There’s no doubt about it, the Florida Keys is one of the best snorkeling and diving destinations in the world. But that’s not for everyone! Personally, snorkel masks don’t fit too well with my child-sized face, so snorkeling has never worked out for me. I’m also not a certified SCUBA diver (due to the aforementioned mask problem).
Though I would have liked to swim with the Christ of the Deep statue at John Pennekamp State Park, that wasn’t going to happen. So, I tried to find some fun things to do on our trip to the Key this year that didn’t involve going under water. If you’re like me and need some ideas for what to do on land or on top of the water, this is for you!
Take a Canal Cruise on the African Queen
This was so fun for a classic movie lover like myself! If you’ve ever see the Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn movie of the same name, you’ll recognize the actual boat from the movie, The African Queen. But its history goes back much further than that. It was a working boat in Africa during World War I, and nearly 100 years later, it found its way to Key Largo where it’s still operating as a tour boat today!
Get the full story: How to Take a Cruise on the African Queen in Key Largo
Hike Around Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park
This was a fun stop for our road trip from Key Largo to Islamorada. We enjoyed getting out of the car to stretch our legs a little, but the coolest part was definitely the fossilized coral. It was used to help build the railroad, and much of the stone quarried here is used decoratively throughout the Keys. It was well worth our time to walk the short trails and learn a little about Florida Keys history, too.
Visit the History of Diving Museum
I’m not a diver, and this post is all about things to do that are not under water, so this fits perfectly! For anyone who’s curious about diving but doesn’t want to actually do it, this is a great museum. The ways diving has changed over the last 2000+ years is pretty impressive, and it’s amazing what divers can actually do, from rescuing people to harvesting pearls to finding shipwrecked treasure!
Explore Curry Hammock State Park
There are so many Florida State Parks in the Keys. We had no idea! We hiked on the Curry Hammock State Park Nature Trail, about a mile away from the entrance to the main park, and it was lovely. A “hammock” as it’s referred to here is a canopy of trees that creates a habitat below for native plants and animals. The trail is about 1.5 miles round-trip, and you might just see some wildlife along the way!
Check Out the EAA Air Museum
All travel enthusiasts need to put this on their list! This great little museum is located at the Marathon Airport, and they have four planes on display, most of which were “home built.” That means the owner made it themselves! You’ll be impressed. The museum is FREE, but all donations go toward scholarships for people who want to learn how to fly.
More here: Your Guide to Visiting the EAA Air Museum
Visit the Turtle Hospital
Unfortunately for us, we had terrible timing with this, so it’s still on our list for our next trip! This turtle hospital is just that: a hospital for sick or injured sea turtles. They are nursed back to health here and undergo rehab so they can be released back into the wild, but there are a few life-long residents who cannot be put back into the ocean. You’ll get to meet them and learn about the hospital and its mission!
Drive Across the Seven Mile Bridge
Talk about an “over water” activity! The bridge connecting Marathon to Little Duck Key is the longest bridge on the overseas highway, and at the time it was built, it was an engineering marvel. Driving across is something that needs to be on your “to do” list in the Florida Keys.
Also helpful: Tips for Driving in the Florida Keys
Get a “Fishy-cure” at Crane Point Museum and Nature Trail
That’s right! You can get a fish pedicure at the Crane Point Nature Trail. Just stick your feet in, and the fishes will come take a nibble. It doesn’t hurt, but it does tickle. People pay a lot of money at a spa for a fish pedicure, but this one is included with your admission to the museum and trail.
Keep reading: How to Practice Self Care on Travel
Visit President Truman’s Little White House
This was one of the things I was most excited about on our first trip to Key West! Having lived in the D.C. area for 13 years, I’ve taken a few presidents’ home tours, but this one I didn’t even know about until I started researching Key West! You can’t take photos inside for security reasons (it’s still available to current presidents at a moment’s notice), but it’s deifnitely worth taking the tour for yourself.
Essential info: How to Visit Tuman’s Little White House
Take a Tour of Ernest Hemingway’s House
This was a fantastic thing to do in Key West, and I don’t even particularly like Hemingway’s writing! It’s a beautiful home, with gorgeous furnishings, but the real attraction is the clowder of six-toed (polydactyl) cats! They still have run of the place, from the pool to the rooms, from the grounds to the balcony. It was fascinating to learn about his life, his wives, and his cats, so I recommend this tour for your trip.
See Actual Treasure at the Mel Fisher Museum
You heard that right–actual treasure! Mel Fisher is a diver and “wrecker,” which is someone who scopes out shipwrecks for treasure. He went in search of the Atocha, which was a Spanish ship that sank off the coast of Key West in the 16th century, along with bazillions of dollars’ worth of treasure. He found it when everyone else said he couldn’t, and part of the treasure is on display at his museum in Key West!
Key West Butterfly Conservatory
This was truly a delight, and I can’t wait to go back! This butterfly conservatory also features gorgeous flowers, plus beautiful birds in colors you just won’t believe unless you see them… including two flamingoes! This would be a fantastic rainy or too-hot day activity, since it’s all indoors. They also have a wonderful gift shop!
Get all the details, and tips for photographing the butterflies:
Your Guide to the Key West Butterfly Conservatory
This is a fun way to be on the water, but not under. You’ll certainly still get wet, but that’s part of the fun! Kayaking gets you close enough to the underwater action to be able to see it, so you’re sure to see some fish, rays, or even a manatee! You can rent a single or tandem (two-person) kayak at many resorts and marinas, so just ask!
The kayaks above were included at our stay at Casa Morada in Islamorada!
Try Stand-up Paddleboarding
Stand-up Paddleboarding (or SUP) is another cool way to be on the water. It’s a little more challenging than kayaking, but it’s a fun thing to try! We were able to use complimentary SUPs at our resort in Islamorada, and we had a pretty fun encounter!
More here: The Best Coffee in the Florida Keys
Bike, Run, or Walk Along the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail
This historic trail parallels the Overseas Highway, or U.S. Route 1, from Key Largo all the way to Key West. It’s a little noisy due to its closeness to the road, but it goes past every attraction, so you won’t miss a thing! Don’t forget to stop off and see the train at the old Florida East Coast Railway Headquarters.
Eat All the Key Lime Pie
If you go to the Keys and don’t eat Key Lime pie, did you really go? I think not! Whether you like yours with whipped cream, topped with a mountain of meringue, dipped in chocolate, frozen, whipped, in a crepe, or inspired by pancakes, there is a Key Lime Pie for you!
Keep eating: The Best Key Lime Pie in the Florida Keys
Want more? You’ll find everything you need in the Florida section of my United States Page!
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