The Florida Keys & Key West are known worldwide for their unmatched natural beauty, laid-back atmosphere and year-round warmth. But they also offer environmental, cultural and adventure activities that can’t be enjoyed anywhere EXCEPT in the island chain.
Feeding wild tarpon at Robbie’s in Islamorada is a Keys tradition enjoyed by kids and adults from around the world. (Photo courtesy of Robbie’s)
Make lasting vacation memories by experiencing the “only in the Keys” activities here.
ONE: Cruise on the original African Queen. Take an unforgettable 90-minute Key Largo canal cruise on the African Queen, the actual vessel from the 1951 film starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. Step aboard the venerable boat, restored to look much like it did in the film, and imagine yourself on the silver screen.
TWO: Relax at a one-of-a kind hotel — underwater. Book a stay at Jules’ Undersea Lodge, the world’s first and only underwater hotel, permanently anchored beneath the surface in a Key Largo lagoon. The two-bedroom air-conditioned facility offers comfortable accommodations and breathtaking views (as you might imagine!).
THREE: Feed the “resident” tarpon at Robbie’s Marina. Discover a colorful mix of outdoor shops, food vendors and watersports options at Robbie’s Marina in Islamorada. Buy a bucket of bait fish to feed the resident tarpon, getting up close and personal with the huge “silver kings” as they leap to grab their treats. The quirky activity is sure to make you smile.
FOUR: Get hooked in the Sport Fishing Capital of the World. Book a skilled charter captain or guide in Islamorada, called the Sport Fishing Capital of the World, for exhilarating offshore or backcountry angling. The Keys claim more saltwater fishing world records than any other location anywhere — and you can target everything from bonefish to powerful blue marlin.
Marathon is famed for its Turtle Hospital. Here, the hospital’s Bette Zirkelbach and Richie Moretti prepare to release a sea turtle after its treatment and rehabilitation. (Photo by Bob Care, Florida Keys News Bureau)
FIVE: Meet “patients” at a pioneering sea turtle hospital. Encounter rescued sea turtles during a behind-the-scenes tour of the planet’s first state-licensed veterinary hospital for these fascinating creatures. Marathon’s Turtle Hospital treats, rehabilitates and nurtures sick and injured turtles and, whenever possible, releases them back into the ocean. Turtle releases are open to the public and usually held on Keys beaches, so take part in one if you can.
SIX: Drive across the Seven Mile Bridge. It’s a “bucket list” experience to drive over the landmark Seven Mile Bridge, one of the longest segmental bridges in the world and the centerpiece of the iconic Florida Keys Overseas Highway. The majestic span, stretching above the blue Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, connects Marathon to the Lower Keys.
SEVEN: Discover tiny Key deer. On Big Pine Key, you can glimpse a real-life “Bambi” that’s about the size of a large dog. Miniature Key deer, an endangered species that live only in the Lower Keys, can be seen grazing especially in the early morning and at dusk.
EIGHT: Help scientists with hands-on coral reef restoration. Make a difference while on vacation by participating in the “Reef Revival” program at Mote Marine Laboratory’s Summerland Key facility. If you’re a diver, you can volunteer help the experts at Mote’s underwater coral nursery (near Looe Key) nurture corals destined for outplanting on the continental United States’ only living coral barrier reef.
NINE: Ride in Truman’s presidential limo. At Key West’s Harry S. Truman Little White House — Florida’s only presidential museum — take the VIP White Glove Tour that includes a ride in one of Truman’s official limousines. It’s a truly awesome experience to sit in the car that carried America’s 33rd president. (Truman, by the way, spent nearly six months in Key West during his 1945-1953 tenure, running the United States from the island city.)
History buffs can ride in a presidential limousine once used by Harry S. Truman, who spent nearly six months of his presidency in Key West. (Photo by Steve Panariello, Florida Keys News Bureau)
TEN: Take a “southernmost selfie.” Key West’s red, black and yellow Southernmost Point marker isn’t terribly picturesque, but hundreds of visitors take their photos beside it every day. Why? Because the ungainly buoy replica marks the southernmost spot in the continental United States. Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean on Whitehead Street, its brightly-painted body bears lettering that proclaims it’s just 90 miles from Cuba. What better place for a photo op?
Of course, the Florida Keys also are home to many other one-of-a-kind adventures.
Experience them personally, and you’ll realize why so many visitors agree that the most memorable vacations await “only in the Keys.”