The Florida Keys, located off the southern tip of Florida, are made up of a chain of islands and are well known for their breathtaking natural beauty, mild subtropical climate, and easy-going environment. The islands are linked by the Florida Keys Overseas Highway’s 42 bridges over the Atlantic Ocean, Florida Bay, and the Gulf of Mexico. The keys consist of five regions – Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, Big Pine and the Lower Keys, and Key West – with each region having its own unique experience. Certainly, there is no shortage of reasons to visit the Florida Keys but if you need convincing, keep reading to find out our top 5 reasons to visit the Florida Keys.
The first on the list and a must-see is Dry Tortugas National Park, which features some of the world's best underwater landscapes. Situated 70 miles west of Key West, this park covers 100-square miles and is made up of seven islands, in addition to the stunning Fort Jefferson – the park's central feature and one of the country’s biggest 1800s masonry forts. The park is part of the Everglades and Dry Tortugas Biosphere Reserve and was recognised by UNESCO in 1976 under its Man and the Biosphere Program. Despite Dry Tortugas’ name, only 1% of the park is in fact dry land, making it no surprise that it is accessible only by boat or seaplane. The park is home to approximately 30 different species of coral and a colourful range of sea life, including fish, lobsters, and sea stars. Take your pick from an array of activities to experience the park – snorkelling, scuba diving and kayaking, just to name a few. Dry Tortugas is not to be missed with its one-of-a-kind combination of largely untouched tropical ecosystems and remarkable historic artefacts.
Second on the list is The Turtle Hospital, located in Marathon in the Florida Keys. Opened in 1986, the hospital is built around four main aims – (1) rehabilitate and reintroduce sea turtles to the wild, (2) educate people on sea turtles, (3) research sea turtles, and (4) implement environmental legislation ensuring the beaches and waters are safe for sea turtles. Since opening, the hospital has successfully treated more than 2,000 sea turtles. Take the guided educational programme (offered daily), where you will see a presentation on sea turtles, in addition to a behind-the-scenes look at the hospital facilities and rehabilitation area. After the tour, guests will have the opportunity to feed one of the permanent residents, which are non-releasable sea turtles according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Don’t miss the opportunity to meet Montel (one of the residents), who lost her front left flipper and half of her right flipper due to being entangled in a fishing line and a shark attack. Now Montel has found a home at the Turtle Hospital, where she enjoys spending her time in the main pool with the other turtles. Make sure you make a reservation, as space is limited!
Another top choice from us is a cruise on the SV Argo Navis – the last commercial sailing vessel built in Key West. The 75-foot luxury catamaran offers sunset cruises, brunch sailing, day trips, and special events all year round. Due to the Argo Navis looking like a private luxury yacht, many people don’t expect it to be available to the public, however, the Argo Navis is becoming recognised as the most luxurious sunset cruise in Key West. All trips include cocktails, fine wines, and craft beers, in addition to first-class curated food. Set sail and marvel at the changing tropical colours of the sky and water, as well as the breath taking scenery. With no music being played and no overcrowding, it’s always a tranquil experience aboard the catamaran. Winning the TripAdvisor Travellers Choice Award for 2022, you will not want to miss experiencing the SV Argo Navis.
For those looking for some adventure while in the Keys, you’ll love our next recommendation – Barefoot Billy’s Island Jet Ski Tours. The best way to fully experience the Keys is to get out on the water, and what better way to do that than by jet ski! Barefoot Billy’s Island Jet Ski Tours has been providing its tours since 1993 and is perfect for adrenaline junkies. Your tour will start at the untouched, serene south end of Key West, where you will then begin a thrilling 90 minute, 26-mile ride that completely circles the island, taking you from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico and back to the Atlantic – a route not possible for most watercraft. Take in the spectacular landscape of Key West’s backcountry from a unique perspective and keep your eyes peeled for dolphins or sea turtles playing in the waters. During your tour, you will also stop at historic landmarks, such as the historic Key West Bight, Sunset Key, and the Southernmost Point, where you will learn about the island’s famous history.
Last on the list (but certainly not least) is the Waterfront Playhouse, which is situated in the centre of historic Mallory Square in Old Town Key West. Entertaining audiences for more than 80 years, the Waterfront Playhouse is an important part of Key West's theatrical legacy. The Playhouse was formed in 1939 when the first producing organisation, the Key West Players, joined together to put on theatrical productions wherever they could find space. Now, the theatre draws both locals and tourists and was named "The Best Professional Theatre in Florida" by the Florida Monthly Magazine. Be sure to stop by this not-for-profit theatre to see one of their wide variety of dramas, comedies, musicals, concerts, and world premieres.