For my 25th birthday I was lucky to take a trip to Key West Florida and stay at a family friends condo in Sugarloaf key which is about a 25 minute drive to actual key west. This has been on my bucket list for a while because it’s such a cool landmark knowing that you’re at mile 0, the most Southern point of the continental US.
While I throughly enjoyed key west, I did learn a lot while there that will help you during your trip to the keys. In this full travel guide to Key West I’ll share some of the most important tips I picked up while I was there including what to do, where to stay, and less known things such as driving tips and grocery tips.
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Table of Contents
Getting To and From Key West Florida – Driving Tips
Driving To Key West
If you didn’t know this already, getting to key west is about a two hour drive through all of the Florida keys and yes, you are surrounded by water. On your drive down, you’ll want to be on the lookout for deer. I was extremely shocked to see a deer run through a gas station in the middle of night as if it was a wild dog… like WHAT?!?!?!?!
Depending on where you decide to stay, you may want to stop at a grocery store on your way to your hotel/condo. I stayed in Sugarloaf Key and got to the condo about 1:30am. I thought there may be like a McDonalds or a gas station nearby once we got to Sugarloaf key for a late night snack but realized there was nothing. I googled what food/gas was nearby and the closest thing was in key west or about 20 minutes north of us and these were more like mom and pop grocery stores.
Driving out of Key West
When you’re driving home, allow yourself enough time to get out of the keys. What should have been a 2 hour drive ended up taking about 5 and a half hours due to the traffic being so heavy and I left at 11am. I did however leave on a Monday after a three day weekend so that probably played a big part in that time however, traffic is still going to be bad when you’re leaving no matter what day you leave on.
Also when you are leaving, go to the bathroom before hand! There were very few gas stations when leaving the keys and when you did stop to use the bathroom, the line was like 10 people long because everybody needed the bathroom and there was only so many places to go in the Keys.
Over all driving tips:
- Watch out for deer at night
- Get snacks or groceries on your way to your condo/hotel.
- Allow yourself enough time to leave the keys. The earlier you leave, the better.
- Use the bathroom before you leave, but be prepared to wait a while before using the bathroom when leaving the keys due to a lack of bathrooms.
- When leaving, keep snacks and drinks on you because you may not find food for a couple hours.
Key West Water Activities
If you’re looking for something to do, there are a lot of Key West water activities. Some of the more popular ones include jet ski’s snorkeling and parasailing. There are also several beaches you can experience but I only found two that were decent sized and available to the public.
Jet Ski Rental Key West
Renting a Jet Ski in Key West is a common water activity however, finding jet skis to rent and go out on your own is a little more difficult to find. The only option we saw was a half hour or one hour rental for $80-$120 found at Barefoot Billy’s. Another option would be exploring another key like Marathon at Wake zone Water sports where you can free ride for an hour for $140.
Jet Ski Tours in Key West
Jet Ski Tours in Key West is much more popular. There are several tours that take you around the island, showing you the local wildlife and beautiful waters. The most common tours we saw were the Ultimate Jet Ski Tour of Key West and the Sunset Water Sports Key West Jet Ski Tour.
Key West Parasailing
Just like the Jet Ski tours, there are a lot of parasailing options. We didn’t do this but I would imagine the scenery from up high is extremely beautiful. You can go parasailing with a guide for $58.95. Or, you could combine jet skiing and parasailing with a really awesome all day charter tour. The reviews on this are excellent and it sounds super fun and it even includes a full day of activities.
Scuba Diving Key West
Scuba diving is something that is on our bucket list and we haven’t had the chance to go yet but while we were there I was really wishing we were certified so we could have explored the ocean. There are several scuba diving tours including a dive with Captains Corner and lost reef adventures. You could also try Snuba Diving which is a similar form of scuba diving.
We were also recommended to look into to Key Dives in Islamorada Florida where they will scuba certify you within an hour and you can take a scuba diving tour.
Snorkeling Key West
Just like the other water activities in Key West, there are several snorkeling excursions you could take. On Viator, we found a 3 hour reef snorkel for $45. You could also book a 3 hour snorkeling trip with Fury. They also have many other water activities for you to enjoy at Fury.
Key West Fishing Charters
If you enjoy fishing, you must check out this all day fishing charter for a group of up to 6 people and has they have an outstanding 5 star review. Another great place to check out would be Fish Key West Charters. They have a lot of different fishing options and allow groups of 7+ for your trip. There are many different fishing charters to check out on Key West but these are just a couple of options.
Book a stay in the Keys here.
The More Obvious Key West Activities You Won’t Want to Miss
Mile 0 – The Most Southern Point
When going to Mile 0, you should understand that there will be a wait and it will be HOT. Going in the morning or around sunset would be the coolest time for you to go, plus it sets you up for really good lighting for your pictures.
Duval Street was pretty cool. Unfortunately, we went during Covid so we weren’t allowed in the bars. I will say however, there were still many people hanging out on Duval Street at night. There are several shops, bars, restaurants, etc. You could definitely tell that if Covid was never a thing, Duval street would be very lively.
At Higgs Beach you have access to a public beach. There is a little shack/restaurant on the beach and several rentals such as chairs, umbrellas, and kayaks. You can also find free parking there. On another note though, this is a smaller beach with limited space so you’ll want to get there early for an awesome spot. There is also a large pier that is great for fishing.
Another public beach is Smather’s Beach. Here, you have free parking across the road, changing stations, public bathrooms, kayak and paddle board rentals, and that’s about it. This is the largest public beach but there is no access to food (at least in walking distance of the beach). You’ll probably want to bring a cooler and your own shade.
What are you most excited to see in Key West?
PS. If you’re looking for a way to track your own bucket list items and look back on them, I got this really awesome Bucket List Journal that I use to track all of our Bucket List Items and I freaking love It!
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