There is a lot to be said about the beautiful island of Key West. From the eye-popping natural beauty of the scenic coastlines to the elegance of high-end dining and tropical resorts – few vacation destinations compare.
Key West, nicknamed the “Conch Republic,” is the westernmost island of the Florida Keys, an archipelago in the Gulf of Mexico off the southern tip of Florida, just north of Cuba. The name itself evokes an ideal vacation, with tropical drinks and sandy beaches. Key West has beaches, to be sure. But the island has long been a cultural and artistic destination, and to this day it remains quirky and truly like nowhere else. Even better, there are plenty of accommodations in Key West to suit your price range, and “frost-free” weather in Key West cannot be beaten. Here are some ideas for things to do on a Key West vacation.
Whether you are in the process of planning an eventful itinerary for a future visit or are a current guest looking for what to do in Key West, take a gander at these suggestions to get a taste of what this island truly has to offer.
Top Key West Attractions
Planning for spring break, or simply need an easy and fun getaway? Consider these ideas for unique attractions and restaurants in Key West.
The former residence of writer Ernest Hemingway is now a museum. Take a tour of this historical landmark to see where Hemingway lived and wrote the final draft of “A Farewell to Arms.” The gift shop at the end of your tour has a nice selection of quirky and classy gifts for the book-lover in your life, or as your own souvenir.
Mallory Square is one of the top destinations in all of Key West. As a guest on the island, making room in your visit to venture to this cultural hotspot is simply a must. Known for its prime location to watch breathtaking sunsets, Mallory Square is a bustling place with plenty to keep you busy during the day and after dark. Enjoy the endless supply of live entertainment that varies from local musicians to fire eaters. In between performances, explore the many vendors that frequent the area with original pieces of art, unique trinkets, and gratifying snacks to keep your belly as satisfied as to your senses.
At dusk, it will become noticeably more crowded as locals and visitors alike gather to witness an awe-inspiring Key West sunset so vivid that you would swear you were on the edge of the world. Be sure you grab a good spot on the wall at Sunset Pier by arriving about half an hour before the sunset is forecasted to occur.
Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum
Ernest Hemingway is a notorious figure in Key West. He lived in the home that is part of this museum for over ten years and wrote many of his most famed works as a resident of the island. You can experience this nationally recognized historic and literary landmark through a guided tour of the home and the museum that is located on the premises. As part of the tour, you will receive detailed information regarding the history of the architecture, lush gardens and of course, the famed previous resident for which the museum is named.
After your pleasantly short yet information-packed tour, consider visiting the gift shop for a few souvenirs as a way to reflect on the unique experience. If you find your curiosity is still a nagging entity, take a gander at the famous six-toed cats that call the property home. Either way, this stop is a must for anyone wondering what to do in Key West.
Duval Street is the main artery for tourists in all of Key West. As such, many of the resorts and hotels that are popular on the island are located on, or within walking distance of Duval Street making it the perfect destination to become acquainted with what Key West has to offer. As you walk the street, you will notice a healthy quantity of shops, restaurants, and diners that will keep you busy for days. In fact, each time you visit Duval, you will find something new that you did not notice the previous day.
Everyone wants their visit to such an enchanting destination to be perfect whether it is the first time around or the tenth time. As you plan your visit, considering what to do in Key West: The “must do’s” is an important element in making the best of your trip. By including one, or all of the suggestions above, you will undoubtedly have an enjoyable time and will be eager to return.
Key West Restaurants
Key West is a destination that will make any serious foodie happy. From casual gems like Bad Boy Burritos, a taco and juice bar with a surfer attitude and fresh-as-can-be ingredients, to all the seafood you could want at Alonzo’s Oyster Bar, to authentic and family-friendly Cuban dishes at El Siboney and the tiny but top-notch Seven Fish. Don’t forget to try a local specialty, key lime pie!
Key West is an island, of course, so take advantage of being surrounded by water! Soak up the sun on a beach, or take advantage of one of the many different companies that will take you on a guided water adventure. Some highlights are dolphin-watching by boat or a guided kayaking trip through the mangroves. The flora and fauna in Key West is incredible, and these are a good way to experience it while being active. Wild About Dolphins is a great, knowledgeable outfitter for dolphin tours, and Lazy Dog Adventure leads educational kayaking tours for all levels.
Rent a Bicycle or Moped
Key West is quaint and easy to explore on bicycle. In fact, with a large number of hotels and other accommodations that are located within walking distance of Duval Street, which is the concentrated strip of restaurants, shops, and other attractions, it’s very possible to spend a week on Key West and never need a car at all. Renting a bicycle is a good way to explore the charming streets of houses, or ride to the spectacular beach at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park.
Watch the Sunset
One of the main tourist attractions is watching the sunset from Mallory Square. It’s been said that there are simply certain spots from which sunset is more spectacular, and once you’ve joined the nightly crowds to watch the sun drop from Mallory Square, you’ll likely be a believer. After the sun goes down, you’ll be near plenty of restaurants and bars to continue your night.
You may go to Key West expecting nothing more than a resort vacation, but there is much more if you want it. The island is packed with unique history and culture, with an “anything goes” ethos – which might explain the chickens that you’ll see almost everywhere! Key West is also incredibly gay-friendly. You’ll soon see that the island is full of diverse characters, and is all the more interesting for it. Take advantage of Key West’s many attractions, and you’ll be hard-pressed to not have a memorable vacation. In fact, you’ll probably be wondering how soon you can return! So come on down to Key West. You’ll fit right in.