Choose from 15 Fun Things to Do in Key West
Your ultimate destination for a tasty bite to eat or a night on the town while in Key West is Duval Street. Running north and south from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, Duval Street is home to many famous restaurants and bars. Among the most notable of these establishments is Sloppy Joe's, the haunt of Ernest Hemingway while he stayed in Key West. He helped select the bar's name. Now, Sloppy Joe's pays homage to its most famous patron by holding an annual Hemingway look-a-like contest.
You can also check out the Southernmost House, a huge pink Victorian mansion that currently operates as a museum and inn. Its name comes from the fact that it is located on the southernmost end of Duval Street in Key West, the southernmost city in the continental U.S, making it, in theory, the southernmost house in the U.S.
On certain nights, Duval Street hosts a carnival that lasts well into the wee hours of the night.
Duval Street is located on the southwestern end of Key West, and is less than a 10 minute drive from the airport.
Located on the northwest coast of the island, the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum is a short distance from almost all locations in Key West.
- This museum is popular with history buffs and families traveling with kids.
- Wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to climb 88 steps to reach the top.
- The keeper’s quarters are wheelchair-accessible, but the lighthouse itself is not.
- Restrooms are available in the gift shop at the base of the lighthouse.
The former president was not the only U.S. leader to enjoy some respite in Key West. The house originally served as the base commandant’s house for the naval submarine station at Key West. President Taft was the first to visit in 1912, and Thomas Edison resided in the house during World War I. Over the years, six American presidents have used the residence, but the most important usage was by Truman from 1946 to 1952. Due to advances in technology, he realized that he could continue to act on matters of importance outside of Washington, D.C. and thus, the Little White House became his home from November to December and February to March, allowing the president a time of rest and recuperation.
How to get to Key West
Your ship will likely dock at either Mallory Square or the Truman Annex, both of which are just a few blocks from Duval Street in central Key West. If your ship docks further out at the Navy Mole, near Fort Zachary Taylor. In that case, trolleys are available to shuttle you into the Old Town.
One Day in Key West
Get a feel for historic Key West by taking a tour with the open-air Conch Tour Train. The train departs from Mallory Square and takes you through the Old Town area of the island, passing Duval Street, the historic seaport, and the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum. The Hemingway Museum is a must-see for any visitor to Key West. There, you can tour Hemingway’s old writing studio, see the first swimming pool in Key West, and cozy up to some of the dozens of furry felines who wander the house, descendants of the writer’s many cats.
For panoramic views of the island, climb to the top of either the observation tower at the Shipwreck Museum or the Key West Lighthouse. Grab a bite to eat and then spend the afternoon enjoying Key West from the water: swim with the dolphins, sail on a glass bottom boat, paddle a kayak or go diving or snorkeling.
Want to explore a different side of Key West? Join the Jimmy Buffett-focused Trails of the Margaritaville Tour or the spooky Ghosts and Gravestones of Key West Tour. The Key West Cemetery is also worth a stop, with above ground tombs reflecting the island’s mixed ethnic heritage.
If your ship is still in port at sunset, don’t miss the Sunset Celebration, a nightly arts festival at Mallory Square that kicks off two hours before the sun sets.
English is the official language and the currency is the U.S. Dollar. ATMs are widely available.
- The Southernmost Point is a quick don’t-miss for all first-time visitors to Key West.
- Don’t forget your camera or cell phone.
- Be prepared to wait in line. During peak tourist season, you might face up to a 20-minute wait to capture a photo.
Few things are as beautiful as a Florida sunset, so while you are in Key West, be sure to celebrate the sunset in true Key West style - at Mallory Square. Every night, starting two hours before the sunset, the square hosts its "Sunset Celebration." Arts and crafts exhibitors, street performers and food carts descend on the square providing you with fun entertainment to enjoy in the last daylight hours.
During the daytime, Mallory Square offers numerous attractions at its many restaurants and shops. While you are there, you should also check out the famous Key West Historic Memorial Sculpture Garden. Open since 1997, the garden contains 36 bronze busts of the men and women who have had the greatest impact on Key West. The most famous of these are renowned writer Ernest Hemingway and President Harry S. Truman.
Mallory Square is located on the northwest end of the island and is easily accessible from most locations.
- The Key West Aquarium is a hit with families traveling with kids.
- The aquarium is wheelchair-accessible and dog-friendly.
- Give yourself 45 minutes to an hour to explore the aquarium exhibits, or more if you plan to take a guided tour.
- The Hemingway Home & Museum is a must for literary buffs visiting Key West.
- The on-site bookstore sells all of Hemingway’s books, as well as other works related to Key West and the Florida Keys.
- Check the museum’s website for the local cruise ship schedule, which could save you from waiting in line with the throngs of newly arrived passengers.
- The museum’s gardens and lower level of the house are accessible to wheelchair users.
This half mile (.8 km) stretch of pristine white sand is the largest public beach Key West has to offer. Located on the south side of the island, against the shimmering turquoise waters of the Atlantic, Smathers Beach is the perfect place to relax while in Key West.
Thrill seekers can rent out water sports gear, kayaks, and mini sail boats from vendors along the beach. There are also numerous opportunities to parasail and snorkel. If you're looking to just relax on the sand, the vendors also offer beach chairs to help make your lounging more comfortable. There are also three volleyball nets scattered along the beach. All of these attractions make Smathers Beach the ideal sport for either a day trip or to enjoy a beautiful sunset.
Smathers beach is located along the southern coast of the island, and is only 1 mile (1.5 kms) west of the airport.