Home to Naval Air Station (NAS) Key West, this coastal Florida town is a popular destination for military families. Everyone knows the Keys are famous for warm waters, sandy beaches, and romantic getaway spots, but there are also many fun family attractions — and even free things to do in Key West if you’re trying to stick to a budget.
Here are 10 things to do near Key West that you and your family are sure to enjoy!
1. Snorkeling at Fort Jefferson
The water in Key West may be unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. Some say that Dry Tortuga National Park has the best snorkeling and diving in all of North America. Shallow, warm waters help make a day of snorkeling and diving fun for everyone, whether you’re a beginner or an expert. Be careful of all the corals and expect to see a lot of fish!
2. Visit Dry Tortuga Beach
Your stay in the Florida Keys won’t be complete until your military family visits the beaches of Dry Tortuga.
Located 70 miles west of Key West, this is the perfect spot for sun bathing, swimming, and beach walking. If you’re looking for the best beach to spend an afternoon, Dry Tortuga Beach is perfect for you and the family.
3. The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum
The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum is one of Key West’s most popular attractions. Built in 1851 out of rocks native to the area, this home is where Ernest Hemingway and his wife, Pauline, moved to in 1931. When you tour the home/museum, you’ll see features and antiques that Hemingway himself owned, including many items he collected on his travels.
4. Audubon House & Tropical Gardens
Other interesting homes you can visit in Key West include the Audubon House & Tropical Gardens. This house was built in 1840 for a man named Captain John Huling Geiger.
While Geiger made a fortune in the shipwreck industry, the home ended up in disrepair after his death until the Mitchell Wolfson Family Foundation restored it. Now, it serves as a delightful museum, garden, and art gallery of sorts. You don’t want to miss it.
5. Fort Jefferson Tour
You’ll need to take a ferry to get to the fort, but passengers have the option of joining a guided tour of Fort Jefferson when visiting Dry Tortuga National Park. This tour will shed light on the history of the fort (back in the day, this remote city on the sea was home to about 2,000 people), as well as share stories about it’s remarkable surroundings. There is also the option to download a self-guided tour to help you explore on your own.
6. Mallory Square
If you’re looking for an amazing sunset view, look no further than Mallory Square. This waterfront plaza (west of Duval Street) is one of the best spots for having a “Sunset Celebration.”
It’s also a great place to start an exploration of Key West since you can discover food vendors, arts and crafts exhibits, and even street performers or local musicians at Mallory Square.
7. Take a Private Charter
Renting a private charter for a tour of the waters is one of the most fun things to do near Key West. Guided by local experts, these boat rides are a great way to learn about the area and get familiar with your new home. If you’re interested in being more independent, you can even find places to rent your own boat for some leisurely ocean time with your family.
8. Do a Tropical Bike Tour
If you’re looking for an activity that gets you moving, a tropical bike tour is ideal. You can grab your own bike (or rent one) for a self-guided tour of Key West and its beautiful beaches and attractions, or you can head to Lloyd’s Tropical Bike Tours for a guided bike tour of all the best local sites.
9. The Vandenberg
What was once a United States Navy ship is now an amazing artificial coral reef, purposefully sunk under the sea. The Vandenberg used to be a missile-tracking ship but it’s now located about 150 feet underwater, making for an amazing scuba diving spot with lots of interesting history, coral, and fish to see.
10. Sebago Day Tours
What’s more fun than feeling the wind in your sails while riding along in one of Sebago’s amazing sailing boats?
This adventure takes you out across warm tropical waters in style, offering everything from early morning snorkeling tours to evening sunset trips. They also offer parasailing, kayaking, paddle boarding, and jet skiing if you’re interested in more of an adrenaline rush.
These are just a few of the many things to do near Key West, but they barely scratch the surface of everything that’s possible. What are you most looking forward to about living near Key West?
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