Key West is one of the most beautiful island cities in the United States, known throughout the world for its conch-style houses and world-class scuba diving and snorkeling opportunities. The island city, which marks Florida's southernmost point, offers easy access to both Florida and Cuba for day trippers. Visitors can easily explore other islands within the Florida Keys, including Islamorada and Key Biscayne, known for their outdoor recreational opportunities, and Key Largo, immortalized in the 1948 Humphrey Bogart film of the same name. To the north, Miami offers world-class nightlife and stunning Art Deco architecture. To the south, Havana showcases gorgeous historic buildings and a plethora of cultural attractions.
1.Bahia Honda State Park
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Bahia Honda State Park encompasses the 524 acres of the island of the same name, which is located within the lower Florida Keys. The park, which was founded in 1961 on the nearly-uninhabited barrier island, protects significant native flora and fauna populations, including the only known colony of the rare Miami blue butterfly. Visitors can enjoy excellent opportunities for snorkeling off the island's coastline, which is populated by reef fish, barracuda, rays, and nurse sharks. Rare plants are found throughout the park, including Florida silver and coconut palms, yellow satinwood, and the endangered small-flowered lily thorn. Visitors can also explore remains of the Florida East Coast Railway or enjoy opportunities for swimming at the island's 2.5-mile natural white sand beach, which was ranked as the United States' top beach in 1992 by Dr. Beach.
36850 Overseas Highway (MM 37), Big Pine Key, FL 33043, Phone: 305-872-3210
2.Big Pine Key
Big Pine Key is a lovely unincorporated community in Monroe County, located on the island of the same name within the Florida Keys. The island, which is located approximately 30 miles north of Key West, is known as an outdoor recreational paradise, offering opportunities for fishing, boating, scuba diving, and snorkeling throughout the year. Miniature wild deer are protected at the island's National Key Deer Refuge, home to populations of deer that are approximately the size of large dogs. Some of the nation's best seafood restaurants line the island's downtown district, which is also home to the renowned organic food restaurant Good Food Conspiracy. RV and campground units are available at the Big Pine Key Fishing Lodge, which also offers motel-style accommodations.
3.Everglades National Park
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Everglades National Park protects South Florida's most sensitive ecosystems, spanning more than 1.5 million acres throughout gorgeous coastal mangrove, sawgrass marsh, and pine flatwoods regions. The park, which is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its ecological significance, attracts more than one million annual visitors each year for some of the world's best wildlife watching opportunities. Visitors can explore the park as part of guided eco-tours and view endangered animal species in their natural habitats, including the leatherback turtle, West Indian manatee, and Florida panther. Alligators, sharks, and crocodiles also abound, visible from areas such as the Shark Valley Visitor Center's two-story observation deck. The park is home to sections of the Great Florida Birding Trail, which offers excellent birdwatching opportunities. Several portions of the park have been designated as dark sky viewing areas, including its Ten Thousand Islands area.
40001 State Road 9336,Homestead, FL 33034, Phone: 305-242-7700
4.Fort Jefferson and Dry Tortugas National Park
Fort Jefferson and Dry Tortugas National Park protects seven of the Dry Tortugas islands, along with the remains of Fort Jefferson, the Western Hemisphere's largest brick masonry structure. The unfinished fortress is among the United States' largest fortress sites, exceeded in size by only Forts Monroe and Adams. Visitors can travel to the park via seaplane or boat and explore the park's undisturbed tropical ecosystem, which has been protected as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 1976. Stunning protected coral reefs offer excellent opportunities for snorkeling and scuba diving throughout the year. On land, visitors can enjoy opportunities for picknicking, birdwatching, saltwater fishing, and overnight camping.
40001 SR-9336, Homestead, FL 33034, Phone: 305-242-7700
Fort Lauderdale is one of the top yachting tourist destinations in the world, located approximately four hours via car or an hour via plane from Key West. The lovely city is home to a gorgeous coastal beachfront stretch and famed Strip promenade, which showcases luxurious high-rise hotels, upscale boutiques, and renowned culinary destinations. Visitors can enjoy family-friendly attractions such as the Museum of Discovery and Science or peruse the Fort Lauderdale Historical Center, which showcases exhibits on the region's history and culture. The city's Arts and Entertainment District is home to attractions like the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, presenting live theatrical performances throughout the year. Hip Las Olas Boulevard is known for its shopping and dining options, while Hugh Taylor Birch State Park offers canoeing opportunities and nature trails.
Havana is the historic capital city of Cuba, known for its iconic Spanish Colonial architecture within its 16th-century Old Havana core. The city, which was originally founded in the 16th century by Spanish conquerers traveling to the Americas, now serves as the center of the Cuban government and is noted for landmarks such as the Castillo de la Real Fuerza preserved fortress and the iconic 1920s-era National Capital Building. Old Havana, which was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its entirety in 1982, is home to gorgeous Baroque buildings such as the Catedral de San Cristóbal and the architecture surrounding Plaza Vieja. Performing arts and cultural institutions abound, including the National Museum of Fine Arts, which is home to one of the largest artwork collections in Latin America, and the Great Theatre of Havana, which presents the annual International Ballet Festival of Havana. Its uptown Vedado district has become a major nightlife and commercial center, home to delightful shops, restaurants, cafes, and bars.
Islamorada is a delightful village stretching across six separate islands in the Florida Keys, located near the Florida Strait and the iconic Everglades National Park. The village is commonly known as the "Sportfishing Capital of the World," offering ample opportunities for water sports and outdoor recreational adventures throughout the year. Visitors can enjoy opportunities to scuba dive throughout some of the most beautiful coral reef sections in the Keys as part of guided excursions or get up close and personal with native dolphins at the Theater of the Sea. The history of human diving technology is explored at the History of Diving Museum, while the region's indigenous and pioneer history is on display at the Keys History and Discovery Center. Natural areas throughout the islands include the archaeological remains of Indian Key Historic State Park and the densely forested lands of Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park.
Key Biscayne is located across the Rickenbacker Causeway from downtown Miami, best known as the home of world-renowned windsurfing destination Hobie Beach. The island, which is one of the most easily-accessible destinations within the Florida Keys, is home to the only federally-recognized underwater archaeological trail in the United States, which offers once-in-a-lifetime snorkeling and scuba diving experiences along a stunning barrier reef. Visitors can climb to the top of the 19th-century Cape Florida Lighthouse, one of the most-photographed landmarks in Southern Florida, or enjoy excellent opportunities for biking along the island's 1.5-mile biking trail. Beautiful Crandon Park is home to a plethora of family-friendly attractions, along with a public golf course and tennis center. The Rusty Pelican, one of Miami's most renowned restaurants, offers up excellent Sunday brunch specials and tomatillo-infused bloody marys.
Key Largo is known around the globe as the "Diving Capital of the World," located adjacent to the only living coral barrier reef in the United States, which offers world-class scuba diving and snorkeling opportunities. The island rose to international prominence in the mid-2oth century following the release of the 1948 feature film Key Largo, starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Visitors can embark on dinner cruises on the African Queen, which carries on the island's Hollywood legacy today. Guided eco-tourism excursions offer chances for diving, snorkeling, and offshore swimming, while lovely nature trails are offered at Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park. Backcountry charter fishing trips are also popular, offering some of the best angling opportunities in Florida.
, Michigan beaches
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Marathon is a charming city stretching across 13 islands within the Florida Keys, known as a major center for wildlife watching and water sports. The city's beaches are among the most beautiful in the Florida Keys, including Coco Plum Beach and Sombrero Beach, known as important nesting sites for loggerhead turtles. Visitors can explore the gorgeous sandy shorelines of Curry Hammock State Park or peruse tropical forest areas near Crane Point, which is also home to a bird rescue center and natural history museum. The Dolphin Research Center offers opportunities to interact with dolphin populations up close and personal, while Aquarium Encounters lets visitors feed stingrays. Marathon City Marina offers ample opportunities for sailors and anglers to dock after long days on the water. Each year, the city hosts the annual Stone Crab Claw Eating Contest in November.
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Miami is southern Florida's most vibrant metropolis, attracting more international tourists each year than any other American city other than New York City. The lively city is known around the world as a hub for cuisine and nightlife, home to global fusion restaurant concepts and avant-garde nightclub destinations by celebrity chefs and entrepreneurs. Its lavish Miami Beach district is home to gorgeous Art Deco architecture, while its hip Wynwood Art District boasts vegan eateries, trendy art galleries, and pop-up cultural spaces. Cultural attractions include HistoryMiami, the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, and the Perez Art Museum Miami. Each year, the city hosts major events such as the South Beach Wine and Food Festival, the Miami Open, and Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Miami.
12.The Turtle Hospital
The Turtle Hospital is one of Marathon's premiere wildlife rehabilitation facilities, opened to the public in 1986. The hospital strives to rehabilitate injured sea turtles and return them to their natural habitats, releasing more than 1,500 turtles since its founding. Turtles that cannot be returned to the wild are kept as permanent residents and can be visited as part of guided educational tours offered throughout the week. Tours last approximately 90 minutes and are led by experienced tour guides, showcasing the facility's hospital and rehabilitation areas. All tour participants are given the opportunity to get up close and personal with resident turtles and participate in daily feedings.
2396 Overseas Hwy, Marathon, FL 33050, Phone: 305-743-2552
12 Best Weekend Getaways and Day Trips from Key West, Florida
- Bahia Honda State Park, Photo: Simon Dannhauer/stock.adobe.com
- Big Pine Key, Photo: Kristina/stock.adobe.com
- Everglades National Park, Photo: National Parked/stock.adobe.com
- Fort Jefferson and Dry Tortugas National Park, Photo: manuel103/stock.adobe.com
- Fort Lauderdale, Photo: SeanPavonePhoto/stock.adobe.com
- Havana, Photo: Delphotostock/stock.adobe.com
- Islamorada, Photo: Stephen/stock.adobe.com
- Key Biscayne, Photo: david/stock.adobe.com
- Key Largo, Photo: lucky-photo/stock.adobe.com
- Marathon, Photo: Simon Dannhauer/stock.adobe.com
- Miami, Photo: Alexander Demyanenko/stock.adobe.com
- The Turtle Hospital, Photo: Kevin/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Siegfried Schnepf/stock.adobe.com