The Best Things to Do in Key West, Florida

Key West has so many things to do, from exploring a national park to taking a yummy food tour
Key West has so many things to do, from exploring a national park to taking a yummy food tour | © ShootingCompany / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Kathryn Beeson
13 July 2020

So you find yourself in a gorgeous subtropical paradise, with a ton of history, stunning scenery and great places to eat. Where to start? With its marine wildlife, gorgeous sunsets and attractive sandy beaches, Key West offers this enviable quandary. Let Culture Trip’s local insiders solve it, with their tips on what to see and where to go.

Dry Tortugas National Park

Natural Feature
Map View
garden key lighthouse terreplein and interior soldiers barracks on fort jefferson dry tortugas national park florida keys usa
© Radharc Images / Alamy Stock Photo

No visit to the Florida Keys would be complete without exploring the Dry Tortugas National Park. It preserves Fort Jefferson – an unfinished 19th-century fort that is currently the largest brick masonry structure in the western hemisphere – and the surrounding subtropical islands. There’s something here for every taste: hiking, ranger days, Fort Jefferson tours, snorkeling and birding, to name a few. Keep your eyes peeled for the sea turtles that give the park its name – there are five species to spot), but remember to keep your distance. Recommended by local insider Alli Griffiths

Mallory Square

Architectural Landmark
Map View

This seaside square, packed with boutique shops, independent restaurants and major Key West attractions, is a place where you can lose an entire afternoon. After sightseeing, stay for the nightly sunset celebration, with local performers to keep you entertained for the evening. Expect a carnival atmosphere with street food, magicians, jugglers, clowns, psychics and local music acts. It’s so much fun, you’ll be back here every night for more. Recommended by local insider Alli Griffiths

Fury Water Adventures Key West

Sports Center
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Florida Key West Gulf of Mexico jet ski wave runner rentals for rent man woman couple before excursion water dock
© JeffG / Alamy Stock Photo

Fury Water’s jet ski, kayak and boat rentals, as well as parasailing, are a fantastic way for adventurous people to explore the Keys scenery and have a blast doing so. For anyone looking to get better acquainted with the islands’ marine inhabitants, there is also a range of snorkeling options and eco-tours. Your guide will take you to the best parts of the coral reef to spot a host of colorful sea critters, including angelfish, parrotfish, butterflyfish and the universally adored turtles. Take a dolphin-watching tour for more wildlife enjoyment; an accessible glass-bottomed boat makes this a great option for those with limited mobility. Recommended by local insider Alli Griffiths

Lazy Dog Paddleboard Tours

Sports Center
Map View

Paddlesports – whether kayaking, canoeing or stand-up paddleboarding – are a fun and ecofriendly way to explore the different environments Key West encompasses. Best of all, they’re easy for beginners to learn, so you can take in the beauty of the mangroves and canals while picking up a great new hobby at the same time. Lazy Dog offers guided SUP and kayak trips for those wanting to learn more about their surroundings as they paddle – they’re definitely worth your time, for the combined amount of instruction and tour guiding on offer. Recommended by local insider Alli Griffiths

Sunset Sail Key West

Architectural Landmark
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Beautiful sailboat at sunset seen from Key West Florida
© Littleny / Alamy Stock Photo

Vary your Key West sunset experience by taking a boat out and watching the spectacle from the water. Not that you’d ever get bored of the Key West sunset, but watching one from the sea provides a new perspective and some stunning photo ops. There are plenty of companies to choose from, and all do the job well. If you have the budget to spare, escape the crowds and hire a private vintage sailboat from Key West Sunset Tours for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Recommended by local insider Alli Griffiths

Key West Historic Seaport Harbor Walk

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
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Enjoy life’s simple pleasures with a stroll along the harbor. As you meander along the seafront, browsing independent boutiques, taking in the views and deciding which of the many tempting restaurants you should try next, keep an eye out for fish and sea turtles in the water. It’s impossible not to feel relaxed after spending some time here. To finish your walk, pick a bar and get a couple of drinks while watching the world go by, or to witness another heartmelting sunset. Recommended by local insider Alli Griffiths

Key West Food Tours

Restaurant, American
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Get the lowdown on Key West’s exciting, multicultural food scene with a guided tour. From fresh seafood to Southern comfort, via strong Cuban and Caribbean flavors, the range of culinary influences is worth exploring. Key West Food Tours offers a variety of packages to suit every taste, with knowledgeable guides and plenty of sampling opportunities on the way. Check its drink-focused tours if you’re big on craft cocktails. Recommended by local insider Alli Griffiths

Conch Tour Train

Architectural Landmark
Map View
Key West Conch Tour Train carrying tourists.
© Dennis Cox / Alamy Stock Photo

Taking a ride on this much-loved Key West institution is a must. For families with young children, those with limited mobility and anyone who would simply rather ride than walk, it’s a great way of seeing the island and learning a bit about its history. Your guide will point out major landmarks and entertain you with a local story or two as you enjoy the ride. Recommended by local insider Alli Griffiths

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