Key West is the southernmost point of Florida and for such a small place there’s lots of things to do. Here’s a guide to the tropical island with tips on places to visit and to avoid with a handy pinned map.
The Florida Keys
The Florida Keys is made up of hundreds of tropical islands stretching 120 miles. Key West sits right at the very bottom and is a popular destination for good reason. It’s a fun, relaxed and beautiful place. But don’t mistake it for a beach holiday – it’s totally not. You’ll find all the beaches you want in most of Florida but not here.
Key West is only about 7 square miles so it’s pretty tiny. You can very easily wander around it in a day. It was 25 degrees in April and SUPER HUMID. I felt like I couldn’t breath. I’ve never sweated quite like it before. So wear loose clothing and bring lots of water.
We went from Miami to Key West, which is about a 4 hour drive. On the way we stopped off at Robert is Here, an off road fruit market, for their famous milkshake. We then stayed one night in Marathon to break up the journey but also to visit the turtle hospital! We also watched the sunset on Sombrero Beach here!
It’s meant to be one of the most scenic drives as you pass from small island to island over sweeping bridges, including the seven mile bridge, but we didn’t rate it that much… It’s a bit samey samey and we often couldn’t see over the bridge walls to the sea. But none the less, it was a cool experience.
(AD) MIAMI – Stayed at the very cool and colourful James Hotel. It was cheap with free parking and was a short walk to the beach. MARATHON – Stayed in the Sea Dell Motel. Had free parking, was comfortable, clean and close to supermarkets/ restaurants.
As we were driving, we needed somewhere to park our car for the day. After a bit of research I found free parking on Fort Street. It’s only a short walk into the hustle and bustle of Key West.
5 things to do in Key West
1. See the Mile Marker
Mile Marker 0 is the official end to US route 1. You’ve literally come to the end of the road. I love driving and found this little stop pretty cool.
2. Eat Key Lime Pie
Now, you simply can not come all the way to Key West and not try a slice of Key Lime Pie. It orginated here a long time ago and they really know how to make it. We ate at Key Lime Pie Company and I can tell you, that light and refreshing dessert was exactly what I needed on the scorching hot day.
3. Watch the sunset
I found Florida had some of the most incredible sunsets. And Florida Keys did not disappoint. We headed to Sunset Pier an hour before sunset to grab a seat by the sea. The bar filled up pretty quickly after that! We drank, waited and watched as the sun slowly disappeared into the ocean.
4. Shop at Mallory Square
In the old town by the water you will find a cove of shops selling all kinds of wonderful things. It’s definitely the place for gift shopping.
5. Climb the lighthouse
Built in 1825 to help ships enter the port, this lighthouse is a key part of Key Wests history. It’s 22 metres tall with small exhibitions and the keepers quarters nearby. If you climb the 88 steps to the top you will see sweeping views of this little island. We decided to enjoy it from outside only but next time I’d go inside for sure. $12 entry, open daily.
Make sure you check out my guide to hiring a car in America. And when it came to tolls in Florida, we simply avoided them using google maps.
2 things to miss
1. Duval Street
It’s the main highstreet full of shops, bars and restaurants but it was all very touristy and tacky. We walked down it once and every other time chose the back streets. They were much more interesting and exciting. From the looks of the grand houses, residents have a lot of money…
2. Southernmost point
At the southernmost point you will find a giantic buoy. It’s anchored to the concrete and only 18 feet above sea level. It’s a striking large statue built in 1983 as a tourist attraction. And it worked. It’s one of the most photographed places in Key West. But it was too busy, there was a huge queue for a picture and it really wasn’t that impressive. We took a selfie from afar and swiftly left.
Looking for fun in the water?
Being an island, there were lots of sea excursions from boat trips to jet ski rides. We only had a day so didn’t ‘really’ have time and honestly, left it too late to book. In hindsight, we would have headed to the fishing pier in the morning and tried to book onto a short trip.
We had a fantastic day exploring Key West and hope you find these tips and suggestions of things to do helpful. Have a great Keys adventure!