14 Of The Best Things To Do In The Florida Keys

Eight days was more than enough time to cover some serious ground in the Florida Keys. As I said before, I highly recommend that if you're going to make the trip, you split your time between The Upper Keys and Key West. You really get the best of both worlds without being too far from each. In the upper Keys you have the opportunity to kick back and relax in relative seclusion. It's far more quiet, spaced out a bit, and is populated more by locals and families. In Key West things are a bit livelier. Cruise lines come in and out practically daily and Duvall Street is always a scene. At night, it's even more so. Both are a must-do, whether it's within one trip or a long weekend here and there. My suggestion: 3-4 days each.

As I'm sure you've seen, the Florida Keys offers huge assortment of amazing things to do and see on a daily basis, year-round. It's just one of the perks of traveling to a tropical destination. Of course, most adventures begin on the water but that doesn't mean that our landlubbers miss out on the fun. I rounded up some of my favorite adventures from the trip, as well as the best times to visit and what to expect when you arrive. All to help you plan your trip to what is, in my opinion, a must-see destination.

14 Of The Best Things To Do In The Florida Keys 

1. Snorkeling at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
If you're looking to kill a couple hours setting your sights on some serious ocean scenery, definitely put this at the top of your list when visiting the upper keys. We entered the park at around 9am and were immediately greeted by wildlife and a gorgeous setting inside the park. We didn't have a whole lot of time to explore the entire park, but if you can, definitely add a couple of hours or afternoon to check it out. A natural swimming area, trails, wildlife on the land, sea and air, scuba classes and much more await! Checking in & reservations for snorkeling was painlesss and we headed over to rentals pick up our gear. Within a few minutes we loaded the pontoon boat and headed out to the reef. It took about 30 minutes to get there, but it was a beautiful sight as we cruised along the Atlantic.

 When we arrived, they gave a quick lesson for the newbies and we dove in. One of the amazing things about this particular destination is the 9 foot tall Jesus statue within the reef (Christ of the Deep). It's truly a sight. Covered in fire coral, I don't suggest you go up and give him a hug but I was told his hands are free for high-fives. After checking that off your list, swim with the tropical fish, pass by a sea turtle, maybe see a barracuda or two and just enjoy the vitamin sea. Captain Mike and Crewmember Chris were amazing, they were on top of their game and extremely helpful throughout the entire experience.

When To Go: Weekday Mornings // Kid Friendly: Yes // How Long Does It Take: About 3 Hours.

2. Take A Ride Down The Canal On The African Queen
If you're thinking of THE African Queen, you're absolutely right- it was THE African Queen! If you have no idea what I'm talking about - the iconic film starring Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart as they try to escape Africa by way of a little river in THIS boat. Watch the movie, take the tour. You're going to love it, it's history and the captain. He'll let you take the helm and of course snap off some pictures.  As you may have guessed, it's not a speed boat, so you're not going to get the wind in your hair. It's a smooth, lazy ride through the canals, a little bit of open water, and then back again.

When To Go: Early in the day. Since the African Queen has limited shade and doesn't catch a huge breeze, I highly recommend going at cooler times of day like morning or end of the day, and dress light with a broad-brimmed hat. // How Long Does It Take: About 2 hours.

3. Feed The Sharks At The Stoned Crab & Night Paddle-Boarding or Kayaking

If you're in Key West and in need of a place for dining and a quick adventure, you absolutely have to stop at The Stoned Crab. Feed the resident nurse shark family, talk to the birds and watch the tortoises go wild over a head of lettuce. It's like a mini zoo with a world class restaurant attached. After you finish you meal, head across the dock for night-paddling or kayaking on brightly lit gear. It's definitely an adventure for the books.

When to go: Around sunset // Kid Friendly: Yes // How Long Does It Take: About 2 Hours

4. Parasailing 
Ok, so I'm going to start off by saying I don't love heights. I'm actually pretty terrified. But I had to give parasailing a try after growing up on the beach watching boats go by with tourist's parasailing. 

You have to do it at least once. Honestly, it's amazing. I took my adventure-seeking 9 year old and (we)he had a blast. We rode out with Fury Key West and they were incredible. The experience is actually really relaxing once you get up into the air. You're just floating around looking at the sky above and the water below. You also have the option of getting 'dipped' or staying dry - naturally, we opted to get really wet. This is definitely a must-do. 

When to go: Anytime. They run boats on the hour, every hour. // Kid Friendly: Yes, 7+ // How Long Does It Take: An hour give or take

5. All Day Power Adventure 
When we were deciding on options for excursions one of them was an all-day, all-inclusive power adventure. At around 9am, you board a monstrous catamaran and sail out for a day of snorkeling, jet-skis, kayaking, parasailing, banana boats and more. From 9-4 you're out and in the water having the time of your life with breaks whenever you like for breakfast, lunch, snacks and drinks. All-included. It's genius if you ask me. Sebago and Fury Watersports both offer their version of the all-day adventure so check them both out. 

When to go: Anytime. // Kid Friendly: Yes, 6+ to snorkel // How Long Does It Take: 7 Hours

6. Sunset Sail
You can't go on a tropical vacation without taking at least one sunset cruise. We opted to take sunset adventure on the deck of the a historic two-masted sailboat, the Schooner Appledore and it actually uses the sails. It was definitely  more intimate than the other boat rides from our trip but it was cozy. If you've never been on a sailboat before, be prepared for the boat to act differently than you're used to. It can be weird at first, but well worth getting used to for the quiet, peaceful flow of it all. Appetizers and cocktails (included) were served by a personable, friendly and entertaining crew as we sailed out to sea for a front-row seat at the gorgeous Key West sunset.

When to go: Sunset // Kid Friendly: Yes // How Long Does It Take: 1.5 - 2 Hours.

7. Conch Train Tours 
Not looking to take a dip? No problem. The Conch Train Tour is the best way to cover your ground in Key West without touching the water. The 2 hour long guided trip takes you past all of the must-see sights of Historic Key West with the wind in your hair. Cruise past Judy Blume's Bookstore, learn why Yellow Fever was such a problem during the civil war and get all the facts you need to know from a conch's eye view. They make three stops throughout the trip, so you can hop on and hop off if desired.

When to go: Mornings and Afternoons // Kid Friendly: Yes // How Long Does It Take: 2 Hours

8. Key West Aquarium  
The Conch Train's final stop just so happens to be in front of the Key West Aquarium. Which makes for the perfect segue into the next adventure. Meet the sea turtles, feed the sharks, get face to face with a huge friendly fish and an octopus and give yourself a smidge of sensory overload in the touch tank. Who doesn't love a good hour watching the fish at the aquarium? 

When to go: During feeding time so you can feed the sharks! Kid Friendly: Yes // How Long Does It Take: 1-1.5 to see all the sites.

9. Visit Ernest Hemingway's Home and Pet The Kitties
You can't go to Key West and NOT visit Hemingway's home. It's iconic. As a self-proclaimed Hemingway fan since the 8th grade I basically ran from brunch on our second day to the residence to take in the sights, catch up on some history and of course, pet the kitties. I also couldn't help but take in some serious home decor inspo as I walked throughout the house and grounds. If you have time I'd jump into a guided tour, sometimes hearing all the history and stories brings in a whole new perspective.

When to go: Mornings //  Kid Friendly: Yes // How Long Does It Take: 1-1.5 to see all the sites.

10. Make Friends with The Flamingos at The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory 
I went for the flamingos but fell in love with the butterflies and birds. Stand back as dozens of species of butterflies flutter throughout the exotic exclosure, if you're lucky one might land on you. Be sure not to touch the delicate beauties but definitely snap a picture or 50.

When to go: Early Afternoon // Kid Friendly: Yes (NO STROLLERS) // How Long Does It Take: About an hour if you take your time. 

11. Snorkeling In The Atlantic
It wasn't until we landed in Key West when I realized that our 9 year old really wanted to go snorkeling. His not so subtle hints from his 'snorkeling around the pool' set things in motion so we headed over and booked a morning snorkling adventure with Sebago. We rode out about 40 minutes on a spacious catamaran to a gorgeous reef in the Atlantic. At first I was a little nervous about sending our new swimmer in the ocean for the first time but after talking to the crew they told me that a lot of non-swimmers frequent these trips and just float around with the safety vest and addition pool noodle. "Snorkeling is mostly floating along with a couple of fin kicks here and there". Honestly, I'm so glad they put my hesitations to rest, it was a wonderful experience. We swam along with the fish, snagged a few jellyfish stings (a badge of honor if you ask me), and watched as sea turtles coasted by. It was incredible from start to finish and I highly recommend you add this to your list of things to do during your trip.

When to go: We opted for the morning trip since it's a little more intimate but if you're looking for more of a crowd choose the afternoon. // Kid Friendly: Yes, 6+ // How Long Does It Take: 3 Hours

12. Prepare To Be Entertained At The Mallory Square Sunset Celebration
If there's one thing that everyone who's been to Key West has told me, it's go to the Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square. One, it's free and two, it's a sight to be seen. The nightly festival host performers from around the world 'taking' the stage as the sun begins to slip past the horizon. Each night offers something different and you'll find yourself standing front and center as you watch jugglers, musicians, animal acts and more...

When To Go: Nightly, Just before sunset. // Kid Friendly: Yes // How Long Does It Take: Wander around as long as you'd like.

13. Glass Bottom Boat Tours
Not quite ready to get your feet wet but want to take in the sights? Opt for a Glass Bottom Tour and see what really lies beneath the sea. A two hour trek will give you plenty of time check out the reefs and possibly some local wildlife, like dolphins, turtles, fish and more...

When To Go: When the weather is great. Call ahead and make sure conditions are clear for optimal visibility. Kid Friendly: Yes // How Long Does It Take: Couple of hours

14. Eat Your Weight In Key Lime Pie

Did you even go to The Keys if you didn't eat your weight in Key Lime Pie? Come on, it's a must. As you saw in my Favorite Places to Eat in The Keys Post, I listed my top three places to get Key Lime Pie: The Sundowners/Marker88, The Original Key Lime Pie Bakery and The Stoned Crab. You're also going to walk by what seems like a gillion Kermit's Frozen Chocolate Dipped Key Lime Pie Slices on a stick - get yourself one! It's delish.

When to go: Every Meal, Everyday.

I was a guest of The Florida Keys Tourism Board. All opinions are my own.