If you’re looking for a once-in-a-lifetime vacation experience, Key West is it. You can beat it for its variety of activities, and it’s so easy to get to from almost anywhere in the continental U.S. Make your dream trip a reality with these ideas for excursions that will leave you with a lifetime of great stories and grand memories.
All along Duval Street are shops, restaurants, bars, art galleries, and quaint hotels, B&Bs, and motels, making it a great location to stay and get easy access to everything you want to do. It runs the length of Key West between Mallory Square and the Southernmost Point. At Mallory Square, there’s a nightly Sunset Celebration; at Southernmost Point, there’s a huge and colorful buoy made of concrete that is a well-known photo spot. Enjoy a ride on the Conch Train Tour, a 90-minute trip through Old Key West led by seasoned guides. View major landmarks, and hop on or off at multiple stops. This main street is also great for strolling or biking, whether you’re looking to just relax or making your way from one side of Key West to the other.
The Key West Lighthouse and Keeper’s Quarters Museum
It won’t take much imagination to picture yourself as a lighthouse keeper as you climb the 88 steps of this mid-19th century structure to look out the window as the original keepers once did. Tour the adjacent cottage to get the full effect of what it must have been like to play such a crucial role in sailing near Key West.
The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
A staple of Key West, the conservatory provides visitors with an unusual opportunity to walk through a butterfly habitat. Marvel at the colors and styles of dozens of kinds of butterflies. You can also view flowering plants and tropical birds that are butterfly-friendly. Not only is this a great opportunity to learn about butterflies but you can also attend special programs designed to delight and inspire, such as Twilight Tours.
Enjoy a Food Tour
With a food tour, you can sample the world on a plate in only a few hours. In Key West, the cuisine includes Latin American, French, Italian, Asian, South American, Mexican, and Southern American flavors and dishes. Try local favorites like key lime pie along with locally popular pizzas, fish tacos, and drinks. Learn about the history of Key West from engaging guides while you eat and drink your way across the island. But remember to wear your walking shoes, since these tours generally take several hours.
It’s always fun to organize a food tour of your own, too. You can begin with a well-known establishment like Jimmy Buffett’s original Margaritaville Restaurant Key West and then go for the Chef’s Tasting Plate at the Grand Cafe Key West. It’s an elegant dish with filet mignon, shrimp, and lobster. At Eaton Street Seafood Market & Restaurant, take your pick of freshly caught seafood prepared to order. Get it to go or dine al fresco on dishes like the lobster roll, fish sandwiches, and conch fritters. Visit Dante’s to have them cook your catch after a day of fishing with All In Fishing Charters. And don’t forget the Little Room Jazz Club for small plates and drinks in a cozy setting with live music.
The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum
Even though he only lived in Key West for a relatively short time, Ernest Hemingway’s impact on the area can still be felt today. His family’s home is now open as a museum, and it’s a wonderful chance to experience this nearly century-old time capsule. Family heirlooms still adorn the walls, and the legendary 6-toed cats still roam the property. Walk the gardens to view outstanding specimen trees and plants, and marvel at the in-ground pool–one of the first of its kind in Key West.
Dry Tortugas National Park
Snorkeling is one of the top draws of Key West, and while there are several places to try it in Key West proper, heading to Dry Tortugas National Park is ideal. It’s a short ferry ride away, and the group of keys that make up the park offers exciting connections with nature. There’s a beach for swimming, kayak rentals for birdwatching along the smaller keys, and tours of the fort on Garden Key. The snorkeling is open to novice and experienced participants, and the coral reefs and shipwrecks make for a great opportunity to explore. The park even offers night snorkeling programs for nocturnal swimming.
If you’re ready to plan the trip of a lifetime, make it Key West. From sea to shore, there are unique experiences just waiting for you to discover them. Even if it’s only a weekend, time here is always well-spent.