A couple of years ago, two of my girls and I set off on a five-day road trip across the Florida Keys from Key Largo to Key West. It’s just over two hours by car from Key to Key, but there are so many activities in the Florida Keys, like snorkeling, visiting with sea turtles and, of course, striking a pose at the colorful buoy in Key West that marks the Southernmost Point in the United States.
I’m hoping to get back to the Florida Keys next year, but for now, I wanted to share 10 stops you must make with your kids. Enjoy the sunshine, the views and the activities in the Florida Keys that your kids will remember and talk about for ages.
Stop #1: John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
Located in Key Largo, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is the nation’s first underwater state park. Wade into the water and snorkel at Cannon Beach, but if you want to see the coral reefs, take a short ride on a snorkel boat to one of the shallow reefs, like Banana Reef or White Banks Dry Rocks.
Stop #2: Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center
Next, stop at the Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center just down the road in Tavernier. Visit with wild birds at the Lara Quinn Wild Bird Sanctuary and take time to learn about some of the injured birds, like barn owls and pelicans, even blue jays, that could not be returned to the wild.
Stop #3: Alligator Reef
In the Middle Keys, try Alligator Reef, which is just off of Islamorada. Look for a 136-foot tall lighthouse. Rent a kayak from Islander Watersports and head out into the clear waters where there are plenty of coral sponges and colorful tropical fish. As you can imagine, it’s also a great spot for snorkeling.
Stop #4: Hawks Cay Resort
On Duck Key, look for Hawks Cay Resort. It’s about half-way down the Florida Keys and is a nice stop along the way to Key West. Stay a night or two to splash in the Pirate Ship Pool or paddle around in tiki boats in the Saltwater Lagoon. Or, get up-close with dolphins as part of the Dolphin Connection program.
Stop #5: Turtle Hospital
In Marathon, it’s a must to stop in the Turtle Hospital for a tour to learn about work done to rescue, rehabilitate and release sea turtles. See where they do turtle surgeries, as well as where current patients and long-term guests reside. Fun fact: the Turtle Hospital is a former mom-and-pop motel from the 1950s.
Stop #6: Bahia Honda State Park
Splash around on the beach at Bahia Honda State Park on Big Pine Key. Located at Mile Marker 37, there’s a fantastic public beach, as well as the Sand and Sea Nature Center. Look for fossils, kids coloring pages and other activities that introduce visitors to local plants and animals.
Stop #7: Old Town Trolley Tours
Once in Key West, take a 90-minute hop-on, hop-off trolley tour around the island with Old Town Trolley Tours. The drivers are very knowledgeable and it’s a great way to learn about the history and landmarks of Key West before going out to explore the area on your own.
Stop #8: Harry S. Truman Little White House
Our 33rd President, Harry S. Truman, loved Key West. He spent 175 days of his six-year presidency in this home, known as the Harry S. Truman Little White House. Take a tour for loads of fun facts and the opportunity to brush up on presidential history.
Stop #9: Southernmost Point
During peak season, you may need to wait in line (we did), but it’s worth it to have your picture taken with the huge buoy that marks the Southernmost Point in the United States. It’s just 90 miles from Cuba and has fabulous views.
Stop #10: Mallory Square
Your kids may love the sunset, but they may love the nightly performers in Mallory Square even more. The square is filled with jugglers, acrobats and even pets jumping through hoops and ringing bells. Oh, and be sure to get Frozen Key Lime Pie on a Stick while you are there. Yum.
There really are so many activities in the Florida Keys. I hope you get the opportunity to hop across the islands. We had so much fun and can’t wait to do it again (hopefully next year).