Beyond Key West: Exploring the Florida Keys
When most people think of the Florida Keys, they likely picture the bustling streets of Key West, filled with tourists and street performers. However, there is so much more to the Florida Keys than just Key West. From stunning beaches to unique attractions, the Florida Keys offer various activities and adventures for all types of travelers. In this guide, we’ll take you beyond Key West and explore the hidden gems of the Florida Keys.
A Guide to Exploring the Florida Keys
Key Largo: The Dive Capital of the World
The island of Key Largo boasts an immense natural beauty and plentiful outdoor activities. In addition, it is home to the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the first underwater park in the United States. The park offers opportunities for snorkeling, scuba diving, and kayaking. The park also offers glass-bottom boat tours for visitors to explore the vibrant coral reefs and marine life.
Besides the park, Key Largo offers other attractions, such as the African Queen Canal Cruise. This unique charter allows visitors to ride on the original boat featured in the classic film “The African Queen.” Several dive shops and fishing charters are also available for those interested in underwater exploration or fishing.
The Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center in Key Largo is a must-visit for nature enthusiasts. This center rescues and rehabilitates injured birds and provides educational programs about the local bird species.
If you’re looking for a place to stay in Key Largo, Mariner’s Club is an excellent choice. This luxurious vacation community offers upscale and oceanfront vacation rentals and an onsite marina. Guests also enjoy exclusive access to swimming pools, tennis courts, and a fitness center.
Islamorada: The Sport Fishing Capital of the World
Islamorada is an enchanting island in the Florida Keys known as the “Sportfishing Capital of the World.” The island is famous among fishing enthusiasts for its abundant marine life and diverse fishing opportunities. Aside from fishing, the island is also perfect for travelers seeking a laid-back atmosphere and stunning sunsets.
One of the main attractions in Islamorada is the Theater of the Sea. This marine mammal park allows visitors to swim with dolphins, sea lions, and stingrays. Their interactive experiences will enable you to get up close and personal with these incredible creatures.
Another unique activity in Islamorada is exploring the Florida Keys History and Discovery Center. This museum provides a fascinating insight into the history, culture, and ecology of the Florida Keys. You can learn about the area’s Native American heritage, Spanish explorers, and the impact of hurricanes on the region.
For outdoor enthusiasts, Islamorada offers excellent opportunities for snorkeling and diving. The nearby coral reefs are teeming with vibrant marine life, making it a paradise for underwater exploration. You can also go kayaking or paddleboarding through the mangrove trails, immersing yourself in the area’s serene beauty.
If you’re a food lover, Islamorada has several world-class restaurants serving fresh seafood and local delicacies. From casual beachfront eateries to upscale dining establishments, there is something to satisfy every palate. Lazy Days restaurant is a casual choice that offers a variety of seafood dishes and a popular Sunday brunch. Enjoy your meal on their outdoor patio overlooking the ocean.
The Angler’s Reef Resort is a charming vacation community in Islamorada, perfect for travelers to enjoy an upscale stay. The resort features a private beach and swimming pool and is near Snake Creek Marina.
Duck Key: A Hidden Oasis in the Middle Keys
Duck Key is a beautiful island in the Florida Keys known for its peaceful and secluded atmosphere. Duck Key is unique for its exclusive and private community, the Village at Hawks Cay Villas. This community offers luxury accommodations and amenities, making it an ideal destination for a relaxing getaway.
Duck Key offers a wide range of amenities and activities for visitors to enjoy. You can admire the beautiful ocean views, relax at the spa, or try activities like kayaking and paddleboarding. The resort also features several restaurants where you can savor delicious meals and drinks.
One of the most popular things to do in Duck Key is to explore the clear waters around the island. The calm and pristine waters of Duck Key make it an excellent location for snorkeling or scuba diving.
You can explore the nearby Curry Hammock State Park to connect with nature. This coastal park offers hiking, birdwatching, and picnicking opportunities amidst the beautiful natural surroundings. You can also rent a kayak or paddleboard to explore the park’s mangrove-lined waterways.
Duck Key offers a serene and secluded atmosphere and various activities to enjoy the island’s natural beauty. Whether you prefer water-based adventures or simply relaxing by the beach, Duck Key has something for everyone.
Marathon: The “Heart of the Florida Keys”
Marathon Key is a popular destination in the Florida Keys known for its unique attractions and activities. One thing that makes the island of Marathon so special is its location. Marathon is in the middle of the island chain, making it a convenient base for exploring the Upper and Lower Keys.
A famous sight in Marathon is the Seven Mile Bridge, a popular spot for tourists to visit. You can take a leisurely walk or bike ride along the bridge, enjoying the stunning views of the turquoise waters and surrounding islands.
Marathon is also known for endless water-based activities. You can go fishing or boating or take a snorkeling or diving trip to explore the colorful coral reefs in the area. Several island charter companies and boat rentals can direct you to the best spots.
The Crane Point Museum and Nature Center are must-visits for nature lovers. This 63-acre site offers trails, a museum showcasing local history and ecology, and a chance to see native wildlife.
If you’re interested in history, you can visit the Pigeon Key Historic District, accessible by ferry. This small island played a significant role in constructing the Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad.
Marathon also offers a range of dining options, from seafood shacks to upscale waterfront restaurants. You can savor fresh seafood dishes while enjoying the scenic views of the marinas and waterways. Keys Fisheries Market and Marina, located in Marathon, is a local favorite. Try their famous lobster Reuben sandwich or their fresh stone crab claws.
For travelers seeking a comfortable and inclusive stay, consider Coral Lagoon Resort or Indigo Reef Resort. These sister resorts are ideal for boating or fishing enthusiasts, with onsite marinas and complimentary dockage. In addition, each location features a communal swimming pool, perfect for relaxing after a day of adventure.
Plan Your Florida Keys Adventure Today
The Florida Keys offer a unique and memorable experience for travelers of all ages. From stunning beaches to exciting outdoor adventures, there is something for everyone to enjoy. So why limit yourself to just Key West? Plan your trip today to discover this beautiful destination’s hidden gems.
For more suggestions on things to do, visit our Activities Guide.