Published: Mar 24 2020
Sitting at the southernmost point of Florida and the whole United States, the Florida Keys are a unique place to visit when seeking out a tropical escape without leaving the US. The keys are a long stretch of tiny islands jutting off the south coast of the peninsula, accessible by the famous Overseas Highway. They are a wonderful stop to make on a trip around Florida, or as a destination of their own, with many little hidden gems to be found on the expanse of picturesque islands.
The closest major airport to the Florida Keys on the mainland is the Miami Airport. There are smaller airports on Key West and Marathon, but these are often more expensive to fly into. Driving to the Florida Keys as a part of a road trip is a great way to see Florida.
If you’re flying to Florida, renting a car to access the keys is imperative. There’s no public transport system on the keys and even taxis are sparse. Renting a car you’ll be able to drive from the tip of Florida through the keys, on the Overseas Highway that stretches for 113 miles.
Key Largo is the first of the Florida Keys that you’ll arrive at after leaving the mainland. It’s the key known for scuba diving. Here, divers can explore the world’s largest artificial reef, the huge shipwreck the SS Spiegel Grove, the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, and the African Queen shipwreck. It’s the perfect Florida destination for divers and snorkelers, who will enjoy seeing these vibrant underwater worlds on a boat dive.
Other water activities to enjoy in Key Largo are boat rentals and charters, paddle boarding, and kayaking. A yacht rental in Key Largo starts around $100/hour but you can find daily boat rentals for as affordable as $500/day. Key Largo is an excellent destination for renting a boat and cruising for hours, exploring beautiful beaches and seeing the coastline of the keys.
Recognized as the “Sportfishing Capital of the World” it’s a must for all visitors to Islamorada to drop a line in the water at least once. Islamorada sits south of Key Largo and north of Duck Key.
Fishermen can expect to catch Grouper, Mahi, Yellowfin, Snapper, Amberjack, Wahoo, Marlin, Sailfish, and more. Fishing charters in Islamorada start at $175/hour for a full-service boat charter with all bait and gear included. There are many types of boats to choose from to rent for a fishing excursion, such as bass boats, trawlers, and sportfishing yachts.
Other things to enjoy in Islamorada include kayaking (fishing gear optional) scuba diving and snorkeling, and stand-up paddleboarding. It’s a diving hot spot, as there is the sunken shipwreck “The Eagle” and an abundance of corals and sea life to enjoy on a dive.
Marathon is a city in the Florida Keys that is comprised of 13 islands. It offers incredible boating activities and lots of interactive experiences with marine life and wildlife. It’s a great destination for families traveling with kids to the Florida Keys. Check out the turtle hospital to see the rehabilitation of injured sea turtles and learn more about their conservation, or feed the stingrays at Aquarium Encounters.
Rent a boat in Marathon, Florida, and cruise by the islands and beaches. Stop at hot spots like Sombrero Beach or Coco Plum Beach. Much like nearby Islamorada, Marathon is a great spot to rent a fishing boat or book a sportfishing charter.
For travelers looking for low-key relaxation, Big Pine Key is the place to stop. It’s quiet, with far fewer visitors than Key West, Key Largo, or Marathon. There’s still plenty to do while staying in Big Pine Key. You can rent a fishing boat for a relaxing day on the water, making great catches with a few cold drinks.
Rent a kayak and explore the shallow waters of the mangroves around Big Pine Key. It’s an eco-friendly way to travel and get some exercise on your adventures around the keys. There are gorgeous, white sandy beaches to check out on Big Pine Key at Bahia Honda State Park, and another unique thing not to miss while you’re here is National Key Deer Refuge. It’s a sanctuary for the wild deer native to the keys - Key Deer, which are very small and cute!
And last but not least, we have Key West. The most famous and visited of the keys, Key West is known for being the southernmost point of the United States, and as being a beloved place of Ernest Hemingway, the birthplace of Margaritaville, and for the charming architecture of Duval Street and Mallory Square.
When in Key West, it’s mandatory to spend time on a boat. Whether it’s a private sailing charter, fishing trip, motorboat rental, or even a boat tour out to Dry Tortugas National Park, you’ll have the best experience on the water when in Key West. Sailing tours start around $150/person, and you can enjoy a sunset cruise and a meal on board to guarantee an unforgettable time. Stop at places like Stock Island or enjoy a waterfront restaurant in Key West with your boat rental. There’s plenty to do in Key West - you can spend your entire vacation just here or make it a stop as part of a bigger trip around the keys.
No matter where you decide to spend your time on a vacation in the Florida Keys, you’re certain to have a fantastic experience. It’s a great destination to visit with friends or family, and there’s favorable weather year-round. Don’t hesitate to book a trip to the Florida Keys - it will be the vacation of a lifetime!