Top things to do in Key West

#1 - Conch train tour 
#2 - Walk Duval Street
#3 - Key West historic harbor and boardwalk
#4 - Custom house museum and the history of Key West
#5 - Audubon House
#6 - Hemingway House
#7 - Key West Lighthouse
#8 - Key West Aquarium
#9 - Shipwreck museum

#1 Trip from Key West - Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas - by seaplane - Don't miss the most amazing tropical island with best snorkelling for hundreds of miles. See at the very bottom of this post.

Last updated: March 2017

#1 - See all of Key West Old Town on the Conch tour 'train'
Conch train outside the Hemingway House in Key West.

It is good, if expensive. It lasts 2.5 hours, you DO indeed see a lot of the island and the live commentary is very good on KW history.

My advice would be: do this as soon as you arrive in Key West and then re-visit on foot the parts you found the most interesting or beautiful.

#2 - Do the "Duval crawl" - walk Duval Street, Key West's liveliest, craziest steet
All roads lead to Duval Street. Key West's Main Street, tourist central, stretching in one long straight line from Gulf to Ocean, 2 miles or an hour's stroll. It's fun rather than peaceful peaceful (for peaceful see number 9, below).  It's almost always heaving busy with a mix of cars, cycles, motorcycles, Conch trains, and sober and semi-drunk people!

Along its length it's packed with big name bars (Sloppy's, Margaritaville), smaller bars (including a jazz  bar, wine bars, rum bars), ice cream shops, gay bars and hotels.

Duval Street's character changes a lot over its length.

My recommendation: do the first 5 blocks as quick as you can: from Margaritaville/Starbucks/La Concha hotel onward it gets quieter and more interesting. Click here for more on Duval Street.

#3 - Key West historic seaport walk 
For much of Key West's 200 year history, the harbor/Bight was the center of town, where many of the most important events happened. Today, it's still always busy and there’s something different to see each hour of each day.
Key West Bight is a short, fun and lively walk.

There is a boardwalk/pontoon to walk along the side of the harbor, right on the water front. There are bars on the waterfront too with live music. The noisy end is the Front Street end. It gets a little quieter as you walk along, and away from town.

HINT: Don’t forget Margaret Street a block back from the harbour walk, running parallel to it. It’s cool with some art galleries, some good places to eat (Harpoon Harry's and Pepe’s, (both especially good for breakfast) and Key West’s best coffee shop, Coffee Plantation.

Full article on Key West harbor with lots of pictures.

If you're looking for a list of 11 Key West best bits - not just things to do but also including food, pubs - click my post here.

#4 - The Custom House - easy to read displays bring Key West's fascinating history to life
History not your thing? But one of the unique things about Key West is its long history, seeing both the best and worst of times.  Smugglers, wreckers, pirates, Cuban cigar makers, spongers, turtle people, Flagler and railroads, artists, famous cigar smoking writers (yep, you know the one - see #6). They are all here in this fun museum. Come, even if you only stay for 30 minutes and look at the pictures! $7 to get in.

It's the big, very bright red brick building on Front Street.

#5 - The Audubon House - go back in time 170 years, wander around a beautiful Key West house restored to how it would have looked

You get "4 for1" when you visit the Audubon House....
  1. Audubon himself. He drew 22 birds here in Key West and his drawings are amazing. In the house you see the original engravings.
  2. The house was owned by one of the most important captains (Cpt. Geiger) in town. It's been restored to look like it did in 1840.
  3. The restoration movement of the 1960s and how this house, like so many in Key West, was restored from the ruined and dilapidated state it was in after the 1950s.
  4. The gardens are beautiful. And you can buy an Audubon print in the shop afterwards.
My full article from when I visited the Audubon House.

#6 - Hemingway House - pet Papa's 5 toed cats
It’s a very grand and impressive house. There are lots of cats. You have to join a guided tour and, because they are of such a high quality, you really get a sense for the house, the man, the novels and the island back then.  You don’t have to be a big fan of literature or of Hemingway, because the sense you get of a grand Key West house and Key West life in those times is great. Recommended.

HINT: There are often long lines for the house so if you want to do this, go as early as you can.

#7 - Key West Lighthouse - best views in Key West
Climb the stairs to the very top of the historic Key West lighthouse.

Such a beautiful building, very photogenic.

And from the top panoramic views of Key West (the only place now to get this kind of view in Key West after the closure of La Concha hotel viewing floor in 2014).

#8- Key West aquarium - a real old fashioned aquarium and Key West's oldest tourist attraction
Let’s be clear about this: it’s tiny: this is not SeaWorld! It’s not got any shows or charismatic animals (like sea lions or killer whales). It’s not got that many fish! But it’s Key West’s very oldest attraction and it kicked off the tourist boom that resulted in us all being here.

It’s still fun. It’s iconic and it’s great for photographs. There are also lots of exhibitions about local fish and nature so you learn about the ecology of the Keys.

Post and pictures from my visit to the Key West aquarium.

#11 - Shipwreck Museum - meet pirates, find out how wrecking made Key West the richest town in all America
HINT: This is the BEST place to go for kids.

I love it, it's fun - and very related to Key West's history. It’s Disney-style, with people dressing up as characters from the past. Also great views from the top of the tower. Wrecking made Key West the richest city in the USA so this is a relevant and, actually, very interesting (and interactive) museum.

HUGE TIP:  IF YOU HAVE HALF A DAY SPARE AND WANT TO GET OFF KEY WEST: It's 70 miles from Key West but don't, whatever you do, miss this most beautiful thing....
Fort Jefferson which is 70 miles from Key West.

It's the most amazing experience. I came to Key West for 14 years before I got around to visiting, that was a mistake. Now I will go every time I am in Key West. Don't take the ferry, either, take the sea plane - see here for my visit report and amazing tropical pictures of the place.

Also on this blog...

Here's more help and tips on planning a Key West visit. Including how to get to Key West, how long to stay and other questions answered.

Here for "when is the best time to visit Key West?"  Includes weather and cost considerations.

If you're looking for a list of 11 Key West best bits - not just things to do but also including food, pubs - click my post here.