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14 Fantastic Things To Do In Key West, Florida

Key West, Florida

Florida’s southernmost city is full of interesting people, a variety of foods, and plenty to see and do. It’s not difficult to plan an exciting trip to this unique and vibrant city. Live the island life Key West-style with these top things to do in Key West, Florida.

Top Things to Do in Key West

1. Visit the Southernmost Point of the Continental U.S.

Southernmost Point, Key West, Florida

This is one of the most visited and photographed places in the U.S., so it’s obviously one of the must-do things in Key West!

A large concrete buoy at the corner of South Street and Whitehead Street marks the Southernmost Point of the continental United States.

How accurate is this? Not very. The true southernmost point in Florida and the continental United States is actually 10 miles away at Ballast Key, and there are other islands to the west that are also more southern than this point. And land on the Truman Annex property is the southernmost point of Key West, but it’s on Navy land and isn’t accessible by the public. There’s even a beach area at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park that is further south than here and can be accessed by the public.

So really, I guess this is just the most easily accessible and free southernmost point on the island. Still, it’s a fun photo opp!

2. Take a Photo at Mile Marker 0

Mile Marker 0, Key West, Florida

Another great free photo opp is Mile Marker 0 marking the end / beginning of US Hwy 1. You’ll find this mile marker zero sign at the corner of Fleming Street and Whitehead Street.

US-1 stretches from Key West to Maine, covering 2,369 miles and passing through most major cities on the East Coast.

3. Visit Earnest Hemingway’s House

Hemingway Home, Key West, Florida

The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum is in the heart of Old Town Key West. This is where author Earnest Hemingway lived and wrote for ten years.

The Hemingways bought their Spanish Colonial home in great disrepair, and they completely restored and remodeled it. You can tour the home and the gardens and learn about the house’s construction and the Hemingways’ lives there.

Hemingway Cat

You’ll also meet many 6-toed cats. There are about 40-50 of them running around the property. Hemingway received a white six-toed cat from a sea captain, and some of the cats at the museum are descendants of that original cat.

You can take a 30 minute tour of the home for $18 for adults, $7 for children, and free for 5 and under.

Related: Discover the Hemingway House in Piggott, Arkansas

4. Have a Drink at Captain Tony’s Saloon and Sloppy Joe’s Bar

Captain Tony's Saloon

When you tour Hemingway’s house, you’ll probably learn about Sloppy Joe and his bar that Hemingway used to frequent. Sloppy Joe’s Bar was located where Captain Tony’s Saloon now is until 1938. When the price of rent increased, Sloppy Joe took his bar and moved it up to Duval Street (bar patrons picked up their stools and drinks without spilling a drop, so the story goes). Hemingway even moved the urinal to his garden.

So, if you want to sit in the same place Hemingway did for 4 years; at the bar where Jimmy Buffett got his start; in an establishment with a tree growing in the middle where people were hanged for piracy and murder; and in the building that was an ice house and Key West’s first morgue…well, then drink at Captain Tony’s Saloon.

And if you want to drink the same drinks Hemingway did; at the longest bar in town; in a place that has an annual “Papa” Hemingway lookalike contest; and at a place with live music and dancing, then Sloppy Joe’s Bar is the place for you.

Or just have a drink at both and cheers to Hemingway!

5. Explore Fort Zachary Taylor

Fort Zachary Taylor State Park

Fort Zachary Taylor State Park is a 54-acre park on the southern edge of Key West. The park includes the fort, a serene beach, picnicking areas, swimming, snorkeling, paddling, and fishing opportunities.

The fort was constructed beginning in 1845 and was named for President Zachary Taylor in 1850. During the Civil War, the fort served as a headquarters for the U.S. Navy’s East Gulf Coast blockade squadron, which deterred numerous Confederate supply ships from reaching and leaving ports in the Gulf.

You can take a guided tour of Fort Zachary Taylor daily at 11 a.m. or you can explore on your own. On the tour, you’ll see the largest collection of seacoast guns and the world’s largest cache of Civil War armament, explore the red-brick corridors of the fort, and learn how the soldiers here lived.

The State Park is open from 8 a.m. to sundown year-round, and the fort itself is open until 5 p.m. Admission is $6 per vehicle, $4.50 for single occupant vehicles, and $2.50 for pedestrians and bikers.

6. Visit the Truman Little White House

Truman Little White House

The Harry S. Truman Little White House is Florida’s only presidential site. The home was originally naval officers housing, and it has housed many important visitors for extended stays, including six presidents. It’s most known for being the winter residence of President Harry Truman who spent 175 days of his presidency here.

A tour of the Little White House takes you through the home where you can see the rooms that the Harry and his wife Bess lived and worked in. The museum houses artifacts like President Truman’s briefcase, books, telephone, and his famous “The Buck Stops Here” sign.

Tours run every 20 minutes. You can save a couple dollars by booking online: $23.44 for adults and $10.21 for children.

7. Climb the Steps of the Key West Lighthouse

Key West Lighthosue

The Key West Light House was built in 1825 with 15 lamps. It’s second keeper was a woman, Barbara Mabrity, which was practically unheard of. The Great Havana Hurricane of 1846 destroyed the old lighthouse, and a new tower for the lighthouse was completed in 1848.

Today, the lighthouse serves as a museum dedicated to Key West’s maritime history and the lighthouse’s many keepers. You can walk up the 88 steps to the top of the lighthouse and get a great view of the island. The museum houses artifacts such as the belongings and photographs of the lighthouse keepers and their families.

Save money by buying tickets online: $15.50 for adults and $7.50 for children.

8. Hunt for Ghosts at the Key West Cemetery

Key West Cemetery

The Key West Cemetery is a 19-acre cemetery located in the Old Town area of the island. It was founded in 1847 following a hurricane that washed out an earlier cemetery located closer to the coast.

You can take a free self-guided tour of the cemetery to learn about the notable people buried there (like Sloppy Joe) and about the interesting and unique gravestones (like the one marked with the last words: “I Told you I was Sick.”).

9. Walk Around West Martello Tower

West Martello Tower, Key West, Florida

The West Martello Tower is a historic round, defensive fort that was built in 1862. Though it never saw any action during the Civil War, the fort was used for target practice by the U.S. Navy.

Today, the West Martello Tower is owned by the Key West Garden Club. The brick pathways are now home to a secluded tropical garden with many horticultural wonders.

Admission to the garden and ruins is free. You can also take a 1-hour guided tour every Monday morning between 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., with reservations, for $25 per person.

10. Visit the Shipwreck Museum

Key West Shipwreck Museum

You’ll recognize the Key West Shipwreck Museum by its 65-foot lookout tower atop a recreation of a 19th century warehouse. The museum tells the story of master wrecker Asa Tift and his wrecking crew as you learn about the wrecking industry and life in Key West in the mid-1800s.

The museum boasts artifacts from the 1985 rediscovery of the wrecked vessel Isaac Allerton, which sank in 1856 on the Florida Keys reef and was the richest shipwreck in Key West’s history.

You can save money by booking your tickets to the Shipwreck Museum online: $17.35 for adults and $9.18 for children.

11. Paddleboard Through the Magical Mangrove Forest

Mangrove Forest

A cross between surfing and kayaking, stand up paddleboarding gives you the best view of the incredible ocean life that is swimming just beneath your board.

Key West has a bunch of stand up paddleboard tours where you can take an eco-tour through the magical mangrove forest all while getting an incredible workout. These tours are beginner friendly as they’ll give you a short lesson and allow you time to get the hang of gliding across water.

Find Key West stand-up paddleboard tours here.

12. Let Loose at a Drag Show

Key West Drag Show

Join the Aquanettes every night, and multiple times on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, at Aqua Nightclub for lots of glitter, glam, and fun.

If you’ve never been to a drag show before, Key West is the best place for your first. The shows are lively with a lot of audience interaction, and the mojitos are fantastic as the costumes.

13. Head to the Garden of Eden Clothing-Optional Bar (If You’re Feeling Adventurous)

Garden of Eden, Key West, Florida

Feeling adventurous? Why not check out Duval Street’s only clothing optional bar?

The Garden of Eden (21+) is located on the rooftop of the Bull and Whistle Bar at Caroline Street. Depending on the weather, you might find people completely naked, topless, or mostly fully clothed.

The bar has a great, open atmosphere and a large dance floor. They even offer body painting most nights. And since you’re on a rooftop, you have great views from the top.

14. Watch the Sunset

Key West Sunset

When the sun goes down in Key West, everyone flocks to Mallory Square for the nightly Sunset Celebration of street performers. This famous Key West tradition features magicians, jugglers, clowns, psychics, local musicians, artists, and food vendors galore!

If that sounds a little too crowded for you, I suggest heading over to Ft. Zachary Taylor State Park for a significantly less obstructed view. You can spend the afternoon exploring the fort grounds before the sunset or you can show up just for the show. Relax on the beach as the sun slowly sinks down behind the water and watch between silhouetted palm trees as the sunset reflects off the gulf and the numerous boats sailing past.

The park closes after sunset, so as soon as the sun is down, park officials will start ushering you off the beach. But that still gives you plenty of time to take postcard-esque photographs to share with your friends!

Where to Stay in Key West, Florida

NYAH Key West

During my visit to Key West, I stayed at NYAH Key West. Billed as “Not Your Average Hotel”, NYAH Key West is an affordable hostel-like accommodation for adults 18+ located just a few blocks from Duval Street and many of Key West’s top things to do.

The hotel has three pools, a hot tub, complimentary continental breakfast, free WiFi, and levels of decks for sunning. It’s an affordable option with a BYOR concept – “Build Your Own Room” allows you to customize your room so that your whole group can stay together. With its bunk-beds and unique room layouts, it feels like a hostel, but you have your own private room.

Check out more places to stay in Key West:

Read next: The Ultimate Beach Vacation Packing List

Ready to visit Key West, Florida? Plan your trip with these tips.



14 Fantastic Things To Do In Key West, Florida

What are your favorite things to do in Key West? Let me know in the comments!

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  1. This is perfect!! A Florida roadtrip is top of our list once we feel comfortable traveling again. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I love the idea of the SUP tour of the mangrove forest. Not sure how long o would last though. Thanks for these tips. We hope to make it to Florida in the near future.

    1. SUP was difficult to get the hang of at first, but I think you’d be surprised by how quickly you get the feel for it! And you can always modify it an sit on your knees while you paddle (giving you a lower center of gravity and making it easier to balance), so it’s really pretty manageable for beginners!

  3. Such a great post! I’m moving south in the upcoming months so this will be super helpful when I do visit Florida. Thank you for sharing!!

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