Discover the Top 20 Things to Do in Key West

Key West has an ambiance that you cannot fully describe to someone that has never been. It has a Caribbean laid-back feel without ever leaving the United States.

It is a citland; a blend of city and island. It possesses beautiful architecture, serene gardens, delicious food, and a wild bar scene with the added benefit of wavering palm trees, soft sand, and breathtaking sunsets.

Many have been enchanted and inspired by the eclectic vibe of Key West such as Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Robert Frost, and Jimmy Buffet.

Visitors are there to have a good time and are jovial to the core. Residents are known for their “anything goes” attitude and have adopted the One Human Family motto:

“We are all like fingers on a hand… we are all different and unique. We are all of equal value. We are all created to work together. And although we appear to be separate, we are all linked to and apart of each other.”

The combination of acceptance, lack of judgment, and easy pace create a euphoric feeling of wanting to leave your inhibitions at the entrance of the Seven Mile Bridge and let your freak flag fly!

Plan Your Trip to Florida – Key West Lodging

Disclosure: Some of the links on our site are through affiliate partnerships. We may receive a small commission (at no additional cost to you) if you purchase through our links. 

In no particular order, here are 20 fun Key West things to do:

1. Find the Best Fish Tacos in Key West.

So many places offer fish tacos, but here are my favorites.

The owners of Garbo’s Grill caught the Key’s Disease and moved down here to open their own restaurant. Located at the back of Hank’s Hair of the Dog Saloon, the 6 x 8 food cart offers great eats while you listen to talented musicians out on the patio.

The most popular mouthwatering items include the Yum Yum shrimp, Korean BBQ short ribs, and fish of the day tacos and burritos.

 

But the menu also offers a poke bowl, lobster roll, hot dogs, and hamburgers. 

Pro Tip: Open daily from 11 am – Midnight. Try to visit between “normal” eating hours because there is usually a line. We visited at about 2 pm and didn’t have to wait long at all. 

Where: 409 Caroline St

Fish tacos at Garbo's Grill in Key West, Florida.
Garbo’s fish tacos are delicious.

For another delectable experience, head over to Fisherman’s Cafe, a low-key walk-up shack with an Old Key West vibe on the Historic Seaport. 

Local ingredients and fresh seafood with a Caribbean flair make this a hidden gem on the island. 

Where: 205 Elizabeth Street

Fish tacos and fried plantains from the Fisherman's Cafe in Key West.
Don’t forget to order a side of plantains with your fish tacos at Fisherman’s Cafe! Mmmmm…

2. Circle the Island on a Jet Ski 

One of the unique things to do in Key West is to speed around the island on a jet ski. This 28-mile tour is so much fun! 

It takes roughly 90-minutes with a few short breaks to learn about what you’re seeing on land and there’s a break at a sandbar so you can swim in the clear blue water. 

Click here for Jet Ski Tour Pricing.

Pro Tip: If you have younger kids or anyone with weak upper body strength have them tag along with someone else. It takes a little bit of effort if the water is choppy at all. 

One of the unique things to do in Key West is to take a jet ski tour around the island.
Taking a jet ski tour around the island is an exciting adventure!

3. Tour the Ernest Hemingway House.

Situated in Old Town, the Ernest Hemingway House Tour gives an insider a look into his personal life and the indelible mark he left on the literary world. 

The prolific American writer lived at 907 Whitehead Street with his wife from 1931 to 1939. He wrote many of his notable works including short stories and novels. 

While on your visit, you’ll see the famous six-toed cats, a “beautiful” urinal-turned-water-fountain, and the stunning in-ground swimming pool with Hemingway’s last penny which has an entertaining story attached to it. 

The tour tops the list of unique things to do in Key West. 

Open daily from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm. Cash only. 

Where: 907 Whitehead St

One of the Hemingway cats in Key West.
Seeing a six-toed Hemingway cat, known as polydactyl, is one of the unique things to do in Key West Florida.
The Ernest Hemingway House in Key West.
The Ernest Hemingway House is a Spanish colonial near the Key West Lighthouse is a must-do attraction in Key West Florida.

READ NEXT: FLORIDA ROAD TRIP TIPS – 25 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW

4. Soak in a Sunset.

Key West is notorious for having life-changing sunsets and there are a few fantastic places to take in the show. 

The best way is to get out on the water and take a sunset cruise. Music plays and drinks flow as you sit back to relax and thoroughly enjoy the moment.

Mallory Point, a waterfront square lined with shops and restaurants, is another must-experience locale for sunset. It comes alive buzzing with people, entertainers, and vendors during its nightly Sunset Celebration. 

Walking hand in hand along the water, watching the boats glide by as the sun slips away is one of the most romantic things to do in Key West for couples. 

Where: 400 Wall St

A magical sunset with a sailboat out on the water, one of the romantic things to do in Key West for couples.
Sunset at Mallory Square.
 

5. Bar Hop and People Watch on Duval Street.

You must make your way down Duval and embrace the wild Key West nightlife.

A few do-not-miss bars are the Green Parrot Bar, Sloppy Joe’s, and the Garden of Eden.

To make your experience extra special, join a 2.5-hour Duval Pub Crawl where you’ll meet new people and visit some of the most famous drinking establishments in town.  

Key West nighlife includes Sloppy Joe's Bar.
Established in 1917, Sloppy Joe’s Bar is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

With the motto, “I Came, I Drank, I Don’t Remember!” it’s almost guaranteed you will have a good time at Irish Kevin’s Bar.

Try to time your visit when Irish Kevin himself is up on stage. The singer, songwriter, and entertainer put on quite the show. My cheeks hurt from laughing so hard. 

Don’t forget to look up at the Jameson chandelier.

PRO TIP: The bit can get a little raunchy so if you or anyone in your party is sensitive, you may want to visit for another live performer. 

Key West Things to Do
The Jameson chandelier at Irish Kevin’s.

RELATED: BEST ALL-INCLUSIVE RESORTS INCLUDING FLORIDA KEYS ISLAND

6. Listen to one of the many talented live bands at Hog’s Breath Saloon.

Not only is Hog’s Breath THE watering hole for live music, but they are also well-known for their killer drinks and seafood raw bar. 

Where: 400 Front St

Key West Things to Do
Hog’s Breath is the place for live music any day of the week. 

Get Your Guide is a great company that offers discounted tours and attraction tickets. One of the fun Key West activities is the Dolphin and Snorkel Tour which is a three hour water tour looking for marine life and sea coral. If you book through our site, at no additional cost to you, you’ll help us support the blog since we receive a small commission.

Other tours they offer:

7. Take advantage of Happy Hour.

Most bars and restaurants offer happy hour deals on food and drinks at all hours of the day, but mostly between 4 PM and 6 PM.

Check out my local Key West Happy Hour Guide for all the bars and restaurants, but see below for my favorites. 

  • For Seafood Eaters – Half Shell Raw Bar
  • For All Day Happy Hour – Mary Ellen’s Bar & Restaurant and Bobby’s Monkey Bar
  • For Bar Food Appetizers – The Commodore’s Boathouse Bar and Grill
  • For Domestic Beer Drinkers – Schooner Wharf Bar
  • For Live Music – Hog’s Breath
  • For Craft Beer Drinkers – Waterfront Brewery
  • For Wine Drinkers – Lucy’s Retired Surfer’s Bar & Restaurant

8. Eat Breakfast at Pepe’s Cafe, the oldest joint in Key West.

Pepe’s Café has been curing hangovers since 1909 with everything from make-your-own-omelets to greasy hamburgers to peel and eat shrimp.

They are open 7 days a week for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and have a happy hour as well from 4 pm – 6 pm every day. 

Where: 806 Caroline St

Pepe's Cafe sign, one of the oldest restaurants in Key West.
Pepe’s Cafe, was established in 1909.

If you’re driving to Key West, make sure to stop in Marathon, here are the Best Places to Eat in Marathon, Florida.

9. Take a picture at the Southernmost Point.

The Southernmost Point Buoy marks the spot for the southernmost point in the continental United States. You can’t visit Key West without getting at least one photo with the popular landmark. 

Arrive early, late, or on a day when the cruise ships are not in town. 

We couldn’t believe the line to take a picture with a buoy! We didn’t wait, we just sort of snuck in between and with other people.

Where: Whitehead St & South Street

The Southernmost Point buoy in Key West Florida.
The Southernmost Point Buoy is at the corner of Whitehead and South Street in Key West Florida.

10. Walk around the Secret Garden of Martello Tower.

Martello Tower, also known as the Key West Garden Club, is probably one of the most non-touristy things to do in Key West. Which is why it should be on your list, plus it’s free and it’s gorgeous! 

The Tower was built in 1862 and is now on the National Register of Historic Places as one of the three remaining Civil War structures on the island. 

Where: 1100 Atlantic Blvd

The Martello Tower Gardens is one of the non-touristy things to do in Key West Florida.
The Martello Tower Gardens has a butterfly garden, cactus garden, waterfall, orchid area, and a garden by the sea.
Martello Tower Gardens in Florida.
Martello Tower Gardens is one of the free things to do in Key West.

11. Hang out on one of the Key West beaches. 

There are a few options for Key West beaches with the best being Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park Beach. 

Within the park, you’ll also enjoy a Civil War fort, cool cannons, nature trails, a beautiful sandy beach, clear water great for snorkeling, and a shaded picnic area. 

The state park charges admission of $6 per vehicle (up to 8 people), $4.50 for single-occupant vehicles or motorcycles, and $2.50 for pedestrians, and bicyclists.

Smathers Beach, a great free option, offers a long stretch of sand to enjoy a walk on the beach, swimming, volleyball, or a picnic.

Where: 2601 S Roosevelt Blvd 

Related: Key West Things to Do with Kids

Smather's Beach is one of the best Key West beaches.
Smather’s Beach is the largest public beach in Key West, Florida.

12. Have a drink, dance, and listen to live music at Sunset Pier.

Located dockside at the Ocean Key Resort and Spa, the drinks at Sunset Pier are a bit pricey, but worth it for the entertaining atmosphere.

Where: 0 Duval St

Sunset Pier, one of the best places to watch the sunset in Key West.
Sunset Pier is another great spot to grab drinks for sunset.

13. Check out the Houseboats off of S. Roosevelt Boulevard

Reminiscent of the old houseboat row, this floating community is like a full-blown neighborhood on the water!

Picket fences, enclosed patios, and colonial-style windows adorn the bobbing cottages. Take a stroll to check them out.

Colorful houseboats on water in Florida.
It’s a collection of colorful houseboats with a whole lot of character.

14. Hit the Shops and Pick up a few Authentic Souvenirs.

If you like key lime, Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe is the place to be! Even if you think you don’t like key lime, you have to try some of these goods and it will convince you otherwise.

This shop has a little bit of everything and almost all of it is key lime flavored – pie, pie bars, juice, taffy, cookies, candy, salsa, jams, jellies, jelly beans, seasonings, snacks, and bath products.

And they offer free samples before you make your purchase.

Where: 200 Elizabeth Street

Kermit's Key Lime Pie Shoppe
One of the unique things to do in Key West is to try key lime-flavored products at Kermit’s Key Lime Pie Shoppe.

A quintessential souvenir you can only find in Key West are Kino Sandals – handcrafted, assembled, and glued in their factory since 1966.

Our friends who lived on the island twenty years ago told us about Kinos and said they are the most durable sandals they have ever worn. 

Sandals at Kinos Sandal Factory.
Durable Kino Sandals are a very popular souvenir from the Keys.

Right next door to Kino Sandals is the Rodriguez Cigar Factory, the oldest cigar company in the Florida Keys. Swing by to pick up an authentic and smooth hand-rolled Cuban cigar. 

My husband and our friend tried out the cigars a few years ago on a visit and now both order online from home because they enjoyed them so much. And they are reasonably priced for the quality. 

Book a tour of the small factory to learn about the cigar industry in Key West dating back to 1831, where the Rodriguez family fits in, their method of making cigars with blended leaves, their aging process, and then hand-roll your own cigar. Believe me, it’s not as easy as it sounds!

Where: 113 Fitzpatrick Street

Rodriguez Cigars and cuban espresso.
Enjoying a Cuban espresso at the Rodriguez Cigar Factory.

15. Try a few craft beers at Waterfront Brewery.

Opened in 2015, it was about time craft beer made it to Key West.

Waterfront Brewery offers a wide variety from honey blonde to a dark stout with a few IPAs and APAs in between. With a happy hour from 4:00 – 6:30 pm every day and a full menu, it’s definitely worth a visit. 

Where: 201 William St

Waterfront Brewery Key West nightlife.
The Waterfront Brewery has a great beer selection with happy hour specials on the historic seaport.

16. Stroll along the Harbor Walk. 

You’ll find fishing boats, fun bars, seafood restaurants, and waterfront shops at the Key West Historic Seaport

Harbor Walk Historic Seaport in Key West
Look out for big grouper and manatee when strolling along the Key West Harbor Walk.

17. Visit Lagerheads Beach Bar and don’t forget to wear your bathing suit!

Carved out between two buildings, you’ll find a small open area with soft sand, beach chairs, and a pretty cool beach bar.

There are not many seaside areas to access the water right downtown so Lagerheads is a little gem. 

Where: 0 Simonton St

Lagerheads bar in Key West
Lagerheads Beach Bar & Watersports

18. Browse the shops in Mallory Square.

You’ll find shells, trinkets, jewelry, lotions, and local souvenirs at Mallory Square. 

Key West Things to Do
Mallory Square

19. Take a picture at mile marker 0 to prove you made it to the end of the road where life slows down.

US 1 stretches 2,369 miles from upper Maine all the way down to Key West.

Where: 501 Whitehead St

Key West Things to Do
Mile Marker 0

20.  Visit the Key West City Cemetery

Established in 1847, the historic cemetery is a quirky stop and one of the free things to do in Key West. 

Pick up a self-guided tour map at the front entrance and look for the gravestones that read, “I told you I was sick,” and “At least I know where he’s sleeping tonight.”

You’ll see some of the biggest iguanas on the island while walking around. Stay quiet and move slowly if you want to get a good look at them. 

Some of the noteworthy sites to see are the U.S.S. Maine Monument to the American sailors the blew up in Havana Harbor that resulted in the U.S. declaring war on Spain and “Sloppy” Joe Russell’s gravesite.

Where: 701 Pauline St, Key West, FL 33040

One of the unique things to do in Key West is definitely walking through the historic cemetery and looking at the old gravestones and large iguanas.
One of the unique things to do in Key West is definitely walking through the historic city cemetery and looking at the old gravestones and large iguanas roaming around.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is 3 days enough in Key West? My point of view for any travel destination is the longer the better, but three days is enough to experience the best of Key West.  
  • Is it worth going all the way to Key West? It is definitely worth the drive. Key West is one of my favorite cities in the United States so if you haven’t been, I highly recommend it. Here are a few other fun things to do in Florida Keys if you are driving down. 
  • What is the cheapest time to go to Key West? The cheapest time to go to Key West is over the summer into November. You will save mega bucks on lodging, but be prepared for extreme heat. 
  • What is the closest major city to Key West? Miami is only 130 miles north of Key West, making it the closest major city to Key West.
  • What should I not miss in Key West? If you only have a day or two, I highly recommend taking a sunset cruise, walking the Historic Seaport boardwalk, touring the Hemingway House, visiting the Mile Marker 0 Sign, and taking a photo with the Southernmost Point Buoy. 

Looking for more tips on travel to Florida?

Check out these posts:

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, if you book through our link we will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks for your support as this helps with the cost of running the website!

Have you ever been to Key West? What’s your favorite thing to do? Tell us in the comments!

Like it? Pin it!

Key West Florida is a place like no other! Do not miss these 20 top things to do on your visit.

A guide to all the fun things to do in Key West, Florida. You cannot miss these 20 things if it's your first visit.

 

38 Responses

  1. gabi

    Great post with lots of insights. Liked it so much… and that chandelier is really a must-see!! Loved it.

  2. Kaylene Chadwell

    Key West sounds like a lot of fun! I went as a really young kid but don’t remember it much. The food and drinks look great too! And sunsets in Florida are always stunning!

    • Dang Travelers

      We had a blast exploring the island. The Hemingway House was interesting, the bars were insane and the people were all friendly!

  3. Nancy

    It’s been such a long time since we have been to Key West! Looks like there have been a few changes since we have been there. The two things I would love to do next time we get there are Martello Tower Gardens, looks fabulous and have breakfast at Pepe’s Cafe. If its been around this long must be good! Fish taco’s looked good too!

  4. Holly

    I’ve always wanted to go to Key West! And I love all of the pictures you included in this post. So colorful! Those tacos looked to die for. Great recommendations!

  5. ash

    Haven’t quite made it that far south yet, but some of these things are enticing me!

  6. Castaway with Crystal

    Looks like a cool destination. OMG those tacos though. I’ve never seen such delicious-looking morsels! mmmmm

    Crystal recently posted…

  7. Rebecca

    I haven’t been to Key West, but I’d sure like to visit a place that is slower. The tacos looks delicious and I would love to check out the Key Lime Pie Shoppe. The scenery looks lovely.

  8. travelling chingrita

    the weather and vibe is enough for me to head down, love food trucks and the seafood must be crazy awesome 🙂 nothing like sassy sayings in the cemetary

  9. Theresa

    Thanks for sharing your insights. Didn’t know some of the sites you presented. Taking a mental note for the next time I visit. My fave part of Key West though is the Key Lime pie at Blue Heaven.

  10. Alex Datsev

    Great suggestions, thank you! Haven’t been to Key West in year, so it is time to revisit…

  11. Debra Klein

    Love Key West. Kermits keylime the best. Pepes is a great place for breakfast. Green Parrot one of my favs. What’s not to love 🌴❤️

  12. Mike geer

    Mel Fishers maritime museum is also a cool stop. Lots of shipwreck gold and treasure. Tons of cool stuff to do

  13. Jim

    I know Key West is all about the seafood but there’s a fabulous Italian restaurant on the island as well. May I suggest…………
    abbondanzakeywest.

  14. Viki Holloway

    I have been to Key West a few times and I love it every time. (I am from Ohio). I plan on moving there when I retire.

  15. Mark Drais

    To start you need to understand what “Key’s Disease” really is before you use it in a positive way (Sorry). Second, you did mention a few things that does not involve drinking an alcoholic beverage. I live here and have done so for more then five years. Wife and I vacationed here for well over 18 + years before moving. Key West and, the Florida Keys have so much more to offer other then drinking and getting drunk. Why not talk about Fort Zack and the Civil War History? You did mention West Martello did you forget about East Martello and Robert The Doll? Look Sloppy Joes, Hog’s Breath, Irish Kevin’s and whatever other bar you mentioned plays a big part in this island for most. Yet its also has a long rich history, a wonderful art and music community that I wish writers would promote over the bar thing! Just sayin

    • Dang Travelers

      Living in the keys for 18+ years sounds great Mark. You’ve had much more time to explore than we did. We would love to come back and experience some of the things you’ve mentioned. We put together this list of fun things for the first-timer based on our visits.

  16. Carrie Murray

    Have you ever been to Nancy Forrester’s Secret Garden that is a parrot sanctuary? It is small, but a really neat place to spot by when in Key West. You can even pet some of the parrots and the entrance fee of ten dollars goes directly towards the garden’s upkeep.

  17. Chelsea

    Favorite is Irish Kevin’s. You guys have to try Hog Fish, in Stock Island. They have fabulous lobster bisque. Red Gardner Saloon is always good on the eye. Love the local spot, Hurricane Hole. And if you love great Cuban meal, check out El Siboney. Best Cuban sandwich is right by the laundromat Sandy’s (opened 24 hours.)

  18. Ciaran Smith

    Love the ideas! I have been to the Keys 6 times…my mom lives there all winter!! I love going to Aqua on Duval St. – super fun and really entertaining! Sunset cruise with Fury is really fun too! Great music and bottomless margaritas! Sloppy Joes Pizza is a must!!

    • Dang Travelers

      Oh Cairan, I think we need to become friends with your mom! 😉 how awesome. We will definitely hit these next time we are there. Key West is always a good idea!

  19. Richard Read

    Almost certainly one of the, if not the, best USA cities. Loved the tropical gardens, the butterfly conservatory, the President’s house but definitely the ambience. Certainly worth the long drive from the Miami area and would love to go there again sometime although, sadly, I doubt if that will happen. Great review btw.

  20. CLAIRE WOOD

    The best thing we did in Key West was a visit to the Dry Tortugas National Park. We did not know about it until we got there and kept seeing booths to buy tickets.

    We went out on a big turbo catamaran and had 4 hours on the island before returning on the cat. Breakfast, lunch and snack were provided on the trip. We toured the historic fort and snorkled at the base; there is a beautiful reef which has grown up on the concrete base of the fort . It was great fun and I highly recommend it

    Hemingway house was so much fun. We are true cat people so were delighted by the cats.

    We didn’t stay in Key West, and spent most of our week snorkeling in various locations but we thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent in KW

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.