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 15, 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…

    Thursday, July 18 in Islamorada is the Third Thursday Art Walk, happening each month on, you guessed it, the third Thursday. Between mile marker 81 and 82 you will find individual artists and galleries showcasing local and national artisans as well as live music. This is a free event and open to the public.
  • On July 15, 2013
    Stephanie Goldberg Glazer answered the question: Stephanie Goldberg Glazer

    Should visitors rent a car in Florida Keys?

    Yes and no. The answer to the car rental question depends on how you are spending your vacation, and where you are starting and ending your trip. Many visitors like to fly into Miami or Fort Lauderdale, as flights are typically less expensive than to fly into Key West. If you are going that route, you will need to rent a car. The upside to this is as follows:

    1. The Overseas Highway is one of the most beautiful drives you can take. Crossing forty two bridges with wide, expansive ocean and bay views, it is simply stunning.
    2. There are so many great places to stop for lunch, or a photo op, that you can easily stretch out the drive by an extra hour or two.
    3. Having a car makes it easy to break up your week vacation by spending a couple of nights in different places, and you can spend the pre-flight night in Key Largo, a mere hour away from the Miami airport.

    If you are flying into Key West and do not plan on going to other Keys, there really is not point in renting a car. Simply take a taxi to your hotel or guesthouse. Should you need transportation during your trip, you can rent a bicycle, scooter or take a taxi.
  • On July 15, 2013
    Stephanie Goldberg Glazer answered the question: Stephanie Goldberg Glazer

    What should I pack for a trip to Florida Keys?

    The Florida Keys and Key West are some of the most laid back places you can visit. Combine that with sun-drenched, warm winters and too-hot-to-handle summers, you will need to dress for the tropics. Shorts, tanks, tee shirts and sundresses are the norm. Anything more than that and you are likely overdressed. You can go to even the fanciest of restaurants in shorts. Really, it is totally acceptable. Oh, don’t forget a bathing suit, or three!
    For your feet? Flip flops. If you are lacking footwear, check out Kino’s sandal factory in Key West. You won’t spend a lot to look like a local. (Plus, they make a great souvenir!).
    I had a friend come visit from New York City and she insisted on wearing peep-toed pumps. After a couple of bars and an uneven sidewalk, her heel was caught and she fell flat on her behind. It was all flip flops for the rest of her vacation. 
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  • On November 19, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the best overall restaurants in Southeast Florida?

    In Southeast Florida, you get the intimate island feel in addition to the luxurious hotels and dining. Café Boulud, L’escallier and the Restaurant will do much more than merely satisfy your taste buds during your stay. Here are the best restaurants in Southeast Florida:

    1. Café Boulud: The authority on French cuisine, Daniel Boulud brings his masterful cooking to Palm Beach with his restaurant Café Boulud. Tucked inside the historic Brazilian Court Hotel, Café Boulud elevates traditional fare like steak frites to utter perfection.

    2. L’escalier: L’escalier in Palm Beach is an innovative French restaurant that uses fresh seasonal ingredients to make its dishes shine. But the real reason to come is the vast wine list that would make any oenophile drool.

    3. The Restaurant: Inside the Four Seasons Resort in Palm Beach’s signature restaurant, you’ll find a contemporary and tropically inspired dining room aptly named the Restaurant, where every seat gets an ocean view, and where the menu melds the flavors of the South, the Caribbean and Central and South America.
  • On November 19, 2012
    Stephanie Goldberg Glazer answered the question: Stephanie Goldberg Glazer

    What festivals and special events does the Florida Keys have?

    A number of fabulous festivals take place in the Florida Keys each year. The most popular, Fantasy Fest, is held each October and is a weeklong festival of body painting, parties, parades and more. It is not for the faint of heart, however, and you should probably leave the kids at home for this one.
     
    The Key West Food and Wine Festival takes place every January. The delicious fest includes four days of wine tastings, wine dinners, seminars and more. It is an intimate wine experience that is never overly crowded and always a great time.
     
    Other fun events include lobster mini season, which involves catching lobsters for two days on the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday of July, right before the official season opens, and mid-September’s Poker Run, which invites thousands of motorcyclists to travel Overseas Highway for charity, making stops along the way to pick up cards. The ten best hands then compete for a grand prize in a Texas hold’em.
  • On November 19, 2012
    Stephanie Goldberg Glazer answered the question: Stephanie Goldberg Glazer

    What is the best thing to bring home from the Florida Keys?

    The best thing to bring home from a trip to the Florida Keys is a piece of art or great one-off item for your home from one of the area’s local boutiques. You’ll find a bunch of places to shop in Key West. Also check out the Hog’s Breath Saloon for a huge selection of wearable souvenirs. If you want to take home some delicious key lime pie, Kermit’s Key Lime Shoppe will ship a pie to your door so you can savor the flavor of the Keys long after you return home. Another great food souvenir is one of the locally made hot sauces from Peppers of Key West.
  • On November 19, 2012
    Stephanie Goldberg Glazer answered the question: Stephanie Goldberg Glazer

    What are the best Florida Keys food experiences?

    Loads of fresh seafood and key lime pie — prepare to eat some good grub in the Florida Keys. Here’s a list of the area’s quintessential food experiences:
     
    1. Key Lime Pie. Every restaurant claims to have the best key lime pie. The only way to really find out is to taste them all yourself. Go on a key lime crawl to find your personal favorite.
     
    2. Lobster Reuben. Keys Fisheries in Marathon is famous for their lobster Reuben. They even run a contest to guess how many they have sold. Guess high – they are busier than they seem.
     
    3. Hogfish. You must try hogfish while you are in the Keys. It is a delicate, local fish with a lot of flavor. One of the best places to have it in a sandwich is at Hogfish Bar and Grill (6810 Front Street, Stock Island) just north of Key West.
     
    4. Smoked fish dip. Eaton Street Seafood Market in Key West has the best – not too creamy and loaded with fresh fish.
     
    5. Stone crab. The season runs from October 15 through May 15, so if someone is trying to sell you these delicacies during the summer, don’t bite. Stone crab claws are harvested from the live crab; once removed the crab is returned to the water (where the claws grow back). Claws are usually served with a mustard dipping sauce.
  • On November 19, 2012
    Stephanie Goldberg Glazer answered the question: Stephanie Goldberg Glazer

    Where is the best nightlife in the Florida Keys?

    The upper and middle Keys (Key Largo through Marathon) are known for many things, but nightlife is not one of them. The most nightlife you’ll find is in Key West, which has scores of great bars. Since you won’t have any trouble stumbling over those, we’re focusing on some more unique nightlife opportunities.
     
    Beautiful sunsets call for happy hour on a boat. Sunset sails are extremely popular and several companies offer them. We like Danger Charters in Key West. It offers a wind and wine cruise with a small group so it is never crowded and always fun. However, there are many other operators of sunset sails up the Keys, so consider taking one wherever you are. It’s a beautiful and relaxing way to spend the early evening.
     
    There is also a lot of great live music in the Keys. Two great venues include the Smokin’ Tuna Saloon and Hog’s Breath Saloon, both of which are in Key West. The list of performers changes weekly.
     
    For such a small community, Key West boasts three local theaters. Top-notch musicals, concerts and plays come to the Red Barn Theater, the Waterfront Playhouse and the Tennessee Williams Theater at Florida Keys Community College.
     
    Finally, for another kind of show, hit one of the famous drag performances in Key West. The ones at 801 Bourbon Bar (9 and 11 p.m.) are always a good time. The girls of 801 make sure the crowd is entertained with their raunchy humor, songs and more.
  • On November 19, 2012
    Stephanie Goldberg Glazer answered the question: Stephanie Goldberg Glazer

    What is the best way to see the Florida Keys in one day?

    For a taste of the Florida Keys, take a day trip south from Miami all the way to Key West. Enjoy the beautiful water views as you work your way south over the many bridges. Once you hit Key West, park it and walk or bike around the historic Old Town, where you can stop for lunch and take in a tour of the Hemingway House. As you head back up north, make a stop in Marathon at Pigeon Key to see the historic bridge. A quick glance is all you can afford, though, as you’ll want to check out John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park before it closes. While you probably won’t have time to take the glass-bottom boat tour (next time!), you will get a feel for some of the Keys marine life. Stop for dinner at one of Key Largo’s many great restaurants — The Fish House, Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen, Pilot House — before heading back to Miami.
  • On November 19, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the best places to eat in the Florida Keys?

    It’s not all grouper and key lime pie in the Florida Keys—not that we couldn’t happily get by eating both. Here’s Forbes Travel Guide’s list of the best places to eat in the Keys:
     
    1. The Flaming Buoy Filet Co. The Flaming Buoy is a Key West neighborhood gem, where the on-site owners are friendly and welcoming. Featuring fresh local seafood, everything is prepared to order. Specialties include lobster macaroni and cheese, fresh catch with banana salsa, and for dessert, a spicy chocolate quesadilla.
     
    2. Azur Restaurant. Azur is wonderful for brunch, lunch or dinner when in Key West. If you can’t get enough key lime pie, order the French toast, which is stuffed with it. Dinner includes tasting plates, “almost entrees” such as roasted beets and gnocchi, and heartier dishes including seafood risotto and snapper.
     
    3. Sparky’s Landing. Located in Marathon in the Key Colony Beach Marina, Sparky’s Landing is a fun place for drinks and has a huge menu featuring everything from fish tacos to burgers and pizzas. Try the gratinee appetizer filled with fresh fish, cream sauce and cheese.
     
    4. Pilot House. It is well worth the effort to find this out-of-the-way restaurant in Key Largo. The food is fresh and delicious and prices are reasonable. Combine that with a water view, glass bottom bar and live entertainment in the evenings and it can’t be beat.
     
    5. Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen. Mrs. Mac’s recently opened a second Key Largo location nearly across the street from the original, license-plate-covered one, but kept all of its popular foods. From salads to sandwiches, everything is fresh. The menu is huge and there is something for everyone. Try the TJ style fish of the day topped with stewed tomatoes, cilantro and jalapeños with black beans and rice.
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