The Florida Keys: A Cure for Winter Blues

What to See and Do in the Florida Keys

Where to Stay in the Florida Keys - Ibis Beach Resort in Key West
Rooms have their own private beach and hammock at Ibis Beach Resort in Key West, Florida. Photo by Janna Graber

What to Do in Key West

For many, the Florida Keys mean a visit to Key West, the island known for its quirky, independent ways. Key West is the southern-most point in the continental United States. It’s just 90 miles from Cuba.

Almost 79,000 people call the Florida Keys home. The majority of them live on Key West, and as you’ll soon learn, many of them are free spirits. You’ll find no shortage of interesting locals, unique establishments and ways to be entertained in Key West.

Mallory Square is just one example. This waterfront square comes alive at night, when locals and visitors gather to watch the sunset and watch the buskers. Fire jugglers, magicians, dancers – they all have a home here on Mallory Square.

Another top attraction in Key West is the Ernest Hemingway House, which was once the home of writer Earnest Hemingway. In truth, more people might come to see the 6-toed cats which descended from the author’s cat than to see the home itself. They seem to be a main attraction.

Though it’s smaller than many other aquariums, we found the Key West Aquarium very well done. The aquarium has numerous touch tanks and offers free guided tours. The Florida Keys are rich in sea life, and the aquarium presents many of these species.

One of the main draws during our visit was Hunter, a huge Loggerhead sea turtle who was rescued after he was hit and wounded in a boat strike. He is healing and will be released again soon to the wild.

Rooms have their own private beach and hammock at Ibis Beach Resort in Key West, Florida. Photo by Janna Graber
There is no shortage of things to do in Key West. Photo by Janna Graber

One of our favorite finds in Key West was the Key West Shipwreck Museum. I’ll admit, the name sounds a little boring at first, but the well-done exhibits, tours and artifacts provided helpful insight into Key West’s past – much of the island’s wealth came from salvaging ship wrecks. That past helps to explain a lot about the unique culture on the island today.

(Fun fact: Roswell Baldwin, the great-great-grandfather of actor Alec Baldwin, was the captain of one of the ships that went down here. He survived, and the family legacy lived on.)

It wouldn’t be a proper visit to Key West without at least one ghost tour. The island is reputed to be rich with souls from the past who have refused to move on – at least according to the engaging Old Town Trolley Ghosts & Gravestone tour we took.

Jet skiing in the Florida Keys with Barefoot Billy's Watersports
Jet skiing adventure with Barefoot Billy’s Watersports in Key West, Florida. Photo courtesy Janna Graber

My favorite thing about any island visit, though, is the chance to be on the water. We got that opportunity on a rousing Jet Ski tour with Barefoot Billy’s Watersports. Led by a Jet Ski guide with a great sense of humor, Ben and I zoomed across the clear waters to explore the bays and mangrove-filled lagoons of Keys. We learned about local sea life and about the locals themselves, including celebrities like Kenny Chesney who call the Florida Keys home.

Even our hotel, IBIS Bay Beach Resort, provided a unique way to experience the water – a night paddling tour. The resort is located right on the water, and offers a range of water experiences from parasailing to Jet Ski tours. The best part about the resort, though, was lounging in the hammocks on our own little private beach outside our room. There’s something to be said about kicking back and enjoying the view.

On our last evening in the Florida Keys, we went out on a Wind and Wine Sunset Cruise with Danger Charters. As we sailed across the water, the crew passed around different wines and cheeses, allowing us to sample and pick our favorites.

Sailing in the Florida Keys
Sunset sail in Key West, Florida. Photo by Janna Graber

Then, just as the sun was setting, the captain announced that it was a special evening indeed. A couple stepped out from among the passengers and asked us all to be witnesses as they said their vows to become man and wife.

It’s not every evening that you get to take part in an unexpected wedding while watching the sun set across the Florida Keys. Such evenings create special memories indeed.

If You Go

The Florida Keys & Key West