Explore The Surf And The Turf of The Florida Keys

By Natalia Kvitek,

For anyone who has ever wished they were a mermaid or merman, fisherman or sailor, the Florida Keys are a playground of under and over water activity. The tiny archipelagos offers some of the best fishing opportunities in the world, as well as world class diving and snorkeling. The Keys were, basically, designed to be explored from the water. On ground, there’s plenty of delicious restaurants and cultural activities to keep even the biggest Thalassophobiac (fear of the oceanhappy — but we’re nearly positive the beckoning of the smooth sea will have you swimming like a fish in no time.  There’s no need to zoom along here, despite the abundance of incredible activities; make your own time in the Florida Keys!

In The Surf

Florida Keys

The beautiful bridges linking all the Keys. Photo by Sathish S CC BY


Key Largo is renowned by scuba divers for its third-largest in the world living coral barrier reef which plays hosts to thousands of beautiful and brightly colored fish. This scuba paradise is like another magical world, and even those hesitant to learn to dive will think it’s worth the time investment once they’ve glanced underneath the water. Be sure to pick up an underwater casing for your camera!

Diving in the Florida Keys

A neon life lives below the waves of the Keys. Photo by Greg Grimes CC BY

Slip into your wet suit and head to the coral reefs with Key Dives. Show up with your own equipment or borrow theirs and embark on their boat (with shower, drinking water and fresh fruit) on a magical dive. Some of their dive sites have identified over 189 species at a single site, meaning you won’t get bored looking at the same three fish. Other dive sites includes shipwrecks, vibrant purple corals and drift dive sites. Underwater life includes sightings of stingrays, blue parrots, batfish and even sharks! Their PADI-certified dive masters guide your excursions with never more than a 6:1 ratio of divers to dive master. 


Fishing in the Florida Keys

Preparing the bait for the catch. Photo by Hi I’m Santi CC BY

The Keys have some of the best deep-sea fishing in the world and the bounty here is easily accessible even for the most beginner of fisherman. Get aboard with SeaClusion Charter Boat Fishing and you’ll be fishing the waters that boast more World Record Catches than any other in the world. Snappers, Dolphinfish, Sailfish, Tuna and Marlin are caught on the regular and SeaClusion only books whole private fishing parties so you’ll always have the boat to your group alone. If you’re an experienced fisherman, you can charter a boat to join in on some big international tournaments as well!

Water Sports

Paddleboarding in the FLorida Keys

Paddle boarding and fishing combination. Photo by Big Pine Key Fishing Lodge CC BY

The smooth and crystal clear waters of the Florida Keys create a perfect environment for paddle boarding. Otherside Boardsports offer guided eco-paddle board tours from multiple locations but the outcome is always the same: a tranquil journey and great workout filled with sightings of a variety of wildlife. Shallow waters and guides make this an easy activity for the whole family to enjoy.


Kayak eco tour Florida Keys

Slide through the mangroves unnoticed aboard a kayak. Photo by bdj238 CC BY

What better way to enjoy the mangroves and secret coves of the Florida Keys than from the quiet belly of a kayak? We can’t think of any better way to sneak up on the beautiful wildlife and get to see a less-explored side of these beautiful islands. Blue Planet Kayaks Eco-Tours are run by environmentalists who have immense respect and knowledge of the local landscape and will delight you with sightings of nesting herons, barracuda, stingrays and even sharks. Each group is a maximum of ten people and their knowledgeable guides will (quietly) make sure you don’t miss any opportunity to see animals.

On The Turf

Activities for non-swimmers Florida Keys

The Keys aren’t all about the water. Photo by goatling CC BY

Just because you don’t love the water doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the Florida Keys. The islands themselves are known as a creative hot pockets, full of authors, artists and musicians especially, making it a great place to enjoy in the evening as well as the day. There’s lots of surprising turf wildlife wandering around — you never know what you’ll meet from the islands indigenous creatures. Check out the Key West Attractions Association for more ideas and vacation inspiration!

Turtle Hospital


Sea Turtles Florida

Learn and meet some of the coast’s sweetest creatures. Photo by Florida Fish and Wildlife CC BY

Visit the Turtle Hospital on Marathon for an educational tour on the essential work they do for the sea turtle population. The hospital strives to rehabilitate and return injured sea turtles to their natural habitat,  as well as educate through outreach programs and conduct vital research for these gentle creatures. Your visit helps support this important cause! You’ll get a behind the scenes look at the hospital facilities as well as participate in a feeding of some of the hospitals permanent residents — you’ll be making friends with the likes of April, Bubble Butt and Rebel!  

Key West Shipwreck Treasure Museum


Shipwrecking Museum Key West

Get an interactive history lesson about shipwrecking. Photo by arctic_whirlwind CC BY

Combining history with film and theater, the Key West Shipwreck Treasure Museum brings visitors back to 1851 and to all the unlucky voyages through the often treacherous waters surrounding the Florida Keys reef that ended in shipwreck. You’ll get to climb the 65 foot lookout tower for sweeping views of the surrounding waters and get to “meet” with several historical characters whose lives were shaped by the exciting quest for shipwrecking treasures, here it will be plain to see how Key West became one of the richest cities in the United States.

 Hemingway Home Museum


Hemingway Home Museum Florida Keys

Visit Hemingway’s beloved Florida Keys home and meet his cat’s descents. Photo courtesy of the Hemingway Home Museum Facebook Page.

One of the Island’s best known and beloved authors left behind a beautiful house and a large collection of six-toed cats. Tour the house of Earnest Hemingway, full of relics from the time he spent on the islands. The house and the gardens are beautiful and full of heartfelt artifacts that give insight into one of the most prolific periods of writing in the Nobel Prize winner’s life. Over 45 poly-dactyl (six-toed) cats wander the property and are descendants of Hemingway’s all-white cat,  Snow White.

Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory

Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory

Delight in the beauty of these delicate insects. Photo by Elizabeth Nicodemus CC BY

You don’t have to be outside to enjoy the wildlife at the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. Enter inside and marvel at the stunning collection of plants, waterfalls, birds and roughly 60 different butterfly species from all over the world in a climate-controlled indoor habitat. See how these creatures are born and witness their transformation from caterpillar feeding on host plants to divinely delicate being.

See more Island inspiration here:

Eat And Sleep Your Way Through The Florida Keys

The Ultimate Dream Escape To The Florida Keys

Reconnect With Nature On The San Juan Islands