Are the Florida Keys worth a visit for your upcoming vacation? In a word, YES! The Florida Keys are a 125-mile section of over 150 islands south of the Florida peninsula. With lovely, temperate weather that is balmy and warm, and temperatures ranging from the upper 70s to low 90s °F, you will surely find a sunny day to relax. There are several destinations and a multitude of fun-filled activities for the entire family to do. Many of these activities are kid-friendly and family-oriented yet there are some attractions for the adult crowd, too. Each location is unique in its way, yet shares a rich culture oftentimes with Cuban and Carribean flair, and is strongly influenced by the nature all around it. We will showcase some of the most popular Florida Keys locations and their well-known attractions that draw the most crowds. These are just a few of the more well known keys. where the fun begins no matter whether you are looking for fast paced, action packed activities or just to relax, unwind and chill for a while. Each area has many attractions to offer, more than we can possibly list, but will introduce you to each’s beauty, culture, and activities. By the end of this article, hopefully, you will have enough information to decide whether a trip to the Florida Keys is right for your family vacation. So let’s start out with a few of the top destinations in the Florida Keys to look out for.
- Key Largo
- Key West
- Dry Tortugas
- Big Pine Key
Now that you’ve found the few locations (or all of them) that you want to check out, what draws you to them? What attractions, activities, culture, and more are there for your family to enjoy? Is there something to do that you think your small kids would like or something more appropriate for adults only? Is this the making of a family friendly vacation? Or is it too overwhelming to attempt a multiple key visit or do you want to visit just one in depth? We’ll touch on some of the most popular highlights of each of these locations to help you make your decision.
Known for it’s beautiful beaches and plentiful wildlife, you may see dolphins, turtles, even manatees or birds here. Swimming and snorkeling is prime and it is well known for its diving areas. A popular diving area is near the 8.5 ft submerged Christ of the Deep statue, made in Italy and submerged here in 1966. Its creators say it symbolizes peace and hope for mankind, as well as a love for the sea. Dusenbury Creek offers kayaking where you may see alligators, otters, or even manatees as well. Hungry yet? The Fish House is the place to go! It offers yellowtail snapper, mahimahi and lobster from Florida. Key Largo has the first underwater sea park in the country, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, home of our nation’s only living coral barrier reef. Here you can see a Spanish shipwreck from 1715. It offers kayaking, glass bottom boat tours, snorkeling and scuba diving. Also you can board the famous African Queen Vessel, the one from the movie with Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn for a dinner cruise or a 90-minute tour.
Key West is the southernmost city in the United States and has a Bohemian atmosphere, same as Key Largo. It contains the most writers per capita than any other U.S. city. Attractions include: Red Barn Theatre, The Waterfront Playhouse, Tennessee Williams Theatre. For the party vibe, head to Duval St which spans from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. Also you can head to Mallory Square in the evening for the Key West Sunset Celebration where local performers such as buskers, juggler, sword swallowers, tightrope walkers work to entertain you in a family friendly setting. Don’t forget to tip! For sightseeing, you can head to Fort East Martello and Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, which date back to the 19th century. And of course there is the famous Hemingway Home and Museum. Earnest Hemingway, himself, lived here from 1931-1940. Guided daily tours available- cash only! Smathers beach is great for families with cafes and shops. Also, there is Clarence S. Higgs Memorial Beach Park which is quieter for those that enjoy that. Don’t forget to check out Key West Garden Club at West Martello Tower. The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory is a family friendly treat on Duval St. Also, the Southernmost Point is the large buoy that marks the southernmost point of the United States, and a great place for a photo op. Key West Aquarium, Key West Shipwreck Treasure Museum, Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Museum, and Key West Cemetery are even more sightseeing options.
Islamorada offers the usual beaches, swimming and other water sports but is known for its sports fishing. It also has the Theatre of the Sea, open since 1946, which offers dolphin swims, sea lion shows, bottomless boat rides. The Islander Resort houses the Keys History and Discovery Center, where you can learn all about the keys’ history. Robbie’s of Islamorada offers bait at a Florida only location under a bridge in the Middle Keys where you can feed by hand hundreds of tarpons that visit there. Calusa Beach in Bahia Honda State Park and Beach is one of the best places for camping in the keys, with campsites and cabins available. Reservations must be made in advance! Lignumvitae Key State Botanical Park offers a quiet, serene look into the island’s history back to the 1900’s. If that’s too historical for you, Founders Park offers year round music and food events on a more modern stage. Hungry again? Islamorada offers cracked conch and stone crab chowder courtesy of Lorelei Restaurant & Cabana Bar and hogfish can be found at Chef Michael’s.
Marathon is the key’s midway point and is popular for the party crowd and for sport fishing. Check out the popular sea turtles at The Turtle Hospital where injured turtles are rehabilitated and released. Travel a short hop next door to Grassy Key for dolphin fun! The Dolphin Research Center offers dolphin and sea lion shows, dolphin camp for teens and Fantasy Dolphin Day for a swimming with dolphins experience. Sombrero Beach here at Mile Marker 50, offers gentle waves for children, bathroom facilities and handicapped accessible beach areas. From the visitor center near the west end is the longest segmental bridge in the world, called the Seven Mile Bridge. Beneath the bridge is Pigeon Key, which in 1908 was the site of Henry Flagler’s work campsite for the doomed Overseas Railroad, imagined to be the Eighth Wonder of the World.
This group of quiet islands is 70 miles west of Key West and you can only get there by seaplane or boat. For a little quiet time rent a charter boat to Dry Tortugas National Park. Here lies the remains of a 19th century fort and it’s crumbling walls. You can take the Yankee Freedom ferry as well from Key West to Garden Key, stopping to examine Fort Jefferson, birdwatch, beach camping, swimming and snorkeling once you get here.
Big Pine Key
Big Pine Key is the home of The National Key Deer Refuge. These deer are only about as big as a large dog. They are only found in these lower keys. You can learn more about the key deer at the Refuge Visitor Center. You can bike, hike or kayak and try to spot one of these 32” endangered creatures. Bahia Honda State Park is home to more than 150 species of rare flora and fauna. Popular for camping and glamping both, it has three beaches that’s spectacular beauty offers geocaching, shelling and snorkeling. Check out The Blue Hole, an old rock quarry, and see if you can spot an alligator or try to go treasure hunting at the local flea market on the weekend during winter months.
And of course a common course through all these places, you can’t miss the local Key Lime Pie- a treat to be had! Cruising through the Florida Keys offers a variety of attractions and locations for your perusal. Family fun is available for everyone. Now you have had a quick introduction to all the key attractions to see and visit in some of the top destinations in the Florida Keys, you can decide for yourself which one appeals the most to you. Or if you’re more energetic and adventurous, why not try them all. Whichever you choose, you can definitely see that the Florida Keys have a lot to offer any family and are a great place to plan a vacation. Have a great vacation!
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