Key West is a great vacation destination for so many reasons. It’s easily accessible by airplane or car, and the weather is picture-perfect year-round. The people are friendly, and there’s a wide range of activities, accommodations, and dining experiences to engage all travelers, from couples and solo visitors to groups that include family reunions, girls’ weekends, and guys’ fishing trips. When you’re ready to book your trip, keep these travel tips in mind to ensure you have a great time.
- Book the Ferry to Dry Tortugas Far in Advance
Dry Tortugas National Park offers world-famous snorkeling, and it’s often at the top of visitors’ must-do lists when they visit Key West. From coral reefs to shipwrecks and old naval pilings, snorkelers and divers can get up-close to the abundant sea life and immerse themselves in an otherworldly experience. It’s located around 75 miles from Key West and only accessible by water or air. There’s a regular ferry that runs between Key West and Dry Tortugas, and there are also some small planes that offer transportation. The ferry books quickly, so you’ll want to make your reservation as far in advance as possible so you’re not shut out of the experience. While there is sometimes a stand-by line, there’s no guarantee that there will be enough spots for everyone in your group.
- Pack a Backpack
No matter what kind of luggage you like to bring on a trip, make sure you bring a backpack to Key West. There are lots of activities where you’ll want to be hands-free but keep your gear nearby. One of the most popular activities in Key West is fishing. Book a fishing charter with All In Fishing Charters for a great half- or full-day experience on the water. The waters off of Key West offer wreck, reef, flats, and deep water fishing, and the expert captain and crew offer pointers, so even inexperienced guests are sure to have a great time. A backpack is a great way to hold your sunscreen, water and snacks, and keys while keeping everything protected from saltwater. Many hotels and B&Bs offer bicycles for guests to get around easily, and having a backpack is a convenient way to carry everything you need for a day of exploring while leaving your hands free for steering safely. As you stroll Duval Street’s many shops and boutiques, a backpack is essential for holding your purchases as well as being a place to stow hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen while keeping them in easy reach.
- Don’t Miss the Local Foods Key West is Famous For
Key West has long been influenced by world cultures when it comes to food. You’ll find a wonderful selection of restaurants serving French, Spanish, Caribbean, Italian, Chinese, and Mediterranean dishes, and more. Still, some locally famous meals rise above. Check out Eaton Street Seafood Market and Restaurant, which makes conch fritters, fish sandwiches, and fish tacos that are crowd favorites. They use only the freshest seafood and prepare each meal to order. There’s plenty of outdoor seating or you can take your meals to-go. For homemade key lime pie, be sure to visit Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe. These desserts are baked from scratch and sold by the pie or slice. Pair it with light fare from their full menu, and browse the key lime-inspired packaged foods you can take home with you, like flavorful chutneys, jams, cookies, and candies.
- Pick Instagram-Worthy Destinations for Your Itinerary
One of the best ways to remember a vacation is by the photos you take, and a trip to Key West offers an amazing opportunity for once-in-a-lifetime photos, so make sure you build some of these destinations into your plans. Explore the native trees and plants that grow naturally at the Key West Natural Forest and Botanical Garden. There are dozens of specimen trees and plants that can’t be found anywhere else on the island. Walk shady paths and bring the binoculars to spot the tropical birds that make their homes here, too. If you’re enthusiastic about animals, be sure to plan a visit to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Children’s Animal Farm. Everyone is welcome to interact with the animals here, most of whom have been rescued from unsafe homes. While you’ll find the expected farm animals here, you’ll also get to meet ostriches, lemurs, foxes, kinkajous, alpacas, and more. Other great photo spots include Key West’s four local beaches, the nature trails at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, and the nightly Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square.
- Immerse Yourself in Local Culture
For a small island community, Key West has a long and storied past reflected in the wide range of museums present here. Among the most famous are the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, Harry S Truman’s Little White House, the USCGC Ingraham, and the Key West Lighthouse and Keeper’s Quarters Museum. Get behind-the-scenes tours of a conservation lab at Mel Fisher’s or climb to the top of an actual lighthouse to experience what life was like for the lighthouse keeper. See one of the first in-ground pools in Key West at Ernest Hemingway’s or walk the same paths once trod by a former president. From the history of shipwrecks and lost treasures to the science of distilling rum, there’s no end to the exciting exhibits, demonstrations, and activities you can explore.
With such a wide range of things to see and do, it’s easy to see why travelers to Key West return again and again. Key West is a great destination, whether you’re visiting for a weekend or a week or more. Use these travel tips to ensure you have a great time and make wonderful memories.