If you have some vacation time saved up, you may be wondering how to get the most out of those precious hours away. You want something fun and exciting yet not too far away because you don’t want to spend a big chunk of that time getting there and back, right? Key West can be the answer to your mini-vacation dreams. In just about 36 hours, you can see many of the highlights, dine at an array of restaurants where you can sample local favorites, and have adventures that will leave you wanting to book your return trip ASAP.
Here’s the scoop.
Book Your Rooms First
There’s a good chance you won’t be spending that much time in your hotel room because of all the things on your itinerary. But then you’d be missing out. Whether you want to go all out for a resort vacation complete with spa amenities, find a secluded B&B where you can feel like the only people in the place, or something in between, Key West offers a wild diversity in accommodations.
From the bunk beds at NYAH Key West to the serene pool at the Angelina adults-only guesthouse, and the ocean-front balcony rooms at Southernmost Beach resort, there’s a room that’s just right for you. While some have curtailed perks like freshly prepared breakfasts in favor of packaged food items due to COVID, other offerings remain available to guests, like pool access or bike rentals for touring around town.
A Weekend of Adventure
Outdoor activities are a popular way to spend your time in Key West. This part of Florida is known for its gorgeous sunshine year-round. Perhaps the biggest draw is fishing. With your pick of charter fishing companies working out of Key West, you’ll have your pick of boats going out for reef, wreck, deep water, and other kinds of fishing.
Nobody minds if you’ve never fished before; the helpful crews on these chartered fishing boats have all of the fishing gear you could need plus lots of advice based upon their years of experience to ensure you have a good time.
If your hotel doesn’t offer beach access, Key West has several public beaches that welcome visitors and locals alike. For the traditional sandy beach, check out Smathers. If you’ll be traveling with your pooch, Dog Beach is the way to go. For a day-long experience, Fort Zachary Taylor has much to offer. You can go swimming and snorkeling at the beach, walk or bike the nature trails, and learn more about the role of Key West in America’s military history. Pack a lunch and make a day of it or visit the park’s cafe for to-go meals.
And speaking of snorkeling, the best snorkeling in the area is at Dry Tortugas National Park. It’s well worth the ferry ride out to Garden Key for tours of the picturesque fort and snorkeling along real shipwrecks and coral reefs. If staying on this side of the water is more comfortable for you, consider kayaking around the keys and birdwatching.
Eating Well in Key West
Seafood restaurants in Key West are really popular so it can be hard to know where to start if you’ve never visited Key West before. A great place to start is Eaton Street Seafood Market and Restaurant. They offer traditional favorites like grilled lobster, fish sandwiches, and crab cake sandwiches paired with fresh slaw. You can take your food to-go or dine al fresco at the tables that dot the outside of the restaurant.
You can’t leave Key West without trying a slice of key lime pie, and Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe is the best. These pies are made from scratch daily. You can also shop Kermit’s full line of key lime-inspired treats for at-home enjoyment and souvenirs for friends and family, including cookies, candy, chutneys and relishes, and even spa products.
Visit the Little Pearl for a neighborhood restaurant feel in Old Town Key West; it serves creative seafood dishes paired with an extensive wine list. If your day of fishing was a success, book your table at Dante’s where one of the menu options is to cook your catch. Or grab pizza and gelato at Duetto’s, a perennial favorite among Key West locals and visitors.
Don’t miss the Margaritaville Restaurant — this is the original one — serving crispy coconut shrimp, seafood mac and cheese, strip steak, burgers, and sandwiches like the Cuban and beach club.
Even if you can only get away for a couple of days, making a trip to Key West will leave you feeling like you’ve been away for far longer. There’s so much to see and do here that you’ll be ready to come back as soon as you leave. And fortunately, the warm hospitality of Key West businesses and hotels will be ready to welcome you again, any time you’d like to return.