WELCOME TO THE FLORIDA KEYS AND KEY WEST…COME AS YOU ARE
The Florida Keys are the continental United States’ southern-most island chain; comprising a 125-mile string of 800+ islands boasting a balmy sub-tropical climate, breath-taking natural beauty, and a uniquely laid back atmosphere.
The Overseas Highway runs the length of the Florida Keys and spans 42 bridges - Seven Mile Bridge is the most famous and instantly recognisable. The Florida Keys are divided into five main areas, with Key Largo, Islamorada and Marathon making up the ‘Upper Keys’, and Big Pine Key and Key West the ‘Lower Keys’.
Each region has its own special flavour and attractions, from historical and cultural offerings such as museums and galleries to boutique-type shopping experiences; enticing restaurants specialising in fresh local seafood; and world-class watersports, including fishing, kayaking, diving, and snorkelling.
The Florida Keys are a year-round destination with an average daily temperature of 25.5oC. The winter sun means they’re busiest from December to March; April to June is when the weather is just right and it’s less busy; while August, September, and October are also quieter but it can be hot and humid.
Our Florida Keys Offers
Getting there and around
Experience both the ‘Upper Keys’ of Key Largo, Islamorada, and Marathon and the ‘Lower Keys’ of Big Pine Key and Key West.
Miami to Key West is only circa 165 miles - you could drive it in a single day. But we suggest spending at least a week enjoying the area; perhaps dividing your time between three or four nights in the Upper Keys and three or four nights in the Lower Keys.
Once your unforgettable Florida Keys experience comes to an end, consider dropping off your hire car at Key West International Airport and flying back to the UK via a regional US hub such as Atlanta.
Alternatively, fly (or drive) back to Miami, with its direct services to Heathrow from the likes of British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, and Gatwick services from the likes of Norse Atlantic. Or, if you’re planning to spend more time exploring Florida, the daily Key West Express ferry service (approximately 3.5 hours) serves Fort Myers, on Florida’s Gulf Coast – an easy drive to Tampa, with its international airport served by the likes of Virgin Atlantic.
Discover the many areas of the Florida Keys
Heading south from Miami, Key Largo is the first key you’ll hit. Discover great places to stay such as Bakers Cay, Bayside Inn, Holiday Inn, and the Reefhouse Resort and Marina. Look forward to the underwater marvel of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Camp; Key Largo is great for diving and getting certified, with its many underwater sculptures, shipwrecks, and a barrier reef.
You can also enjoy snorkelling and kayaking excursions. The marina near the Holiday Inn leads to a backwaters cruise on the African Queen boat, as featured in the original film with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Glass bottom boat tours are great for families, as are tours to the nearby Everglades with its crocodile, alligator, and manatee encounters and airboat rides.
As you continue down through the Keys, next up is the fisherman’s paradise of Islamorada. Affectionately known as the Sports Fishing Capital of the World, or the Village of Islands, Islamorada is approximately 20 miles in length yet is barely 150 feet wide in places.
Attractions here include Anne’s Beach, Hurricane Monument, Theater of the Sea, and sports fishing trips. Again, it’s a great base in the Upper Keys, with Cheeca Lodge and Amara Cay Resort and La Siesta Resort & Villas among the popular properties.
As you approach Marathon – the heart of the Florida Keys, and home to the iconic Seven Mile Bridge – you’ll find Duck Key, home to the ever-popular Hawks Cay Resort, whose star attractions include the dolphin encounters it offers in its saltwater lagoon. Other popular places to stay on Marathon include Isla Bella, over on Knights Key.
Robbie’s Marina is a great pit stop as you can feed the tarpon that hang out there, arrange kayak tours among the mangroves, and dine at the restaurant. Marathon also has family-friendly activities such as visiting The Turtle Hospital, Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters, and the Dolphin Research Center.
Big Pine Key
Leaving Marathon across the epic Seven Mile Bridge you’ll enter the penultimate of the five major Keys, Big Pine Key. One of its major attractions is Bahia Honda State Park with its epic beaches and amazing clear water that’s great for snorkelling and diving.
You can also experience the Blue Hole’s freshwater habitat for alligators and wading birds; Sheriff’s Animal Farm’s horses and llamas; and National Key Deer Refuge and Watson Nature Trail’s visitor centre, home to protected pinelands, inviting walking trails and tiny, freely roaming Key deer.
Quirky and supremely easy on the eye, Key West, the southernmost of the Keys, is also the liveliest and busiest and home to the most people and myriad attractions.
Margaritaville and Havana Cabana are among the characterful laidback resorts, while properties such as the historic, freshly renovated Casa Marina cater to luxury travellers. Great, upscale options located just off Key West include Sunset Key Cottages, while neighbouring Stock Island is home to properties such as The Perry and Ocean’s Edge Resort & Marina, not to mention a golf course.
Experience: Duval Street’s bars, restaurants, and nightlife; the pre-sunset gathering spot of Mallory Square; sunset boat cruises; Hemingway House and Museum; the Pride, Hemingway Days, Fantasy Fest, and Key Lime Pie Festivals; and snorkelling and exploring Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas, accessible by boat or seaplane excursion from Key West.
Food and Drink
Indigenous Florida Keys cuisine incorporates diverse and delicious influences with an abundant array of fresh fish and seafood harvested from local waters - including Key West pink shrimps, yellowtail snapper, hog snapper, mutton snapper, grouper, dolphin or mahi-mahi, lionfish, and stone crabs. Other local treats to try: Cuban mix sandwiches, vaca frita, conch fritters, and stone crab claws.
Local breweries and distilleries craft their offerings with the island lifestyle in mind and most eateries include Key Lime Pie on their menus, each with their own twist on the classic dessert. No trip to the Florida Keys is complete without sampling a few hand-crafted cocktails infused with subtropical flavours such as Key lime or coconut and, of course, the signature The Rum Runner.
Outdoor artistry flourishes with off-beat large-scale sculptures and murals promoting ocean conservation on the Overseas Highway and Key West International Airport. Key West’s Tropic Cinema offers contemporary, classic, Cinematheque, independent, foreign, and alternative films and Key West Film Festival shows films capturing the islands’ creativity, diversity, sustainability, and beauty.
Resident artist staff offer workshops and classes at Marathon’s The Art Studio and monthly neighbourhood art strolls spotlight the work of established artists and emerging talents in Islamorada and Key West. Don’t miss "The Connections Project: A Mosaic of the Keys" - a large-scale mural created by several hundred Florida Keys artists and arts supporters which tours the islands chain.
Literature fans can find both history and inspiration in Key West. Big draws include the Tennessee Williams Museum, at 513 Truman Avenue; tours of the Ernest Hemingway House and Museum, over at 907 Whitehead Street, where the celebrated US writer Ernest Hemingway produced some of his finest work; and the annual Key West Literary Seminar.
You can also enjoy Keys-wide musicals, comedies, direct-from-Broadway productions, festivals, concerts, musical performances, and more – Marathon Community Theater, Key West Theater, Red Barn Theatre, Tennessee Williams Theatre, Waterfront Playhouse, Key West Fringe Theater, and Studios of Key West each offer a wide choice of events to keep you entertained.