Key West is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the U.S., and it’s easy to see why. The southernmost tip of Florida is well-known for its abundant sea life and charming historic sites. It’s also a very easy place to get to, with regular flights to Key West or a scenic drive south from Miami. Here are just a few examples of what Key West visitors often like best.
Go Swimming, Diving, and Snorkeling
While lots of first-time travelers to Key West might dream about Florida beaches and lots of sunshine, veteran visitors know that snorkeling, diving, and fishing are the real attractions. The city of Key West has several public beaches for swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing, including Smathers Beach and Dog Beach. Smathers is the biggest public beach in Key West, with 2 miles of beach to stroll, and Dog Beach welcomes canine visitors, too. Some of the area’s landmarks, like Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, also offer beach access to guests. Beach rentals are often available for chairs, sun umbrellas, and snorkeling or diving gear; other amenities are often quite limited.
Perhaps the most well-known place to go snorkeling and diving is Dry Tortugas National Park. Accessible only by ferry from Key West (or private boat), this unique park offers visitors the chance to go night diving and snorkeling, too. There are several coral reefs and shipwrecks in water that’s shallow enough for novices but teeming with enough sea life to interest intermediate and advanced snorkelers and divers. Take a self-guided tour of the wrecked 19th century sunken Avanti, known as Windjammer. Or, visit the coral known as Texas Rock. And nighttime moat wall snorkeling is a once-in-a-lifetime event.
Dry Tortugas also has beach access for swimming, and kayak rentals for those who’d like an up-close view of the shore birds who make the island their home. Make a day of it by including a tour of the fort. Some overnight camping is permitted.
Try World-Class Fishing
Book a fishing charter with a local owner/operator for the best chance at landing the catch of a lifetime. Custom full- and half-day trips include all of the fishing tackle, permits, and gear needed. Novices and experts are equally welcome. Local captains who run trips like Seize the Day Charters understand the unique location of Key West between the Gulf and the Atlantic and how temperature, weather, and season affect the locations of grouper, mackerel, tarpon, and more. Try your hand at reef, flats, back country, wreck, and deep sea fishing. Fishing charter itineraries from companies like All In Charters can usually be tailored to your needs or wishes. In some cases, it’s possible to find a local restaurant willing to prepare any fish you catch during your fishing trip; it’s a good idea to call around through and make these arrangements in advance.
If you are looking for somewhere to stay, try the Hotel Saint right off Duval Street. For you Bonvoy members, this hotel is part of the Marriott Autograph Hotel Collection, so you know it’s of high quality and we’ve personally stayed there.
See History Come Alive
Key West was once home to one of America’s most well-known writers, Ernest Hemingway. His home is now a museum where tourists can see some of the family’s furnishings and walk among the gardens full of native flowers and trees. The in-ground pool was ahead of its time, and the property is still home to several of the 6-toed cats that are direct descendants of Hemingway’s own cats. American playwright Tennessee Williams also lived in Key West; his home is not only a museum but a place where visitors can see first edition plays, photographs, and even Williams’ own typewriter on exhibit.
Key West is also home to several forts that were active during the Civil War and the Spanish American War: Fort Zachary Taylor and Fort East Martello on the island of Key West, and Fort Jefferson at Dry Tortugas National Park. Visitors can view exhibits, walk the forts, and experience living history exhibits. In addition, history buffs can tour Harry S. Truman’s Little White House, the Key West Firehouse Museum, the Custom House, and the Key West Lighthouse. All offer exhibits and programs that showcase the exciting and important role of Key West in the maritime and military history of the U.S.
Vacationing in Key West offers travelers a variety of unique experiences to remember. Lush coral reefs, imposing forts, great fishing, cultural landmarks, and quaint beaches are just a few of the reasons people keep returning to Key West.