Experiencing the unique things to do in Key West should be on everyone’s bucket list who wants to have a fantastic vacation on this beautiful island in South Florida.
Key West is located on the last island of the Florida Keys archipelago and has a 6.5 km length and a 2 km width. From Miami, you will drive around 4 hours to get here.
The Florida Keys it’s an archipelago of about 30 islands, Key West being the last of them. The best-known of the 30 islands are Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, The Lower Keys, and Key West.
Driving from Miami to Key West means you will have to cross the Seven Mile Bridge, which has, as the name suggests, a length of 11 km.
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Also, don’t forget to check the exciting facts about Key West you probably didn’t know. Find them at the end of this post.
What I use every time I travel:
Where to stay in Key West:
When thinking of booking your accommodation for your Key West vacation, one thing is sure. Hotels are pretty expensive here, but you can compensate your budget spendings with some free things to do in Key West.
Key West offers a variety of accommodation types, from beachfront hotels to cool Airbnbs and so on. Check my suggestions below for the best hotels in Key West, especially if you want to enjoy that gorgeous Key West sunset right from your accommodation.
Keep in mind you must book in advance since Key West is a trendy destination in the US.
- mid-budget: Authors Key West Guesthouse – great location, free parking, pool
- luxury: Key West Marriott Beachside Hotel – beachfront, private beach, pool, fitness center, good breakfast
Top 10 unique things to do in Key West, Florida
1. Duval Street:
One of the top 10 unique things to do in Key West in this Key West travel guide is to walk on Duval Street. The main avenue in Key West, the center of entertainment and nightlife on the island.
The name comes from Florida’s first governor, William Pope Duval. There are so many restaurants on Duval Street, which would make it absurd not to find one to your liking.
And if you’re wondering what things to do in Key West at night, then a walk around Duval Street sounds like a great idea. The atmosphere is also maintained by the live music in the pubs and some of the best restaurants in Key West, every evening. So, if you like to party, this is the right place for you!
Photo credit (the photo has been partially modified)
2. Ernest Hemingway Home:
Another must-do in Key West is visiting Ernest Hemingway’s home. Ernest is one of the most influential American novelists of the 20th-century.
He is best known for his works, including A Farewell to Arms, The old man and the sea, and To whom the bell tolls.
Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winner Hemingway spent ten years living on the island in a house located on Whitehead Street. The residence was later converted into a memorial museum.
It’s open every day, including holidays, from 9 am to 5 pm. In the beautiful home of Ernest Hemingway, you will meet several almost 50 cats with six toes, descendants of a feline that Ernest chose to name Snow White.
He received the cat as a gift from the captain of a ship. Ernest used to name his beloved cats after famous people and celebrities, and today, the staff is doing their best to keep the tradition alive.
When was Hemingway in Key West?
Ernest Hemingway lived in Key West for eight years, between 1931 and 1939.
You must include Ernest Hemingway’s home in your top 10 unique things to do in Key West!
3. Harry S. Truman Little White House | Top 10 unique things to do in Key West, Florida
Are you a fan of history? Then it would be best if you visited one of the best Key West attractions, the winter residence of President Truman in Key West, the 33rd of the US.
In the beginning, during the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II, the mansion functioned as the headquarters of the naval station.
You can still get to see the original furniture used by President Truman back in those days. Another great personality who lived here for six months was the inventor Thomas Edison. Therefore, the Little White House is truly one of the best places to visit in Key West especially if you are interested in the Key West history.
After finishing the house tour, you can also buy souvenirs from the museum store to remind you later about your fantastic Key West experience.
Today the Truman’s Key West White House is a living museum, so you can easily add it to your Key West itinerary.
4. Beaches in Key West:
The beaches of Key West are not, as you might imagine, stretched, soft sand and turquoise-colored waters. There are only a few beaches in Key West, all of them located on the island’s south side.
Although the beaches of Key West look excellent in most pictures, many places on the island are somewhat rocky near the coast. Therefore, it is advised to use water shoes or sandals.
However, one of the cool things to do in Key West is going to the beach and admire a beautiful Key West sunset, lay on the beach, or practice a water sport, one of the most usual activities to do in Key West Florida.
Some of the most beautiful beaches in Key West are Smathers Beach, South Beach, and Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park.
The first beach to add to your Key West bucket list is Smathers Beach, located on the south of the island, right next to Key West International airport.
I spent almost a whole day on this beach, but I haven’t gone into the water because I thought it was filthy. Moreover, the seaweed crowd did not encourage me to do that.
On Smathers Beach, I witnessed no less than three weddings, just like in the movies, on the Atlantic shore. Going to the beach on Smathers might be one of the best things to do in Key West on a budget since it has free entrance.
Weak points: beach full of seaweed, not very clean and clear water, no sunbeds
Strong points: the length (1 km), free parking, volleyball nets, many palm trees, you can see the sunset very well from here
South Beach is a tiny beach located at the end of the main boulevard in Key West, Duval Street. Although it is only a few tens of meters long, the beach is beautifully landscaped and looks like a magazine cut-out, so it can be one of the best places to see in Key West.
Weak points: small, crowded, no toilets
Strong points: beautifully landscaped, many deck chairs, good sand, palm trees, good location, has its pier.
- Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park
Spending a day at the beach in Fort Zachary in Key West and choosing to go by car, you must be prepared to spend $7.
We were lucky to get there on a day when we had the chance to watch a national competition for boat races, but I have to mention that the area is full of this kind of event, like contests and activities related to water.
Here, I enjoyed drinking natural coconut juice purchased from a traveling salesperson. The liquid will decrease your budget to only $3, and it’s worth it.
Fort Zachary gave us the opportunity of watching a fantastic Key West sunset at the end of a beautiful day while we were swimming in the ocean.
Weak points: access fee ($7), many stones
Strong points: extensive, spectacular scenery, the perfect place to watch the sunset, picnic tables, chairs, and sun loungers are available for rent, food kiosks, public toilets and showers, very clear water
5. Enjoy a wonderful Key West sunset | Top 10 unique things to do in Key West, Florida
Key West is all about sunsets. Whether you choose to admire the ocean or take a cruise specifically for this, you should not miss the sunset when coming to Key West. I can consider myself lucky; I’ve seen two.
Some of the best places to witness a great sunset in Key West are the beach and Mallory Square. Just take a quick look at the photos below and you’ll understand why this is one of the unique things to do in Key West.
You must include sunsets in your top 10 things to do in Key West, no discussion!
6. The southernmost point of the United States:
Do you wish to take a picture of the famous landmark? Well, then you should be prepared to wait in a line, literally. The Southernmost Point is a concrete block, painted in a way to look like a swimming ring.
It’s a must-do in Key West, especially for the first visit to the island. You can see the island motto engraved on it „Key West – home of the sunset.”
In addition to the southernmost point, you can also see the southernmost hotel and the southernmost house nearby. Taking a photo with the famous landmark has to be on your top 10 unique things to do in Key West list.
7. The streets:
The island is very green and colorful, and that is thanks to the palms trees, banyan trees, and flowers in all colors. It is a pleasure to walk the streets, full of joy and color.
Another essential element is the mix of the typical Floridian tiny houses, with their Caribbean style.
8. Old Town Trolley ride:
For an in-depth knowledge of the island, I recommend a ride on one of these trains. The price for an adult is $30.45. The train will take you to Key West’s most important tourist attractions, having no less than 13 stops.
However, children under 12 can ride the train for free. If you want to make sure you explore the island very well, then you should add this ride to your top 10 unique things to do in Key West.
9. Water sports | Top 10 things to do in Key West, Florida
Whether you choose to swim, do snorkeling, or diving, going to Key West means practicing at least a water sport. I was limited to swimming this time, but I promise to get back for some other incredible adventures.
10. The Statues in front of the Custom House Museum:
The museum offers some rich history of Key West and America, but I must say that the best part is represented by the unique statues in front of it. Thus, the one below is my favorite.
Interesting Facts about Key West:
- In Key West, you get to see hens and roosters almost everywhere. The island has an impressive number of this kind of bird, so you can easily see them slowly crossing the street, and that shouldn’t make you wonder. I even saw a few around McDonald’s while we were eating breakfast.
- Key West is more close to Cuba (90 miles) than to Miami (140 miles)
- You need to cross 42 bridges along the Overseas Highway to get to Key West from Miami
- In Key West, the sunset is celebrated every evening at Mallory Square.
- The temperature never got lower than 0 degrees on the island.
- It has the third-largest coral barrier reef in the world, after Belize and Australia.
- The population is under 25 000 people.
Photo credit (the photo has been partially modified)
How to get to Key West:
- By bus
Greyhound has regular daily trips to Key West from Miami airport with a starting price of $50. Or you can choose a full-day tour from Miami
- By plane
Although the island is pretty tiny, Key West has its international airport, Key West International Airport.
- By car
The best choice, I would say. It is impossible to get bored driving on one of the most picturesque roads in the United States. During the 4 hours, you’ll be surrounded by the Atlantic and occasionally by a small island.
When to visit Key West?
March, April, and May are the best months to visit Key West. Winter is the busiest and most expensive season on the island. Therefore, if you would like to experience the best things to do in Key West on a budget, then you should probably avoid it.
Do you need a car in Key West?
In general, you won’t need a car in Key West since it’s a pretty small island. You can always use a taxi or even rent a bike for longer distances. However, if you want to drive on the scenic route between Key West and Miami, a car may be necessary.
How many days do you need in Key West?
I would recommend at least four days to get a sense of the location and see the best of Key West. You can also explore Key West in only one day, but staying longer, up to one week, can help you discover the island’s most hidden gems. There are so many things to do in Key West, and I’m pretty sure you won’t get bored too fast.
Is Key West safe?
Although the crime rate in the Florida Keys is low, you should be cautious when visiting Key West, especially at night and along busy Duval Street and Mallory Square. You know what they say, better safe than sorry!
How much is a trip to Key West?
A one-week trip to Key West typically costs between $1000 and $3000 for one person. Of course, it all depends on so many factors, like the type of accommodation, where you choose to eat and how many activities you would like to include in your itinerary.
Is Key West a good family vacation spot?
Key West is an excellent destination for families with children. You can relax on the beach, snorkel, and explore surrounding state parks. Even if it’s considered a party destination, Key West is very suitable for families with children.
What to wear in key west?
In Key West, it is always quite warm, so try to fill your luggage with light clothes and as thin as possible. Dresses, overalls, shorts, lightweight tops, and swimsuits should not be missing from the Key West luggage.
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