attraction on the island located at Mallory Square aims to satisfy your curiosity with its over 100 species of marine animals. 

If touching stingrays or playing with manatees is your kind of fun, then head directly to the touch tank where you can find all the friendly ones — including the spiky and sludgy sea creatures.   

8. Tap and take a snap of the Southernmost Point of the Continental USA

If you’re a first-time visitor, don’t forget to visit and take a photo of the iconic Southernmost Point Buoy, a must-see historic structure in Key West. 

Many visitors culminate their trip by heading to the junction of Whitehead and South streets to touch this colorful anchored concrete buoy.

Some say if you have the perfect vision, you might see Cuba 145 kilometers from the Southernmost Point. Regardless, you can make the most of your time in the area, as there are shops, hotels, and restaurants nearby.

9. See the view from the top of the Key West Lighthouse

One of the oldest structures and significant attractions on the island, the Key West Lighthouse was built in 1825 to aid the navigation of ships near the Lower Keys where the reefs are shallow and dangerous. 

Enjoy the marvelous views from the top if you want by climbing the 88 steps and seeing how it used to function at the time. 

You can also find some photos, possessions, and letters owned by former operators of the lighthouse and their families. 

10. Have fun with your kids at Keys Eco-discovery Center 

Explore the natural world in the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center with its interactive exhibits and hands-on activities. 

Learn about the complex ecosystem of the Keys and the plants and animals (both land and underwater creatures) that call it their home. 

It’s an ideal place to treat your kids where fun and learning are combined, as well as raise awareness to take care of Mother Nature.  

11. Grab a drink at Sloppy Joe’s Bar

If you want to get some drinks before calling it a day, head to Sloppy Joe’s Bar which is one of Key West’s popular spots for locals and tourists. 

Grab a drink and meet new friends as you learn the Key West laid-back vibe. Try its famous Key West Shrimp steamed in beer and served cold with cocktail sauce, or indulge yourself with Sloppy Joe’s Chicken Wings — or Boneless Wings! 

12. Visit the Truman Little White House and see the limousine!

Florida’s only Presidential Museum is one of the top places to visit in Key West. Harry S. Truman Little White House opens its doors for visitors to see where the 33rd US President used to have meetings in this winter house and how he managed the government in his years of service. 

Join a tour to the museum where local guides narrate Truman’s presidential journey using the various artifacts and taking a look at his original limousine.  

Hot tip: You can actually ride this 1950 limousine with a White Glove Tour.

13. Kayaking through the Key West mangroves

If you haven’t already absorbed the laid-back lifestyle of Key West, one sure-fire way to get in the groove is to spend a relaxing afternoon kayaking through the mangrove forest. 

These mangroves have played a significant role in protecting the wetlands and minimizing soil erosions, especially during storm season. They’re also habitat for wildlife, such as Florida’s famous manatees and wading birds, osprey, and migratory songbirds. 

Slow down your pace of life to a crawl and go with the tides, as you spot wildlife and admire Key West mangroves.  

14. Feel some magic at Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory

The largest home to butterflies in the US, the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory features 60 butterfly types in a magnificent space where visitors can cherish and admire these beauties.  

Attracting many photographers and nature lovers, the conservatory also houses several species of fish and birds, as well as tropical plants from across the globe. 

If you want to learn more about these magical creatures, visit the learning center and find out more about butterflies and their natural characteristics. Children also love this place!

15. Hang out at Hard Rock Cafe Key West

Looking for good drinking, great music, and a satisfying meal? Have a good time at Hard Rock Cafe Key West, one of the iconic places to visit in Key West. 

Located on historic Duval Street, it is your best stop after touring the downtown to dine and jam with cool people around. 

If you’re here for a full experience, try the classic American cheeseburger and find out why many call it paradise. 

16. Meet the turtles at Key West Turtle Museum 

There’s no better place to meet your favorite sea turtles than on the island that loves them — where there’s a special museum for turtles.

Key West Turtle Museum not only showcases its lovable homies, but also teaches visitors about the importance of protecting and saving these endangered species. 

You can also learn about the maritime history of Key West while frolicking with your new aqua friends.  

17. Step back in time at Key West Shipwreck Treasure Museum 

History buffs, this is not your regular exhibition. Travel into Key West’s maritime past to the era of the wreckers — daredevils who salvaged valuable items from dangerous shipwrecks.

See treasures of a shipwreck in this museum and learn how “wrecking” had been a means of living for the early pioneers in the region. 

Discover artifacts recovered in 1985 from a wrecked ship that sank in the Florida Keys in 1856. Besides seeing real treasures, watch actors and films as they tell stories of wrecking. 

18. Dine in style at Pepe’s Cafe

When visiting the Old Town neighborhood, make sure to grab a bite to eat at the oldest eatery in the Florida Keys. 

Pepe’s Cafe has been serving customers for over 110 years, maintaining its old diner-style and artistic interior design. It continues to incorporate contemporary flavors to offer a fully satisfying experience — with its delicious local dishes and exquisite cocktails. 

If not for the food, drop by and grab a refreshing drink to enjoy its old-school vibe and camaraderie. 

19. Taste and learn about the secret flavors of Florida Keys’ rums 

While Key West is teeming with local and imported beers, it’s home to one of the finest rums in the Florida Keys. 

When you’re in the mood to unwind, why not have a drink or go on a rum-tasting tour? 

Key West First Legal Rum Distillery offers wide choices of excellent rums while demonstrating to visitors classic traditional techniques of distillation — the process of making fine white rum out of sugarcane. 

Opened in 2012, this distillery, managed by a family passionate about the rum heritage of the island, opens its doors for a free 15-minute tour every day which helps visitors understand the process and, of course, offers free tasting along the way. 

If you’re up for it, you can also learn to make your own cocktail with private mojito tours.

20. Revive your creativity at Audubon House & Tropical Gardens 

Nature lovers, here’s one that’s hard to miss! 

Explore the tropical plants and gorgeous orchids at the Audubon House. Built in 1840, it was named after John James Audubon, a famous artist who extensively drew the avifauna in the country. 

You can find a collection of his artworks in the gallery and some artistic displays in the house, depicting his journey in search of birds. 

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