11 Best Things to Do in Key West



Slide 1 of 12: Key West is not just some Florida beach town. It is absolutely packed with history: Presidents have lived here, wars have been fought here, and one of civilization’s most prolific writers took pen to paper here (and left behind a beautiful home to visit). If that’s not enough for you, the area boasts—expectedly—a few great beaches, and—perhaps unexpectedly—state and national parks with crowds that are delightfully sparse. The sportfishing off Key West is also world-renowned (while we can't promise you'll catch a big one...you'll catch a big one). In case it wasn't clear already, a trip to the southernmost part of the continental United States will never leave you bored.
Slide 2 of 12: Zoom out. What’s this place all about?
The historic Harry S. Truman Little White House is famously where Truman spent 175 days of his presidency. Before that, the building served as a naval station's command headquarters during the Spanish-American War.
Ye shall know them by their permanent collection: How was it?
The house has been restored as it was in 1949, showcasing well-preserved rooms where the Trumans lived, worked, and relaxed during their time in Key West.
Who is this place best for?
This is a great stop for history buffs, but it might fly over the head of kids under 12 or so.
Any guided tours worth trying?
The house is open 365 days a year. Tours, which are included in the admission, offer additional insight into Truman's presidency, as well as Key West's role in the Cold War and naval history.
Slide 3 of 12: Let’s start big picture. What’s the vibe here?
The first undersea park in the United States, John Pennekamp State Park spans nearly 200 nautical miles of reefs, mangroves, and other untouched marine habitats. Most visitors come to dive or snorkel, but glass-bottomed boat tours are available, too.
Any standout features or must-sees?
Take a SCUBA trip to get close to Carysfort Reef, which not many dive trips visit.
Got it. Was it easy to get around?
Because the park is all water, it's best to come with a plan for an activity, whether that be renting kayaks or paddle boards or taking a boat trip.
That sounds cool. Are there any other things visitors have to keep in mind?
This is an all-day affair; the reefs are around eight miles offshore and accessible only by boat.
Slide 4 of 12: Zoom out. What’s this place all about?
The Key West Lighthouse & Museum grants the public access to Key West's iconic historic lighthouse—or at least any members of the public ready to climb those stairs.
And what are we here to see?
The Keeper's Quarters museum adjacent to the lighthouse is home to historical memorabilia chronicling the lighthouse's history, as well as the history of Key West.
Sounds good. Is there anything else we can find with a little extra effort?
You'll have to climb 88 steps to reach the top of the lighthouse; once you do, though, you'll be rewarded with expansive, sweeping views of the area.
On the practical tip, how were the facilities?
The lighthouse itself isn't accessible to those with reduced mobility; the Keeper's Quarters have just a few small stairs to navigate. But note that neither are wheelchair accessible.
Any guided tours worth trying?
The lighthouse features as a stop on the town's broader historic marker tour, which is an ideal way to learn about the history of Key West.
Any advice for the time- or attention-challenged?
If you're pressed for time, shimmy up the stairs and take in a few Instagram-worthy views from the top.
Slide 5 of 12: Zoom out. What’s this place all about?
The Hemingway House, one of Key West's most popular spots, was once the home of the celebrated American author, who lived here for more than a decade. You can wander around the largely preserved rooms and tour the lush, lovely gardens.
Once we're through the door, what are we here to see?
The home is filled with Hemingway memorabilia—photos, books, and furniture—that played a part in his South Florida life.
What did you make of the crowd?
The crowd is a mix of solemn literary lovers and regular ol' tourists.
On the practical tip, how were the facilities? Easy to get around? Any limitations?
The house has stairs, as do many of the porches, but the gardens are accessible.
Any guided tours worth trying?
Definitely. Guided tours are led by Key West locals who are just as quirky as the esteemed writer himself.
Anything worth snagging in the gift shop?
The gift shop is filled with copies of every Hemingway title imaginable, many of which are special editions to the house.
Any advice for the time- or attention-challenged?
Tours are quick, but you can spend hours relaxing in the gardens and enjoying the famed polydactyl felines that run the place.
Slide 6 of 12: Let’s start big picture. What’s the vibe here?
Dry Tortugas is a national park that exists primarily over open water. The park is home to incredible marine life and birds, and visitors can camp, dive, snorkel, and swim.
Any standout features or must-sees?
This is one the least-visited national parks in the country, meaning that everything you can see and do is pretty special—no dodging selfie sticks. Standouts, however, include Port Jefferson, built as a line of defense following the War of 1812, and the Windjammer wreck site, where experienced divers can get close to the wreckage of an early 20th-century iron-hulled ship.
Got it. Was it easy to get around?
It's all over water and best accessible by boat. If you don't have your own, there are park tours and other trips that will take you into the park.
That sounds cool. All said and done, what makes this place stand out?
Unlike other national parks, here you can actually see most things in a day.
Slide 7 of 12: Let’s start big picture. What’s this place all about?
Originally home to a wealthy Key West ship captain, the grand Audubon House is a well-preserved 19th-century home with lush gardens. Today it's open to visitors.
Any standout features or must-sees?
A self-guided walk through the gardens lets visitors admire everything from orchids and bromeliads to rare tropical palms, all said to be inspiration for the backdrops that John James Audubon used in his paintings.
Was it easy to get around? Any issues with accessibility
The garden paths are paved, but the house itself isn't wheelchair accessible.
To finish up, any insider tips?
If you don't want to pay for admission to the house, tour the gardens and check out the gift shop, which is stocked with Audubon's prints.
Slide 8 of 12: Let’s start big picture. What’s the vibe here?
Fort Taylor is a national historic monument and state park that houses the largest collection of Civil War armament in the world. The park is home to one of Key West's best beaches, and visitors can also learn about the fort's role in both the Civil and Spanish-American Wars through tours and self-guided exploration.
Fun! Any standout features or must-sees?
A tour of the fort showcases the largest collection of seacoast guns.
Got it. Was it easy to get around? Any limitations?
Bring a picnic and allow yourself some R&R. Most of the walking trails are wheelchair accessible.
That sounds cool. All said and done, what—and who—is this best for?
History buffs will enjoy the resort's historical ties, whereas the outdoorsy set can birdwatch, snorkel, or just relax on the sand.
Slide 9 of 12: Give us the wide-angle view: what kind of beach are we talking about?
The largest public beach in Key West, Smathers Beach is lined with palm trees that give it an idyllic, tropical vibe.
Lovely. How accessible is it?
The beach is adjacent to Highway A1A, so it's easily accessible from virtually anywhere in Key West. It's also free.
Got it. Decent services and facilities, would you say?
Everything you need for a full day at the beach. Smathers is a popular site for food trucks. There are also bathrooms, rentable chairs and umbrellas, and, for active types, catamarans, paddleboards, and jet skis.
How’s the actual beach stuff—sand and surf?
Smathers has very calm water making it ideal for swimmers.
Excellent. Can we go barefoot?
You bet. Palm trees offer ample shade over the silky-smooth white sand.
Anything special we should look for?
Avoid Smathers during Spring Break—it's a hotspot.
Slide 10 of 12: Let’s start big picture. What’s the vibe here?
More than 50 species of butterfly and 20 exotic bird species from around the world live in the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory, where you can learn about butterfly anatomy, physiology, life cycle, feeding, and migratory patterns.
Fun! Any standout features or must-sees?
Flamingos strut their stuff just feet away, and don't miss the learning center, where you can watch caterpillars munch away at their host plants up close. During later hours you might even get to see an owl butterfly, which can have a wingspan of almost eight inches.
Got it. Was it easy to get around?
The conservatory is completely enclosed as well as wheelchair-accessible, making it a low-key activity that's good for a rainy day.
Slide 11 of 12: Tell me: What’s this place all about?
One of the big photo-ops in Key West, Southernmost Point is just what it sounds like: the southernmost point of the continental United States. There's not too much to see other than a large red-and-black-striped buoy statue.
Who comes here?
Tourists looking to get their Instagram shots.
Did it meet expectations?
This is a fun site to have seen, but it's extremely crowded. Go early or late in the day—one thing that can make a stop special is catching a dramatic sunset.
What's the bottom line here?
You'll probably end up nearby at some point during your trip, so don't feel the need to make a special trip.
Slide 12 of 12: Zoom out. What’s the big picture here?
Swaying palm trees, ocean waves, exotic birds: all scenic highlights of Yoga on the Beach.
Cool. Tell us who else is in the classes.
Classes are usually made up of all ages and skill levels.
How are the guides, then?
Both certified instructors are excellent at making sure attendees have a great experience, regardless of their ability level.
So: money, time—how can we make the most of both?
Classes vary in style, so double-check the schedule before you go. In general, though, most abilities, shapes, sizes, and ages are welcome.

Key West is not just some Florida beach town. It is absolutely packed with history: Presidents have lived here, wars have been fought here, and one of civilization’s most prolific writers took pen to paper here (and left behind a beautiful home to visit). If that’s not enough for you, the area boasts—expectedly—a few great beaches, and—perhaps unexpectedly—state and national parks with crowds that are delightfully sparse. The sportfishing off Key West is also world-renowned (while we can’t promise you’ll catch a big one…you’ll catch a big one). In case it wasn’t clear already, a trip to the southernmost part of the continental United States will never leave you bored.

Harry S. Truman Little White House

Zoom out. What’s this place all about?
The historic Harry S. Truman Little White House is famously where Truman spent 175 days of his presidency. Before that, the building served as a naval station’s command headquarters during the Spanish-American War.

Ye shall know them by their permanent collection: How was it?
The house has been restored as it was in 1949, showcasing well-preserved rooms where the Trumans lived, worked, and relaxed during their time in Key West.

Who is this place best for?
This is a great stop for history buffs, but it might fly over the head of kids under 12 or so.

Any guided tours worth trying?
The house is open 365 days a year. Tours, which are included in the admission, offer additional insight into Truman’s presidency, as well as Key West’s role in the Cold War and naval history.

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

Let’s start big picture. What’s the vibe here?
The first undersea park in the United States, John Pennekamp State Park spans nearly 200 nautical miles of reefs, mangroves, and other untouched marine habitats. Most visitors come to dive or snorkel, but glass-bottomed boat tours are available, too.

Any standout features or must-sees?
Take a SCUBA trip to get close to Carysfort Reef, which not many dive trips visit.

Got it. Was it easy to get around?
Because the park is all water, it’s best to come with a plan for an activity, whether that be renting kayaks or paddle boards or taking a boat trip.

That sounds cool. Are there any other things visitors have to keep in mind?
This is an all-day affair; the reefs are around eight miles offshore and accessible only by boat.

Key West Lighthouse & Keeper’s Quarters

Zoom out. What’s this place all about?
The Key West Lighthouse & Museum grants the public access to Key West’s iconic historic lighthouse—or at least any members of the public ready to climb those stairs.

And what are we here to see?
The Keeper’s Quarters museum adjacent to the lighthouse is home to historical memorabilia chronicling the lighthouse’s history, as well as the history of Key West.

Sounds good. Is there anything else we can find with a little extra effort?
You’ll have to climb 88 steps to reach the top of the lighthouse; once you do, though, you’ll be rewarded with expansive, sweeping views of the area.

On the practical tip, how were the facilities?
The lighthouse itself isn’t accessible to those with reduced mobility; the Keeper’s Quarters have just a few small stairs to navigate. But note that neither are wheelchair accessible.

Any guided tours worth trying?
The lighthouse features as a stop on the town’s broader historic marker tour, which is an ideal way to learn about the history of Key West.

Any advice for the time- or attention-challenged?
If you’re pressed for time, shimmy up the stairs and take in a few Instagram-worthy views from the top.

The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum

Zoom out. What’s this place all about?
The Hemingway House, one of Key West’s most popular spots, was once the home of the celebrated American author, who lived here for more than a decade. You can wander around the largely preserved rooms and tour the lush, lovely gardens.

Once we’re through the door, what are we here to see?
The home is filled with Hemingway memorabilia—photos, books, and furniture—that played a part in his South Florida life.

What did you make of the crowd?
The crowd is a mix of solemn literary lovers and regular ol’ tourists.

On the practical tip, how were the facilities? Easy to get around? Any limitations?
The house has stairs, as do many of the porches, but the gardens are accessible.

Any guided tours worth trying?
Definitely. Guided tours are led by Key West locals who are just as quirky as the esteemed writer himself.

Anything worth snagging in the gift shop?
The gift shop is filled with copies of every Hemingway title imaginable, many of which are special editions to the house.

Any advice for the time- or attention-challenged?
Tours are quick, but you can spend hours relaxing in the gardens and enjoying the famed polydactyl felines that run the place.

Dry Tortugas National Park

Let’s start big picture. What’s the vibe here?
Dry Tortugas is a national park that exists primarily over open water. The park is home to incredible marine life and birds, and visitors can camp, dive, snorkel, and swim.

Any standout features or must-sees?
This is one the least-visited national parks in the country, meaning that everything you can see and do is pretty special—no dodging selfie sticks. Standouts, however, include Port Jefferson, built as a line of defense following the War of 1812, and the Windjammer wreck site, where experienced divers can get close to the wreckage of an early 20th-century iron-hulled ship.

Got it. Was it easy to get around?
It’s all over water and best accessible by boat. If you don’t have your own, there are park tours and other trips that will take you into the park.

That sounds cool. All said and done, what makes this place stand out?
Unlike other national parks, here you can actually see most things in a day.

Audubon House & Tropical Gardens

Let’s start big picture. What’s this place all about?
Originally home to a wealthy Key West ship captain, the grand Audubon House is a well-preserved 19th-century home with lush gardens. Today it’s open to visitors.

Any standout features or must-sees?
A self-guided walk through the gardens lets visitors admire everything from orchids and bromeliads to rare tropical palms, all said to be inspiration for the backdrops that John James Audubon used in his paintings.

Was it easy to get around? Any issues with accessibility
The garden paths are paved, but the house itself isn’t wheelchair accessible.

To finish up, any insider tips?
If you don’t want to pay for admission to the house, tour the gardens and check out the gift shop, which is stocked with Audubon’s prints.

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park

Let’s start big picture. What’s the vibe here?
Fort Taylor is a national historic monument and state park that houses the largest collection of Civil War armament in the world. The park is home to one of Key West’s best beaches, and visitors can also learn about the fort’s role in both the Civil and Spanish-American Wars through tours and self-guided exploration.

Fun! Any standout features or must-sees?
A tour of the fort showcases the largest collection of seacoast guns.

Got it. Was it easy to get around? Any limitations?
Bring a picnic and allow yourself some R&R. Most of the walking trails are wheelchair accessible.

That sounds cool. All said and done, what—and who—is this best for?
History buffs will enjoy the resort’s historical ties, whereas the outdoorsy set can birdwatch, snorkel, or just relax on the sand.

Smathers Beach

Give us the wide-angle view: what kind of beach are we talking about?
The largest public beach in Key West, Smathers Beach is lined with palm trees that give it an idyllic, tropical vibe.

Lovely. How accessible is it?
The beach is adjacent to Highway A1A, so it’s easily accessible from virtually anywhere in Key West. It’s also free.

Got it. Decent services and facilities, would you say?
Everything you need for a full day at the beach. Smathers is a popular site for food trucks. There are also bathrooms, rentable chairs and umbrellas, and, for active types, catamarans, paddleboards, and jet skis.

How’s the actual beach stuff—sand and surf?
Smathers has very calm water making it ideal for swimmers.

Excellent. Can we go barefoot?
You bet. Palm trees offer ample shade over the silky-smooth white sand.

Anything special we should look for?
Avoid Smathers during Spring Break—it’s a hotspot.

The Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory

Let’s start big picture. What’s the vibe here?
More than 50 species of butterfly and 20 exotic bird species from around the world live in the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory, where you can learn about butterfly anatomy, physiology, life cycle, feeding, and migratory patterns.

Fun! Any standout features or must-sees?
Flamingos strut their stuff just feet away, and don’t miss the learning center, where you can watch caterpillars munch away at their host plants up close. During later hours you might even get to see an owl butterfly, which can have a wingspan of almost eight inches.

Got it. Was it easy to get around?
The conservatory is completely enclosed as well as wheelchair-accessible, making it a low-key activity that’s good for a rainy day.

Southernmost Point

Tell me: What’s this place all about?
One of the big photo-ops in Key West, Southernmost Point is just what it sounds like: the southernmost point of the continental United States. There’s not too much to see other than a large red-and-black-striped buoy statue.

Who comes here?
Tourists looking to get their Instagram shots.

Did it meet expectations?
This is a fun site to have seen, but it’s extremely crowded. Go early or late in the day—one thing that can make a stop special is catching a dramatic sunset.

What’s the bottom line here?
You’ll probably end up nearby at some point during your trip, so don’t feel the need to make a special trip.

Yoga on the Beach: Key West Yoga

Zoom out. What’s the big picture here?
Swaying palm trees, ocean waves, exotic birds: all scenic highlights of Yoga on the Beach.

Cool. Tell us who else is in the classes.
Classes are usually made up of all ages and skill levels.

How are the guides, then?
Both certified instructors are excellent at making sure attendees have a great experience, regardless of their ability level.

So: money, time—how can we make the most of both?
Classes vary in style, so double-check the schedule before you go. In general, though, most abilities, shapes, sizes, and ages are welcome.

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