Year Round Family Fun at Top Florida Keys Attractions
The Florida Keys earned its reputation as a world-class vacation destination by offering sun-soaked romantic getaways and exhilarating fishing voyages on the high seas inspired by Ernest Hemingway.
But hit the fast forward button and today’s Keys are no longer just for honeymooners and anglers. There’s fun for the WHOLE family with adventure and history lurking around every corner!
Parents visiting the Florida Keys may want to spend plenty of time relaxing with a sunset cocktail, kicking back in a hammock, dozing by the pool or sunning on the beach, but you’ll only get the chance to sleep in if you’ve totally tuckered out your kids with awesome activities. Fortunately, the wealth of outdoor attractions in the Florida Keys makes it easy to keep the kids amused without sacrificing the “adult” side of your holiday.
So here they are, the Top 10 Things to do in the Florida Keys. Whether you’ve got big ones or little ones, you’ll see there’s something for every member of your family.
1 – Hit the Beach!
There’s no better way to get your feet wet with the tropical lifestyle of the islands than having some fun in the sun at the beach. The middle Florida Keys is a great jumping off point to explore the area, so let’s get started with a visit to our own island of Key Colony Beach. KCB, as locals call the island, is located smack dab in the heart of the islands and this small, charming town is affectionately known as “The Gem of the Keys.” You’ll find restaurants, boat rentals, a marina and fishing chraters, gift shops, and even a nine hole par-3 golf course which is a perfect introduction to the sport if you’re traveling with teenagers.
But what about the beaches? KCB does have its own beach club and many of our vacation rentals include a complimentary Beach Club pass! But while you’re in the middle Keys, be sure to visit Long Key State Park. The beach located at the park is one of the best for young kids as the water is clear and shallow up to 100 feet from the shore. There is a small fee for bringing your vehicle into the park so if you’re looking for a free public beach, try Sombrero Beach in Marathon (pictured beow). You’ll find white sand, palm trees, a playground and off-beach snorkeling.
Want a great day trip (about 50 miles) to a Key West beach? You’ll want to start your beachcombing off at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. The water is clear and so it’s easy to spot tons of tropical fish and live coral. This is a great place for mom and dad to relax while the kids explore the historical fort located within the park.
More on the Best Beaches of the Florida Keys.
2 – Go Kayaking!
Think the Keys look beautiful from the shoreline? Try seeing her splendor from the comfort of your own kayak! Kayaking is a great way to have fun, learn about nature and get some exercise all at once. Not far from the many boat launches around the Keys you can find and explore uninhabited islands and find unique plants and animals not found on the mainland. Imagine weaving your way through mangrove forests while watching for sub-tropical marine and bird life. 2-person kayaks are available for younger kids to paddle along with mom or dad.
Be sure to monitor wind and weather conditions. Wear life jackets and follow safety advice provided by kayak rental outfits.
Check with Caribbean Kayaking today schedule your next adventure!
3 – Strap on your Mask & Snorkel – Florida Keys Snorkeling
The islands of the Florida Keys are the perfect place for beginner snorkelers. The Keys enjoy the protection of the only living coral barrier reef in North America and so the beaches here don’t have rolling surf! So, you will find calm waters that allow you to easily see the colorful fish below the surface like the ones swimming below among the turtle grass close to shore.
Most of the best snorkeling spots are reefs reasonably close to the shore but still far enough away that you’ll need to reach them by boat. For off-beach snorkeling head to Sombrero Beach in Marathon on Vaca Key. The beach slope and sub-surface is gentle and it’s a great place to practice, but you won’t see as many fish as you will at Coffin Patch or Sombrero Reef, two excellent snorkeling spots located nearby.
From Marathon you can catch a boat ride out to snorkel the Coffins Patch area, and generally both The Donut and The Stake are included on the same trip. The Donut is particularly interesting because of its collection of live sponges but The Stake is actually a better overall snorkeling locale because it’s quite a bit shallower.
Also departing from Marathon are boats to what many say is the best snorkeling hole in all of the Keys, Sombrero Reef. The spur-and-groove reef is teeming with fish and coral and its incredible topography makes it a wonderful place to explore.
Bahia Honda State Park also has excellent snorkeling around the old railway bridge (below), and you can rent gear from the concession if you don’t have your own. Snorkel tours also leave for Looe Key, another spur and groove formation that makes a great snorkel adventure.
4 – Swim with Dolphins!
Memories that last a lifetime are made at the Dolphin Research Center on nearby Grassy Key where you can have the up close and personal experience of swimming with dolphins. But even if you opt not to get in and swim with the dolphins there are a number of other ways to interact with and learn about these fascinating animals.
The Dolphin Research Center promotes peaceful coexistence between marine mammal, humans and the environment and so it’s a great place for kids to learn about conservation and cooperation. The DRC is one of the Keys’ top marine mammal attractions, but there are several others should a member of your family be a real dolphin buff.
5 – Take a Tour of the Turtle Hospital!
Located in an old 50’s style motel on the Overseas Highway in Marathon, the Turtle Hospital is a non-profit organization that rescues and rehabilitates around 100 injured sea turtles a year. Over 40,000 tourists visit the hospital annually and fees collected from visitors help to fund the conservation and rescue effort.
The highlight of your tour will be seeing the sea turtles and meeting the hospital’s oldest resident “BubbleButt”, but the 90 minute educational program included with admission is really great, especially for children. Kids will learn about the different species of sea turtles and the challenges they face in Florida. They’ll get to touch the sea turtle’s favorite food (sponge) and hear firsthand stories about real turtles that have been rescued and released by the hospital, such as “Archer” (pictured below), who was released lst April.
6 – Visit Crane Point Hammock and Museum!
Nestled in the heart of Marathon is a 64-acre tropical paradise called Crane Point Hammock and Museum. Host to the last virgin palm and hardwood hammock in the US, it is considered one of the most important historical sites in all the Keys. There’s no better place to learn about the area’s native plants and animals as a network of well-marked nature trails weave through the park leading to the historical Adderly House, the oldest home in the Keys outside of Key West.
Of course, the kids will want to skip right over their lesson in Bahamas style vernacular architecture and head straight for Los Niños de los Cayos, an interactive pirate ship! The exhibit comes complete with pirate costumes so that your young ones can dress the part and reenact scenes from the Keys’ swashbuckling history in the 17th century!
7 – Go Fishing!
The Florida Keys is popular with anglers of all ages and experience level. The most affordable way to introduce kids to saltwater “deep sea” fishing is from a party boat. Not only is bottom fishing from a party boat the lightest on your family’s wallet, it’s also the best choice for groups with younger kids. Fishermen on a bottom fishing trip are more likely to catch more fish and a wider variety as well. Kids don’t need to haul in a trophy to have fun. It’s more important to keep that pole bent!
The Marathon Lady is a popular party boat with young anglers and their parents.
8 – Try your Hand at Crabbing!
Keys Fisheries Market & Marina in Marathon is the harvesting affiliate of the famed Joe’s Stone Crab restaurant on Miami Beach. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a commercial crab fisherman, this is the place to find out. The “tourist” run is far less labor-intensive and you certainly won’t endure the typical 12-hour shift pulling 600 traps, but you’ll definitely break a sweat. Enjoy an entertaining and gratifying educational excursion and take home or devour whatever you catch!
9 – Feed the Tarpon!
Want to have the most fun you’ll ever have for 3 bucks a bucket? Take your kids to feed the tarpon at Robbie’s Bayside, Lower Matecumbe Key.
Robbie’s is just a rickety hut where fishermen rent motorboats, but they offer a unique activity that your kids will never forget. For just two dollars you get a bucket of thread herring to toss at the prehistoric looking tarpon gathered around the pier.There’s no fish quite as funky looking as the tarpon and watching these big fish race after their kibble truly is something else.
Admission to the dock is $1 per person. Robbie’s also offers a restaurant, boat rentals, a bait shop, fishiing charters and boat tours. A favorite with kids is the tour to Lignum Vitae State Park and Indian Key. Indian Key was the site of a thriving wrecking business in the early 1800s until an Indian massacre wiped out most of the residents.
10 – Take a Mile-High Biplane Ride via Overseas Aero Tours!
“Biplane flight was amazing!” “Great Adventure for Parents / Kids” “Awesome flight and well worth the money”
That’s a sample of the reviews on the TripAdvisor page for the biplane rides with Overseas Aero Tours.
If you’ve never been in a biplane before then a trip to see the islands from the sky is a must do. The scenery is fantastic and Captain Evan’s plane really is something else. Just think, you might fly over Sombrero Lighthouse one day (pictured below) and snorkel there the next!
Just trust us on this one. Plug a trip with Overseas Aero Tours into your vacation itinerary.
Our rental department will be happy to help you find your home away from home while you exolore the attractions of the Florida Keys.