Florida’s most famous key has long been a popular holiday destination, among both visitors from across the pond and Americans in search of a relaxing spot.
The island city has a lot to offer despite its small size; it has some of the best snorkelling in the US right off shore, as well as plentiful water sport options for the adventurous spirits.
Once the home of Hemingway, there are also many interesting cultural attractions available – with the six-toed cats of Hemingway’s Home and Museum a clear highlight.
There’s also a buzzing strip along Duval Street, with plentiful bars and restaurants to keep visitors entertained at a new spot every night.
The picturesque conch houses along the waterfront form a great background for a relaxed boulevard stroll.
With all this on offer, you may still get itchy feet and fancy a trip further afield, so here are 15 of the best day trips from Key West.
It’s hardly possible to spend time in the sunshine state without at least a short trip to Miami – its glamorous poster child.
Skyscrapers crowd the shore, with a stretch of golden sand lining the front.
It’s got the best party atmosphere in Florida and a jam-packed center filled with restaurants and bars, while the option to hang out front and kick back on a sun lounger is always a tempting alternative.
It’s a bit of a trek from Key West, but well worth the effort for a guaranteed fun day – or crazy night – out.
2. Fort Lauderdale
Key West isn’t known for its beaches but Fort Lauderdale certainly is, and that’s just one of the appeals of this day trip.
Water-based activities are the clear winner here, with options on offer including gondola rides along the canal, amphibious tours, and a host of boat trips away from the harbour.
If you would rather stay dry, there’s plenty to keep you entertained on land, not least the excellent shopping district.
There’s also Millionaire’s Row houses and yachts to be ogled at, and a historic district to stroll through.
You definitely won’t be bored.
3. Fort Jefferson & Dry Tortugas National Park
A sure highlight of any Key West trip is a day spent in the spectacular Dry Tortugas National Park, with the unrivalled snorkelling on offer.
Hop on a high-speed ferry and travel the seventy miles to the park – you’ll get lunch included on the trip.
Azure water and clean white sand make the perfect backdrop for wildlife spotting – just make sure you remember your sun screen.
Once your fingers are wrinkled from too much time spent in the water, dry off for a tour of the historic Fort Jefferson, which is an intriguing site in itself.
4. Bahia Honda State Park
For an unusual state park visit, Bahia Honda is a great option.
Located at the end of the iconic Seven Mile Bridge, it’s right on the beach with the Historic Overseas Railroad crumbling away above it – leaving you with a sense of times past as you stroll along the sand.
Head up onto the railroad bridge for some stunning vistas of the sea, which surely make it a contender for the most beautiful spot along the Florida Keys.
There’s yet more snorkelling on offer if you head over to the National Marine Sanctuary and Looe Key, if you’ve not yet had your fill.
5. Offshore water sports trip
Boat trips abound from Key West – enclosed by water as it is – and these can make for some great family-friendly day trip options.
One of the most popular is an adventure boating trip, in which you step aboard a catamaran for an activity filled day at sea.
Snorkelling provides the first stopping off point – no surprises there – but after that you can head out to another spot for some exciting water exploration via jet ski, parasail and kayak.
The kids will love the inflatable adventure theme park tethered out in the water, often saved for last.
Food is usually included, and if you’re lucky, the drinks are unlimited at the end of the day.
Some suggested tours:
- Key West Double Dip: 2-Stop Reef Snorkeling Trip
- Key West: Ultimate Watersports Adventure Tour
- Key West: Parasailing Flights
6. Ramrod Key
There are so many more keys than just Key West.
At Ramrod Key you can have a perfectly tranquil day with some relaxed entertainment, eating excellent fresh seafood fare and taking part in some slightly more chilled out activities.
Miniature Golf is a great choice for this.
The course at Mile Marker 27 has 18 holes and elaborately constructed obstacles, and is a great way to keep the kids occupied.
Once you’ve finished the round, hopefully without too many arguments, head out on a drive in search of some seafood.
You won’t have to look far, that’s for sure.
Scallops, lobster tail, grouper – the options are almost unlimited, and of course, they’ll be freshly caught.
7. Little Palm Island
If you’re feeling the need for a little luxury in your life, Little Palm Island is the place for you.
This private island resort is just five acres in size – leaving you feeling like kings and queens in a tiny kingdom – and it has a path running its full diameter.
Spend some time with your significant other dining on the luxury fare, perhaps with a glass of sparkling champagne to accompany it, looking out across the water.
To get here it’s just a brief ferry ride, departing every half hour from Little Torch Key at Mile Marker 28.
8. Turtle Hospital
For animal lovers, a visit to the Turtle Hospital at Mile Marker 48 is a must-do.
It’s an educational centre, so visitors can learn about the process of rescuing ill or injured sea turtles, nursing them back to health, and eventually releasing them back into their natural habitat.
Tours depart every hour, in which visitors can learn more about rehabilitation and get the chance to view the area in which the work is carried out.
9. Fishing Charter
If adventure sports aren’t your thing, another type of boating day trip option is available – hiring out a fishing charter for the day.
Group tours are a much more budget-friendly option than private charters, and still give you that sense of excitement.
Serving the dual purpose of day-time entertainment and night-time dining, the boats from Key West are perfectly set up to make life easy for visitors, while allowing them the autonomy to take charge of their own catch.
You can even take your spoils to a local restaurant to have it served up to you for dinner.
10. Everglades national park
Florida’s Everglades are a unique natural habitat, home to alligators, manatees and dolphins – a real melange that you’re unlikely to find anywhere else.
If you’re lucky, you might even spot a Florida panther skulking around.
There are lots of options here for exploring, from hiking to air boating, but the best views can be had from the 45-foot-high observation tower in Shark Valley.
11. Key Largo
Key Largo has been referred to as the diving capital of the world, and if that’s not enough to tempt a visit, then perhaps the famous beach bar at Alabama Jack’s will be more up your alley.
Hang out among the locals and grab a platter of fritters and an ice-cold beer to while away the afternoon.
If you do decide to check out the water options around, head over to the Pennekamp Coral Reef Park, east of the Key.
If you feel like venturing further afield and having a real adventure, it might surprise you to learn that Cuba’s capital is within reach of Key West.
It’s a pricey option, but a short flight and you could tick a real bucket list day trip off the list.
Spend the day exploring a whole other culture, wandering the charmingly picturesque streets and snapping the inevitable pictures of those adorably old-fashioned cars trundling around.
Seek out some Cuban cigars, sip on Havana Club rum, and arrive back at the Key in time for dinner.
Feeding the fish might sound like a bit of a tame thing to spend your day doing, but you should definitely think again when it comes to feeding the wild tarpon in Islamorada.
Buckets of bait are on sale around the docks, so grab some and get ready for a real experience, as the massive fish loom out of the water to take the food from your hand.
They do have teeth, but it won’t hurt – though they may make you jump.
These monsters can grow up to eight-feet long and as heavy as 200 pounds.
14. Marathon Key
For those who don’t feel like venturing too far from home, Marathon Key is a chilled option for a mild change of scenery from Key West.
Simply spend the day kicking back and hanging out on the water, grab a few beers, and watch the sun set over the sea.
There are some great resorts, restaurants, and bars around to perk up the day.
And best of all, Key West is only a short hop away, so you can be relaxed about the time you’re spending there.
15. Key Biscayne
Sitting 20-miles out in the Straits, Key Biscayne is the biggest must-visit for keen fishermen and women, with an incredible range of catches on offer.
There are some excellent tours available, as fishing is the lifeblood of the community.
If you fancy the chance to catch anything from sailfish to marlin, swordfish to mahi-mahi, this trip will be the one for you.
All the necessary equipment is available to hire.