8 Things You Have To See & Do In The Florida Keys

The Florida Keys have been on my bucket list ever since I first set foot in Florida last year with a getaway to Fort Lauderdale and Miami – although it has the reputation of being downright bizarre (see Seth Meyer’s “Fake or Florida segment“), the state also boasts incredible beaches and year-round sunshine that are undeniably attractive.

So whether you’re visiting as a snowbird or as a first-timer, here are eight things to do in the Florida Keys that you absolutely can’t skip.

(My absolute favourites are marked with a ♥)

Top Things To Do In The Florida Keys

Cruise Over The John Pennekamp Coral Reef

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I had to chance to join a glass bottom boat tour of the John Pennekamp coral reef, home to the legendary Christ of the Deep statue and the first underwater national park in the United States. The ride took me through the thick mangrove forests of the lagoon before it arrived at the pièce de résistance, the beautiful corals – which, thanks to the deep glass bottom, were just a few feet away.

If you get the chance to snorkel or dive in the park, go for it! If it was this beautiful over water I can’t imagine what it must be like down there, surrounded by rainbow-coloured fishes and corals.

♥ Visit the Ernest Hemingway House

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What a enigmatic man, that Hemingway! His house in Key West is absolutely fascinating and I’m not saying that just because there are over 50 cats on the property (since he and I both have well-documented affection for cats I feel like we would have been kindred spirits, aside from the multiple marriages and suicidal tendencies). It was such a wonderful experience to set foot in his writing den and play with his polydactyl cats.

I am very happy with my copy of To Have and Have Not, that I bought in the shop inside his house next to the office where he penned it. Talk about coming full circle!

Eat Your Weight in Key Lime Pie

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Whether you get it with meringue or whipped cream, as a chocolate-dipped popsicle, as a milkshake or even deep-fried (yes, you read that right), the Key Lime pie is a must in these parts. I must confess to having eaten the god-sent dessert at least twice a day for the duration of my stay… for research purposes, of course! The things I would do for this blog…

Where shouldn’t you miss the pie, you ask?

Side note: did you know key limes actually turn yellow when they’re ripe, and not green?

♥ Visit the Sea Turtle Hospital

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This was one of my favourite things to do in the Florida Keys. As an animal lover and animal rights defender, I always enjoy visiting places that are first and foremost dedicated to their wellbeing and not cold hard cash. Through an engaging and informative program about our figurative footprint in the ocean, the non-profit hospital educates the public to think twice about our actions and their repercussions. But not only that! The Sea Turtle Hospital rescues injured sea turtles everywhere around the Keys, be it because they ingested hooks, because they damaged their shell in a boat collision, or because they got caught in fishing nets. They’ve rescued and rehabilitated over 1000 sea turtles since their opening in 1989!

I’ll write a more detailed article very soon about this place that is now very close to my heart. Stay tuned!

Good to know: they frequently release rehabilitated turtles back into the sea. Dates are always announced on their website, so if you time your visit right you might be able to take part in that touching, memorable event!

Feed Tarpons at Robbie’s Marina

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(The reason why I’m saying it was “long” is that this video was edited; I waited over three minutes for one tarpon to jump out the water! Thanks Audrey for filming!)

Guys, I was legit scared about feeding the tarpons. As you know I am scared of pretty much everything and that includes, of course, fish the size of my legs (yeah, these bastards can weigh up to a whopping 8 feet long / 280 pounds) that jump out of the water to catch their snack. As a grown woman on assignment, I sucked it up and fed the ‘damn tarpons – although I can’t guarantee I didn’t let out a scream or two.

 

 

Board The Original African Queen

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Despite the fact that I have never seen the movie I am well aware of just how big an icon the African Queen is, i.e. the 1951 film starring the illustrious Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart. The ship used in the movie no longer cruises down Congolese rivers; instead, it has been lovingly restored (with steam engine and all!) and sits in the Port Largo marina.

♥ Taste The Local Cuisine at Marker 88

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You can trust chef Bobby Stoky of Marker 88 to cook you the best meal you’ll have in the Florida Keys. His menu consists of dishes he ate as a child and that are intrinsically part of the Keys cuisine, which obviously means lots of flavourful and expertly-executed fish and seafood. I opted for the coconut battered shrimp and the mahi Martinique, an intriguing French-Florida fusion dish that almost had me licking the plate clean. The beachside restaurant is definitely one of the can’t-miss things to do in the Florida Keys, as is their bar, where you can order their popular watermelon mojito.

Bonus point for Kyle Chandler, who was dining there after a day of shooting on the nearby set of Bloodine (which is a riveting series with wanderlust-inducing cinematography, by the way).

Visit the Butterfly & Nature Conservatory

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What species of butterfly can you name besides the monarch? Don’t worry, I would not have been able to answer this prior to my visit at the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory. Their tropical greenhouse is home to over 600 species of butterflies, including the elusive blue morpho butterfly and the 11-inch wide Owl butterfly. A fun place to visit if you enjoy macro photography and wildlife!

 

32 Comments on 8 Things You Have To See & Do In The Florida Keys

  1. Katie
    January 11, 2016 at 3:11 pm (1 year ago)

    Just an hour ago, I got off the phone with a friend who grew up vacationing around the Keys and suggested we have a trip there this summer — and then I happened across this post! Definitely feeling inspired to make this trip happen now. Looking forward to your sea turtle hospital post, too!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      January 12, 2016 at 5:27 pm (1 year ago)

      That’s wonderful Katie! I can’t recommend the Keys enough. You’ll love it!

      Reply
  2. Patricia
    January 11, 2016 at 6:37 pm (1 year ago)

    I’m not surprised you liked the Turtle Hospital, you animal-lover! Can’t wait to read the article about it. I am SO sick of commercial zoos that don’t care about the welfare of their animals. I can’t believe they’re even still legal!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      January 12, 2016 at 5:27 pm (1 year ago)

      Am I that obvious? :-) It was such a fabulous experience.

      Reply
  3. Michel
    January 11, 2016 at 6:53 pm (1 year ago)

    OMG Bloodline!!!!!! This show and this post now really make me want to visit the Florida Keys. Would you recommend it as a side trip to a Miami getaway, or as a standalone trip?

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      January 12, 2016 at 5:26 pm (1 year ago)

      Can you believe I only watched Bloodline after I got back from my trip? It was so fun to recognize some of the places I’d been to!

      I would recommend the Keys as a standalone trip – there is more than enough to keep you busy. You could do it as a side trip from Miami, but you will need a good three days to see the basic stuff.

      Reply
  4. Andrew
    January 11, 2016 at 7:01 pm (1 year ago)

    It’s crazy to think that beyond those huuuuge American highways lies such a naturally stunning playground. The Keys don’t look scenic from the main road but take a left or right turn, and voilà… I particularly loved Key West’s ambiance and my typical-South-Florida meal at Mrs Mac’s Kitchen. Great memories!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      January 12, 2016 at 5:26 pm (1 year ago)

      I KNOW! I was surprised by how un-photogenic the Keys were until I got to the actual waterfront. But it is absolutely stunning once you get there.

      Reply
  5. Rafal
    January 12, 2016 at 7:09 pm (1 year ago)

    Nice Post! I was just there in November and stopped by Robbie’s Marina as well. Definitely a cool experience. If you want the Tarpon to take the fish out of your hand you have to get down closer to the water though. I got a few battle wounds myself. LOL

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      January 12, 2016 at 11:14 pm (1 year ago)

      Oh my God I have chills just thinking about it. This was thrilling enough as it was for me! ;-)

      Reply
  6. Gina
    January 15, 2016 at 1:29 am (1 year ago)

    My husband and I were just talking about how much we want to go to the Florida Keys since neither of us has ever been. This blog post makes me want to go even more! Will have to visit the Sea Turtle Hospital if we do. I love sea turtles and that’s awesome that they’ve helped over 1,000 turtles since opening.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      January 15, 2016 at 1:06 pm (1 year ago)

      You should totally go! It’s a great place, especially the Turtle Hospital.

      Reply
  7. Marc
    January 26, 2016 at 12:38 am (1 year ago)

    Pretty good Things to do in Florida. I always wanted to see Hemingway’s house and now I have sudden desire to visit Florida after reading the post. Great pictures though.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      January 26, 2016 at 2:18 pm (1 year ago)

      You really should! It’s a lovely place.

      Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      February 3, 2016 at 1:28 pm (1 year ago)

      They truly are!

      Reply
  8. Jessica Pesso
    April 19, 2016 at 6:00 pm (11 months ago)

    I’m so happy you mentioned Robbie’s ! That’s one of my favorite places to go to.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      April 25, 2016 at 12:51 pm (11 months ago)

      It was a lot of fun!

      Reply
  9. Richard Read
    May 26, 2016 at 6:00 pm (10 months ago)

    Great. Going there in October so will try & get them all in

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      May 30, 2016 at 8:56 am (10 months ago)

      Amazing! Have a great trip!

      Reply
  10. Cjw928
    June 8, 2016 at 4:56 pm (10 months ago)

    My husband and I just moved to central FL and we’re planning a Keys trip for next April/May. DO you have any tips on other places to go? Did you visit Tortuga National Park? I’m curious to see what people think of it.

    thanks

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      June 10, 2016 at 9:51 am (10 months ago)

      I didn’t visit the park but I heard wonderful things!

      Reply
  11. Tricia MacDonald
    July 31, 2016 at 10:14 pm (8 months ago)

    So glad I stumbled upon your blog! Here in Canada British Columbia. I would love to go some day. I’m not sure it’s in the cards for me 😔😢. For now I will be happy following you. As for Bloodline love it so. Did you see any of the other Rayburn’s Sissy? Kyle is amazing!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      August 1, 2016 at 10:35 am (8 months ago)

      I LOVE BLOODLINE! I was positively excited when I saw Kyle Chandler.

      Reply
  12. Shannon
    August 14, 2016 at 12:37 pm (7 months ago)

    I live in South Florida and I look forward to going south through every Key. Last year we went for a full 8 days and each day and night spent on one several of the Major Keys to do something that particular Key was known for. It was an awesome trip. It has a feeling of a different world than the day to day of living in South Florida.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      August 17, 2016 at 1:53 pm (7 months ago)

      What a great trip that must’ve been!

      Reply
  13. Richard
    September 29, 2016 at 11:55 am (6 months ago)

    Thanks!! Off there next week would you believe

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      October 6, 2016 at 12:16 pm (6 months ago)

      Have an amazing trip!

      Reply
  14. Thalia mcclay
    October 24, 2016 at 7:45 pm (5 months ago)

    We want to go to the keys but which one has the best beaches and is kid friendly??

    Reply
  15. Laraine
    December 11, 2016 at 6:50 am (4 months ago)

    We are driving down to the Keys after Christmas in an RV (first timers) We are thinking Marathon should be the place to go right?

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      December 12, 2016 at 11:09 am (3 months ago)

      You’ll be right in the middle of the Keys so great for exploring!

      Reply
  16. Nancy Boehm
    January 27, 2017 at 3:43 pm (2 months ago)

    We were married in Key West 16 years ago and vacation in the Keys every year. We spend most of our time in Islamorada but also stay in KW for a few days. Love the Green Turtle, Wahoos, Island Grill, the Oceanview and the Loralei in Islamorada. KW favorites are the Rum Bar, B.O.s Fish Wagon, Irish Kevin’s, Green Parrot and Blue Heaven. Places we’ve stayed in Islamorada are the Islander and Oceanview. In KW the Coco Plum and Ambrosia.

    Reply

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