People often ask me, “Are there any activities we can enjoy together with our children in the Keys?”

Feeding tarpon at Robbie's Islamorada

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)

Yes! For families with kids, there are SO many things to do in the Florida Keys that will intrigue the “young ones” and the adults as well. Here are a few of my favorite places to visit (being a kid at heart myself) while traveling in a north-to-south direction.

Florida Keys Wild Bird Center. Located in Tavernier, the facility is both an avian hospital and a sanctuary — a humane, natural and protected refuge with acres of wetlands that shelter injured birds that can’t safely return to the wild. Stroll the sanctuary’s boardwalk, view these beautiful creatures, read each inhabitant’s story, and expand your children’s knowledge about wild birds and their protection.

Robbie’s Marina. This unique Islamorada spot offers lots of watersports options, delicious food and fun activities for the whole family — including the chance to hand-feed hungry tarpon at their docks.

The Turtle Hospital. In Marathon, your family will “meet” rescued sea turtles during behind-the-scenes tours of the planet’s first state-licensed veterinary hospital specializing in the fascinating creatures. The Turtle Hospital team rescues, rehabilitates, and nurtures sick and injured turtles and, whenever possible, releases them back into their ocean home.

Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters

Visitors to Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters can view marine life and conservation exhibits, snorkel in a shallow protected lagoon, explore touch tanks and enjoy immersive experiences with underwater inhabitants.

Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters. Here you can learn about marine conservation and the underwater habitats of the Keys. Located in Marathon, Aquarium Encounters is a great place to enjoy an immersive experience with reef fish, invertebrates, stingrays and even sharks — without entering the ocean. You can also feed reef fish, which isn’t allowed when you’re snorkeling or diving in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Aquarium Encounters features a coral reef exhibit and shark habitat housed in an enormous 200,000-gallon interconnected saltwater aquarium. Plus, you can view exhibits, snorkel in a shallow protected lagoon, explore touch tanks, or feed stingrays and mellow baby nurse sharks. And the kids just might stop looking at their cell phones!

National Key Deer Refuge. Key deer are unique to the Lower Florida Keys, and the refuge on Big Pine Key is an ideal place to encounter the tiny, shy deer. The refuge protects and preserves habitats for wildlife — most notably the deer, which are about the size of a big dog when fully grown.

The refuge encompasses more than 9,000 acres of prime Key deer territory and attracts thousands of visitors each year, drawn by the chance to view the deer and other wildlife while enjoying the pristine lands. While there, be sure to visit the Blue Hole, a freshwater quarry inhabited by a diverse array of wildlife that features two interpretive nature trails.

Key West Butterfly Conservatory

Visitors to the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservancy enjoy the “rainforest” atmosphere while being greeted by the pair of resident flamingos. (Photo by Mike Freas, Florida Keys News Bureau)

The Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory. I absolutely adore the conservatory, where you can walk among living butterflies from over 50 species from around the world, as well as colorful exotic birds. The conservatory is an impressive glass-enclosed structure that’s climate-controlled for the butterflies’ sake. There’s also an amazing array of flowering plants, cascading waterfalls and trees, and — last but definitely not least —  two beautiful pink flamingos, a male and female pair called Rhett and Scarlett.

In the learning center, the family can explore butterfly anatomy, physiology, life cycle, feeding and the migratory world of the Monarch. The whole experience is like stepping into a gorgeous rainforest environment filled with enchantment.

Are you thinking of planning a family vacation in the Keys? We’ve got you covered with a ton of lodging choices that can easily accommodate family groups in spacious units or villas with kitchens and private bedrooms. So when it’s time to spend some revitalizing time together as a family, just remember that the Keys are waiting.

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