There’s something special, almost magical, about the Florida Keys. There, everything is a little more laid-back, quirky and lively. It is also home to unique wildlife and natural beauty you won’t find anywhere else. Here are a few really special things you can only do in the Florida Keys:
1. Dry Tortugas National Park
Dry Tortugas is located 70 miles west of Key West and is only accessible by boat or seaplane. Visitors to the island enjoy swimming, kayaking, camping and exploring Fort Jefferson.
2. Jules' Undersea Lodge, Key Largo
The only undersea hotel in the United States is located right here in Key Largo Undersea Park. Guests scuba dive down to their rooms 30 feet below the surface of the Emerald Lagoon. Staying here is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
3. Betsy the Lobster and The Rain Barrel Artisan Village, Islamadora
Possibly the largest lobster in the world, Betsy welcomes guests to this artisan village in Islamadora. Betsy is as unique as the Keys themselves, and being a Keys spiny lobster, you'll notice she doesn't have claws. For years she was a popular photo destination on her own, but has retired to this location to encourage people to visit this impressive artists village and sculpture garden.
4. The endangered Key Deer
The Key Deer is a tiny subspecies of the white-tailed deer that can only be found in the Florida Keys, swimming between islands. They used to live throughout the Keys, but with human development, they can now be found from Sugarloaf Key to Bahia Honda. Visit the National Key Deer Refuge, located on largely on Big Pine Key and No Name Key, for more information about these unique and endangered animals.
5. Bahia Honda State Park
This is one of Florida's southernmost state parks, and it offers beautiful views of the beach, excellent fishing, kayaking and snorkeling. Reserve a campsite or cabin well in advance, because you will probably decide you'd like to stay awhile.
6. Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, Key West
This lovely home was writer Ernest Hemingway's residence in the '30s. It is now a museum with lovely gardens, still patrolled by more than 40 descendants of the author's polydactyl cats.
7. Captain Tony's Saloon, Key West
Speaking of Hemingway, this spot was one of his favorite local hangouts and is still a must-visit in Key West. Many other celebrities have visited the bar over the years, which you can see by the bar stools painted with their names. The building that Tony's calls home has had many previous lives. Over the years since the 1850s, it has been a city morgue, telegraph office, cigar factory, and several speakeasies and bars. It was the original location of Sloppy Joe's Bar, which moved to Duval Street in 1938. It became Captain Tony's in 1958 and frequently featured Jimmy Buffett in the early years of his career.
8. The African Queen, Key Largo
This steamboat was the third star of the classic 1951 film of the same name, the other two being Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn. The boat was used on and off for charter operation, but it eventually sat forgotten in a cow pasture in Ocala. It was purchased in 1982 and made operational again in Key Largo. After the engine broke in 2001, it was on display until 2012 when the current owners signed a lease and got it back in operation in Key Largo.
9. Nancy Forrester's Secret Garden, Key West
Artist and animal lover Nancy Forrester created this sanctuary, both for rescued parrots and the humans who want to learn more about them while interacting with these incredible birds.
10. The Turtle Hospital, Marathon
The Turtle Hospital has been open since 1986, helping rehabilitate and protect sea turtles, conduct research, and educate the public on these fascinating, endangered animals.
Have you been to any of these places? What’s your favorite thing to do in the Florida Keys? Please let us know in the comments!