The enchanting and sun-kissed Key West is the southernmost point of the United States and is still part of the contiguous United States. The Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico both have beautiful waters that border Key West.
The remote and picture-perfect island is famed for its natural beauty, interesting historic tourist attractions, and rowdy nightlife. It is connected to the Florida Keys and the mainland by the Overseas Highway, which runs directly through the middle of the island.
In addition to going to the city’s numerous museums and historic buildings, other things to do in Key West include lounging on the city’s beaches, participating in watersports, and exploring the area’s abundant marine life and nature reserves.
The Best Places to Visit in Key West
The island features an incredible fusion of cultures, with influences from the United States, the Afro-Caribbean, and Spain all on display. It is located farther from Havana than Miami.
A carnival-like atmosphere sweeps over the town of Key West as people begin to head to the town’s bars and clubs as the sun begins its gradual and dramatic descent into the horizon.
1. The Beach at Higgs
One of the beaches on the island that receives the most visitors is called Higgs Beach, and it is a popular spot for a variety of water- and land-based activities. It is located on the southwestern coast of Key West and provides its guests with a park, picnic spots, and playgrounds in addition to providing opportunities for sailing and snorkeling.
In addition to the numerous chances for outdoor activity it provides, Higgs Beach is renowned for the breathtaking panoramas it offers of the Atlantic Ocean from its sandy shoreline and two notable piers.
2. Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Museum
Near the water’s edge in Old Town is where you’ll find the exceptional Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Museum. This museum is home to a vast collection of relics as well as displays. It is a fascinating look at the history of the island and the waterways that surround it, and it is named after the diver Mel Fisher, who discovered several shipwrecks in the area.
Gold coins, gems, and cannons from various Spanish ships were discovered over the course of a couple of decades and an innumerable number of dives, and these artifacts are now on display in the museum’s well-organized halls.
In addition to these priceless artifacts, the museum also features some very intriguing displays on topics such as diving, underwater archaeology, and the transatlantic slave trade.
3. The Aquarium of Key West
The magnificent Key West Aquarium can be found in close proximity to the museum. The aquarium is a haven for many different types of vibrant fish and corals. It was constructed between the years 1932 and 1934, making it one of the earliest open-air aquariums to be erected in the United States. Extra display rooms were added over the course of its existence.
Since then, it has brought joy to many generations of people by entertaining them with its sparkling schools of fish and wonderful marine species. Sharks and sea turtles may be seen there, along with alligators and jellyfish.
One of the most well-liked aspects of the aquarium is its touch tank, which allows guests to interact with animals such as stingrays and starfish while watching other species of fish swim by.
4. Maritime Museum of the United States Coast Guard Cutter Ingham
The United States Coast Guard Cutter Ingham Maritime Museum is another of the island’s finest attractions, and it can be reached by taking a short walk to the south of the aquarium. The white ship, which is currently berthed at Key West Harbor, saw service for more than half a century before being finally decommissioned in 1988.
It participated in combat during both World War II and the Vietnam War, earning it the distinction of being the only Coast Guard Cutter to ever receive two Presidential Unit Citations.
In addition to its role as a National Memorial, the United States Coast Guard Cutter Ingham was honored with the title of National Historic Landmark in 1992.
5. Dry Tortugas National Park
Dry Tortugas National Park is not to be missed, despite the fact that it is the most inaccessible of all the national parks in the United States. This park is known for its spectacular marine life, outstanding outdoor activities, and its enormous ancient fort.
Due to the fact that the coral islands make up the small archipelago’s location, roughly 70 miles to the west of Key West, the only way to get there is via boat or aircraft.
Fort Jefferson is the largest brick building in the Western Hemisphere. Its robust defenses are fantastic to explore and provide a delightful contrast to the sparkling waters that surround it.
6. The Cemetery in Key West
A more convenient option is the expansive Key West Cemetery, which may be found right in the middle of Old Town. It is believed to be the final resting place of more than 100,000 people, which is significantly higher than the number of people who currently reside on Key West. The cemetery was established in 1847 after a hurricane washed away the island’s prior cemetery.
In addition to the beautiful tombs and mausoleums, you can also find areas of the cemetery that are devoted to various people, such as Cuban liberation fighters and sailors from the United States Navy.
Even though it is a solemn location, several of the gravestones on the island have humorous epitaphs written on them. These epitaphs include phrases like “I told you I was sick” and “I’m just resting my eyes.”
7. Eco-Education and Research Center of the Florida Keys
The Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center, which is both entertaining and kid- and family-friendly, is located right next to Key West Harbor. It is a fascinating look at the diverse aquatic ecosystems that can be found in the Florida Keys, which are home to a wide variety of species and displays.
8. The Sloppy Joe’s Bar and Grill
Since its opening in 1933, Sloppy Joe’s Bar has been an integral part of the vibrant entertainment and nightlife scene that Key West is famous for. It is widely regarded as one of the top venues in the city for having a drink, dancing, or watching live music performances.
Ernest Hemingway, who frequented the atmospheric pub frequently and early on, was the real source of inspiration for its name. The bar is known for its very lively yet relaxed atmosphere.
The notoriously raucous and slightly run-down saloon, which has been located at its current site on the corner of Duval and Green Street since 1937, now features both a restaurant and a retail shop for patrons to peruse during their visits.
9. The Key West Lighthouse and Keeper’s Quarters Museum
It took until 1848 to build the current Key West Lighthouse after the Great Havana Hurricane destroyed the previous one two years earlier. Over a century and a half later, once modern technology had rendered it obsolete, it was decommissioned, and now its blindingly bright white tower offers spectacular views out over the island and the waterways that surround it.
In addition to taking in the breathtaking panoramas from the top of the 72-foot tower, guests get the opportunity to admire the Fresnel lens housed in the tower and tour the quaint Keeper’s Quarters Museum.
10. Smathers Beach
Smathers Beach is the largest and most popular beach in Key West. Silky white sand and gently swaying palm trees line it. However, Key West is not particularly well-known for its beaches.
Visitors can enjoy sunbathing, swimming, and various watersports at this location, which is situated along the southern shore of the island. Additionally, it provides breathtaking views over the Atlantic Ocean.
In the same way that other vacation destinations in Florida do, Key West provides an abundance of opportunities for nature lovers to appreciate its coastal location.
These opportunities include a number of well-maintained beaches, sailing and kayaking tours, fishing charters, and eco-tours such as snorkeling excursions with tropical marine life or glass-bottom boat cruises of North America’s only living coral reef.