What are the best things to see and do in the Florida Keys?

Stephanie Goldberg Glazer

The Florida Keys offers something different to do at practically every Mile Marker — basically how you identify where you’re headed in these parts. Here are some of the best things to see and do in the Florida Keys:
1. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (Key Largo, Mile Marker 102.6). Take one of the famous glass-bottom boat rides, snorkel along the coral reef, sign up for a scuba tour or cruise down the park’s mangrove creeks in a kayak or canoe.
2. Go fishing. Almost anywhere in the Keys is an acceptable fishing spot — off the old Seven Mile Bridge, from the side of the road or on a charter boat. Catch local delicacies like yellowtail snapper and mahi mahi.
3. Bike the tiny streets of Key West. There are several local bike shops that will rent you a bike for the day or week. The best way to take in the Victorian architecture is on a bike. 
4. Bahia Honda State Park (Mile Marker 37). Consistently rated one of the best beaches anywhere, Bahia Honda offers white sandy shores, biking trails, birding, boating and camping.
5. Dry Tortugas National Park. Located 70 miles off the coast of Key West, you can get to the park by seaplane or catamaran. Either way, it is a lovely day trip from Key West and it’s worth the time to see the majestic tangle of coral reef sheltering the marine and bird refuge. Swim, snorkel or simply walk around the seawall and explore Fort Jefferson, a former military fortress.

  • On July 29, 2013
    Stephanie Goldberg Glazer answered the question: Stephanie Goldberg Glazer

    Where are the best beaches in Florida Keys?

    Ahhh, white sand, bright sunshine and crystal blue waters. These are all the makings of a great beach, and the Florida Keys have many. Possibly the best known for sheer beauty is Bahia Honda State Park, located at mile marker 37. The serene setting will help even the most high strung, Type A personality to relax.

    Fort Zachary Taylor State Park in Key West has a lovely, if rocky, beach. Hang out in the shade under the pine trees, or grab a snack from the concession booth as you enjoy your day.

    If you have a four legged friend along, stop at Dog Beach in Key West, located at the corner of Waddell and Vernon, next door to Louie’s backyard. You can cool off in the water with your pooch, or play fetch in the sand.
  • On July 29, 2013
    Stephanie Goldberg Glazer answered the question: Stephanie Goldberg Glazer

    What are the best places to buy shoes in Florida Keys?

    The Florida Keys are not known for great shopping, unless, of course, you are shopping for seafood. But that should not deter you from getting home with some new footwear.

    Sure, you can stop at the Sandal Factory in Marathon or Birkenstock in Key west, and get some great shoes, but for the most uniquely Keys-y, be sure to bring your tired, sandal-needing feet to Kino’s in Key West. Founded by Cuban immigrants more than forty years ago, Kino’s manufactures inexpensive, yet comfortable sandals right in the heart of Key West. Their distinctive rope toe-strap on the most famous flip flops can be seen on locals and tourists throughout the Keys.

    Not only do Kino’s make a great souvenir from your trip, they make a great gift as well.
  • On July 29, 2013
    Stephanie Goldberg Glazer answered the question: Stephanie Goldberg Glazer

    What are the best wine bars in Florida Keys?

    Although many of the Florida Keys have avoided the wine bar trend, Key West has jumped in full force. With many choices, it is hard to decide where to start. The most unique choice is Lush Bar at The Green Pineapple (1130 Duval Street), where you can sip organic wines and beers and even partake in a wine and chocolate pairing.

    Just up the street from Lush is Cork and Stogie (1218 Duval Street). This is a great stop for a cigar on the super-friendly porch with your wine, or beer. They also have live music several nights a week, as well as a full retail wine shop.

    Vino’s on Duval (810 Duval Street) has a great selection of wines by the glass, as well as a lively atmosphere. Enjoy a cheese plate from Croissants de France (next door) as you sip and people watch.
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    Susan Cebelinski
  • On July 29, 2013
    Stephanie Goldberg Glazer answered the question: Stephanie Goldberg Glazer

    What are the best outdoor bars?

    Although the Florida Keys are best known for fishing, the drinking establishments are a close second.  So, where are the best places to enjoy a brew with a view? In Key West, Schooner Wharf has a great view of the harbor (from the front) and two happy hours daily. Also in Key West, on the other side of the island, and for a completely different experience, try the Afterdeck at Louie’s Backyard. Stunning doesn’t even begin to cover it.

    Further north, Lorelei in Islamorada often has live music (and a great view – are you starting to see a trend here?) Even farther north, along Card Sound Road (a toll road, and an optional detour from US1), just as you are starting to relax, Alabama Jack’s can help ease you into the Keys state of mind. Enjoy the view of the mangroves, cold beer and even have a bite to eat.
  • On July 29, 2013
    Stephanie Goldberg Glazer answered the question: Stephanie Goldberg Glazer

    What are the best waterfront restaurants in Florida Keys?

    There is nothing more relaxing than a good meal with a great view. Fortunately, the Florida Keys are surrounded by water and stunning views. Dining along the island chain offers great views from many wonderful restaurants.

    In Key Largo, try the Pilot House for good, casual food with a water view. They even have a glass bottom bar. Cruising down US1, Pierre’s in Islamorada is often heralded as one of the best restaurants in the Keys. The setting is serene and beautiful.

    Continuing the drive, in Marathon Keys Fisheries is worth a stop. Order at the walk-up window (and give the name of your favorite movie, song or Disney character to identify your meal), and enjoy a picnic table on the water.

    Perhaps the best view in all of the Keys comes at Little Palm Island. No, you don’t need to shell out big bucks to stay at the exclusive resort simply to enjoy a great meal. Sunday brunch offers a unique experience, amazing views, Key Deer hanging out by your table, and a Bloody Mary bar.
  • On July 29, 2013
    Stephanie Goldberg Glazer answered the question: Stephanie Goldberg Glazer

    What’s new in Florida Keys?

    There is always something fun going on in the Florida Keys! This month, July 16- 21, Key West celebrated Hemingway Days. This celebration of all things Ernest Hemingway includes a fishing tournament, look-a-like contests and the famous “running of the bulls” featuring Papa Hemingway look-a-likes running down Duval Street.

    If watching other people run down the street is not your idea of fun, there is also a Hemingway 5K and Paddleboard race. The 5K is a scenic, flat course and run in the evening. This is the oldest ongoing 5K in Key West. I wonder how Pap Hemingway would have felt about it…

    On the dining front, Hot Tin Roof, long a fine dining staple in Key West at the Ocean Key Resort, has now tarted serving lunch. No need to wait for dinner to enjoy the great menu and truly outstanding drinks. Plus the view - from both the patio and dining room - is one of the best in Key West!
  • On July 29, 2013
    Stephanie Goldberg Glazer answered the question: Stephanie Goldberg Glazer

    What are the best water activities in Florida Keys?

    The Florida Keys are known best for fishing. Sportfishing, spear fishing, diving for lobsters, chartering a boat with a captain to help you, or just casting your rod off a bridge are all time honored traditio0ns in the Keys. From first time fishing to advanced anglers, many vacationers are hooked once they try fishing.

    There are many restaurants that will cook your catch, so if you are staying in a hotel, you can still reap the rewards of a fine, freshly caught (by you) dinner, without the hassle of shopping, chopping and cleaning up.

    Not into fishing? Try one of the many other activities: kayaking through mangroves, either alone or with a guide; use your core strength and paddleboard your way around; or for the more adventurous, see the islands by jet ski.
  • On July 29, 2013
    Stephanie Goldberg Glazer answered the question: Stephanie Goldberg Glazer

    What are the best day trips near Florida Keys?

    The Florida Keys offer an abundance of day trips, which will depend on where you are staying. From most of the Keys, Bahia Honda State Park at Mile Marker 37 is a great choice. Snorkel at the Looe Key Marine Sanctuary, rent a kayak, or just lounge on the pristine beach.

    John Pennekamp park in Key Largo, established to protect a portion of the continental USA’s only living coral reef,  makes an excellent day trip from Miami or Key West. It is world’s first undersea park and boasts a coral reef, snorkeling, glass bottom boat tours, canoeing and kayaking. Fishing is even permitted in some areas of the park. The park entrance is at Mile Marker 102.5.
  • On July 15, 2013
    Stephanie Goldberg Glazer answered the question: Stephanie Goldberg Glazer

    What is Florida Keys’s dining scene like?

    When you think dining in the Florida Keys you should be thinking one thing: seafood. Fresh fish, shrimp, lobster and more. From the simplest peel and eat shrimp to more elaborate presentations, the restaurant scene in the Keys is dominated by individually owned establishments.
    Locals crave mainland staples like The Olive Garden (don’t ask me why – when I recently said I was glad we didn’t have one I was told that I haven’t lived here long enough yet and I would change my mind. I doubt it.) But the island fare is, generally, fresh and tasty. Here are just a few examples of the many wonderful dishes you can get throughout the Keys:

    1. Mahi Mahi (Yes, dolphin. No, not Flipper.) Matacumbe at The Fish House in Key Largo (mile marker 102) is prepared with fresh tomatoes, capers, basil and shallots, and it is divine. Truly. Go there and get some, you will thank me.

    2. Lobster Reuben at Keys Fisheries (mile marker 53, in Marathon). This walk up window and paper plate joint serves up fresh, unique seafood, like the Lobster Reuben. They also have a fun contest to rename their bar every year.

    3. Gratinee at Sparky’s Landing (off Sadowski Causeway in Marathon) is fish sautéed with mushrooms in a sherry cream sauce and smothered in mozzarella cheese and served with grilled garlic bread. It is an appetizer, and a heart attack on a plate, but it is awesome.

    4. Fish preparations at The Flaming Buoy (1100 Packer Street, Key West) bring out all the island flavors with a flair. From key lime butter sauce to banana salsa topping fresh catch of hogfish (or whatever is fresh that day) you know you are in the tropics.
  • On July 15, 2013
    Stephanie Goldberg Glazer answered the question: Stephanie Goldberg Glazer

    What are the best activities to do in Florida Keys?

    The Florida Keys are known for great fishing, but if angling is not you thing, there are plenty of other ways to fill your vacation with fun. Like the idea of fishing but don’t want to commit half a day (or more) to it? Feed the tarpon at Robbie’s Marina (mile marker 77.5), and behold the spectacle that is dozens of silvery fish clamoring for a snack.

    Want more marine life? Visit the Dolphin Research Center in Marathon (mile marker 59) to learn about these smart creatures. Hey, the DRC is even pet-friendly.

    Florida Keys Eco Discovery Center in Key West is often overlooked for flashier, well known things to do, but it is worth a visit. It is child-friendly, educational, easy to get to (they even have parking), and it is free.

    Get a sense of the quirky side of Key West by visiting the cemetery. Pick up a map on your way in (at the Passover Lane entrance) and marvel at the above ground graves, and interesting tombstones. My favorite? The town hypochondriac whose headstone reads “I told you I was sick”.