When you think of the Florida Keys, the sunsets and nightlife of Key West are probably what comes to mind…but did you know that the other Keys are also full of hidden treasures and activities for all ages? You may have even driven right past some of these and never stopped. Here are six of our favorite places to explore in the Florida Keys outside of Key West.
1. The Turtle Hospital, Marathon
This is a must-stop in the Keys and something the entire family will enjoy. The Turtle Hospital is the largest turtle rehabilitation center in the U.S. with a mission to rescue, rehabilitate and release sea turtles and educate the public through outreach. They offer 90-minute guided tours for the public that start every half hour from 9am – 4pm ET daily. You’ll get to visit with and feed the sea turtles, hear their incredible stories of rehabilitation, and get a behind-the-scenes look at the hospital facilities and emergency room. You may even see some of the onsite doctors in action. Reservations for the tours are highly recommended.
2. Looe Key Snorkeling, Big Pine Key
This hidden gem is so good, we almost didn’t want to share it. Looe Key has been named one of the best snorkeling destinations in North America, and once you dive into that turquoise blue water, you’ll see why. The pristine coral reefs are full of vibrant tropical fish, sea turtles and colorful marine life. The water is crystal clear and calm enough even for first-time snorkelers. To get there, you have to take a 40-minute catamaran ride out to sea (departing from Big Pine Key), but trust us when we say it’s worth it.
3. Dolphins Plus Marine Mammal Responder, Key Largo
Tucked in an unassuming residential area of Key Largo, you’ll find this organization dedicated to protection and conservation of marine mammals. Visitors here can interact with the dolphins and choose from several different programs (based on comfort level) that will even allow you to get in the water and swim with them. For the most immersive experience, check out the “trainer for a day” program for dolphin enthusiasts and aspiring dolphin caregivers. This will be one experience you won’t forget.
4. Bahia Honda State Park, Big Pine Key
If you’re looking to capture some Instagram-worthy photos while you’re in the Keys, look no further than Bahia Honda State Park. It’s famous for its palm-tree lined beaches, tropical sunsets, and iconic view of Henry Flagler’s old railroad bridge. It’s a great spot for biking, birdwatching, fishing, camping, and dip-netting too. We recommend hiking the nature trail that leads up to the Old Bahia Honda Bridge. From there, you’ll have a spectacular view of the island, and you may even catch a glimpse of sea turtles and stingrays swimming below.
5. Robbie’s Marina, Islamorada
Robbie’s is the perfect one-stop shop in the Keys for delicious food and drinks, followed by some shopping and fun in the sun! It’s famous for its dock where you can buy a bucket of fish and feed the school of more than 100 tarpons that come right up to the dock and jump out of the water. There is also an open-air market where you can shop for antiques, glassware, art and more from local Keys artisans. And that’s not where the activities end. You can book almost any kind of fishing tour you can imagine (from swordfish to mahi-mahi and tarpon to fly fishing), plus they offer parasailing, jet-ski adventures, sunset cruises and much more.
6. John Pennekamp State Park, Key Largo
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is a Florida State Park and the first undersea park in the United States. Stretching out over 25 miles in length and extending three miles in the Atlantic Ocean, the park offers so much to see and do. Explore the shallow-water coral reefs on a scuba diving or snorkeling tour, enjoy a picnic at the beach, or stay above the water on a glass bottom boat tour. One of our favorite things to do there is to rent a kayak and explore the calm waters of the natural mangroves.
Did we miss any of your favorites in the Florida Keys? Have you visited any of these places? Email us at WinniWanderer@winni.com and share your experience. Hearing from you will make our day!
By Staff Contributor
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