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Ultimate Guide • Updated Wed, Jun 28, 2023

A Fishing Family's Guide to Key West Sightseeing

This ultimate guide is designed for anglers and families visiting Key West for a fishing trip and looking for other activities to engage in. Sitting at the southernmost point of the United States, this island community offers a myriad of unforgettable experiences, in addition to the world class fishing. Whether you are a nature enthusiast, a history buff, a foodie, or a party-goer, this list offers a comprehensive taste of the best things to do in Key West.

This article covers:

1. Explore Key West's Natural Beauty

Charter a Boat to Fish in the Idyllic Waters surrounding the Archipelago

There are a variety of different fishing trips you can take around Key West — targeting snapper and grouper on the reefs and shipwrecks, or backcountry fishing for permit, bonefish, and tarpon. For the larger offshore species, take a trip past the reef and fish for sailfish, tuna, mahi-mahi and much more. You can book a guided fishing trip in Key West on AnyCreek.

The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory 

Another fun thing to do in Key West is to take a walk through the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. Here, you will enter a world with hundreds of free flying butterflies. With 50-60 species of butterflies and two flamingos in the glass domed building, the conservatory presents a novel opportunity to interact with the exotic subtropical world of the Florida Keys. 

The Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden 

Take a tour of the Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden which focuses on the preservation and education of the rare ecosystem that exists on Key West. Learn about native species which include tropical birds, colorful butterflies, bright flowers all under the lush canopy of the tropical trees. Visitors in summer can also enjoy ‘ART in the GARDEN’ which showcases outdoor sculptures done by local artists. 

Take a Boat Tour to Snorkel

In addition to its turquoise waters, Key West is home to the only living coral barrier reef in North America, which makes for exceptional snorkeling trips. Look down on and swim among the over 500 species of fish and numerous varieties of coral. The year-round warm waters make snorkeling a great option no matter the season you are visiting Key West.

2. Immerse Yourself in Key West's History and Culture

Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum 

The author of "The Old Man in the Sea" and “A Farewell to Arms,” Ernest Hemingway, was gifted a house on Whitehead Street in 1931. Built in 1851, The Spanish Colonial style home fell into disrepair, leading to restoration and renovations in the 1930s that resulted in the house where you can feel Hemingway's touch to this day. Tour the rooms styled with antique European furnishings Enerst collected during his time spent in Paris and on the European continent, and see his famous pool in the backyard.

The Key West Lighthouse and Keeper's Quarters Museum 

The Key West lighthouse, built in 1848, helped to guide ships safely past the reefs in the shallow waters. Its first keeper was a woman, a rarity during that time period, and in 1969, it was retired by the Coast Guard after over a century of use. Visitors today can take a 88 step climb to the top of the light and see the quarters where Keepers and their families lived with amazing views overlooking the ocean.

Red Barn Theatre

Housed in a former carriage house from 1829, the Red Barn Theatre was born in the 1980, fueled by a group of actors and technicians with a love for the theater. Performances of plays and other shows are held in the space. Over the years, the theater has hosted the likes of Jimmy Buffett, Philip Burton, Terrence McNally, Jerry Herman, and Tennessee Williams. 

3. Enjoy an Iconic Key West Sunset

The Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square 

One of the top things to do in key west is attend the Sunset Celebration. This tradition began in the late 60’s and has since become an iconic Key West event where people gather to view the sun sinking into the Gulf of Mexico. This nightly festival at Mallory Square combines a vibrant cultural experience with magicians, jugglers, musicians, artists, and food vendors. The celebration is deeply rooted in history and has been documented by renowned figures like Mark Twain and Tennessee Williams. 

Sunset Sail on a Catamaran or Schooner 

Set sail on the Key West Historic Harbor during golden hour and enjoy the beauty of Key West at sunset. There are various companies that offer such tours — some offering full dinners asea o simple hors d'oeuvres.

Southernmost Beach Cafe during Sunset

Enjoy Caribbean and Americana cuisine right on the sands of Key West with stunning views of the water. With locally-sourced ingredients and flavors of the Atlantic Ocean with fresh, daily-caught fish, diners can indulge in delivious Key-West-style comfort food. Enjoy an atmosphere that seamlessly blends iconic Key West design with the elegance of a French-Caribbean bistro, making this beachside café a one-of-a-kind destination to watch the sun dip below the horizon.

4. Indulge in Key West's Culinary Delights

Get your Key Lime Pie In Key West at Kermit's Key West Key Lime Shoppe

Kermit's Key West Key Lime Shoppe is an iconic establishment located in an eye-catching yellow and green building. With two locations in Key West, one on Duval Street and the other on Elizabeth Street, visitors have easy access to their delicious Key Lime pies, including their famous "Key Lime Pie on a Stick," dipped in chocolate. 

Eat Authentic Cuban Cuisine at El Meson De Pepe

El Meson De Pepe is a family owned restaurant that has been committed for over 35 years to quality and preserving Cuban Conch Heritage. The restaurant traces its proud history back to a small town in Cuba, where Pepe Diaz discovered his passion for food as a young man. After honing his culinary skills in popular "Meson" restaurants in Spain, Pepe immigrated to Miami in 1973 and eventually settled in Key West with his family. In 1986, Pepe's vision became a reality with the opening of the first El Meson De Pepe on Duval Street, offering authentic Cuban cuisine that has become a staple in Key West dining.

Seafood at Conch Republic Seafood Company

Conch Republic Seafood Company is located in the historic Key West Bight, a 200-year-old maritime base for fishing industries. The restaurant is housed in the original Singleton Fish House and Ice Plant, which played a large role in the areas commercial shrimp fishery. Conch Republic Seafood Company offers the freshest local seafood, sourced daily from boats docked directly in front of the restaurant, creating a dock-to-dish dining experience.

5. Engage in Key West's Nightlife

Explore Duval Street's Bar Crawl

Duval Street is world-famous for it's nightlife and spans from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. The street is host to the renowned "Duval Crawl," with a stretch of forty-three bars, making it easy to have a bar-hopping experience. From the lively atmosphere of Sunset Pier to the historic charm of Sloppy Joe's and the entertainment hub of Rick's Entertainment Complex, each venue along Duval Street offers its unique character. 

Enjoy a Drink at the Historic Green Parrot Bar 

The Green Parrot Bar, established over 125 years ago, attracts a diverse crowd with its nightly happy hour specials. While it predominantly caters to locals, it warmly welcomes visitors who venture into its lively atmosphere. This historic bar exudes a charming Americana vibe, with wooden fixtures, rustic stools, musical memorabilia and flags. 

6. Take a Nearby Day Trip Excursions from Key West

Visit the charming village of Islamorada

Take a two hour drive north on Highway 1 and visit Islamorada. Islamorada is also home to some of the best fishing guides in the Florida Keys, if you are looking to get out on the water. Alternatively, you can visit Theater of the Sea where you can swim with dolphins. Those interested in learning about the area's rich past can explore the Florida Keys History and Discovery Center. 

Visit the beautiful Bahia Honda State Park 

An hour north of Key West is Bahia Honda State park, known for its palm-lined beaches, crystal-clear waters and stunning sunsets. The park is also an excellent place to view wading birds and shorebirds. There are kayaks and snorkeling gear available to rent at the park for those interested in getting out on the water.

Take the Yankee Freedom Ferry to Dry Tortugas National Park

Located around 70 miles west of Key West are the remote Dry Tortugas, a group of seven islands made of sand and coral reefs. Catch the Yankee Freedom Ferry from Key West and it will take you to tour the historic fort and provide opportunities to snorkel (with complementary gear), swim, or just enjoy this iconic landmark.

While the fishing in Key West offers world-class angling opportunities to anglers of all skill levels, the area proves to be more than just a fishing town. Whether you find solace in exploring the pristine natural beauty that surrounds the island, immersing yourself in its rich historical heritage, partaking in mouthwatering culinary delights, or joining in the vibrant nightlife, Key West has it all. 

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