Key West, Florida is a magical little city island at the southernmost tip of the continental United States. While the island itself is only roughly 8 square miles, you could never be bored here with so many things to see and do.
I recently spent a long, action-packed weekend there with my family, and I’m here to share the top ten things you need to do on your next trip to Key West. Let’s get started!
1. Walk Up and Down Duval Street.
Duval Street is to Key West like Bourbon Street is to New Orleans but with like a Jersey Shore boardwalk kind of twist. All the best bars and clubs can be found on Duval Street. Sprinkled in alongside these lively spots are all kinds of shops brandishing everything from 2-for-$10 t-shirt deals to expensive floor-to-ceiling pieces of art. Day or night, Duval Street is the place to be.
2. Visit the Ernest Hemingway House.
Ernest Hemingway, legendary literary genius, maintained a large home filled with cats on a quiet side street in Key West for most of the 1930s. Today, this home serves to honor his memory as a museum. You can walk through just about every room in the two-story home and see the way he, his many different wives, and literal dozens of polydactyl cats lived. In fact, as of publication, the grounds are still home to 55 cats, more than half of which have extra toes.
3. Have Brunch at Blue Heaven.
Let me tell you right now that you haven’t lived until you’ve had banana bread from Blue Heaven. This legendary dining spot doesn’t look like much from the sidewalk but what lies in wait for you inside is a brunching experience you won’t want to miss out on. Personally, I’m a big fan of their Eggs Benedict with lime hollandaise sauce but anything you get here is sure to please.
4. Stop by the Southernmost Point Buoy.
Key West is, in general, the southernmost point of the United States, but if you’re one of those people that wants to stand in the ~literal~ southernmost spot of the country, this buoy is for you. The walk over is beautiful and there’s usually no shortage of guys selling drinks in freshly cut coconuts and pineapples in that general area. Grab something sweet to sip on while you’re waiting in line to take your picture with the buoy.
5. Do Some Shopping in Mallory Square.
If you’re looking for somewhere to do some walking around and souvenir shopping but don’t want to be overwhelmed by the crazy bar scene on Duval Street, Mallory Square is the place to go. For more than 200 years, this has been the place to go for such things as a matter of fact. Here, you’ll find a variety of charming (and tame) restaurants, shops, museums, and the like.
PRO TIP: Have dinner at the Rooftop Cafe if you finding yourself in Mallory Square and be sure to get the crab & shrimp cakes as well as the shrimp & grits. Trust me.
6. Take the Ferry to Dry Tortugas National Park.
Y’all know that I’m a national park nut, but this is one park you won’t want to miss. The ferry to Dry Tortugas National Park is about 2.5 hours and you get to explore one of the most beautiful and remote lands in the entire country and some of the clearest, bluest water on the planet (in my opinion).
7. Get Key Lime Pie at Kermit’s.
You’ve already heard it once, but I’ll tell you again… Key West likes their limes. So, there’s no better place to grab a slice of key lime pie than in Key West. We sampled a few different key lime pies over our long weekend but Kermit’s Key West Lime Shoppe was by far our favorite. They have locations all over the island, too, so you can grab some pie no matter where you find yourself.
8. Have a Drink at Captain Tony’s Saloon.
If you’ve ever seen pictures circulating the internet of a bar with bras and money tacked all over the ceiling, then you already know what’s coming here. Captain Tony’s Saloon, formerly known as the original Sloppy Joe’s Bar, was first constructed in the 1850s and has drawn in many, many guests throughout the years including Jimmy Buffett, John F. Kennedy, and Ernest Hemingway, who was a regular when he lived on the island. (Though, I don’t think any of them have left their bras behind here.)
9. Spend a Day at Smathers Beach.
It may seem kind of odd that Key West is an island that’s not traditionally a beach destination. However, if you’re looking for that classic lay-on-the-beach-in-the-sun experience, you’ll want to check out Smathers Beach. This is one of the most popular spots for spring breakers, though, so beware.
10. Visit the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory.
Even though Key West is very small and surrounded by water, this island is abundant with beautiful flora and fauna of all kinds. Explore them both at the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, which is home to upwards of 60 different species of butterflies and 20 exotic bird species at a time.